March 2014 Archive

Spain’s New Traffic Regulations 2014

This coming July will be the 9th anniversary of the introduction of a points based driving licence here in Spain. Since then, road accidents have dropped by 65%, so no one can be critical of that particular legislation.

Now more changes are planned. Recently, the Director General of Traffic (DGT) stated that the purpose of the new proposed changes was to further reduce the number of deaths and accidents on the road.

As a consequence, several changes concern vehicle speeds. On some segments, motorway speeds will increase from 120 to 130kph. By contrast, urban speed limits will reduce from 50 to 30kph. It’s claimed the reduction of 20kph, will uplift the survival chances from 5% to 50%, of any pedestrian involved in a car collision. The plan is to further reduce the speed limit, where pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles are in close proximity, and on secondary roads where some 75% of road accidents occur.

Predictably, opponents of the government are voicing the view that the plans are little to do with improved safety on the roads, but everything to do with raising revenue through fines.

However, some changes seem completely sensible. For example, if a test of a driver shows a ”mere presence of a drug” it’s guilty as charged and a large fine will be imposed together with 6 massive points coming off the driving licence. There’s an increased fine for drink drivers too. The introduction of saliva testing for both drug and alcohol presence will ensure none of these idiots will be able to escape prosecution.

Drugs and alcohol tests for pedestrians who jay walk – not just those who are involved in a traffic accident are on the cards. There are also plans for a total ban on speed camera detectors.

The new regulations are not all about restrictions though – rules that restrict the right of cancer patients to drive will be relaxed. Currently, doctors have to specifically support a cancer patient’s right to drive and to liaise with DGT on their behalf. The plan now is to relax such restrictions.

New rules will be introduced setting out deadlines for the registration in Spain of foreign registered vehicles. Authorities claim it is difficult to track down owners at present, making fine collection almost impossible.

It’s likely that police will be able to fine drivers for offences without having to pull them over. However, before this change, and all the others mentioned, come into force – they will first have to be published in the official state bulletin.

A final aim of the changes is to promote cycling and the use of bicycles. To this end, children under 16 will need to wear cycling helmets. Furthermore cyclists will be allowed to travel below the minimum speed limit. This illustrates extreme naivity on the part of the reformists. As a regular pedestrian and vehicle user, it’s possible to claim with certainty that cyclists do not take any notice of existing road traffic rules – like traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, so why assume they will obey any new regulations. It would be interesting to see statistics relating to accidents caused by cyclists riding 3, often 4 abreast!

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Posted by on Sunday 30th March 2014

11-M anniversary

Known in Spain as 11-M, it’s the horrific terrorist attack that took place on March 11 2004. It was a whole decade ago, but numbing pictures of the four blown-up commuter trains were beamed around the world, making it an atrocity that remains indelibly in the memory on an international basis.

Ten bombs ripped through 4 commuter trains heading for Atocha Station in Madrid, killing 191 people and injuring some 1900. Many injuries were life changing, and of course, the lives of hundreds of families were shattered too. They still are, in all probability.

The bombings were indiscriminate, and designed to inflict harrowing harm to the trains’ commuters. The fact that the bombs were filled with shrapnel shows this to be the case. Although the initial view was that it was the work of ETA, the Basque separatist group, a prompt examination of all the facts and forensic evidence, revealed it to be the handiwork of al-Quaeda inspired Islamist terrorists. Indeed, during the subsequent full scale investigation of this outrage, the authorities have arrested almost 500 suspected Islamic extremists. Latterly, 18 people were arrested for the actual attack, though the 7 main suspects committed suicide in early April 2004, by blowing themselves up in a Madrid apartment, killing a policeman in the process.

Understandably, Spanish authorities have been gathering intelligence ever since, from all sources, including electronic, and have reported frequent references to "Al Andalus”. In Arabic this means "to become green at the end of summer” and refers to the large chunk of Spain that the Arabs colonized centuries ago. Understandably, Spain’s counter terrorist services believe this means Spain is in the terrorist sights once again, and the alert level here is at the second highest category – "a likely risk of attack”.

A study by the Spanish research facility, Royal Elcano Institute, revealed that 84 Islamists, all young men, were convicted for attack plots in Spain between 1996 and 2012 – or died in relation to such attack plots. Most of them were first generation immigrants from Algeria, Morocco or Pakistan. This is a phenomenon that all UK citizens will recognize. Clearly, whether we are UK or Spanish residents our duty is the same. We have to watch out for behavior that is suspicious and unusual, and report such instances to the authorities. If our suspicions prove, at a later date, to be unfounded – that’s OK. It’s far better to thwart a terrorist atrocity, than to allow it to happen through embarrassment at reporting a suspicion, just in case it proves to be wrong.

The devotees of political correctness, both here and in the UK, have a great deal to answer for. I’ve chosen to live in this country, and so I have to respect the traditions and culture in place here. I’m not entitled to demand changes to dress, language, or religion. It’s about time we made it clear to Islamists, or any others trying to bring about change by terror, that the same applies to them.

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Posted by on Monday 17th March 2014

Who is the world’s largest exporter of strawberries

Who is the world’s largest exporter of strawberries? Why, it’s Spain, of course. Some 285 thousand tons of fresh fruit leave these shores annually, bound for European countries and the rest of the world. Some 90% of this production is grown around Huelva, a city in south western Spain, in the autonomous region of Andalusia.

People have lived in the area since 3000BC and Huelva claim’s to host Spain’s oldest football club – Recreativo de Huelva, though it cannot be that old.

The strawberry industry is said to generate in excess of 500000 thousand euros in revenue for the country, and continuing strawberry success despite difficult economic times, has forced many Spaniards to return to strawberry picking for their income. However, they face stiff job competition from low paid immigrant pickers. Last year some 65000 women from eastern Europe and north Africa were hired. All pickers need to beware though, because Japan has developed a strawberry picking robot. Its special cameras detect the colour of ripe fruit, and pick accordingly.

There is a benefit for the women of Huelva though. Apparently the divorce rate climbs at the end of the picking season, when many of their men have become infatuated with attractive immigrant pickers. The men will surely not be as enchanted with the robotic pickers of the future.

So, which countries are the biggest strawberry lovers? Well France is certainly well up the list. It takes around 75000 tons of fresh Spanish strawberries annually. Germany tops the list, buying some 90000 tons each year.

In recent years, production has increased by 18% annually, and this has encouraged Spain to look around for new markets. A toe hold has been established in Asia, but business levels remain relatively small with exports totaling just 6 tons last year. It’s a start anyway. It’s a similar story with Russia and the Eastern Bloc countries. They are starting to show interest in fresh Spanish strawberries, and undoubtedly sales with gradually blossom there too.

Why are strawberries so popular? First they taste truly wonderful, and they signal that summer’s on the way. Then, they are very good for your body. Just one handful of strawberries (around 9 or 10) provide less than 30 calories; 0.1g fat and no cholesterol; less than 10g carbohydrates; oodles of vitamin C; 20% of the daily recommended intake of folic acid; lots and lots of fibre; along with high antioxidant levels. 

A highlight of a trip to the local market is to see stallholders set out their strawberry stocks, plied high on plastic trays. Then with a small plastic spade, they fill a bag with the quantity of fruit that you want to buy. Driving home with the strawberry smell impregnating the car is the highlight of the morning, giving those taste buds an intense work out.

If you have not read our blog regarding Spanish Cherries this is also worth a read! Spanish Cherries

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Posted by on Saturday 8th March 2014

UKs Foul February Floods

Without doubt, the vast majority of the Costa Blanca’s Brits will have been watching the TV news, or listening to the radio, to determine the UKs worst hit areas. Most will have an association of some kind with the Thames Valley, with the West Country, or with Wales.

To say we wished we were with you, helping to fill up sand bags would be a whopping lie. Of course, there is measureless sympathy with the plight of all those knee deep in water, with property floating around the lounge. Of course, we understand that it must be extremely depressing to have rain falling every day from grey/black skies, without a single ray of sunshine to be seen.

But then, go to any café in Moraira for a cup of coffee, and fellow coffee guzzlers will confess to being delighted at no longer being located in the UK. They reckon they are blessed to be away from all the problems you are experiencing. The temperature forecasts here in Teulada Moraira for the final days of February are 14°, 18° and 16°. OK, that’s not paddling/diving in the sea weather, but it does allow you to go for a walk in a T shirt and light sweater. There are plenty of pleasant beach walks too. Behind the fine sands and crystal clear waters of El Portet Beach is a long walkway hosting 2 cafes offering morning coffee and a pleasant light lunch. Then towards Moraira, near the entrance to Club Nautico, you’ll come across Portixol Cove. It’s crystal clear waters make it perfect for diving and fishing. In fact, Teulada Moraira can proudly point out that all its beaches, spread along 8 km of coast, have been awarded the Blue Flag by the European Union. Additionally, they have been granted ISO9001 (Certificate of Quality System) and ISO 140001 (Environmental Management). These awards stem from cleanliness, unbeatable water quality, and numerous convenient services and activities available.

Continue walking south, and you’ll probably hear shouts from the "Lonja” – the fish auction held every weekday from 10.00am. Then, just by the side of "Castillo” you’ll find L’Ampolla, the busiest and largest of the town’s beaches, with bars and cafes close at hand.. Go on for a few hundred meters or so and you’ll discover Les Platgetes, two coves of clear waters that combine sandy and rocky areas, and there’s an attractive promenade viewpoint, with gardens and a car park.

Your walk will now be interrupted by cliffs that conceal L’Andrago Cove. Here the rocks and the depth of the transparent waters make it an ideal place for diving and fishing. An attractive viewpoint dominates the cove, and makes it one of the areas most photographed stretches of coast.

The going continues to be rugged, and reaches its highest point at Punta de L’Estrella. It’s called this since its shape resembles the arm of a starfish. On the other side you’ll reach and find Cap Blanc Cove. It’s the least well known of all the coves mentioned, but it’s well worth a visit. Access from the Moraira/Calpe road is good, but it would be sensible to park and proceed to the point on foot.

There are no destructive waves crashing down on the beaches, so you may prefer to spend some time at sea. If so, sailing or boat tours are available, along with outings in kayaks. If you like sea spray in your face, then a few hours on a jet ski are easily arranged.

If you've had your fill of grey skies and rain, then why not join us in Teulada Moraira. Of course, to categorically promise no rain would be dishonest, but it’s not likely to fall for long.

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Posted by on Sunday 2nd March 2014