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Huelva gets its first Michelin Star!

November 27, 2015 – 8:12 pm
The latest edition of the gourmet bible, Michelin Guide to Spain and Portugal 2016, was published on 25 November.
The latest edition of the gourmet bible, Michelin Guide to Spain and Portugal 2016, was published on 25 November.

The new Michelin guide for Spain and Portugal, 2016 edition, has been published, with four new stars for Andalucia: three in Malaga province, and one in Huelva.

All the newly starred establishments in our region are either on, or close to, the coast.

One of Andalucia’s most luxurious and beautiful hotels, Finca Cortesin in Casares (just inland from Estepona), wins a star for its restaurant Kabuki Raw which serves avant-garde Asian-fusion dishes including sushi and tartars of local fish and seafood but also grilled pigeon. Those who are lucky enough to have visited, or stayed at the hotel, will appreciate its impeccable standards in everything from interior design to service to cuisine.

In Marbella, known as much for the excellence of its dining as its glamorous beach-goers, Messina offers contemporary Mediterranean with an Asian touch.

The popular beach resort of Fuengirola, also on the Costa del Sol,  hosts Diego Gallegos’ Sollo – the Brazilian, who won Chef Revelación at Madrid Fusion this year, is known as the “Chef de Caviar”.


Presentation by Xanty and the designer of his restaurant, Granada Barrero, at the Andalucia Sabor conference.
Presentation by Xanty and the designer of his restaurant, Granada Barrero, at the Andalucia Sabor conference.

And over to the west of the region, close to the Portuguese border in the port city of Huelva, is Acanthum, where chef Xanty Elias creates innovative fish dishes. While I haven’t yet had the chance to visit the restaurant, I did see a presentation by Xanty and the designer of his restaurant, Granada Barrero, at the excellent regional food exhibition and conference, Andalucia Sabor, in Seville back in September.

While Granada explained about the customer experience which she had designed using creative sensory workshops, Xanty whipped up hundreds of bite-size portions, which were handed out among the audience on little tasting spoons. I tried the choco with yoghurt; the cuttlefish was spicy with a slightly strange taste, to me, while the thick, creamy yoghurt was a perfect match.

He also showed us dehydrated skate skin, which he fries like pork rind to make crunchy scratchings. And we witnessed Xanty’s take on ensaladilla (potato salad), one of my personal bête noirs of Spanish cuisine. Often made with inferior mayonnaise, his suggested ingredients were potatoes, prawns and melva (from the tuna family). His presentation was espuma (foam) of mayonnaise, with pureed potato but avoiding that heavy, starchy gloopiness – a great combination of textures. Sadly I couldn’t stay to try this, due to time constraints, but I’m sure it was delicious.

Andalucia’s status as a gastronomic destination continues to rise – from markets to food fairs to top-end restaurants with innovative flair to make Ferran Adria proud, this is a region with first-class ingredients, from land, river and sea, where eating has always been a crucial part of everyday life, an essential element to be savoured and enjoyed, with family and friends. Now our restaurants are receiving international attention, with many visitors attracted largely by the gourmet offering.  One of the reasons why we love Andalucia so much!

Last year the we reported on the 2015 Michelin guide.


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The Alcazar goes to Oz

November 16, 2015 – 5:39 pm


Emerald City, the new NBC fantasy drama series, will be filmed in various location around Andalucia.
Emerald City, the new NBC fantasy drama series, will be filmed in various location around Andalucia.


The series is based around The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum
The series is based around The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum.


Seville's Alcazar will be one of the filming locations.
Seville’s Alcazar will be one of the filming locations.

For the Alcazar of Seville, the filming of fantasy TV series Game of Thrones  in the palace a year ago marked a watershed moment – the stunning royal complex, which spans ten centuries from Moorish via Gothic and Mudejar to Renaissance and Romantic, has now potentially been seen in 170 countries around the world. Four episodes of Series 5 featured various rooms of the tiled palace, and also parts of the beautiful gardens, as well as episodes of Season 6 filmed in the Alcazar and Tabernas Desert in Almeria last month. And, it seems, the glorious salons and gold ceilings caught the attention of another TV network.

Now a second major TV show is being filmed at the Alcazar, and it is sure to be just the beginning. Emerald City is a new NBC fantasy series based on the original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum. The book tells the story of 13-year-old Dorothy Gale (played by Judy Garland in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz) who is swept away by a tornado to a land called Oz, ruled by an all-powerful wizard, and whose capital is a green metropolis named Emerald City.

According to entertainment newspaper Variety, “Emerald City follows 20-year-old Dorothy Gale and her K9 police dog who, after a tornado, are transported to another world far away — a mystical land of competing kingdoms, lethal warriors, dark magic and a bloody battle for supremacy. The series is a darker spin on “Oz” where wicked witches don’t stay dead for long and a young girl becomes a headstrong warrior who holds the fate of kingdoms in her hands.”

This is how NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt described the series in an interview on entertainment website Collider: “Emerald City is a modern re-imagining of the L. Frank Baum books that, of course, inspired many things, including The Wizard of Oz and Wicked.  Our version is a bit of a thrilling, more epic telling of the stories, through the eyes of 20-year-old Dorothy who gets caught up in a tornado, but drops into a place that is definitely not your grandmother’s Oz.  This is a big unfolding mystery.  There are a lot of new characters that you will meet.  Some might look a little familiar, but some you’ve never seen before.

Mystical, epic, magic… this has all the elements of a great TV experience, for which Andalucia’s unusual, dramatic landscapes and beautifully-preserved historic monuments are the ideal setting.

Other locations around Andalucia where the series is being filmed are El Torcal near Antequera, with its other-wordly rock formation, scheduled for the last week of this month; also Cabo de Gata, the Castillo de Calahorra and Guadix.

The leading role of Dorothy will be played by Puerto Rican actress Adriana Arjona, from True Detective. The wizard is played by Vincent D’Onofrio from Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Jurassic World, The Cell and Men in Black. The series also stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen, son of British fashion designer Betty Jackson, who was in Mr Selfridge.

Emerald City was created by Matthew Arnold, who also wrote the series Siberia, and the director is Tarsem Singh of The Fall and Immortals – he also directed The Cell, which starred D’Onofrio.

Peter Welter Soler of Fresco Films, who worked on filming Game of Thrones in Spain, will be producing Emerald City.

The fantasy series will bring these natural and manmade wonders of Andalucia to an ever-wider audience.




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Seville International Film Festival: 6-14 November

November 1, 2015 – 8:55 pm Seville International Film Festival Seville International Film Festival


The Lobster is  truly international film, with Greek director, and Irish, English, French and American actors. The Lobster is a truly international film, with Greek director and writers, and Irish, English, French and American actors.

This year’s XIIth Seville International Film Festival, which aims to promote European cinema, takes place from 6 to 14 November. More than 200 films from 43 countries will be showing in 450 screenings around the city. As you’d expect, Spain has the largest offering, with 57 films, and 25 Andalucian productions, either made locally, or by directors who hail from the region.

Timothy Spall, winner of last year’s Giraldilla award for Best Actor for Mr Turner (Mike Leigh won Best Director), about the English landscape painter, inexplicably passed over at this year’s Oscars, will receive a special award (Premio Ciudad Sevilla) at the Opening Ceremony on 6 November.

Movies to look out for include:



The festival opens on 6 November with a gala screening at the Teatro Lope de Vega of the powerful French drama, Les Deux Amis (The Two Friends), about a love triangle in modern-day Paris which harks back to the Truffaut classic Jules et Jim.

Off-beat low-budget satire The Lobster, about a dystopian future where no adult is allowed to remain single, or else they’re turned into the animal of their choice (the title refers to the Colin Farrell character’s selected beast), features a first-class cast: Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell, Olivia Colman, John C Reilly, and a brace of Bond stars – Spectre girl Lea Seydoux and Ben Whishaw (Q in Bond movies).


This section brings the usual eclectic selection of short films, including one about Semana Santa, Seville Santa, and Bla Bla Bla, looking at the topical theme of car-sharing.




A total of 23 films (12 long and 11 short – see above).

La Isla Perejil is a comedy in Spanish and Arabic which sees an unsuspecting Moroccan soldier sent to guard the tiny island in the Mediterranean, disputed territory between Spain and Morocco, little knowing he’s just a pawn in a potentially explosive geopolitical situation.

La Vida en Llamas is about the brave, dedicated men who fight the devastating summer forest fires which affect Andalucia year after year. This is from the makers of the Goya-nominated 30 Años en la Oscuridad.

Melchor Rodríguez – El Angel Rojo tells the story of a little-known anarchist who saved thousands of nationalists from death during the Spanish Civil War.

Mi Querida España –  a montage of interviews by Sevillano journalist Jesus Quintero (also known as “El Loco de la Colina”, the Madman on the Hill) over the decades, showing a broad, varied and changing view of Spain.

Techo y Comida – the challenges faced by an unemployed single mother trying to get by in today’s Andalucia.

You can find trailers and screening details for all these films – location, date and time – on the SEFF website.

This short film is a satire of a recent successful Andalucian thriller – La Isla Minima.

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1st International Contemporary Art Fair in Seville

October 27, 2015 – 4:52 pm


In total 20 galleries from around Andalucia and beyond showed their works at Artsevilla.In total 20 galleries showed their works at Artsevilla.


A week ago Seville held its first-ever contemporary art fair, Artsevilla, on 15-18 October.

Previously, three BIACS festivals (Bienale Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo de Sevilla) took place in the city in the Cartuja/CAAC, in 2004, 2006 and 2008 – no prizes for guessing why there weren’t any more after that. The biennal attracted big international names such as Tracey Emin and Richard Serra, but wasn’t quite successful enough to establish itself permanently as the world economy suffered.

So it was a cause for optimism to see 20 galleries attending – from Seville, as well as other towns and cities around Andalucia such as Malaga, Chiclana (Cadiz), and Albolote (Granada); major Spanish art centres Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona; and even as far afield as South America – Bogota in Colombia and Santiago de Chile.

I went to visit on Saturday evening with my kids, after a Star Wars exhibition conveniently located in a shopping centre opposite – the art fair was at FIBES, the conference and exhibition centre in eastern Seville.

These are some of the works which grabbed us:

Colombian artist Alejandro Prado used a negative painting technique – here seen through an iPad.Colombian artist Alejandro Prado used a negative painting technique - here seen through an iPad.


Alejandro Prado’s negative paintings, whereby he paints in “negative” colours – and then you view the work through an iPad (General/Accessibility/Invert Colours) so that red reverts to blue and dark tones to light ones. The picture we looked at has a young dark-skinned boy in a swimming pool, leaning on the edge. In the positive version, seen through the iPad, his red Tshirt becomes blue, and his face is now visible.

It was fun getting the kids to stand by the painting and take a photo using the “Invert Colours” setting, so that the painting was positive and the child negative. But I still can’t decide if this in-technique, which I also saw in other galleries, has more novelty than artistic value. Is it just a gimmick, albeit a striking one? They had come all the way from Sabine Gallery in Bogota, which also displayed other works which used futuristic and high-tech effects.

A work inspired by iconic Velazquez painting Las Meninas – 1960s Pop Art style.In total 20 galleries showed their works at Artsevilla.


Colour was also what attracted us to the Las Meninas-inspired paintings of Carmen Casanova at the stand of Herraiz Gallery in Madrid. These are lively collage-type paintings of women with outlines of the wide-skirted dresses from Velazquez’s famous royal scene, but decorated in zingy-bright collage-style with flamenco spots, iconic logos and images such as the Stars and Stripes, Martini and Campbell’s Soup. An interesting take on one of Spain’s best-known works of art.


Galician artist Mortango’s Divas and Dogs series was one of the show’s big hits.In total 20 galleries showed their works at Artsevilla.


Another popular trend in contemporary art is the repeated motif panel, with similar themed images. The new artist Marcango, from Black Cube Gallery in Barcelona, did just that with Divas and Dogs. The former were four pneumatically-curved ladies side by side; the latter, a panel of 24 small pictures, all same basic shape, wearing sunglasses and a collar, overlain with different colours and details – At first glance they seem, fun simple, almost childish, but then you see a darker side: from wedding veil and bishop’s robes, to behind bars, in purdah, and violent images of hanging, explosive suicide vest, knives and so on.

This relatively new gallery (2008) has shown the likes of Warhol, Koons, Opie, Bacon, Hirst, Mapplethorpe and Banksy, so this young Galician – he’s only 22 years old – could be an artist to keep an eye on. His gallery claims that Marcango’s were the most photographed works of the fair, with queues of people to see them at certain times; when I was there, I had no problem.

Black Cube was one of the biggest commercial success stories, selling 40 works, including all 28 of those by hot young talent Marcango, for whom the gallery is the sole representative. More Divas, which couldn’t fit into the stand at Artsevilla, are now on sale at 5000 euros each.


Guillermo Summers (G) with his Forget Your Troubles and Dance series.
Guillermo Summers with his Forget Your Troubles and Dance series.
Guillermo’s tree
Guillermo's tree

Another painter who caught my eye was Guillermo Summers, from the Kreisler Gallery in Madrid. If his name is familiar, that’s because he bears the same name as his father, a well-known Sevillano script-writer and TV presenter (junior adds a G after his name).

Guillermo Summers G uses an unusual type of handmade paper from Nepal, called “lokta”, after the high-altitude wild shrub from which it is made, which only grows above 2300m. Lokta paper has a visible web of fibres which lend it a natural, organic look and feel, while being unusually durable. Bizarrely, when I was travelling in Nepal nearly 30 years ago, I bought some lokta paper with a Buddha image printed on it, which I still have it somewhere.

Guillermo paints beautiful shadow figures of women dancing, with an oriental look, called Forget Your Troubles and Dance. I though they were a little like Indonesian dancers, and also Rodin-ish too (GSG agreed). Another painting of his, a tree, was faded and dream-like, very mystical, bringing to mind the huge oak tree in the Oscar-nominated Terrence Mallick film, The Tree of Life, with its first 30 or so minutes of swirling psychedelic images.


Lola tried out Azucena’s shoe-sculpture-seat.
Lola tried out Azucena's shoe-sculpture-seat.

For children, anything they can interactive with is the key to art. So the negative paintings grabbed them, and they also liked the shoe-sculpture-seats by Azucena Mati, who is from a nearby town to us. The white one, in strong but light fibreglass with a beautiful design painted on it, and the wooden one, provided a welcome rest spot for two weary children who had been wielding light sabres for the past two hours.

Azucena also designed some beautiful, elegant tables, made of white Corian (a hard-wearing surface material made of acrylic resin) inlaid with oak, produced here in Andalucia, which were used in gallery areas and elsewhere around the fair.


Using the cardboard taburetes (stools) as building blocks.
Using the cardboard taburetes (stools) as building blocks.

And finally, continuing with the theme of keeping the kiddos happy, at one end of the ground floor, we found a huge area with a stack of printed cardboard blocks. It turned out they were stools, which come flatpack and are then folded into furniture, strong enough for an adult to sit on, and resistant enough for children to use for building dens. Not only that, but the printed designs covering the stools were by young artists and collectives, including elRespirador‘s balloon dog (we bought one of these to take home). Nearby was a long metal seat, ideal for me to sit down and decide what to see next, while they let off some steam, and did some construction/design practice.

According to the local media, with around 8000 visitors, and the aforementioned sales, this Artsevilla has been deemed enough of a success to ensure a second edition. Considering Seville’s inferior position to Malaga, as regards cutting-edge visual culture, this is quite an achievement, not to mention a cause for celebration.

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Three great reasons to eat tapas in Seville this autumn

October 10, 2015 – 7:11 pm


Order a dish, and help fight hunger.


Order a dish, and help fight hunger.

Seville is always a great city to go out and eat – this is where the tapa was invented, after all – and this autumn, a number of events and festivals are offering even more opportunities to enjoy the gastronomic experience. A recent report said that 10 million visitors come to Spain every year for the superb food, and I’d bet that a reasonable amount of them pitch up the city to carouse the thousands of tapas bars offering solomillo al whisky, espinacas con garbanzos, carrillada, and the like.


1) HELP THE HUNGRY: Platos solidarios: Restaurants contra el Hambre – until 15 November

This campaign is nationwide – certain restaurants (see this list – you can search by name of restaurant, province, or city) are offering “solidarity dishes”, a proportion of whose price (0.50 – 2 euros) will go towards fighting poverty through the charity Accion contra el Hambre. The establishments taking part in Seville include Tata Pila, Vineria San Telmo, Mamarracha, and Oriza.


2) ARTY TAPAS Tapas con Arte – October

Tapas week

To coincide with ArtSevilla, the first Feria Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo de Sevilla – perhaps Seville is trying to catch up with Malaga in terms of cutting-edge art? – which takes place in FIBES on 15 to 18 October, restaurants around the city are offering special tapas “con arte” on the Ruta GastroARTS where you can download a map showing all the restaurants and tapas bars. These include La Pepona, ConTenedor (whose co-owner is himself a painter), Antojo, Perro Viejo and Ovejas Negras.


3) JUST TO CELEBRATE TAPAS! Sevilla Tapas Week 12 – 15 November

Tapas week

This is a week in the same way that una quincena (15 days) is a fortnight in Spanish. The participating tapas bars, mostly located in Seville with a few around the province (in Dos Hermanas, Los Palacios y Villafranca and La Puebla de los Infantes), are divided into categories: Gourmet, Mas Sevillana, and Sabores de la Provincia. Two of those taking part in Sevilla Tapas Week are Milonguitas and Bodeguita Romero, offering a mini-hamburger and carrillada iberica (stewed pig’s cheek). For more details see here.




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Lost in Translation

September 25, 2015 – 2:25 pm

As English speakers, I often feel we have an unfair advantage over our hispanophone friends and neighbours here in Spain. They speak the language of their birth, which does them well at home, and all over Central and South America. But for us, our idiom is the one most widely spoken around the world. Just being born an anglophone guarantees us the potential to learn a living almost anywhere as a teacher, translator or interpreter.

In an ideal world, all English text used in Andalucia, a region which depends heavily on foreign tourism (numbers were up over 7% in the first six months of 2015, with more than five million in total), would be translated, or at least seen, by a native speaker – those magic words which are the key to good, natural, idiomatic English. And in the past few years, to be fair, the standard has risen noticeably in general terms.

Google Translation App  Logo Google TM

However what is still too often preferred, due to time and budgetary constraints, is Google Translate. And what does that spell? Potential disaster – egg-on-face, laughing-stock, SM-viral calamity.

Now I can see the clear advantages of speaking Spanish words into your phone, and have the Google Translate app transform them magically into English for you. Very handy for visitors who don’t have a grasp of the language. But if you are a business, for whom the English-speaking market is important – Brits, Yanks, Canadians, Aussies, northern Europeans – then why, oh why, don’t you invest a not-huge sum into a solid, reliable translation which will not cast a shadow over your product or service?

Another bugbear is half-hearted semi-translation of a website. You see the flag, top right-hand corner, to indicate you can click choose your language. The first page, or sometimes even the first paragraph is in English, of varying quality, but then it reverts to Spanish. Oh, the sense of disappointment – your hopes are dashed. Why couldn’t they carry they carry it through and finish the damn job?

Who hasn’t seen an appalling mistranslation on a menu, hotel leaflet or website? Often they’re hilariously funny, sometimes they’re cringingly embarrassing. Recently, Sur in English, the Malaga newspaper, spotted some corkers on the Cervantes Theatre website. This august institution displayed the prices of “fertilizer” and “manure” for Philharmonic Orchestra tickets. In a Jeopardy-like game, Spanish speakers will realise that abono=season ticket has been confused with abono=compost. Oops. Manure over 65, anyone? Mature manure. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Additionally, and probably my personal favourite, a flamenco performer who goes by the name of El Carpeta, became “the folder”. How is a computer expected to tell the difference?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gnashed my teeth with English-speaking friends over coffee, as we bemoan the inability, or unwillingness, on the part of Spanish companies to understand the necessity of having a decent level of English on their promotional literature, both print and digital. Hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, theatres, tour companies. I have offered my services from everyone to the Seville Town Hall to small but successful restaurants. I have offered corrections out of the goodness of my heart – seeing poor English is the equivalent of nails scraped along a blackboard. STOP! MAKE IT STOP! NOW! I’LL DO ANYTHING!

We love people.  Screenshot

Here’s one good example, from a major city’s tourism department. Their main slogan is:

Welcome to a city full of persons who are willing to receive you. We love people!

Would that attract you to visit? Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue; not very natural-sounding. If you’re aiming at an English-speaking audience, here’s a left-field idea. Why not ask an English-speaker what they think of it? Canvas a few opinions? Or, even better, ask an English-speaker to come up with it in the first place. Or someone who is genuinely bilingual. They’re a rarity, at least away from the coast, but they do exist.

What mistranslation horrors have you seen on menus, signs, websites and other texts?


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Games of Thrones comes to Almeria

September 14, 2015 – 5:19 pm
The Acazaba of Almeria will be one of the locations for Game of Thrones Season 6. Photo: Michelle Chaplow

After the excitement of Game of Thrones Season 5 being filmed in the Alcazar palace in Seville last October, and subsequently in Osuna’s bullring,  the limelight has transferred to Almeria province this year, where filming of Season 6 will take place next month on the Almeria coast and in the Tabernas desert. This is the second season which has been filmed in Andalucia.

Staff have been spotted preparing scenery in the area of El Chorrilo de Pechina in Sierra Alhamilla, where Exodus: Gods and Kings was also filmed recently,  and the Faro de Mesa Roldan lighthouse near Carboneras. Sets are being constructed using materials specially prepared in Belfast and then transported to Spain, to be put together on location.

The Alcazaba in Almeria, the city’s Moorish citadel, is also to feature as a palace.

Almerian locations will represent either Dorne (as was the case with the Alcazar in Seville) or Essos.

Other locations include the Muralla de Jayrán, and the Cautivo de Tabernas, where 100 horses will be used, making it likely that this location will be Essos, home to the Dothraki, a nomadic horse-riding warrior tribe similar to the Mongols.

Shooting will take place from 10 to 23 October, with 2700 extras being used – 1800 men and 900 women.

Season 6 is expected to air in April 2016, like previous seasons of Game of Thrones.

To see which movies were filmed around Almeria province, see our list of films shot in Andalucia. The other Spanish locations for this season of Game of Thrones (Juego de Tronas in Spanish) are Girona, in the north-east, and Peñiscola, in Castellon.

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Is the future of bullfighting, and other taurine events, in doubt?

September 1, 2015 – 10:15 pm
Sevillano bullfighter Curro Romero outside the city's Real Maestranza (bullring).

If you’ve been following the Spanish news over the summer – wherever you may have spent the last couple of months – or indeed if you’ve been reading the international press, you may have noticed a glut of stories on injuries and deaths from bull-related events here in Spain.

A total of 12 people died during July and August at corridas (bullfights) and encierros (bull-runnings, when bulls are let loose in the street and “run” to a bullring, by far the most famous and well-attended of which is San Fermin in Pamplona, with 15 deaths in its 90-year history), mostly at smaller pueblo fiestas in the provinces of Valladolid, Toledo, Navarra, Valencia, Murcia, Castellon, Madrid and Alicante.

Anti-bullfighting slogan, seen more and more these days.

Injured matadors

In addition, two bullfighters sustained serious injuries caused by cornadas (goring by a bull’s horn – yes, there’s a word for it in Spanish) – Saul Jimenez Fortes, in Salamanca, received a horn upwards through the chin (the photos are horrific but also horribly fascinating, especially if your sympathies lie with the four-legged beast), while the other was gored in the guts. Fran Rivera Ordoñez, ex-son-in-law of the late Duquesa de Alba and joint investor in the new Lonja del Barranco gourmet market in Seville, darling of the prensa rosa (gossip magazines and TV shows), sustained a cornada which was so serious that the horn went right through his body as far as his spinal column, without – incredibly – damaging his internal organs. He was given immediate treatment in the small emergency room at the Huesca bullring, before being operated on in hospital by a surgeon.

Fran’s father, the bullfighter Paquirri (Fran shares his nickname), died of a similar injury in 1984, before such onsite life-saving facilities were available; his grandfather Antonio Ordoñez was also a famous matador, and good friend of Orson Welles. Such injuries are not uncommon, but what was interesting was the reaction on Social Media – far from sympathetic to the young Paquirri. Many questioned the relative news-worthiness of a wealthy man risking his life voluntarily to kill a dangerous 500-kilo animal, and getting hurt in the process, against a general backdrop of continuing poverty, unemployment and hardship suffered by so many Spanish families. Most Tweeters were unconcerned, and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

Washington Post

Press reaction

Then the Washington Post ran a story asking if the end was nigh for these (blood)sports. And last week, El Pais in English joined in the debate, asking “Is Spain turning its back on bullfighting?” The English-language news website quoted the number of bullfights being held in Spain as having dropped by nearly 60 per cent between 2007 and 2014. The article also said that showing bullfights on state broadcaster TVE has not been a success, with viewers falling below one million in August for the first time ever.

Bullfights are banned in Catalonia and the Canary Islands, but in the rest of the country they still take place from March to October, with numbers varying depending on what you read: from around 400 to 2,000 corridas are held every year, with 7,200 bulls being killed. Small pueblo events seem to be growing – with 16,000 this year, up by 2,000 on 2014, according to the Culture Ministry – but major bullfights are on the wane.

According to figures quoted on the BBC provided by a professor of Extremadura University, bullfighting produces 280 million euros per year, generating 59 million euros in tax. Another figure quoted, in El Pais, was 3.5bn euros, with 350m euros in sales tax, along with 200,000 jobs. Who is to say which one is accurate – it was pointed out that some such figures may include total hotel occupation in the town during an event, assuming all visitors are there to attend the taurine event.

Public opinion

I personally have noticed a huge shift in public opinion since arriving in Andalucia in 2003. Then, the anti-taurino movement was so small as to be barely noticeable; most people seemed to be either actively pro, or indifferent, with very few strongly opposed. Now the idea to ban bullfighting is very much on the public consciousness; many groups have appeared, with active Social Media presence – for example on Facebook – denouncing the cruelty of the sport, and garnering tens of thousands of supporting comments.

A rock music festival, offered for free in exchange for cancelling Toro de la Vega.

There is even a political party with a bullfighting ban on its agenda – PACMA, the Partido Animalista, which is against cruelty to animals; it garnered nearly 500,000 votes at the last general election. Spanish celebrities are supporting PACMA’s campaign against the brutal Torre de la Vega fiesta in Tordesillas – where a bull is chased through the streets and then in fields, speared by hundreds of people on horseback carrying long wooden lances – with the theme “Rompo una lanza” (I break a spear). A demonstration to protest about the event is planned in Madrid later this month. Some major Spanish singing stars offered to stage a free music festival in Tordesillas, if the mayor agreed to cancel the Toro de la Vega fiesta.

On the one side, the defenders talk of age-old traditions, their right to carry out their local fiestas as they have done for generations – in some case centuries – without interference, and bulls living a charmed life in the campo as they prepare for their final appearance. On the other, the attackers talk of unjustifiable cruelty, of causing intense suffering and pain, both physical and mental, to an animal. Recently, a female protestor jumped into the ring to comfort a dying bull – you would never have seen such an action ten, perhaps even five, years ago.

For me personally, the attitude of the Spanish corrida aficionado mentality is summed up by a vehemently pro-bullfighting man I heard interviewed on Spanish radio. He stated unequivocally that animals don’t feel pain, so what does it matter if the bull dies a slow death, bleeding copiously from any numbers of wounds? There’s no meeting point between those who love it and those who hate it, no common ground. Here’s a thought – why not have bullfighting where the animal isn’t actually killed, as in Portugal and France, or the alternative version where men (casually dressed, so without the same aesthetic impact of the traje de luces) jump over the bull? Such activities also involve a high amount of skill, speed, physical prowess, and above all raw courage and sang-froid. Well, would you put yourself in an enclosed space watched by thousands with a half-ton snorting, angry beast? Exactly.


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Bobadilla/Antequera-Granada high-speed rail link gets 62m euro

August 17, 2015 – 9:40 am

Today, a new investment was announced for the Antequera-Granada high-speed rail link, with AVE trains due to start running in 2018. Andalucia’s budget for 2016 includes 62 million euros to  finish this AVE route linking Antequera (Santa Ana Station), the geographically central junction of the region, with Granada, while nearby Bobadilla was an important junction on the old train network.

A few weeks ago, it was announced that the PGE (Presupuestos Generales del Estado)  was allocating 192m euros to the Bobadilla-Granada line (half of the province’s total budget). This will be a relief to many since the current works which were halted in 2014 remain a construction scar on the landscape and EU funding had to be returned for not completing the works by the previous deadline.

Antequera is already served by the Seville – Malaga line, which continues on to Madrid from Seville.

Andalucia was the first region to have the revolutionary pointy-nosed trains, which can travel at speeds of up to  310km/h. AVE means Tren de Alta Velocidad Española. The first route which launched was the Madrid-Seville service, starting in 1992 in time for the Expo 92 in Seville.

The current AVE train routes are these:

Additionally, last month, the EU assigned 140 million euros of funding, via FEDER (Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional, the European Fund for Regional Development) to the Bobadilla/Antequera-Algeciras line. This will help to develop the Mediterranean Railway Corridor.

The section from Algeciras to Gaucin (station in El Colmenar village) – popularly-known as Mr Henderson’s Railway, built in 1892 – gets 19.5 million euros for security installations

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The heat is on – 10 top tips to cope in a southern Spanish summer

August 15, 2015 – 9:46 pm

Whether you have made Andalucia your permanent home, you’re staying for a long sojourn over the summer months, or you’re just here on holiday (or planning to be shortly), you will be aware of the extreme heat in July and August, especially in the inland cities such as Seville and Cordoba where the mercury routinely hits 40 degrees C, or 104 F. So what can you do to cope with these absurdly high temperatures? Here we offer some handy tips.

Teprerature Forcast

1) Use air-conditioning, but within moderation. While it’s hard to survive without those cooling blasts of air, too much air-con isn’t great either, for your health or your bank balance, if you’re the one paying the electricity bill. Many people will put it on for 20 minutes or so in the bedroom before retiring, to cool the room down to a bearable temperature for falling asleep. If you’re going to a restaurant or house with air-con, take an extra layer as you can soon feel cold.

2) Shower regularly. Nothing cools down your body temperature like a shower (as well as ensuring you’re sweet-smelling!). If you’re not going out afterwards, don’t dry off completely, as the water left on your body will keep you cool for a precious few more minutes.

3) High temperatures mean that we sweat a lot, and we need to drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids – at least five litres per day to keep hydrated, as well as eating salty food or snacks to replace the salts. This is especially true for young children and old people, who can quickly become dehydrated, and who need to be closely monitored. Beware of headaches, as these can be a sign of dehydration.

4) Mad dogs and Englishmen… get your errands done in the morning, before the mercury has risen too much – it will still be in the bearable high 20s or low 30s. Stay in the shade, drink water, don’t exert yourself physically. By 1pm you’ll be ready to jump in the shower/pool/sea.

5) If you have a long enough cable, put a fan in or near the window at night, so that it draws in the cooler evening air into your house – many buildings hold the heat for many hours after it’s cooled off outside, hence why you see locals sitting in the street. Also, no-brainer – close curtains and shutters during the day to keep the sun out, then open them again at night to let that refreshing night fresquito air flow in..

6) Put a flannel in the freezer – the ice-cold, damp piece of fabric will provide a few minutes’ welcome relief.

7) Wear natural fabrics – a cotton sarong, which is loose, breathable, and leaves your arms free when tied around your neck, is perfect for wearing at home, in the garden, or around the hotel.

8) Make sure your laptop doesn’t overheat – use a stand with a fan to dissipate the heat, and make sure the air vents are free from dust so it can “breathe”. Don’t leave your mobile phone out in the sun or in a car either, as it could overheat and shut down. Always leave devices in the shade – if they do overheat, take out of cases to cool down, and close battery-draining apps.

9) Wear a hat – shades your face from sunburn, protects your head from sunstroke. Baseball hat with peak or safari hat with a brim, or large floppy straw hat.

10) It’s extremely draining physically to move around when it’s this hot, so do as the Spanish do, and take a siesta during the hottest hours.

From hot sun to cold water – the dangers

One other important point to bear in mind is that if you’ve been lying in the sun, and your body is at a high temperature, and you jump or dive into cold water, the shock to your body of such a sudden and extreme change in temperature might cause you to feel faint or dizzy. Obviously this would be extremely dangerous while in water, especially the sea. There were three cases of drowning last week in Andalucia, two people in their 70s and one in his 50s, and at this stage it seems likely that the causes of death were cardiac arrest. Advice is to splash your body with water to reduce its remperature before going into the water.

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