Spain’s Murcia Earthquakes: 8 Dead, 120 Injured

Picture courtesy

Disturbing images, video, and firsthand accounts of the 2 deadly earthquakes which rocked Lorca, Murcia, Spain yesterday (11 May 2011) flood today’s media outlets. 8 dead and 120 injured. Included in the dead are a 14 year old boy and a 22 year old pregnant woman.

It happened at 5pm local Spain time when the first earthquake his, a 4.5 on the Richter Scale. 2 hours later, another earthquake was measured at 5.2. There were 37 total aftershocks. Incredible. Spain’s military was mobilized to help and 10,000 people spent the night in tents.

Lorca’s Old Town has 20,000 flats, most of which were built in the 1960s when little was known – or observed – of building safety regulations. Many of these houses and buildings have some kind of damage and will need to be inspected by city engineers and architects.

With so many flats affected, with so many out of work, how are these poor people going to pay their mortgages? And if they can, they may be paying a mortgage for a house in which they cannot live until repaired, houses they certainly won’t be able to sell to prospective buyers which may know – or suspect – there may be unseen structural damages.

The earthquake was also felt here in Madrid, Spain – but wasn’t felt by me. Not sure why. Other people in Madrid told me they too felt tremors. I was watching the “event” on La 1, Spain’s national Channel 1, from about 7pm on. Just before tuning in, an old church bell tower – AND BELL – fell to the ground, nearly hitting a Channel 1 reporter who was recounting the earlier earthquake. He was standing within the emergency tape of already-fallen bricks from the same church. See video below of the belfry falling within 12 feet of the reporter.

CNN Video below:

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Swedish Video on Spain: Europe’s Hardest Working Nation

I think Spain has been both insulted AND praised at the same time by the below Swedish video. It is provided by the Swedish documentary program “The Swedish View“. The documentary “deconstructs” why SPAIN has been named “The Hardest Working Nation in Europe“. In short, it comments on Spain’s long work day – by the clock, but much of which, according to the program, is taken up by long lunches, coffee breaks, and updating Facebook pages.

The above video is in Swedish with Spanish subtitles (translated to English via Google Translator further below) but here they are:

“Con ustedes, la gente más trabajadora de Europa”. Así presenta el periodista sueco a los españoles que trabajan dentro de un edificio de oficinas ubicado en el centro financiero de Madrid. Con un irónico “Olé”, prosigue: “Vean si no, las 20:00 horas y todavía hay gente trabajando”, afirma señalando las ventanas.

“¿Pero es que en este país no tienen jornada laboral de 8 horas?”, se pregunta extrañado. “¿Toda esta gente entró a trabajar a las 9:00 horas?”.

El programa, muy crítico con la forma de trabajar en España, señala a distintos trabajadores: “Éste entró a las 10:30 horas”, “Éste pasó dos horas comiendo”, “Ésta estuvo dos horas conectada a Facebook”.

A continuación, se pregunta: “Veamos cómo es la vida después del trabajo…”. Y sorprendido, como si se tratara de gente rarísima exclama “¡En el trabajo! Incluso después del trabajo, la gente continúa haciendo tiempo en el puesto de trabajo”.

El documental muestra a un ‘trabajador’ leyendo el periódico al tiempo que ‘calienta la silla’. “Listo, mañana podré decir que me he quedado hasta las 22:00 horas”. Entonces su compañera se acerca y le pregunta: “¿Vamos de copas?”. A lo que él contesta: “No, que tengo mucho curro, hoy he estado todo el día charlando por los pasillos y no he podido hacer nada”.

El documental irónico y crítico de principio a fin con la forma de trabajar en España concluye con uno diciendo: “Yo también quiero un ascenso, me quedaré haciendo tiempo subiendo mis fotos a Facebook”.

“Lo dicho, el pueblo más trabajador de Europa”, concluye.

The above video and brief article was posted today on Qué.es newspaper.

Now, passing the above through Google Translator, it comes out in English as the below:

“With you, the hardest working people in Europe. ” Thus introduced to the Spanish Swedish journalist working in an office building located in the heart of Madrid. With an ironic “Olé”, he continues: “Look if not 20:00 and there are still people working, “he says pointing to the windows.

“But is that in this country are working day of 8 hours?” he asks in surprise. “All these people came to work at 9:00 am?”.

The program, very critical of the way to work in Spain, pointing to different workers: “This came at 10:30,” He spent two hours eating, “” It was two hours connected to Facebook. “

It then asks: “Let’s see how is life after work …. ” And surprise, as if they were rare people exclaimed “At work! Even after work, people are still doing time in the workplace. “

The documentary shows a “worker” reading the newspaper while ‘heating the chair’. “Ok, tomorrow I can say I’ve stayed until 22:00. ” Then his companion and asks: “Are we going for drinks?”. To which he replied: “No, I have a lot of work, today I have been all day chatting in the corridors and I could not do anything. “

The ironic and critical documentary from beginning to end with how to work in Spain ends with one saying: “I want a promotion, I’ll be doing time uploading my photos to Facebook.”

“Like I said, the hardest working people in Europe”, he concludes.

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No More Fox News in Spain

19 May 2011 UPDATE: As of 2 days ago, after being off-air for about a week, Fox News returns to Spanish satellite Canal+ TV.

The fact is, I’ve never spent much time watching Fox News here in Spain, on Canal+ satellite, except for their occasional coverage on natural disasters, accidents, highway car chases, and (alleged) boys caught in runaway air balloons. They always have great from-the-helicopter coverage.

The other day I was scanning the Canal+ news channels like TVE24Horas, InfoMeteo (weather), CNBC, Bloomburg, BBC World, CNN International, France24 (in English), Al Jazeera (yes, really, and in English!), and EuroNews. Oddly enough, the Fox News channel was still there in its place, channel 76, right between CNN & France 24, but no emission. The Fox News logo was stoically on the center of a black screen with the words “ESTE SERVICIO HA FINALIZADO SUS EMISIONES” underneath. No other explanation was given.

So I went to the Canal+ website of channels, searched for Fox News – there is was. But when I clicked on the program schedule it too showed as “Fin de Emisión“.

Fox News is gone from Spain’s Canal+ satellite lineup. I guess that’s not altogether a surprise. Without getting too political, the Fox News reputation exceeds its American borders and the average Spaniard doesn’t think too highly of it. (no, I didn’t stand on the street corner with pad-and-paper taking a poll) It’s probably partly that and also partly that your average Spaniard is quite a bit more left-thinking than your average Fox News viewer – even if that Spaniard is a card-carrying member of the (right-wing) Partido Popular Party. So maybe Fox News, or Canal+ itself, didn’t think Spain was a good fit for it. Or maybe their market share was low. Who really knows the truth besides the Canal+ people themselves. I’ve done Google searches for more info but none could be found. Guess it’ll remain a mystery for now.

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Real Madrid-Barcelona Online: Champions League Semi-Final 2011

Tonight’s “El Clásico“, between perennial Spanish football powerhouses Real Madrid & FC Barcelona, starts at 8:45pm local Spanish time for the 1st leg of the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. This is a (nearly??) unprecedented 4th of 5 total match-ups in this 2010-2011 football season. The final “El Clásico” will be next week on the 3rd of May for the second leg semi-final of the Champions League. (how can anyone keep this stuff straight?!?!?)

Their previous match-up was just last Wednesday night on Valencia’s Estadio Mestalla’s neutral turf. The outcome, 1-0, yielded Real Madrid as the victors of the “Copa del Rey” or Spain’s “King’s Cup” – which was embarrassingly dropped under the front tires of the celebration bus as it passed through the streets of Madrid. (Thanks, Sergio Ramos!!)

The game is televised locally in Madrid on Telemadrid. If you can get in, it’s also being broadcast free on (I’m watching it live there now!) I also hear-tell one can find ways to watch the games online via the links at and – but I can’t confirm that.

Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira & Fernando Gago will miss tonight’s match. For FC Barcelona, Andres Iniesta will miss action while Carles Puyol and Gabriel Milito return after injury leave.

Best of luck to BOTH teams!


FINAL RESULT: 2-0 for winners FC Barcelona, both goals scored by Lionel Messi in the second half.

Below is a 180º sweep video I shot last April 2010 of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium during the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium Tour.

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Real Madrid-Barcelona Online: Copa del Rey Final 2011

Real Madrid and Barcelona match-up for the 3rd of 5 games in the 2010-2011 season of the “El Clásico” games. This time is for the final of the “Copa del Rey” and will be played in Valencia’s Estadio Mestalla.

One can watch live on TV on Spain’s RTVE’s La 1 (channel 1) as well as online at and The game starts at 9:30pm local Spain time, 8:30pm UK time, or 2:30pm East Coast USA time.

Last Saturday night’s 2nd of 5 “El Clásicos” in Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium ended in a 1-1 tie but tonight’s game is the FINAL of  Spain’s “The King’s Cup” or the “Copa del Rey”. I wish BOTH teams the best of luck. Even the King and Queen of Spain are watching from the stands.

GAME RESULT: Goal by Cristiano Ronaldo in the second overtime to lead Real Madrid over Barça, 1-0, the first Copa del Rey for Real Madrid in 18 years!!

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Watch El Clasico Live Online: Real Madrid-Barcelona 16 April 2011

You heard me! Thanks to Spain’s “La Sexta” TV channel, tonight’s “El Clásico” between La Liga powerhouses Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will be televised on “free”/air TV as well as live online. THANK YOU, LA SEXTA!! In other words, this will NOT be a Pay-per-View event nor will it be televised exclusively on satellite/Canal+ television. That’s great news.

This “El Clásico” takes place on the hallowed pitch of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. “Kick-off” is at 10pm local Spain time, 9pm UK time, or 4pm East Coast USA time.

You can watch it LIVE ONLINE HERE on La Sexta’s website. Be sure to check-in early in order to get to watch the game as there are only a limited number of “ports” through which to watch the game – albeit hundreds or even thousands of them. Still, you don’t want to get locked-out.

I’ve also heard/read there are other places at which to catch the game live online – although I can neither validate this nor negate it. See this website for possible links to other sources “broadcasting” the Real Madrid-Barcelona game live online. There, they recommend you tune-in at least 30-minutes before the game starts.

As I’m sure you’re aware, this season there will be an unprecedented FIVE “El Clásicos” between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, FOUR of which come in a 3-week span of time. (see graphic at right) Wow. That’s an Real Madrid-Barcelona fan’s dream!

Tonight’s match-up is in “La Liga”, Wednesday’s game is for the “Cop del Rey”, and the last two go towards “The Champions League”.

Let’s see how Barça’s Messi plays against Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

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4 Real Madrid-Barcelona Games This Season

[CLICK HERE to read today’s blog entry about tonight’s Champions League game and how to watch online!]

Every year around this time, the Spanish press starts trumpeting headlines on the ‘Partido del Siglo‘ or ‘Game of the Century’. They’re referring, of course, to Barcelona playing Real Madrid, and their claim, which can’t be true of a game that’s played at least twice a year, starts sounding believable in a somewhat exaggerated way once the referee blows the whistle and the match starts.

Practically nothing can compare to the tension of a Real Madrid – Barcelona, especially in a laid-back country such as this one. But all the strain between Spain’s capital and its proudest city is set loose in the 90 minutes the game lasts.

So what’s different this year?

First of all, the game won’t only be played the set two times that La Liga mandates, one in Madrid and another in Barcelona. This season, both teams are also matching up in the “Copa del Rey” – King’s Cup final (an equivalent to the FA Cup) and in the Champions League semifinal.

Real Madrid, traditionally the stronger team, hasn’t won a single title in the past two seasons, a situation made especially painful in the 2008/09 season, when Barcelona carried every single tournament they participated in, a feat never equaled by any other Spanish team. Madrid has tried to match Barcelona’s powers with the world’s most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo, and coach, José Mourinho. Both come from impressive wins in the British and Italian leagues, but it could be that not even they are a match for what some say could be football history’s greatest team. Their loss to Barcelona in the first half of the league, 5-0, is one of the most bitter the team can remember.

It has been many years since Real Madrid’s game has matched their name. But despite disappointing performances, the team has managed to scrape two of the last five league titles, and last year won more points than any team in Spanish history… except for Barcelona that same year. Cristiano Ronaldo, the team star, has scored 40 goals this season, enough to have won him goal-scoring records. Except that Leo Messi, Barcelona’s star, has scored 48. Real Madrid hasn’t beaten their arch-rival in the past five games, with an unprecedented 16 – 2 aggregate score.

Despite all this, Madrid players and fans seem confident. Until now, Real Madrid has been able to beat every squad except for Barcelona. But the capital’s team has something that Barcelona has always been lacking: self-confidence. No matter how amazing Barcelona’s feats have seemed, Real Madrid has always followed close behind. Out of four games, fans reason, Madrid can surely take one or two. This first one, part two of the league match-ups, is the least important: the title will probably go to Barcelona, which is 8 points ahead with only 6 games to go. The King’s cup is decided in a single game, and that could be one of Madrid’s aims. Snatching a title away from Barcelona, a traditionally Republican team that paradoxically has more King’s titles than their Monarchist competitors (the ‘Real’ in the teams name is a seal given by the King of Spain), could be the first step for a team that looks to finally shake Barcelona’s confidence, an exploit that may be easier than it seems.

(above article commissioned by – they know much more about this stuff than I do)

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Circulo de Bellas Artes for GREAT Madrid Skyline Views

The other day I went to the rooftop terrace of the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. It was my first time and couldn’t believe I had yet to discover it. Sure, I’d been to the lower level Café & streetside terraza as well as attended many concerts in the different “salas”, but had seen Madrid’s skyline from this height before – albeit only about 10 floors up.

The Circulo de Bellas Artes is a non-profit cultural center founded by a small group of artists in 1880. It hosts art exhibits, theater, concerts, and even has its own radio station which features cultural programs, world music, and interviews with poets.

As far as I can assess, the rooftop space of the Circulo de Bellas Artes has only been open to the public for less than 2 years. (please comment if you have other info or experience) It’s also available for private gatherings with bar-service. If it weren’t for a Facebook friend who’d posted photos of her visit two days earlier I never would have known about it.

It costs only 2€ to take the elevator up and tickets must first be bought at the counter next to the Calle de Alcalá-side Café (just beautiful!) or entering from the side street Calle del Marqués de Casa Riera, between the streetside Teatro de Bellas Artes and the Bellas Artes book store.

These days the rootop terraza is only open until 7pm but imagine it to be open later in the summertime months. I was there at 6pm, just before the sunset, and it seemed many others had the same idea. The light was beautiful on this typically clear-sky day in Madrid, giving a brilliant glow to the face of the Palacio de Comunicaciones (Madrid’s “new” City Hall) and Casa de América on the Plaza de Cibeles to name only a few.

I was surprised to see the adjacent Banco de España had their own rooftop heliport! The “Metropolis” building’s tower-top angel was directly in front of us. And the Puerta de Alcalá and even more distant Torre España – “El Piruí” – were clear on an otherwise smoggy day. The tall Telefónica building’s clock tower on Gran Vía glowed in the sun’s reflection and near-rush-hour traffic formed far below us.

To say I recommend a visit to the Círculo de Bellas Artes – whether it be to the rooftop, café, streetside terraza, or attend a cultural program of some sort – would be an understatement.

Below Video (not mine): YouTube video of “Views from the rooftop of the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid”. Posted March 2010.

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El Pais English Edition

Recently I saw a “tweet” from El País notifying the public that their new English Edition was now online. El País is Spain’s largest circulation newspaper and represents the barely-left-of-center political segment of society whereas the ABC Spanish paper represents the right. I’ve got to wonder when/if ABC will offer their own English Edition.

For those whom know, the .PDF daily version of El País has been provided by the Herald Tribune for many years. I’ve always liked that, 8 pages of articles with full-color photos. In 8 pages they cover the major topics: Front Page News about Spain, Opinions, Letters, & Editorials, World News, Business & Weather, Sports, and Arts. The nice thing about this edition is you can save the .PDF file to your hard drive and read it later.

The new El Pais English Edition online covers all the above categories and more with probably twice the number of articles in English, maybe more. So I wonder if this is the precursor to the end of El País’ relationship with the Herald Tribune and their daily .PDF version. Makes you wonder. I hope not!

Funny thing about Spanish newspapers. ABC proudly features bullfighting articles whereas El País doe not. El País features many more articles about arts and culture than does ABC. ABC features more on business & sports than does El País. Both feature many articles on politics but, well, that’s the way it is. So, with any given inclination, the reader can choose what most interests them.

So whatever your political “slant”, Spain has a newspaper for you – if you read Spanish. If you don’t, El País is your first and only choice of national Spanish newspapers.

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Fake Spanish Saffron: Buyer Beware

According to THIS El País Newspaper article, posted a couple days ago in their NEW El País In English edition, the vast majority of exported saffron labeled as “Made in Spain” IS NOT, in fact, made in Spain. The article states that Spanish saffron goes for 3,000 Euros per kilogram. Wow.

Everyone knows that saffron is an essential ingredient in making paella. They also know how expensive this strong-smelling, dark orange, powdery substance is. It’s usually sold in tiny quantities and gives paella rice its rich yellow color. More and more often, paella makers and sellers are not including this ingredient, but instead, a basic colorant and people are none the wiser.

So do the numbers: In 2010, 190,000 kilograms of saffron were exported – and yet local production totalled just 1,500 kilograms. That’s QUITE a difference! And yet, all the exported “Made in Spain” saffron is labeled as such although it’s grown and imported cheaply from countries like Iran, Greece, and Morocco.

Last year, only 0.8% of the “Spanish” spice was grown in La Mancha – the region in Spain where saffron is grown. Why do they do this? It’s because Spanish saffron holds much prestige throughout the world and supply cannot keep up with great demand.

QUOTE: Up to 90 percent of exports are fraudulent, according to farmers union ASAJA. “It’s shameful the prices they sell it at, even more so when they know it’s crap,” said one exporter, who asked to remain anonymous.

Technically, what they’re doing is not illegal under Spanish law – amazingly enough. But stricter labeling guidelines in the near future could damage reputations, marketing, and potentially lower the price of Spanish-grown saffron.

And while I don’t know for sure (so why speculate??), that which is going on with saffron is what’s purported to be going on with “Spanish” olive oil. More Spain-labeled olive oil is exported than produced. This is because cheaper, imported olive oils are blended with Spain-produced olive oils and so you can’t tell what percentage is Spanish and what percentage is foreign-made. If you have any percentage at all, it can allegedly be labeled as “Product of Spain“.

What the article does not mention is how “pure” the locally sold, locally produced saffron is. They do say, however, that a recent study by The Independent, a British newspaper, revealed that 40-90% of exported saffron “was made up of other residues of the plant- not the stigma“. That’s unsettling. Is there really any saffron in my paella??

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Recycling Fail or Identity Theft?

Did your dad ever jokingly yell at you through the bathroom door, “Don’t fall in!“?

But seriously, folks, are we recycling humans now, too?? Check out the “legged” paper recycling bin above as seen this afternoon on the streets of Madrid. This is truly one for the “I Can’t Believe My Eyes” file.

So there I was in Madrid, Spain, not too far from the Puerta del Toledo, waiting for a friend when I saw this guy “milling about” the paper and glass recycling bins. He did look a bit suspicious, I have to admit. He looked left, then right, then literally climbed INSIDE the paper recycling bin through a tiny slot!

His friend, the one with his legs planted on Terra Firma above, was assisting him. HOW, you ask?! The guy who was literally “dumpster diving” was handing back certain paper items.

After about 5 minutes of this, they both crossed the street with their booty, opened  the boot/trunk of their car, and inserted handle bags and plastic bags full of paper. Not too much, but maybe the amount of about 5 or 10 reams of copy paper. Then they got in their car and sped off.

While seeing them stuff their trunk with paper I thought, “Hmmm… Surely these are identity thieves, ‘harvesting’ paper recycling bins for credit card  statements and other potentially sell-able items on the black market.” Either way, I imagine their intentions were anything but ecological.

I’m happy I get all my credit card and bank statements online but surely the occasional valuable document gets tossed in from time to time.

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New Madrid Tourist Bus – No More Madrid Vision

Madrid Tourist Bus Madrid VisionThe 10-year old hop-on hop-off bus operated by “Madrid Vision” has become a horse of different color. Actually, it’s the same color but with a big metal sign covering the original name.

As of today, 31 January 2011, the city of Madrid’s “Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid” (EMT) has taken over, albeit temporarily, until July 2011 at which time a new private company will assume control. The city expects to break-even as profits nearly equal expenses while (EMT) city bus drivers steer the double-decker behemoths through the streets of Madrid. City officials, which originally commissioned 3 tour companies to operate the service (see graphic below), did not renew the Madrid Vision contract in early January so they’re stuck with 27 buses.

Since 2001, the Madrid Vision tourist buses have driven countless thousands of visitors up and down, left and right, east and west, and all around Madrid streets, offering multi-lingual descriptions of the sights seen. The original two routes(.pdf), “Historic Madrid” & “Modern Madrid”, will not divert while the city takes the reins. The future owners, however, can do what they like.

I too have taken the Madrid Vision tourist buses at least 3 times in the last 10 years and always enjoyed it. Best to sit up top when the weather is nice and for the best views. I’ve noticed a temporary “cap” placed on the upper deck on colder & rainy days. Good luck to the future Madrid Tourist Buses!

From THIS:

About Madrid Vision 2011


Madrid Tourist Bus EMT

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Brit Harry Redknapp “Mugged” in Madrid

A British friend here in Madrid brought to our attention (on the MadridMan’s ALL SPAIN Message Board) an article published on Sky News regarding Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager (of football/soccer in North London), who had his wallet stolen before last Thursday’s Real Madrid-Atlético de Madrid football/soccer game in Vicente Calderón Stadium – home of the Atlético de Madrid team.

The article‘s attention-grabbing title is “Tottenham Boss Mugged During Trip to Spain“. My first thought was, “Oh-my-goodness, that’s terrible! They must have cornered him in a dark alley, held him at knife-point, threatened his life, and demanded his wallet, watch, and Italian-made loafers!

Just goes to show how headlines are written to somewhat sensationalize an event. Heck, I do it too so I can’t blame them too much. But at least the headline/title should, at least, match the content of the real story! Is that too much to ask??

A “mugging” is typically considered a robbery with force. This guy didn’t know they were taking his wallet until after the muggers completed their “Hey, I’m just doing a good deed by straightening your wrinkled pants” transaction.

Harry Redknapp’s quotes on his “mugging”:

“I’m walking round the outside of the stadium, it’s a fantastic atmosphere.

“The next thing there’s two guys on their knees in front of me and they’ve got my trousers and they keep doing this (tugging) with them, pulling them.

“I thought ‘what are you doing?’ The next thing he’s got my keys on the floor.

“I didn’t know whether to knee him in the gob or not.

“I’m going ‘let go of my trousers’, pushing them away. While I’m doing that they’re rifling my pockets, there were about six of them. And then they went.

“I put my hand in my pockets and realised what they’d done.”

“They took everything,” Redknapp said. “All my money, credit cards, everything really. (-except his keys, mobile phone, and passport, apparently. What does “everything” mean, again??)

It’s never a good thing when someone loses their property. No one deserves to be a victim. I won’t say “He had it coming” or “That’s what happens when…

Thankfully, after 5 years of living here – and several years beforehand walking the streets of Madrid – I’ve never been a victim of pickpocketing nor have witnessed it. But I do know people who’ve realized later that their wallets, be them in their purses or pockets, went missing. I also know one particular elderly woman who had her purse “lifted” on 5 occasions in the past 5 years. Seems she has the habit of putting her purse on the floor while paying her supermarket/shopping bill at the cash register. She’s always so upset with herself and the world. Her children, now totally grown, don’t know what to do. Since we can’t change the behavior/habits of others, we can only hope those people will learn from their experiences and change their own behavior.

In the case of the English soccer/football manager, I can only guess he had his wallet in the rear, unbuttoned back pocket of his baggy pants. If that’s true, he can only blame himself. This isn’t Normal-Town, USA/England where pickpockets are scarce. I remember one time in Columbus, Ohio, word spread quickly through the downtown area offices that someone had just had their pocket-picked in the downtown area while they walked to lunch. As I said, word spread fast because these things just don’t happen there. We were all a-buzz with the news, “Oh, can you believe this happened here?” and “Wow, that’s just awful. I know someone who traveled to Europe once and the same thing happened to them” and “Did’ja hear that someone just had their wallet taken while crossing the street?

Over-the-shoulder bags or purses are best for both men and women, keeping belongings close to your chest/stomach at all times. This way you can (more likely) feel any probing hands. I also tell people not to carry wallets in back pockets, whether buttoned-down pockets or not. In fact, I recommend people not carry wallets at all. Leave those family photos at home, bring only what you need. These necessities should include no more than your I.D., credit cards, and cash – all carried folded over and in your front, non-baggy pocket if you don’t carry a purse/shoulder bag. Buy a cheap-o money clip like they used to carry in the 1940s. As for the purses/shoulder bags, they should be small enough that you won’t be cumbersome or NEED to remove them for meals. If you MUST remove them, put them on the floor between your feet or wrap the strap around the leg of your chair. And also a bit less-safe, you can put your bag over the chair-back but only if your coat is covering the same chair back with the purse/bag underneath.

It’s a shame this happened to the British football team manager. Had he not been a kind of “celebrity”, this would never have made the papers, of course. It’s also fun reading the comments of articles online. One commenter for this particular article wrote, “No Big deal. The average fan is mugged every Saturday at the turnstile.

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New Apple Store in Madrid Puerta del Sol

Folks, it’s official. They’ve signed the lease. The much-rumored New Apple Store in Madrid, Spain will likely be inaugurated at the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012. It will be located in the emblematic Puerta del Sol, specifically at Puerta del Sol, #1, the oft-photographed building with the neon sign “Tío Pepe” watching over Madrid’s busiest plaza.

While I’m not an Apple user, I can appreciate the excitement over such a decision on many fronts. First, this will be only the second Apple Store in Madrid and the first in downtown Madrid. The FIRST Apple Store in Madrid was set-up in Xanadú Shopping Center in Madrid’s outskirts, forcing users and fans to go by car or (multi-line) bus only. Second, this is big for Apple. Surely this will boost business to new Spanish heights. Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, the move has breathed new life into a beautiful building in Old Downtown Madrid, a building which has been empty and decaying for the last 5-years and, frankly, an eyesore for anyone glancing its direction. Now, or soon, the building holding up the neon sombrero-wearing sherry bottle “Tio Pepe” sign will have a fresh, new look.

The building, if not for Apple, would continue being an eyesore, the lower level covered in graffiti and posters pasted on top of one another. They say the lower 2 floors of the newly renovated building will occupy the new Apple Store. The upper floors, as required by city officials, will house a new 3 or 4-star hotel.

The building’s owners, privately held by a Mexican family – the same family which owns the nearby Hotel Regina building next to the Madrid Casino – tried to sell it 5 years ago without success. And now, in hard economic times, its prime location and dilapidated state, and Apple’s ever-deepening pockets, it’s a good time to buy. (although we don’t know yet for how much)

Puerta del Sol, #1 has a total of 7 levels including a large basement covering 6,673 square meters and a central patio. The neon “Tío Pepe” sign atop, a protected Madrid City Landmark, is required to “travel” with any future owners of the building. Whew!

Below Video: YouTube video of the construction of the new Apple Store on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Recorded 14 January 2011.

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Raphael sings Aquarius – IN “ENGLISH”

Anyone older than 60 years old knows who “Raphael” is – as well as the children of countless Spanish housewives of the 1960s & 1970s.

He’s Miguel Rafael Martos Sánchez, born in Linares, Jaén, Spain in 1943 but he and his family moved to Madrid when he was just 9 years old. Yes, he’s “Raphael” and not the more traditional “Rafael”. He adopted the non-Spanish spelling of “Raphael” when he first signed a recording contract with the Dutch recording label Philips, utilizing the first two letters of the company’s name. He’s like the (American) “Dick Clark” of Spanish singers in that he never seems to age. (Botox???)

Raphael is also like the Tom Jones version of Spanish singers performing in a very “Las Vegas style”, a real showman almost to a fault as his 67 years can now no longer sell his on-stage passion – at least not to me but I’m not his audience, either.

He also had a busy acting career in the 1960s and 1970s. Nowadays he still performs a bit, mainly showing-up every New Years Eve for his annual song, promoting a new CD. Amazing how popular this guy still is at this point of his life and career. He does pretty darn well for a guy who had a liver transplant in 2003 for a Hepatitis B. infection.

The younger generations tend to roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, and reach for the remote control whenever he appears on TV. The elder “merienda crowd” (you know, the old ladies which dress-up & make-up to meet other old ladies for a 3-hour coffee or a glass of water at their local cafés) still love seeing his thick, wavy hair and boyish, ear-to-ear smile. You really can’t blame the guy, he can still work-it and retains a (wheezing) audience – although I’d bet most of his audience can’t turn on a CD player.

WikiPedia states: In 1966 and 1967 he represented Spain at the XII and XIII Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg, singing “Yo soy aquél” and Vienna, “Hablemos del amor” and placing both 7º and 6º position, although he did not win. It was the first time that Spain obtained a high place in the competition, leaving the door ready for the next year victory which Spain got with “La, la, la”, another song of modern style too, which for political reasons still in Spain then was sung instead by Massiel.

I’m not really a fan of “Raphael”, mainly because he’s not my style. I really just wanted to give a bit of background on the singer, the man, the person, all in order to introduce you to his version of “Aquarius“, sung in “English” (notice the word “English” is in italics). Watch the video below and try not to be too amused by his efforts. He’s trying, afterall. Have a little respect for your elders, don’tchaknow. But really, some people should try to doing things they’re not very well skilled at doing – particularly if they know they’re being filmed/recorded. With that, I give you…. “Aquarius“…

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5-Year Anniversary Living in Madrid

The day pretty much came and went without any fanfare. I realized it sometime late in the night although it had crossed my mind several times throughout the month of December 2010.

On December 30, 2005, 40-year old “MadridMan” arrived on that Delta flight with a one-way ticket to Madrid, Spain and no intentions of returning to the USA to live. At that time, and today, I’m “Still Happy to be Living in Spain“.

What an age to be pulling-up stakes and leaving your country, a cushy government job, family and friends, and everything you know,‘ you might say. I don’t know, maybe you’re right, but I’ve never regretted my decision once. In many ways, it still pains me to leave Spain for my annual visits to the USA because I love my new adopted country and my lifestyle there so very very much.

Business certainly isn’t what it was in 2005 to 2008 but, well, I did come just before the worldwide economic crisis hit. I can’t complain much because all my bills get paid and I still save money, never really having to consider the prices of things before I buy them. My consideration goes more towards WHERE I’m going to store new purchases, books, and clothes in my small-ish flat. Like anyone, if I had more space, I’d probably buy more things. But this is good for me to learn how to live happily with just-enough. There’s something very “Zen” in living sparsely.

Challenges remain in the language, however. I feel pretty good talking with people in the street, neighbors, and merchants but phone conversations, particularly IMPORTANT things, make me anxious still, as if I was about to go on-stage or stepping onto the field for the big game. Doing things like changing phone/internet services, talking with bankers, filing official documents, and health-care issues are sensitive “events”. Afterwards, when (and if) things go well, I feel so relieved, as if I’ve just achieved something great.

Some Madrileños tell me I’m more “Madrileño” than themselves as I seem to know more about their city and what’s going on therein than they do. Other Spaniards have told me flatly that I’ll never truly be Spanish until I understand the nuances of the language and customs. That’s very true. I often get caught gawking when they “pull my hair” (as they say it in Spanish, instead of “pull your leg” in English)  about one thing or another.

The truth is, I do sleep well at night and always wake up exhilarated. There’s no telling what new experience is in store for me on any given day – NEW for me, that is. That keeps my gears greased and life interesting. But don’t think I’ve totally cut myself away from my family and friends in the USA! Thank goodness for email and Skype Video Calls, the latter of which has served me very very well.

Since moving here I’ve made a few new Spanish friends and a few new English friends – but not a single new American friend (with whom I spend time, that is). I’ve met Madrid-resident Americans for drinks one-on-one maybe only twice since since my emigration. Anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to shy-away from holding on too tightly to my American-ness. I fell this does me a dis-service in assimilating into the country. So often I read blogs of American college students living and studying in Madrid for 4 year and it seems they only spend time with other Americans, never creating any bond with Spaniards. They tend to only listen to American music and watch American movies. I guess they know they’ll be going back home eventually so why bother. Me, on the other hand, I’m here to stay and it’s important to know what’s going on around me.

Just yesterday a 50-year old Spaniard was telling me about their family hauling water from the neighborhood fountain and even washing clothes in the river – AND THIS WAS IN MADRID! I love hearing those stories. It’s incredible to me that until relatively recently this country was living in the dark ages. It contrasts starkly to American lifestyles from the same period. I too remember hearing my grandparents telling me about washing clothes in the river but that was like in the 1920s!

There’s a lot still to be learned about Madrid, Spain, and the way of life here but I’m avidly studying it through my peers, neighbors, movies, and the old folks whom love nothing more than tell you “how it used to be” over coffee and churros for merienda at the local bar.

I’m happy to be living in Madrid. VERY HAPPY.

Thank all of you whom are interested enough to follow my life in Madrid, Spain and for using the information I’ve provided. If it weren’t for you, there would be no “MadridMan“. (well, I’d continue doing it for the sheer passion I have for Madrid, but makes it more gratifying knowing someone is reading/using what I’m writing/providing)

HISTORY: MadridMan was “born” in 1996 on a free GeoCities website. In 1997 the domain name was bought and hosted.

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Smoking Ban: Spain Takes Its Last Puff Indoors

First, Happy New Year, World! Today we find ourself riding through the mysterious date 1-1-11. I’m sure that means something to someone somewhere.

Second, “smoke ’em if you got ’em” because, starting tomorrow, a Spain-wide smoking ban goes into effect for all indoor establishments including bars, restaurants, discotheques, and party rooms. And it doesn’t stop there! Outdoor accesses to schools and hospitals will be smoke-free as well. Thank goodness they’re letting prisoners & psychiatric patients smoke in their respective places of “activity“.

Outdoor areas such as terraces/terrazas, stadiums, and bull rings will still be smoky, however, but give those poor nicotine addicts SOMEPLACE to blacken their lungs!

Have we no respect for those whom can’t control themselves? Shouldn’t we take pity on them? Should we treat them instead of make their activities illegal? Don’t smokers have rights too? Can’t we all just get long?? Shouldn’t we allow smokers their bars and non-smokers their bars too? Oh, wait, we tried that in the last smoking-ban go-around a few years ago, and, well, it didn’t “go around” too well. Frankly, it flopped. Then, they offered bars the option to be smoke-free or allow smoking. Guess what: nearly all chose a smoke option. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Many smokers say that nothing goes better with a coffee or a caña than a good cigarette. I guess I believe them as I, a non-smoker, have no reason to doubt them. Personally, I liked the way it was before. Spain wasn’t all that smoky. Oh, sure, you had some bars where, by chance, the majority of the patrons were smokers and the easily-bothered-non-smokers would leave in a huff to avoid the puff, seeking cleaner-air establishments. It was a hit and miss thing when it came to the smoke-density of any given bar.

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” And if you stay out of the kitchen, you can always go to the sitting room where it may be cooler. The same with bars, if one is smoky, finding a “cleaner” one isn’t all that difficult.

I’m not a smoker and never have been so I don’t have that monkey on my back. THANK GOODNESS! But being next to someone who’s smoking doesn’t bother me much. It’s no fun having them turn and accidentally blow smoke in your face or nearly get burned by the red-hot ashes of someone who’s talking in one direction and holding “the smoking gun” in the opposite direction.  Smoke generally rises above plate-level so when I’m seated in a restaurant I’m (probably) not eating tobacco particulates. Everyone’s been around one of these anti-smoking fascists (there, I said it) when the first sign of a smoker sends them into exaggerated-coughing-fits to supposedly give the selfish “the hint”. Please! Leave the quiet smoker alone and stop your annoying coughing, already! Sheesh!

Now I feel so assimilated into the smoking culture of Spain that I really don’t notice all that much anymore. And tomorrow I probably won’t even notice the lack of smoke – at first. Since my first visit in 1995, smoking seemed to give Spain part of its rich character. They seemed to be a rebel population and for that I admired them even more from my “Don’t Do This” and “Don’t Do That” American perspective. Thank goodness with all of these US restrictions we can still claim to be “The Land of the Free“. Don’t get me started…

Will smokers simply quit smoking because they can’t have a beer or a wonderful coffee at their favorite bars? Not bloody likely, but I hope they can quit. It’s not healthy, don’tcha know. Why would anyone voluntarily inhale any foreign matter into an organ as sensitive as the human lung? It totally escapes me. Secondary smoke isn’t healthy either, I get that, but secondary smoke is only a small fraction as dangerous as the super-heated firsthand smoke drawn through a cigarette. (okay, throw me your statistics in the comments section below, please. I KNOW they’re coming…)

This whole smoking ban could have not only grave social consequence but economic consequences as well. Let me explain…

Smokers love bars and cafés. Heck, we ALL love them. It may come to pass that smokers will be so ticked off they’ll simply stop patronizing these establishments, sending the entire industry into a tailspin – and this in times of worldwide economic crisis. Then comes the panic on behalf of the owners. They’ll start thinking how they can recover this lost income. “I guess we’ll just have to raise the price of a cup of coffee and a caña to make up the difference.” And the higher the prices go, the fewer people will patronize them.

OR/AND, they’ll enlarge/create terrace/terraza space to accommodate those in exhile. If you’re a non-smoker and wanting to relax with some summertime drinks in the “fresh air” you might find the “fresh air” to be less “fresh” as you’ll be surrounded by smokers! And imagine the wait-times to snag one of those terrace tables! And you though things were bad now! Ha! Lines will be long(ER!!). It might turn out that non-smokers will be forced to have their drinks INDOORS 365 days a year – which totally goes against the whole Spanish need to be “outdoors”. And terraces won’t close in the winter, either, no way! Bars will set out those gawd-awful greenhouse gas-emitting patio heaters, further destroying our environment – and the rabid anti-smoker will say, “GREAT! Let them destroy the environment OUTSIDE. At least my air will be fresh INDOORS.” Yup. That’s a self-less ecological solution. (tongue-in-cheek)

Recently, a few “members only Smoking clubs” have opened up. This might be the wave of the future, folks. Members pay an annual fee and with this they – and only they – can enter these particular clubs, smoking to their black-lung’s content. And they must be non-profit. “What? A non-profit club? How would that work??” Members would pay an annual fee and with that the establishment can make money/profit – but not by the sale of drinks, food, or products.

Establishment owners caught NOT adhering to or not enforcing the smoking ban will be met with STIFF fines between 601 and 10,000 Euros. The government has teams of inspectors to start working tomorrow and you can be sure we’ll be getting an ear-full from not only the bar owners but also patrons from both sides of the aisle. It’ll be interesting how the ban evolves but the government is holding firm this time around; NO EXCEPTIONS for indoor public spaces whatsoever.

So how can Spain retain its Spanish flavor without cigarette or cigar smoke? It’ll be tough, I say. Sure, we’ll be healthier and there’s little else more valuable than that. But this price may be steep. The trickle-down affects may profoundly change the entire Spanish culture as we know it – and I’m not so sure I’m ready to let go of that just yet. Video below: Smoking ban in Spain to take effect (1:25). A ban on smoking in public places will take effect in Spain in the New Year.

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Puerta del Sol in Madrid for New Years Eve 2010-2011

Puerta del Sol is Madrid’s premier place to spend New Years Eve in Spain. Why? Because 1) it’s the capital of Spain and 2) it’s the scene nearly all Spaniards see on TV (or on Internet) when counting down to the new year.

People come from all over the world to eat the 12-grapes (seedless, preferably), one grape at a time and with each stroke of midnight, (IF you can hear the bells over the din of the crowd, that is) with thousands of others in Madrid’s packed central plaza.

Truth is, few Madrileños themselves go – or have gone – to the Puerta del Sol to celebrate the new year. “Why would I want to get into all that mess?” many would say – as many have told me when they hear I’m going. Besides, if you don’t live in the OLD downtown Madrid it can be a hassle; public transportation is essentially stalled or overcrowded (the SOL metro station closes from 9pm to 12:30am), no taxis can be found, and after midnight getting home can be impossible. So I get why few would want to do it.

Most Madrileños, as the custom goes, stay home with family and quietly bring in the new year with food, wine, and Cava (Spanish sparkling wine – don’t call it “Champagne”, heaven forbid!), watching TV and the ball-dropping over the Puerta del Sol and the entertainment programs leading up to and following midnight.  Many play cards until the wee hours of the morning.

This year – as always – the poor presenters in “Sol” will stand freezing themselves solid in skimpy dresses and tuxedos out on some plaza-facing balcony. 2010’s presenters on TVE (the MOST-watched broadcast for New Years Eve) will be Anne Igartiburu (as last year) and comedian José Mota.

I think it was in 2006 I went to Puerta del Sol to celebrate New Years Eve. I had my 12 peeled and de-seeded grapes at the ready. The plaza was already packed when we arrived at 11:30pm but were able to find space around the SOL metro exit, in front of La Mallorquina pastry shop. We were surrounded not by Spaniards but representatives of every imaginable nationality. We heard a few Spaniards here and there but they seemed to have come from other parts of Spain. The plaza is essentially surrounded by police and police barriers, too, and they regulate the masses a little, also checking to be sure people aren’t carrying glass bottles which could cause problems. The police can only check so many, however, evidenced by the post-midnight piles of broken glass when they push out the partiers and the cleaning crews come through.

Many foreigners hear the word “Spain” and they immediately imagine a warm climate all-year round. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact. And on New Years Even in central Spain it can be downright bitterly cold. People in Sol MUST wear winter coats, hats, and maybe even gloves. We nearly froze! But when you’ve gulped down your last grape and you give kisses and hugs and happy-new-year wishes to every stranger around you, it’s time to go home as best you can. USUALLY, going home means going on-foot, no matter how far away you live.

Puerta del Sol area hotels – or any Old Downtown Madrid hotels – are typically reserved long before New Years Eve and some hotels/hostel charge double or triple the usual going rate. It must be nice to have your bed only a few hundred meters away from where you celebrated New Years Eve.

Private New Years Eve parties are advertised everywhere as well – and they too charge a pretty sum. I saw one flamenco tablao charging 237 Euros entry for their New Years Eve party. Wow. Who can afford that apart from the rich and famous, especially “in times of economic crisis”?? And I don’t doubt they’ll be full. HOPE that includes dinner and an open bar, but somehow I doubt it.

Another noteworthy comment is that Spain’s entire mobile phone network crashes every year in the hour surrounding New Years Eve midnight hour with the literally billions of SMS text messages sent and calls made. Sometimes messages take hours to get through. Many send flowery poems (copied, re-copied, and forwarded) to friends, wishing them well for the coming year.

If you can’t BE THERE in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, WHERE can you watch the New Years Eve festivities? If you live in Spain you can watch live on TV on TVE’s Channel 1 “La Primera”. There you’ll also find entertainment before and after midnight with comedians, presenters, year-in-review segments, and lots of pop groups lip-syncing their most popular songs.

If you find yourself outside of Spain you can also, this year for the first time, watch live online on TVE’s Channel 1 via their website. Telemadrid SAT will also broadcast online the ball-drop, at least in the minutes leading up to midnight. This “SAT” channel does not broadcast the same programming at the local TV version, however, so be aware.

MadridMan wishes you all a Happy New Year in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, at home, and  everywhere in our big, beautiful world.

Video Below: MadridMan’s OWN video of the 12-bells of midnight in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol leading into a Happy 2011 celebration. Notice all the grape-gobbling going on.

Video Below: Mecano sings “Un Año Más” – about New Years Eve in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, accompanied by historical photos and video of Puerta del Sol

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Spanish Airports Closed for Strike

AP Photo: Air Traffic Controllers Strike Causes Spanish Travel Chaos

Wow. This is nearly unprecedented. There’s goes the holiday, folks. Spain is in TOTAL Travel Chaos in Spain!!!

Spanish air traffic controllers have called a massive UNscheduled strike, a simultaneous walk-out, according to AENA, for not only today Friday but also tomorrow Saturday and likely into Sunday. This strike affects ALL of Spain – except Andalucia. Huh? Not Andalucia?? Why not?

The controllers left their posts amid a lengthy dispute over working conditions and just hours after the administration of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodrigo Zapatero approved an austerity measure to partially privatize airports, and to hand over management of Madrid and Barcelona airports to the private sector.” – AP News

The dispute intensified in February when the government restricted overtime and thus cut average pay of controllers from (EURO)350,000 ($463,610) a year to around (EURO)200,000 ($264,920).” – AP News

For those not living in Spain, you may not know that this coming Monday and Wednesday are national holidays and so many many people are… ummm… were taking advantage of the “puente” long weekend.

A friend of mine just called me from Madrid Barajas Airport giving me the news of their canceled flight. They wanted me to check online for information about their hotel and car rental reservations in Italy – where they’d planned to spend the long holiday weekend. Now, chances are, the entire trip will be scrapped.

They say 250,000 person are stranded or stuck at Spanish airports, not only those leaving Spain but also those wanting to return TO Spain. Hundreds more have literally been trapped for hours airplanes, not able to take off an not able to return to the gate. RENFE adds that no train tickets leaving Madrid remain.

This is big, folks. No doubt Madrid hotels will be full throughout the capital – and all Spanish cities. Those hundreds of waiting taxis outside of airports will be filled instantly. Metro trains will seem like rush hour. Imagine how many people with fewer resources sleeping throughout the airport terminals. People are FURIOUS.

The government is apologizing to its citizens and those affected for the strike. They say they may just “militarize” the situation, saying the controllers are not willing to negotiate.

5pm Sunday UPDATE: Spanish airspace open and planes taking off and landing but still with delays and back ups. Authorities claim it could be 48 hours more before a complete return to normalcy. Now, they say, “It’s time for justice”.

11 am Saturday UPDATE: Doctors are checking all air traffic controllers – one by one – to see if they’re really sick (the “claim” of the walk-out). Ryair, easyJet are saying they’ll likely cancel all flights until 6am Monday.  Spanish airspace is set to reopen today at 1pm – but expect long delays (by days, in some cases).

4pm Saturday UPDATE: All Ryanair and easyJet flights to/from Madrid & Barcelona are canceled for today. All Iberia Airlines flights are canceled until 6am tomorrow morning and 10am for flights originating from or with destination to Spain.

2am Saturday UPDATE: The military has seized control of Spanish airports and returned them to operation – EXCEPT for that of Madrid and the Baleares Islands. Hmph. Barcelona night-shift air traffic controllers have returned to their posts.

11pm Friday UPDATE: The control towers of Seville, Madrid, Barcelona, and Canary Islands are under military control – and airports may well re-open as early as Saturday morning at 8am.

WATCH THIS SPACE for more information regarding Spain’s Air Traffic Controller’s Strike.

Telediario fin de semana (04/12/2010)

’En este estado de ansiedad, es imposible dirigir aviones’

La huelga de controladores deja sin vacaciones a 200.000 personas

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Real Madrid-Barcelona “El Clasico” 2010-2011 Season

Spanish Division leader Real Madrid faces Barcelona for the first time this season. This classic match up couldn’t be more “Clásico“! Barça trails Real Madrid in the division by only one point – but position is not the only thing at stake here; PRIDE rules all, and Madrid hasn’t beaten its rival since 2008. This’ll be even harder to accomplish in Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium, in front of a sold-out crowd of nearly 100,000 screaming and singing fans from both sides; mostly from Barcelona.

So Real Madrid hasn’t beaten FC Barcelona since 2008. That’s a long time. That’s shameful. And that hurts. But under the direction of the new coach, Jose Mourinho, there’s new hope along with newer, higher expectations for this matchup. They say this is a new-and-improved Real Madrid team. They say this time they will face-up and conquer Barça, a perennially power. They say a lot of things. The proof is in the play so let’s see what happens Monday night at 9pm. The Spanish leader Real Madrid and Barcelona are separated by only one point going into this season’s most important game and both are in great form.

The fans are rabid on both sides as well – and not only for their team to pull ahead in the Spanish Division, but also because this is a pay-per-view event. Don’t THEY know we’re in the middle of an economic crisis?? This means many fans will gather at local neighborhood bars, pack living rooms to divide the cost to watch live on TV, and in front of computer screens searching the Internet to see if they can watch live online for free – or otherwise.

This is the first of two games these two leading teams will meet each other this season. The next will be in April and who knows where either will stand at that time – probably swapping leading positions with every game. And since this “El Clásico” is played in Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium, where the attendance could potentially reach nearly 100,000, the phrase “hostile environment” has never seemed more appropriate. Should Real Madrid beat Barça IN Barcelona, expect car fires and riots in the streets. Hope shop owners remember to board up their windows.

Who will rule the pitch, “Scoring-Machine Messi” or “Pretty-Boy Ronaldo”? (to be fair, Cristiano Ronaldo is the current league scorer, leading Lionel Messi by 1-point) We’ll all see soon enough.

Enjoy the game! But remember there’s a lot of season left to be played – and another meeting in Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in April 2011.

GAME RESULT: Barcelona beats Real Madrid – again – in “El Clásico”, 5-0.

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