Huge wildfire raging towards Marbella

Raging along the coast
Raging along the coast

I’ve been too busy to write anything over the last few days but I had to pop on quickly to tell you about the fire.

I looked out of my bedroom window last night and saw the sky glowing red. Although the fire started in La Cala, about 15 km from my house, I could clearly see the flames whipping around in the wind. The sky was filled with smoke, bright red smoke.

It spread quickly because there was quite a wind last night. thousands of people have been evacuated and one old man was killed. Rescuers are searching for his wife.

The main toll road was closed for a while as the flames licked the hard-shoulder. Over 30 aircraft have been dropping water on it all day but it’s still going. It’s going to take a few days to get it under control because it’s still windy and it’s been so dry this year, and we’ve had a very hot summer.

It’s not the first wildfire this year, and it wont be the last. It happens often on the Costa del Sol because of the long, dry summers and the large areas of woodland and open fields, full of dead, dry grass. It only takes on cigarette butt or one spark from a camp-fire and it goes up in seconds.

A huge area has been destroyed
A huge area has been destroyed

You can see some of the devastation in the picture. I dread to think how much wildlife was killed just in the area pictured. I know someone who runs a kennel for rescue dogs and they were frantically calling people last night trying to get help moving the animals to a safe place.

Many of the evacuees spent the night in La Cañada, a shopping centre in Marbella. Some people were allowed back to there homes this morning but some are still waiting to hear when they will be able to return and inspect the damage.

It’s going to be a while until everything is back to normal, but for some people it never will. People have lost homes, cars, pets and personal belongings.

A few friends of mine were evacuated from Santa Clara, a nice development of townhouses close to Elviria, and others were told to be on standby.

It’s nasty and it’s not over yet.

St Michael’s Cave, Gibraltar

A must see if you visit Gibraltar
A must see if you visit Gibraltar

Guest post by Jennifer Garcia.

If you’re heading into Gibraltar during your visit to the Costa del Sol, then a visit to St Michael’s Cave is highly recommended!

Gibraltar is 130 km away from your Malaga Airport and it’s very straightforward to get to if you follow the A7 or AP7 to La Linea, where you can park your car and then walk across the border on to Gibraltar. Just don’t forget your passport!

St Michael’s Cave is an incredibly beautiful network of limestone caves positioned right at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. It is located within the Upper Rock Nature Reserve and there are a few different ways to reach it. Perhaps the easiest way to get into the Nature Reserve is by taking a Rock Tour with one of the taxi drivers stationed near the Spanish border. Your driver will take you to all the top sights, and provide a running commentary en-route.

Alternatively, you can take the cable car up to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Buy a return ticket on the cable car or just buy a single ticket up and walk down at your leisure. You also need to buy a ticket to enter the Nature Reserve.

The caves are 300 metres above sea level so before you enter, take a moment to enjoy the amazing view across the Bay of Gibraltar. It’s breathtaking. Around 1.000.000 visitors per year enter St Michael’s Cave, either having a look around or enjoying a concert there. It is one of Gibraltar’s most popular tourist attractions.

The lighting has been arranged to very good effect inside the cave in order to highlight the dramatic stalactites and stalagmites which have formed naturally over the years. Water has seeped through the limestone over the centuries forming an acid which dissolves the rock. This has created the caves and passages which link them. The stalactites and stalagmites are effectively a buildup of the dissolved rock deposits.

One very large stalagmite became so overbalanced on one side that it fell over many centuries ago. Today it is still positioned where it fell and so visitors can get a really great look at its cross-section and understand how it built up over time.

It has been proved that the caves date back to prehistoric man although they have played an important role many times since. In Moorish times, when Tariq ibn Ziyad led his Umayyad Conquest of Hispania in 711 AD, the caves were used as a military base. Spanish forces hid in them in the 18th century and, in more recent times, the cave was adapted as a field hospital for use during the Second World War.

St Michael’s Cave is a fascinating tourist attraction. Pay a visit during the day and learn all about its history and creation as well as the legends which surround it. Or buy tickets to one of the many events held there to see it in a completely different light. Regular events include musical recitals, Miss Gibraltar beauty pageant, orchestral concerts, operas and rock concerts.

For more information, check out the Gibraltar website gibraltarinfo.gi.

Jennifer Garcia was born in Gibraltar and has lived there all of her life. She is currently writing about Gibraltar airport, compiling a useful guide for those travelling through the airport.

Spanish workers association accuses Gibraltar of discrimination

Discrimination on the rock?
Discrimination on the rock?

A Spanish workers association has accused the Gibraltar government of acting in a ‘discriminatory’ manner towards Spaniards.

Citypeg has accused the Employment Minister, Joe Bossano, of trying to replace Spanish nationals with Gibraltarians in the public sector and the construction industry.

Francisco Ponce, President of Citypeg, claims that the government is achieving this by only offering 11-month contracts which will not be renewed once expired.

A total of 500 Spanish workers have lost their jobs since last January in Gibraltar, many from the construction sector.

“It is disturbing, with over ten years of service to these companies, only the Spanish have their contracts terminated while local workers have been transferred to other construction companies.” Ponce said.

Article source: The Olive Press

Workers affected by ERE increased by 48.6% to June

Up to 221,188 people were affected in the first half of the year by the Government labour reform (ERE), with termination or temporary suspension, or by having to adopt a reduction in their working hours, a 48.6% increase over the same period of 2011. The number of affected in June increased by 33% over the same month last year, with a total of 45,103 workers affected.

The Ministry of Employment and Social Security, which has published the data accumulated up to the end of June, says this increase is “somewhat consistent with the recession situation in which we find the Spanish economy.”

According to data from the National Statistics Institute, in 2009, the first year of recession in this crisis, 326,496 workers were affected. However at that time there were 18.9 million people employed compared to the 17.4 million people registered as employed in the second quarter of this year.

The Government labour reform, to introduce more flexibility in the labour market and lower the cost of dismissal, was approved by Congress on 28th June last year, but only came into force in February, when it was approved by Decree.

The Ministry of Employment’s analysis points to “a deepening of the tendency to use more intensive internal flexibility measures as an alternative to dismissal.” Dismissal measures have dropped, from affecting 19.7% of all workers subject to layoff procedures in the first half of 2011, to 16.2% in 2012, confirming the trend with a reduction of three and a half percentage points.

El Mundo reported that the reduction in working hours has gained prominence affecting more temporary EREs. In the first half of last year 4% of the total were affected by this measure, a percentage that rose to 21% this year.

According to the Government, this year’s data “imply a better functioning of the Spanish labour market, which slows the loss of jobs in a recessionary environment through the use of temporary lay-offs or reduced working hours.”

Article source: Kyero.com

Average mortgage value increases in June

Mortgage applications increased 1% in June
Mortgage applications increased 1% in June

The average value of new mortgages in Spain increases 1.0% in June 2012, compared to the same month last year. The average value now stands at 122,487€.

This is according to figures released by the National Institute of Statistics. The main points of the press release are below.

Mortgage Statistics – June 2012

During the month of June, the average amount of mortgage constitutions recorded in the land registries stood at 122,487 euros, a figure 1.0% higher than the same month the previous year and 9.1% higher than that recorded in May 2012.

In the case of mortgages constituted for dwellings, the average amount was 107,507 euros, 2.6% less than in June 2011, and 6.3% higher than that registered in May 2012.

The value of the mortgages constituted on urban properties was 4,672 million euros in June, indicating an interannual decrease of 20.8%. In dwellings, the capital loaned exceeded 2,614 million euros, 27.2% less.

Mortgages by institution

Banks were the institutions that granted the largest number of mortgage loans in June (75.3% of the total), followed by Savings Banks (10.2%) and Other financial institutions (14.5%).

Regarding the capital loaned, Banks granted 74.4% of the total, Savings Banks 10.5%, and Other financial institutions 15.1%.

Mortgage interest rates

The average interest rate in June 2012 was 4.32%, indicating a 4.8% increase in the interannual rate, and a 0.1% decrease as compared with May 2012.

By institution, the average interest rate of Savings Bank mortgage loans was 4.40%, and the average term was 23 years. Regarding Banks, the average interest rate for mortgage loans was 4.43%, and the average term was 21 years.

94.3% of the mortgages constituted in June used a variable interest rate, as opposed to the 5.7% that used a fixed rate. Within the variables, the Euribor was the reference interest rate most used in constituting mortgages, specifically in 84.5% of new contracts.

Mortgages with registration changes

In June, the total number of mortgages with changes in their conditions recorded in the land registries stood at 29,840, with an interannual increase of 0.5%. For housing, the number of mortgages with modified conditions decreased 0.1%.

Considering the type of modification of the conditions, in June 25,225 novations (or modifications produced within the same financial institution) were produced, for an interannual decrease of 2.5%. The number of transactions that changed institutions (subrogations creditor) was 3,258, that is 23.1% more, as compared with June 2011. In turn, 1,357 mortgages changed the holder of the mortgaged property (subrogations debtor), which implied an interannual increase of 16.2%.

Registered mortgage cancellations

In June, 37,828 mortgage cancellations were registered, 4.5% less than in the same month of 2011. Mortgages cancelled on rustic properties decreased 7.3%, whilst those cancelled on urban properties decreased 4.4%. Cancellations of mortgages on dwellings decreased 7.8% in the interannual rate.

You can read the full press release here: Mortgage Statistics – June 2012

Aventura Amazonia – A tree top theme park

Guest post by Amanda Nicholson

The park has plenty to keep kids busy
The park has plenty to keep kids busy

Aventura Amazonia is a great new nature inspired adventure park in Marbella, especially for kids, young and old! Come to the ecological park where tree climbing is not just allowed, it’s positively encouraged!

The adventure park is based in the tree tops near Elviria, just east of Marbella, and approximately 30 minutes drive away from Malaga Airport. There’s plenty of parking and it’s easy to find. The park is located near to the Elviria commercial centre and Santa Maria golf course so there are lots of shops, supermarkets, restaurants and bars nearby, as well as the beach of course!

This is something really different to hit the Costa del Sol. It’s the perfect place for children of all ages to let off some steam. The main activities at Aventura Amazonia are suitable for kids from 6 years old (minimum height 1.15 m) to grown ups who are children at heart! But there’s also a mini kids circuit for smaller children aged between 4 and 6 so no-one misses out.

The 83 different challenges and 20 incredible zip lines at Aventura Amazonia will thrill even the most hardy adventure park aficionado. It is home to the longest zip line in Andalucia at an amazing 240 m in whizzing length! You can direct your own fun by taking part in the challenges that inspire you, while working at one with nature and the environment.

Each challenge is graded in terms of its difficulty and clearly marked. You choose which ones you want to attempt according to your agility, ability and courage: green, blue, red and black – just like skiing! There are climbing challenges, speed adventures, bridges to cross, jumps to leap and zip lines to negotiate. The choice is yours and you have up to three hours in which to exercise your body and mind.

Safety is of utmost importance at Aventura Amazonia. All adventurers are provided with the necessary harness and safety equipment, and given a 30 minute instruction session on how to use everything and enjoy themselves in safety.

The kids will love it and so will the adults. Aventura Amazonia is a great alternative for birthday parties, stag dos, hen parties and company team building events.

To find the Aventura Amazonia adventure park, take the A7/N340 from your Malaga Airport car hire collection point, direction Algeciras, Marbella and Cadiz. Exit at kilometre192 on the north (mountain) side and follow the signs. For more information check out www.aventura-amazonia.com.

Amanda Nicholson has lived in Marbella for over 20 years and is currently writing area guides for the Malaga airport travel website which provides a wealth of information for passengers travelling through the airport.

The Blairs are back in town!

Tony Blair
I can’t caption this photo without swearing

Ex-Prime Minister and warmonger Tony Blair has been spotted with his with Cherie, apparently soaking up some sun at a friend’s house in the little white village of Benahavis.

Tourists were surprised to see the couple at a restaurant in Puerto Banus having attended Sunday mass at church in San Pedro earlier in the day.

Rumors suggest Mr Blair may also be in Spain to meet with Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy while he is here, possibly to talk about the crisis currently crippling the country.

According to newspaper, The Olive Press, there has yet to be any photographs of the couple made available.

This is the third muppet… I mean, politician to visit the country in the last few weeks. Both Prime Minister David Cameron and his cowardly little wimp of a deputy, Nick Clegg, were here last week.

Cameron went to Mallorca and Clegg visited Valladolid, a few hundred miles north west of Madrid.

I hope Blair isn’t here too long. If I was lucky enough to bump into him I don’t think I could be trusted to be nice.

Spain receives record tourists in July

Spain receives record tourist numbers in July
Flight arrivals increased by almost 6%

In July this year, Spain received 7.7 million international tourists, representing an increase of 4.4% over the same month last year, or 328,000 more people.

According to the Survey of Tourist Border Movements (Frontur) prepared by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, these figures mark an all-time high in the records for monthly arrivals.

The Ministry stressed that “this increase strengthens the positive trend seen throughout the year, with the exception of the month of April.”

Germany and France were the markets that contributed most to the month’s increase, and Catalonia was the destination that registered most growth.

Accumulated in the year, from January to July, Spain received about 33 million visitors, representing a rise of 3.3% year-on-year.

1.76 million tourists arrived from the UK in July, up 0.5% from a year earlier, and their main preferred destination was the Balearic Islands, followed by Catalonia.

The second source market was France, increasing 7.7% over the previous year to 1.27 million tourists. The Ministry, headed by José Manuel Soria, pointed out that “this positive result is mainly concentrated in Catalonia, their main destination.”

Germany followed, with 1.17 million tourists (+9.7%), and Italy, with 479,607 visitors (+5.7%).

El Mundo reported that also noteworthy, is the increase in arrivals from the United States, which soared 27% in July, reaching 180,040 tourists.

In July Catalonia was the first national tourist destination, and also experienced the biggest increase of the period, in line with the positive trend held throughout the year, as explained by the Ministry.

Specifically, the region received 2.02 million tourists, up 9%, driven by the flow of arrivals from the British, French and German markets.

The Balearic Islands, in second place, saw an increase in tourists of 2.6% in July, reaching 1.98 million. Germany, traditionally its main source market, led this increase, together with a positive contribution from the UK market.

Andalusia again registered a decrease (-2.1%), marking its seventh consecutive decline, but less intense than the previous months. Specifically, the region received 933,902 tourists, and the reduction in the number of British tourists, its primary market source, explains much of this negative result.

The fourth most visited destination was the Canary Islands, which received 821,969 tourists in July, down 14%, and which breaks the trend of increases in previous months, with the exception of April.

Frontur’s data also shows that airport arrivals increased by 5.9% in July, in line with the trend experienced throughout the year.

Road travel broke the downward trend of the first half of the year, with the exception of May, and rose 1.9%.

Tourists staying in hotels rose slightly (0.8%), following the strong increases in the first half. By contrast, non-hotel accommodation in July broke from the path of decline of recent months, registering a major increase of 10.6%.

Tourists travelling on a package holiday fell for the second time this year (-4.4%), while those not on a package holiday increased by 8.3%, after the declines of earlier in the year.

Article source: Kyero.com

Barcelona and its World of Art

Guest post by Mitchell Zavich Zunia

Barcelona, SpainSpain, which is the most varied of all the countries in Europe, pays homage to its history, bullfighting agenda, hedonism, holiday villas, and most especially, ARTS. No other nation in the world produces marvel in their masterpieces like it does – from traditional to contemporary. This country is full of life, culture, and credence. People say that stepping into its realm brings you to another universe as its land beyond the mountains has a character and personality so stunningly different, where the sun beats down mercilessly.

Spanish art is so distinct. It is characterised on experimented pictorial techniques and effects on light and textures. And this kind of exploratory trend finds its roots in painters such as Joaquin Mir and Casas who represent the predecessors of impressionists. Aside from this eccentric style, came the rise of avant –garde led by Pablo Picasso which made blares and hullabaloos. Later then, pop art, minimalism, modern art installations, and abstract expressionism crowded the European Art scene.

Barcelona, as Spain’s most cosmopolitan city and one of the Mediterranean’s busiest ports, also boasts in their arts competence, as shown in their numerous galleries and museums, a midst Europe’s heavy concentration on hi-tech and bio-medical business. The racing heart of Barcelona never skipped a bit.

Here’s the top 5 art museums/ galleries that Barcelona prides itself on:

  1. Picasso Museum – This museum is located in Malaga City. It was inaugurated on the 27th of October 2003 by the King and Queen of Spain. And because Picasso’s works are too many to display, some are queued outside the museum’s narrow pedestrian for free public appreciation. Alongside the building are bookshops and cafés – all specialising in Picasso’s modern arts.
  2. Joan Miro Foundation – This opened to the public on the 10th of June, 1975. It has been dedicated to artists who saw the opportunity to promote and publicise their works. During when Spanish art was minimal, the Foundation conveyed a different yet refreshingly and dynamic concept of art.
  3. Tàpies Foundation – This foundation is not only an avenue for arts but for education and research as well.  It seeks to protect and distribute all the museum’s significant documents and material, as well as its educational resources so it could help facilitate information about Antoni Tàpies’ contemporary works.
  4. Mies Van der Rohe Pavillon – Exhibitions and lectures are hosted in this foundation. Aside from disseminating knowledge about its designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, it also features modern and contemporary architecture in general from either a historical or present-day point of view.
  5. Catalan National Art Museum (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) – It is the national museum of Catalan visual art. It is especially noteworthy for its outstanding collection of Romanesque church paintings, and Catalan arts which includes: 1) Romanesque art; 2) Gothic art; 3) Renaissance and Baroque art; and 4) Modern art.

These are just among the many art wonders of Barcelona where one can visit, enjoy, and relive once again the historical impression set by its artists. Let me quote Octavio Paz’ statement: “Art is an invention of aesthetics, which in turn is an invention of philosophers… What we call art is a game.”

Mitchell Zavich Zunia is a native of Pennsylvania, and has graduated from Robert Morris University with a degree in International Studies. She is a field photographer for a high- flying publication in Pittsburgh. Also, she’s the online content coordinator for www.allseminyakvillas.com. You may follow her on Twitter @MitchellZunia

What to watch out for when buying a rental property

In today’s uncertain economy, home ownership is becoming tougher for many individuals. Investors are turning to the idea of owning a rental property because a greater percentage of the population is unable to secure financing for real estate and are therefore living in a unit owned by someone else.

Rental properties may be considered a rather safe way to diversify one’s income, but those interested in becoming a landlord should first consider the pros and cons.

Owning a rental property is truly a hands-on endeavor, one that has many legal strings attached. A house or condo needs constant attention and there are many ways in which money can trickle through the property and be lost forever. Before deciding to invest in a rental property, make a checklist and carefully examine the possible monetary losses.

Location and Price

Orlando Vacation Rental VillaThe location of the rental property is the single most important factor when choosing whether to invest. Most renters look at the location with respect to where they attend school, work, or shop. Singles will not want to commute very far if they can avoid it.

Families will be checking the location of nearby schools. If there are a large number of rental properties in the neighborhood that are currently vacant, chances are the area is attracting little interest from renters.

A property will be useful as a rental unit only if the average price charged in the neighborhood compares favorably with the medium home values. It is a good idea to calculate the average value of the homes in the vicinity and compare this figure against the average annual cost to rent a home in the neighborhood. While each market varies, if the ratio is higher than 21-1, owning a home in the area is more expensive than renting.

Deciding the Rent Amount

Obviously, customers will respond more favorably to lower rent prices, but a good amount of reason must be used when setting a monthly rental cost. The total of the mortgage, property insurance, taxes and any association membership costs must be taken into consideration. The owner is responsible for all repairs including cracked walls, roof leaks, broken fixtures or appliances, and worn carpets.

Investors should look at similar properties in the neighborhood and compare rental prices among those having similar amenities. Two houses of the same size and with similar lots may have quite different rental rates because the interior of the homes are distinctly different.

Obtaining Financing

Many lenders have more strict loan qualification requirements for rental properties, especially if the owner will not be living on the property. Banks and other financial institutions must consider the possibility that the unit may be vacant for a certain percentage of time, generating no income for the owner. Banks tend to be a bit more lenient when it comes to multiple-unit properties that are already occupied.

Owners living in one of these units may qualify for reduced interest rates. Owner-occupied loan packages save a good deal on interest and still allow investment income from the other units.

Check the Property Taxes

These taxes are subject to change if the property is not currently used as a rental. Cities and counties often give a tax break for properties that are owner-occupied and are also being used to generate income. If the owner does not live on the property, no tax advantages will be realized.

Jason Nelson contributed this article on behalf of Kanetix.ca