Monday, January 26, 2009

 

Flights from London to Galicia

I have just tried doing a search for a return flight from London to Santiago de Compostela in early (9th to 16th) May and found the cost to be £189. More surprising is the fact that the carrier it showed was Iberia who terminated this route when Ryanair started flying it 3 years ago.

Closer inspection did however reveal that the flight was a connection via Madrid which would explain one, the high cost and two, my surprise at what appeared to be a direct flight.

Performing the same search, but this time with la Coruna as the destination airport, throws up a return fare of £131 with a 1 hour and 55 minute flight time versus the 5 to 6 hour flight time of the connection above.

This seems a good price and a fair ticket price, but it does require you to fly from Heathrow which presents a problem for those not living in the South of England.

By contrast, flying to la Coruna from Glasgow was a ridiculous £267 with a connection from Madrid and an insane total travel time of 10 hours. When you consider that the actual flight time (in the air) is about 1 hour and 30 minutes, this seems almost unreal in the 21 century!

As for new carriers stepping in to take the place of Ryanair’s now defunct Liverpool to Santiago de Compostela, I have no news. I suspect that this route will remain down until either, the economy picks up, or some other country buys the now bankrupt UK.

If you want to check out the prices for yourself, this where I got my figures: http://www.iberia.com/flight-offers/London-Santiago-de-Compostela.

Friday, January 23, 2009

 

Albarino review

Following on from yesterday and my mention of Galicia's superb Albarino wine, here is a link to a few summary reviews:
http://www.lovethatwine.co.uk/wine/Pazo-de-Serantellos-Albarino_3123.html.

You can now buy this wine at a number of UK supermarkets including Asda, Sainsbury and Tesco. No doubt the others will follow suit.

I believe that M&S sell Albarino, but at very high prices.

As most of the reviewers point out, the best way to enjoy it is with seafood or fish and preferably in Galicia, not too far from a beach!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

 

Albarino wine in Asda supermarket


I have previously mentioned the difficulty and cost of trying to get hold of one of the Galician wines in the UK.

In the south of England a number of wine merchants do (apparently) stock Albarino and sell it at high prices. Living in the north of England leaves me oblivious to this as, until very recently, you could not find a bottle for love nor money.

However, just before Christmas we spotted an Albarino in Asda (owned now by Walmart) and, despite what is a fairly hefty £7 price tag, decided to try it out.

We had intended to have it on Christmas Day, but ultimately this did not happen and instead we tried it out over the weekend.

As a pagan when it comes to wine, all that I can say is that I enjoyed it. It was not as good as those that I have had in Galicia (which have actually been very good), but it was pretty descent none the less.

I have included a picture of the label and my wife tells me that Sainsbury supermarket sell the same wine, but with a different “branded” label.

Monday, January 19, 2009

 

Flight options to Galicia

Some of my more recent posts have focussed on the slightly negative events relating to Ryanair and others dropping Galician airports from their schedules, however Galicia is still comparatively easy to reach.

How to get there
If you are UK or Ireland based and you cannot see a direct flight to Galicia, you can consider either a connection from Madrid or Barcelona, or a direct flight to Oporto in Northern Portugal.

This last option is a very viable one as it takes less than one hour to reach the Galician border from Oporto and it is a motorway for the full duration.

Further motorway toll roads then connect to places like Vigo, Pontevedra, Santiago and la Coruna, and the durations and distances are very reasonable. You can see the distances to each of these destinations at http://www.galiciaguide.com/Galicia-flights-2009.html.

You will also find that flights to Oporto are cheap and regular and there is little (if any) danger of them being cancelled as this is a very busy airport. All the major car rental companies have desks at Oporto and third party hire agencies like HolidayAutos also work through this airport.

For anyone visiting Galicia from the Americas, the task of reaching the destination is a more time consuming one.

Firstly, you will need to reach an international airport that flies to either Madrid or Barcelona and from there you will need a connection to one of the Galician regional airports. I believe that flights are available to la Coruna, Santiago de Compostela and Vigo airports from both of those cities, although schedules continually change.

Naturally if there are any changes, or more realistically, any new or rescheduled direct flights to Galicia, I will post the details here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

 

Festival Website & Darts

Festivals
Checking through some site stats recently I come across this website, http://www.2camels.com, who had generously linked to one of my sites.

The site is called 2camels.com, “Festivals and Events” and it has a drop down menu on the left that lets you find all kinds of festivals and fiestas around the world through hunting by location, type and month. There is also a featured festivals selector. The site also has, what I think is a really novel look. I will start giving it out to those emailing me about festival events in Spain. I wish the owner/webmaster every success, it is a site that should do well and the information is invaluable if you want to enjoy a fiesta whilst on holiday.

Darts
I made an off topic post a few days ago about the BDO World Darts Championship, won by Ted Hankey, but failed to mention that the PDC equivalent had taken place a few days earlier and was won, for the 14th time, by Phil “The Power” Taylor.

Even more incredible than the number of World Championship titles that “The Power” has won were his 3 dart averages over the course of the event concluding with his performance in the final where he average an unbelievable 110 – a world record in itself. This compares with Ted Hankey’s final match average of around 92, i.e. 18 points less for every 3 darts.

In real terms that means that, in a typical 13 to 15 dart leg, Taylor, when throwing first, would most probably get 6 darts at a double before Hankey got one!

There is however an explanation for this massive discrepancy and one that the PDC players and supporters always play down, and that is the dart boards used.

The BDO use a Winmau Blade III (http://www.winmau.com) with modern construction, but traditional playing characteristics. This sees the segment dividers (formally wires) both projecting and flat topped, i.e. the same as they used to be with conventional old style wire dividers.

The PDC on the other hand use a Unicorn board which is promoted as being designed to maximise scoring – which indeed it does.

This board has a design that plays by the rules, but an implementation that sees the width and projection of the dividers reduced and the bounce-out characteristics all but removed by having an angle (pointed triangle) profile to the top of the dividers.

All of this is legitimate, fair and frankly doing nothing more with dart boards than Tungsten has done with dart barrels.

The point does however remain that you do not have a level playing field when comparing scoring stats between players using the two different board types.

Proof of this was evident in the Grand Slam of Darts event at the end of 2008 (when BDO and PDC players compete together on a Unicorn board) and where “the then” BDO world number one, Gary Anderson, average around 106 in his semi final match. An average that he has never attained on a Winmau Blade III board in regular BDO events.

Anyway, enough of darts. Normal “Galicia” related posts will resume next time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

 

Property in Spain

This week saw an organised protest, mainly by British and German ex pats, about the land grab situation in certain parts of southern Spain.

For those unfamiliar with this illegal operation, what happens in very simplified terms, is this.

A local authority re-designates an area with low density housing, e.g., a series of villas, as “must-have” land for cheap low cost housing for locals. A compulsory purchase order is then applied that pays a tiny fraction of the existing properties value.

To make matters worse, and again illegal, the former owners are made legally responsible (in other words they have to pay) for all new services and infra-structure including roads, sewage etc for the new development.

The final situation is that they not only lose their home, but also find themselves in debt for the redevelopment of the land that was taken from them.

This situation is obviously bad, but it becomes worse when the local authority, having re-designated the land for low cost economy housing, changes it again to allow another kind of development. Usually one that sees members of the council benefit from some kind of pay-out from the developer.

The whole process is illegal and the EU court has declared it so, however the national government refuses to do anything about it and indeed plays the situation down as lies, exaggerations and misrepresentation.

So far it would appear that this “standard” response has been applied to the protests of earlier this week with little acknowledgement been given to the situation. The same cannot of course be said for the press in the UK where Spain’s ever diminishing reputation as a country in which to invest has now hit new lows.

The point that the Spanish government, developers and contractors should remember is that much of the developments in those affected areas of Spain are financed by British money. New property developments, many of which are now collapsing by the day, need overseas buyers and Spain’s reputation as a nation in which to buy property has been severely (and I think irreparably) hit by these continuing events.

As I have commented many times in relation to Galicia, Eastern Europe has now opened up and prices, protection, the legal system and many other aspects of property buying and holidaying have now become more appealing.

This leaves places like Spain in a situation where, if their visitors and investors become unhappy, they have alternatives to pursue that may not see them return.

With an economy that has a high dependency on overseas property sales, this is something that Spain should try to address before it is too late.

For more info on the aforementioned protest, see http://colindavies.blogspot.com/ who has been keeping track of it over recent weeks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

 

BDO Darts and "Funeral for a Friend" (the band)

I will leave Galicia for this multi topic post and start firstly with a rock band called “Funeral for a Friend”.

Funeral for a Friend
My reason for mentioning them is because my nephew was one of the kids in their new video which was recorded last week. It is not due for release for a few more weeks, but he had a good time on the shoot and my sister tells me that all the members of the band were great and had plenty of time for him and the other kids being used.

Here are a couple of links to their forthcoming new website, myspace and ytube. They have had top 5 albums and start a US tour next week (I think). http://www.ffaf.co.uk/, http://www.myspace.com/funeralforafriend and http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=mFQ_6Vxpf-4.

BDO Darts
The BDO world darts championship has been on BBC TV over the last week and was ultimately won by Ted (the Count – as in Dracula) Hankey. Tony O Shea (the “silverback”) was the runner up and my personal favourite, Martin (wolfie) Adams, was a semi finalist as was Daryl Fitton.

The final went all the way and had a concluding score of 7 sets to 6 which slightly flattered O Shea who played his worst match of the week. The scoring and check-out averages were also down and, for once, those who spout about the rival PDC will be able to argue that the BDO does not demonstrate the same standard. This was however one match and one event and I would not support that view.

Prize money also saw a top cheque of £95K and £52K for a 9 dart check-out which, in the event, never materialised.

The reason I mention darts and extol this sport is because of its accessibility.

It can be played by anyone of any sex or age and the outlay required is zero. Any pub will let you play for free and, if like me, you want your own dart board you can buy an identical one to that used in the BDO World Championships for £16.29 through Amazon.

Once bought, the board will outlive you, require no maintenance, require no kit or strip (other than the darts) and you can play with anyone, or on your own. What other sport, bar “tiddlie winks” offers such value and accessibility!

Here is the official site for the BDO, http://www.bdodarts.com/ .

Thursday, January 08, 2009

 

Tourist and property interest in Galicia in Jan 2009

There is nothing positive about this post, so do not read on if you have a commercial interest connected with holidaying, travel or property sales in Galicia.

We are now a week into January 2009 and this allows me to compare visitor statistics for my Galicia related websites with the equivalent period in 2008.

I can not only make a comparison between overall visitor numbers and page views, but also the specific pages and page topics that gained or lost visitor attention.

The overall picture is a bad one with total visitor numbers being only two thirds of the same time last year. This becomes even more concerning when the “like for like” figures of last month and the month before were only slightly down on their equivalents of the previous year. It suggests that 2009 is not seeing a fresh and positive start, but rather a significant down turn.

More concerning still is the fact that, in addition to total visitor numbers being down, the number of hits on pages related to holiday resources like hotels and villas sees an even bigger drop. This is also echoed by clicks on ads which again show an overall drop of almost 75% on this time last year. Nothing short of catastrophic.

Looking at the area of ads, this again shows signs of the recession and, for the first time, I have themed ads that are clearly not themed at all. The most obvious explanation for this is that there are not a sufficient number of appropriate advertisers to fill the ad slots. The result - un-themed and, in some cases, inappropriate ads.

To what extent all of the above is down to the recession I am unsure. It has clearly had a major impact, but some other “local” factors have also had a serious negative effect too.

Other “critical to Galician overseas tourism” factors

I have already lamented about the loss of the Ryanair Liverpool-to-Santiago flights and the reduced schedule of their Stansted route. But I have also spotted that the Aer Lingus route from Dublin to Santiago has been discontinued in 2009.

To make matters worse, Holiday Autos, the UK’s most used car rental company, has terminated car rental from both Santiago and la Coruna airports. They were operating from these airports before the recent Ryanair flights (Santiago airport from at least 2000), but there operation is now terminated. This suggests that they see a diminished future for Galicia as an overseas tourist destination, at least over the coming couple of years.

Clearly all of these factors are combining to make getting to Galicia more difficult (as it was prior to 2007) and this in turn is removing holiday and property buying interest in the area. Interest in my property pages is down by around 90% from the same time last year. This is nothing short of unbelievable.

As the weeks and month of 2009 pass by will update on any changes, good or bad, and hope that this rapid downward trend sees some kind of reversal.

Monday, January 05, 2009

 

Moving to northern Spain!

To anyone contemplating moving to Spain, be it to the north or anywhere else, the Stirling to Euro exchange rate is proving a near insurmountable obstacle.

Most people in the UK with these relocation aspirations will be trying to sell a house and have seen the value of their home drop by around 30% over 2008.

Added to this, they now have to face a vastly diminished currency conversion. Indeed a rate that was in the region of 1 to 1.45 (12 month ago) is closer to 1 to 1 now!

For many this will have made any such move financially impractical for the foreseeable future.

It should also be born in mind that those who did make such a move a year or more ago will also be finding the going tough. Any monies left in UK banks will have seen their Euro value diminish and the value of all UK based pensions will also reflect this 30% to 45% currency shift in their real “spend” value in Spain.

All told it is a dire situation and one that sees few winners.

For the north of Spain, property buying opportunities have yet to realise the dramatic falls seen in the large southern Spanish villa complexes. Indeed, with a different “seller” strategy such dramatic falls seem unlikely unless the recession lasts for several years.

The one area where this may not be true is in the new build and off-plan apartment sector. Unlike the rural homes which are in private ownership, these developments need to be sold to give the investors a return on their money and time becomes a critical factor.

As I said a few weeks back, watch for some deals on apartments in places like Galicia and Asturias.

Another bad point, but one to consider if you are intending to move to Spain, is the general increase in the price of everything. This covers, utilities, food and fuel and, although still far lower than the UK, living costs in Spain are rising and these increases look set to continue.

Friday, January 02, 2009

 

Noia at Christmas

I was told by friends living in the vicinity of Noia that the Christmas lights in the town were very beautiful this year. No great surprise as this represents civic pride and a celebration of the Christian heritage and culture of the region and country as a whole.

As yet I do not know what, if anything, took place to celebrate the New Year in Noia, but I suspect that there will have been some king of organised display or event.

Here in Leeds, the 5th or 6th biggest city in the UK and the city that has, for over a decade, been the fastest growing and most prosperous city in England, there was nothing.

This is of course true to form in this satellite of the Islamic world. In the year 2000, Leeds was the only city in the United Kingdom that did not celebrate the millennium and Christmas is of course banned. We have to call it “the holidays”.

Naturally it is fine, in fact a requirement, to refer to all Islamic events by name, but God forbid we do the same with our religious heritage.

The other side to this financial saving in year ending celebrations will no doubt be the spending of that money on more speed cameras, more traffic calming measures and of course centres for ethnic minorities, along with finance for our offices of “Cultural Change”.

For those who know nothing of these, we used to have tourist offices like every other country in the west, but they have now been converted into “Offices for Cultural Change” with the primary aim of educating the ethnic British in the ways of other cultures, primarily Islam.

So on that happy note I wish anyone reading this a successful and prosperous 2009 and hope that you are not unfortunate enough to live in England, let alone Leeds.

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