13 May 2023

Awake, for morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight.

And, lo, has caught the sultan’s turret in a noose of light!

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable

Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España

You’ll all know that Spain is the 3rd-largest wine-producing country in the world. This is a short guide to the main regions. It doesn’t do justice to Galicia, citing only 1 of our 4 wines – 3 white and 1 red.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso is the Presidenta of the Madrid region and rising star of the right-of-cetnre PP party. She outlines her tax philosophy here in the DT. Sra Ayuso is one of those people who equate socialism with communism and, as she puts it, with the death of freedom. Businesses certainly seem to have flourished under her low-tax regime. Naturally, she claims credit for “the best public services in Spain, the best public healthcare in Europe, and the highest life expectancy in the world”. Though these might well be contentious claims; I really don’t know. She certainly takes a good foto, which isn’t exactly a handicap in modern politics. La Presidenta claims that ‘no one is left behind’ in her region. I’m pretty sure people could be found who feel they have been. The Guardian will surely have an article on this quite soon. But I agree with her that Madrid is a great city. Which is good, as I expect to live in it one day. If I can afford it.

Water – or, rather, the lack of it- is very much in the news. So, a HT to Lenox Napier of Business over Tapas for this relevant data:-

  • Golf courses in Spain? 398. Of these, 31 are in Sra Ayuso’s Madrid region. All of them need an awful lot of the wet stuff. Significantly raising Spain’s per capita use.
  • Swimming pools in Spain? ‘Over 1.27m. One for every 37 people. Of these, more than 300, 000 are in not-very-rainy Andalucia, one for every 28 people there..

En passant, I think all the rivers which flow out through Portugal’s coast rise here in Spain. Which could well lead to some spats in the future.


Despite the efforts of its pious-Catholic president, Portugal has legalised euthanasia. A new law will allow anyone aged over 18 to request assistance in dying if they’re suffering “lasting” and “unbearable” pain – unless they’re judged not to be mentally fit to make the decision. Only Portuguese citizens and people with residency will be covered by the law. Foreigners won’t be able to seek assisted suicide there.

The Times: A new survey of typical city break costs shows that Portugal is hard to beat for anyone looking for a good value holiday this year. Just like last year, in fact. But possibly not next year. Be warned that(O)porto gets very crowded these days. The best times for visitng it are long gone. Ditto Lisbon, of course. The price paid for a successful tourism strategy.

From elsewhere, the good news . . . For the sort of items you might buy on a two-day break, from beer and travel cards to a city tour and entry to a top museum, including a 2-night hotel stay, Lisbon came in at £225. Compared with:-

  • Copenhagen £587
  • Venice £687
  • Amsterdam £727 (= Lisbon x 3)

The UK

In contrast to Sra Ayuso’s PP party in Madrid, the Conservatives are entering a death spiral from which there is no escape, says a columnist in the right-of-centre Telegraph. Surely correct. It can’t have helped that they monumentally failed to fulfil their 2019 election pledges to “Get Brexit Done” and “Unleash Britain’s Potential” . Inter alia. The columnist is also surely right when she writes: We are currently heading for a Keir Starmer-led [Labour/’socialist’] government, or even a coalition of chaos. Involving the Liberals and the (discredited) Scottish Nationalists.

The Netherlands

More on expensive Amsterdam here.

Russia v Ukraine

A review of an interesting-looking book on the war and its fundamental causes.

The Way of the World

Slavery: I’ve been known to claim that the concentration on the Anglo involvement in the slave trade is not just unjust but historically illiterate. And, of course, self-serving. This the first of a series of 3 podcasts on slavery, going back thousands of years to its first appearance. One interesting fact to emerge – in Roman society, more than 25% of people were slaves.


A neologism? ‘Overtourism’ – from that article on Amsterdam. Something that’s leading to public unrest in Barcelona, for example.

Finally . . .

If you want a smile – or even a belly laugh – this article might oblige: On The modern furniture designs that have everlasting appeal . . Triumphs of contemporary design with enduring style. Personally, I wouldn’t give any of them house room, as they say.

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.


  1. You would swap the Rias Bajas (and the occasional thunserstorm) for Madrid, the smog, and no sea views Colin?
    I lived for short periods in Madrid, and didn’t adjust very well. It does however offer more business opportunities, variety and fairly goodish airport. Now if only they had more direct flights to Asia.

    We have seen Portugal increase enormously, price wise. Lots of reasons, but holiday rentals have played a big role. Here are my examples,

    Lagos, Algarve, 1 bed flat in 2010 for 10 nights – 190 Euros
    Braga 4 star Hotel b&b in 2012 for 2 nights – 180 Euros
    Cascais. 1 bed flat in 2016 for 7 nights – 490 Euros
    Cascais, 1 bed flat with a balcony in 2017 – 560 Euros
    Cascais summer 2020, 1 bed flat with a large terrace in early June for 7 nights 840 Euros.
    Not been back to Cascais since. We also found food had gone up significantly.

    In Coruña Airbnber owners who are friends expect to make between 5000 and 10000 from June 22nd to the end of August.

    Oporto though, is terribly crowded. But food and drinks are still reasonable.
    I did hear the cable car in Gaia was 20 euros per person, which is shocking. I will walk down the hill, it is free.
    Also, lately I have taken to parking in Norte Shopping for free, walking 5 minutes and hopping on their rather superb tram network for a couple of Euros. Takes away the stress of driving through Porto, and trying to park.


  2. Madrid – Only if I ever need to live close to a daughter. Who might be in the Sierra by then.

    Driving into Oporto from the North, I park in the barrio of Matasinhos and get the metro into the centre. But the first time I tried this, Google sent me to a street called Matasinhos in the centre . . . Will check out Norte Shopping

    Last year I paid 5 euros for a glass of vinho verde in Ribera . . .


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