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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Spanish festive and sales shopping behaviour revealed: What and how we buy
Monday, January 17, 2022

SANTA Claus or the Three Kings? Now the festive season is finally over – Spain celebrates all 12 days – and the post-Christmas sales are into their second week, researchers into shopping habits, family traditions and other features of household economics have released some fascinating findings, some of which come as quite a surprise.

Festive gift-buying has finished, now the January sales have begun - it's a bumper time of year for the retail industry (photo by Spain's international tourism board)

One unique aspect of the winter holidays in Spain – found elsewhere in the world, but still uncommon – is that gifts to adults and children alike have long been opened on the night of the Magi's arrival in Bethlehem, or January 5, following a colourful parade through towns and with the next day as a bank holiday.

The Three Wise Men are Kings in Spanish folklore, or Reyes, and the notion of their bringing the presents is a little more in keeping with the original biblical tale than the northern European Saint Nicholas custom – in The Netherlands, for example, the mythical Sinterklaas delivers the gifts much earlier in December, and Christmas Day itself is merely a family meal, so the Dutch effectively have two Christmases with the first of them being the main event.

Santa Claus has increased dramatically in presence in Spain in the past decade or so – in the early 2000s, he was practically unheard of and considered a foreign concept – but for practical reasons, Father Christmas' visit on the night of December 24 has become more widespread among families with young children: If you get your new toys within three or five days of breaking up from school, you have a whole fortnight to play with them and keep you occupied and out from under your parents' feet, rather than just one day or, at most, three, if January 6 falls on a Friday.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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How the property market ended 2021, and what's on the cards for 2022
Monday, January 17, 2022

A HOUSING market 'boom' at a most unlikely time and one that's not expected to turn to 'bust' means the immediate future seems bright for those in the property trade or planning to rent or sell their home – and experts in the field have revealed what's been happening in the past couple of months, and what they think the New Year will bring.


Figures for the very end of 2021 have not yet been released – when they do, a full analysis of the past year can be conducted – but from what we know so far from National Statistics Institute (INE) data, over 530,000 sales in the previous 12 months, despite the pandemic, are known to have been closed.

This is the highest ever seen since the year 2008 when the early-Millennium property 'bubble' burst spectacularly, and number-crunchers specialising in the property market believe this industry has entered a new 'Golden Age'.

Lessons were learned last time, though, so there seems to be far less danger of a subsequent implosion; home value rises are more gradual and realistic, and banks more cautious about lending money to buy them, whilst the 'building fever' of the first five years of the century looks unlikely to return. Back at the time of the 'crash' which began in 2008, inflated residential property prices, excess of supply and a subsequent downturn in jobs in the construction industry were what turned the tables, but greater prudence has been exercised since then, along with an historically-low Euribor, or Eurozone interest rate, keeping mortgages much more affordable than 14 years ago.

 

Apartments versus houses: Sale volume and value rises

The last full month for which the INE has figure available is November 2021, when a year-on-year increase in sales and purchase transactions of 25.9% was reported – a total of 63,080 homes changed hands, of which two-thirds were flats or apartments.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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'Financial Times' falls in love with Madrid plaza
Thursday, January 13, 2022

A SQUARE in a Madrid suburb has captivated writers at The Financial Times and been named one of their favourite places for enjoying the fresh air once the pandemic is under control and the public can go back to a restriction-free life.

A close-up of the famous fountain in the Plaza de Olavide, in Madrid's Chamberí neighbourhood (photo: Vida en Madrid, via Vidaenmadrid.com)

In its article Many happy returns: The city spaces that bring joy to our correspondents and writers, the British daily ranks the Plaza de Olavide in the capital's Chamberí neighbourhood along with London's Dulwich Park and Hong Kong's Hoi Ha Wan Bay as one of the 22 top places to chill out.

Each of the FT's correspondents have chosen their go-to outdoor relaxation hotspot, and the Plaza Olavide, with its famous ornamental fountain, is described by Spain-based journalist Simon Kuper as being flanked by 'beautiful bourgeois apartments and pedestrianised side-streets'.

Kuper points out to readers that although mornings in Madrid at the time of writing – autumn – can be cold, the bright lunchtime sunshine feels closer to 20ºC.

Another view of the Plaza de Olavide, by Antonio Jaén on Pinterest

He writes how he is 'sitting on a terrace' at one of the Plaza's pleasant but 'unremarkable' restaurants, which serves up a full lunchtime menu 'at the ridiculous price of €13' for the standard three-course menú del día with drink included, with a glass of Albariño white wine.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Mercadona and SuperCor announce blanket pay rises
Wednesday, January 12, 2022

TWO key national supermarkets have reviewed their pay-scales in light of the sharp rise in retail prices inflation across Europe in the past few months.

Supply and transport issues throughout the wider continent, not just the European Union itself, have seen groceries, fuel and energy bills soar – and Spain is not exempt.

According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), consumer prices rose by 6.7% in December alone, which automatically means salaries are worth less, spending power has shrunk, and debates have begun at State level.

Major national unions, including the Labourers' Commissions (CCOO) and General Workers' Union (UGT) are putting pressure on the business community to speed up collective bargaining on working conditions agreements and give employees in their sectors a pay increase.

Supermarket chains Mercadona and SuperCor, part of the Corte Inglés department store group, have already gone a step ahead and announced wage increases for 2022.

Mercadona staff will receive approximately 5% more in their monthly pay packets, making it the first national company to reach this decision.

Entry-level employees at Mercadona have been earning a gross monthly salary of €1,338, giving a take-home pay of around €1,132, until this year, and a 5% rise will give them a before-tax wage of €1,404 a month, or €1,179 after tax.

Staff automatically get a rise after each year of service in any case, up to a maximum of four years; those who have been on the payroll for two years earn a gross monthly wage of €1,470, or about €1,226 after tax, which – with a 5% increase – would now go up to €1,543.50 before tax, giving a take-home pay of €1,278 per month.

Gross pay after three years' service is €1,631 a month, or about €1,341 net, which would in theory now have risen to a before-tax monthly pay of €1,712.55, or a take-home monthly income of €1,398.80.

By four years and thereafter, Mercadona pays a gross monthly salary of €1,811, or approximately €1,468 take-home, and with an extra 5%, would now be €1,901.55 before tax, or a net monthly pay packet of €1,533.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Where to find the 'Laplands of Spain': Arctic winters and summer heat relief
Tuesday, January 11, 2022

POLAR winds hitting Spain mean thermals are being dug out and dusted off as snow lies thick on major highways in the north and inland – and on the Mediterranean and south coast, residents are now sometimes even having to wear a coat when they go out.

Freezing temperatures and snow are nothing unusual in a Spanish winter – after all, nearly everyone lives within less than half a day's drive from a ski resort or several, and it's the most mountainous country in the EU and second-most in Europe after Switzerland – and even in the warmest parts of the mainland, cold snaps between mid-December and late February can mean gloves and scarves, and an extra quilt on the bed.

Homes in typically chilly parts of Spain are normally built with central heating as standard, although on the Mediterranean, the islands and in the south, you're more likely to buy a property with air-con units that double up as heating, since the amount of use you'd get out of a walled-in piped system is not enough to justify the investment and upheaval of installing it.

And a much cheaper and more efficient way of keeping warm at home in winter in a sub-tropical climate is to buy a plug-in heated blanket and wear it over your shoulders; it's summer when body-temperature solutions become more difficult to find, and anyone with the skills to invent a 'cold' version of an electric blanket or 'reverse-thermal' underwear would probably become an instant millionaire.

In fact, some parts of Spain, when it comes to record cold temperatures, are fairly extreme – year-round, not just in winter – you might want to bookmark this page and refer back to it when July burns and sweats its way across the coasts, so you know where to take a road-trip for some instant respite.

That's because we're about to tell you where to find the towns in Spain for which you'll need to pack a thick coat and some woolly jumpers to visit, including in the usually-sweltering June-to-September period.

 

Spain's hottest town (and warmest winter cities)

If the mere mention of the adjective 'cold' is already giving you joint pains and throbbing nerve-endings, and your idea of paradise is California's Death Valley, the hottest town in Spain and the one you should seriously consider setting up home in is Montoro, in the land-locked Andalucía province of Córdoba.

Here, the highest-ever temperature in Spain's reliably-documented weather history was measured on July 13, 2017, at 47.3ºC in the shade – add on another 5ºC or 10ºC for the direct-sunlight effect, and those on the wrong side of the pavement or a few steps from the nearest tree would have discovered what 52.3ºC to 57.3ºC felt like.

That said, and although Montoro typically boasts annual record summer highs, as its weather station is on the 'secondary network', its figures have never counted for official purposes.

Although not ‘official’, the highest-ever temperature recorded in the shade in Spain was 47.3ºC in Montoro, Córdoba province (photo: David Daguerro/Wikimedia Commons)

As a result, the actual, concrete, set-in-stone, undisputed mercury champion is 46.9ºC in the shade (again, from 51.9ºC to 56.9ºC in the sun), on the very same day in 2017, in the grounds of Córdoba airport.

Generally, those who would be in their element basking in temperatures about halfway between freezing and boiling point should look to settle in the cities of JaénSevilla or Córdoba, or just outside of these in the wider provinces, but at the lowest-possible altitude – although sunburn when thermometers dip below zero is frequent at high-up points, the 'real feel' is normally colder the farther up the hill you head; this is why snow is fairly common in the Greater Madrid region and even on the streets of the city in winter, given that at 657 metres above sea-level, it's the highest-altitude capital in the EU and the second-highest in Europe after Andorra la Vella.

Coastal cities that regularly register some of the warmest temperatures in Spain in summer and winter alike include AlicanteAlmería and Murcia, in the south-east and bordered by the Mediterranean; the first two of these have, officially, the hottest daytimes during the country's coldest weeks of the year, in mid-January, at around 16.4ºC.

 

The 'Ice Triangle' and other chilly parts of Spain

Residents in the centre-northern region of Castilla y León would find a UK winter pleasant and springlike compared with their own – in the provinces of Palencia, Burgos and Ávila, especially, average mid-winter temperatures are similar to those of Reykjavík, Iceland, at around -2ºC at night and 6ºC in the 'hottest' part of the day.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Why CNN thinks Valencia is one of 'the best destinations' for 2022
Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A GLOBAL television channel based in the USA has recommended 21 international destinations for travel in 2022, including a Spanish city which it claims is 'better than Barcelona'.

CNN thinks tourists should swap bustling Barcelona for Valencia's comparatively more peaceful streets in 2022 - but direct train links between the cities mean you can comfortably see both on the same trip (photo: CNN Travel)

CNN advises those planning holidays across the pond to 'give the thronging streets' of Spain's second-largest metropolis a 'rest', and head a few hours' further south along the coast to 'the port city of Valencia', which the channel recalls has been nominated World Design Capital 2022.

In practice, despite what CNN says, it does not have to be a straight choice between the two – about four hours apart by car, two hours by fast train or three by slow train, a trip to Spain's east coast could easily involve taking in Barcelona and Valencia together.

The former, as lively, fun and colourful as a European capital – even though it is not, in fact, a capital – includes must-see attractions that resemble nothing else on earth, such as the wonderfully-weird Sagrada Família 'unfinished' cathedral, the psychedelic Parc Güell, both designed by Antoni Gaudí, the hectic 'tourist boulevard' known as the Ramblas, the Montjuïc mountain and cable-car up to the old Olympic stadium, and street upon street of excellent shopping and an eclectic array of restaurants and cafés.

 

'Futuristic' museum complex: So beautiful you'll forget to visit the inside parts

Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain with around 775,000 inhabitants, attractive and cosmopolitan with classical architecture and a very compact centre that makes sightseeing comfortable and simple, is flagged up by CNN in Where to travel in 2022: The best destinations to visit for its plans to become an 'emission-neutral destination by 2025', and reveals that its name in Roman times was Valentia Edetanorum.

The first of its visitor sites mentioned is the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, or City of Arts and Sciences (CAC).

“Designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, [it's] a vast, futuristic complex featuring a planetarium, science museum and Europe's largest aquarium,” the article reads.

These are, in order, the Hemisfèric – which shows half-hour documentary films on fascinating phenomena on planet earth and beyond, costing just a few euros per showing – the Prince Felipe Science Museum, which was used to house the international Harry Potter exhibition when it reached Spain, and the Oceanogràfic, home to over 45,000 living sea species from all the world's oceans.

The Oceanogràfic is humanely and carefully designed to reflect the natural habitats of all its creatures, so they are unaware they are in 'captivity', and is the east coast's key marine veterinary hospital, attending to lost, sick and injured sharks, whales and dolphins who get close to the region's shores, and taking in rescued turtles to nurse them back to health before releasing them back into the wild.

These are the main visitor magnets of the CAC, although the complex also includes the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, an asymmetric 'ball' serving as an élite operatic and classical music concert venue, the Umbracle semi-covered 'garden tunnel', the Ágora sports stadium, and what looks like a massive outdoor swimming pool but is in fact a boating lake, where you can hire a craft and row yourself around the grounds.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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El Niño festive lottery winning numbers revealed
Friday, January 7, 2022

SPAIN'S second-most popular festive lottery after the pre-Christmas El Gordo has dished out over €700 million in prize money, with the jackpot worth €2m.

The El Niño ('the child') draw is on January 6 and, like the El Gordo, a full ticket costs €200, meaning most players buy a tenth of a ticket, or a décimo, at €20.

The live draw on television, just before the balls started to roll (photo: TVE)

Per décimo, the top prize is €200,000, the second prize is €75,000 and the third, €25,000.

For a full ticket, these figures are multiplied by 10.

The €200,000 jackpot, or €2m for a full ticket, went to those with the number 41665, whilst the €75,000 windfall is payable to holders of a décimo with the number 44469 - €750,000 for a full ticket – and the €25,000 décimo or €250,000 full ticket bears the combination 19467.

Smaller payouts go to those with numbers ending in 0512 or 8387, being €350 for a décimo or €3,500 for a full ticket, and at €100 a décimo or €1,000 a full ticket to combinations ending in 435, 842, 822, 851, 709, 740, 025, 300, 665, 632, 721, 239, 186, and 641.

Those who bought a décimo with two matching numbers will get their money back twice over - €40 in total, or €400 for a full ticket.

Number pairs earning this token win are 50, 98, 80, 48 and 41.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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January sales begin and consumers reminded of their rights
Friday, January 7, 2022

SALES have started in earnest all over Spain and the ministry for consumer affairs has once again reminded customers of their rights and what they should expect from retailers.

Focus is now being placed to a greater degree on online shopping, given the sharp increase in these channels since the start of the pandemic, with over 20 million purchases having been made via the internet in the past three months.

Consumers are also reminded that, from the first day of 2022, all electrical and electronic goods come with a standard three-year guarantee, rather than the previous two.

These, along with cosmetics, clothing and accessories, and packaging and delivery companies have created 176,000 jobs to cover the sales period, some of which may become permanent or long-term if demand remains in place.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Exploring 'British Menorca': The UK's very own Balearic Island
Wednesday, January 5, 2022

THAT British nationals have long been making a beeline for Menorca is nothing newsworthy. The easternmost of the Balearic Islands is a magnet for expatriates, retired and of working age, and holidaymakers of all types, especially those seeking a quiet, relaxing haven with small fishing villages and secluded, rugged coves rather than nightclubs and theme parks. 

Yet once upon a time, a summer beach break in Menorca would, for a UK resident, have been a 'staycation': The most sparsely-inhabited of the region's four islands was, in fact, an integral part of the north-western European country.

If you were born and bred in Menorca, you would have been a British citizen, but unlike any other UK county, the legal and official language was catalán.

Nowadays, the island's tongue is recognised as a language in its own right, menorquín, rather than being considered a catalán dialect, as the two are far enough apart in linguistic terms for menorquín to stand alone.

View from Fort Marlborough over the port of Mahón (Maó), which became the island's capital when Menorca was British (this picture and photos 4, 5, 7, 9 and 12 from Menorca tourism board)

In practice, menorquín is part of the wider family of languages known as balear, which includes mallorquín and ibicuenco, both of which are very close to Menorca's co-official tongue, and Castilian Spanish is spoken at least as much as each islands' own language and understood by almost 100% of natives.

English has never been an official language in Menorca, making it probably the only known British territory where the governing nation's main tongue was not in use.

 

Britain gets Menorca and Gibraltar in Treaty of Utrecht deal

Although not continuously, Menorca was under British rule for the best part of a century – an Anglo-Dutch squadron conquered it during the Spanish War of Succession in 1708, and the island was not returned to Spain until 1802.

The stunning fishing village of Ciutadella, Menorca's capital prior to British rule (photo: DetFerMai/Wikimedia Commons)

Britain's sovereignty over Menorca was signed and sealed five years after the country colonised it, via the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 – the exact same document which made Gibraltar, on mainland Spain's southernmost tip, a UK territory.

The difference is that Gibraltar remains British, its natives are UK citizens and the official language is English - although most inhabitants speak Spanish due to the geographical proximity and often hop between the two in conversation - and this looks unlikely to change for another few generations, at least, given that the Rock's residents have always overwhelmingly spoken out in favour of remaining a part of Britain.

Perhaps this is because Gibraltar has been in UK hands for 309 years non-stop, whereas Menorca briefly became French after the two countries' neighbour seized it during the Seven Year War, between 1756 and 1763, and Spain also grabbed it back for 16 years between 1782 and 1798.

Britain would only hold onto the island for another four years after this, when the Treaty of Amiens passed it to Spain once again.

For a grand total of 71 years, though, the Union Jack was flown on the island – and the British decision to switch its capital from Ciutadella in the west to Mahón (Maó in menorquín) in the far east has never been reversed.

 

Menorca's Brit bits

Did the British leave their stamp on Menorca? Of course they did, but not in the form of fish and chip shops, supermarkets selling Marmite and Branston pickle, or Marks & Spencer or Boots or WHSmith stores.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Spain's 15,000 remaining phone boxes set to disappear
Monday, January 3, 2022

DESPITE the vast majority of the public owning a mobile phone, Spain still has nearly 15,000 telephone boxes in the streets – but their days are numbered.

National telecommunications company Telefónica says it plans to dismantle them all starting this year.

It's now 93 years since the first telephone cabins went up on the streets, and they went on to become legally protected, considered under national law to be an 'essential and universal public service'.

Now, though, Telefónica says each remaining phone box has only been used for an average of just one call a week in the past year.

A total of 14,824 are still in operation, but they are not expected to still be in place by the time they would have reached their 100th 'birthday'.

This would have been in 2028, a whole century after the first cabin was erected in what was then known as Viena Park and is now called Florida Park, a section of central Madrid's huge green Retiro Park, and inside a kiosk which had to be opened up for the public to use the phone.

Telefónica has always been the sole company responsible for maintaining the service and keeping phone boxes in working order – although the job is regularly put out to tender by the ministry for the economy, the national communications giant has always been the only bidder.

The last time the contract was up for bid was in December 2019, for two years, meaning it expired two days ago.

According to Telefónica, as at the end of 2020, the average phone box was used to make 0.17 calls a day – 1.2 calls a week, or roughly one every six days.

Around the end of 2017 to the close of 2018, each cabin was used to make 0.37 daily calls – 2.6 calls a week, or just over one call every three days.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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