Entering Zaragoza – through its rather unendearing suburbs – was an unusual, and frustrating, experience. Wanting to check on hotels, not only could I not find anywhere to park, I couldn’t even see a space in which to, illegally, stop to do this. After 15-20 minutes of winding through narrow streets that seemed unusually busy for a Sunday evening, we then found that the notices about a street being closed related to the very one our chosen hotel happened to be in. Naturally, the satnav lady wasn’t aware of this and thwarted my attempts to get to our hotel by bringing us back to the same square – and its bloody barrier – not once but thrice – offsetting our irritation a tad via her bizarre pronunciation of Spanish street names. Success was finally achieved by coming at the hotel from the north, rather than the south, forcing her to give us an alternative route. But I still had to drive round a barrier to get to a nearby underground parking.
Zaragoza has a population of almost 700,00 and an evening stroll suggested every one of these souls was out on the streets of the old quarter, many of them sporting a neckerchief of red and black plaid. So, clearly some sort of event. In fact, a fiesta dedicated to the city’s patron – The Virgin of the Pilar. It was as if I’d arrived in Pontevedra’s casco viejo in the middle of our Medieval Festival. Finding somewhere to assuage my growing hunger proved so difficult I was even tempted to try to wrestle with a machine in MacDonalds. But, having checked on Thai places, discovered I was 50 metres from one. Astonishingly, it had a table free. So, my first Zaragoza meal was Tom Yam soup and Pad Thai. Which – though not terribly authentic – was a lot better than nothing.
So, now to see the sights. And to find out what ridiculous myth lies behind the dedication of the city’s basilica to The Virgin of the Pillar.
In preparation for a tour of the old quarter, I’ve been reading a guide book on North Spain brought by my travelling companion. As the section on Pontevedra was seriously out-of-date, I wasn’t surprised to see it’d been published back in 2003. It’s the plight of all such guides to be frequently wrong almost as soon as they’re published. Nothing beats local advice, if you can get it.
Cosas de España
Seventeen autonomous regions, seventeen regional tax offices. Not to mention the national one. Here’s Lennox Napier on recent developments. There’s said to be concern among the richest of Madrid’s residents, with at least one prominent non-Spaniard threatening to leave.
The European Commission has urged Spain’s left-of-centre PSOE government and the right-of-centre PP opposition to end a 4 year-long stalemate over the renewal of the judiciary’s governing body. That should work. Anyone know how to cut a Gordian knot?
Talking of courts . . . Lennox reports in the latest edition of Business Over Tapas that: A major operation against the Russian mafia and a few local politicians in the Benidorm (Alicante) area, has collapsed after a mistake in the court process. Something to do with a judge taking too long to take a decision. I’m sure this happens in the best regulated – and un-corrupt – countries. Frustrating for the police, I guess.
Having long attracted foreign senior citizens with its income tax holidays on pensions, Portugal is now turning to young citizens – or anyone, I guess – who want to try being digital a nomad. In competition, of course, with neighbouring Spain as well as several other desperate countries.
Portugal has the reputation of being 1. Nicer to Brits than Spain, and 2. Plagued by even worse bureaucracy. The validity of at least the second of these seems to be endorsed by the fact that some Brits there still won’t have their critically important residence cards by the end of this year. In contrast, I got mine in Spain more than 2 years ago.
Speaking on Wednesday in Congress during a debate with the opposition, and holding up the latest edition of The Economist, Pedro Sánchez cited Liz Truss’ actions as ‘The way not to run a country’. Nice. But who could blame him?
Ukraine v Russia
In Moscow, we now know, it’s considered an ‘act of terrorism’ to blow up a bridge but not to invade a neighbouring country and kill thousands of its citizens. At least by the city’s most powerful resident.
The Way of the World
The Voz de Galicia tells us this morning that ahead of electricity shortages, both the UK and France are slowly – surreptitiously? – removing car charging points. Can it be true?
HT to Lennox for this Spanish grammar test
Finally . . . .
The VPN I use claims I’m in East London. I’ve discovered this morning that the specific location is Camberwell. Where, by coincidence, I lived as a student a few years ago. In an area now much gentrified.
To amuse . . .
For new readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.