Sex education in Spain – “pleasure is in your own hands”

Masturbation - SpainThis fabulous story came out on the BBC website today…with the title “Spanish ‘self love’ lessons row”.

In brief, the government of the region of Extremadura in Spain has launched a campaign based on the slogan “pleasure is in your own hands“, which gives advice on masturbation.

Of course, with the large Roman Catholic population in Spain, it has got a few people’s backs up. Pilar Rahola, a columnist in the Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper, wrote:

“Extremadura should be pleased with itself…It may have the most unemployed young people in Spain but they will be the best at masturbation.”

Full Story on the BBC Website

Spain sets world record for wind energy

Earlier this week, the weather in Barcelona was very, very windy. Little did we know at the time, but as we chattered our teeth in unison, Spain was about to set a world first.

Spanish wind energy - wind farm near Tarifa

From 3am until 8am on Sunday 8th November 2009, more than 50% of Spain’s electricity was generated by wind – according to the Spanish Wind Energy Association, “For several moments, wind energy had the honor of delivering up to 53 percent of total needs”.

With high winds gusting across much of the country, Spain’s huge network of windfarms jointly poured the equivalent of 11 nuclear power stations’ worth of electricity into the national grid.

Driving around Andalucia with my family over the last couple of years, we’ve often found ourselves in discussions about whether the wind farms are actually more of a blight on the environment (at least aesthetically) than a solution to the problem of generating energy sustainably.

Are we generating sustainable energy at the expense of our pristine landscapes forever?

Read more

Stormy weather breaks Spanish wind energy record
Spain’s windfarms set new national record for electricity generation
Huertas Solares (In Spanish – Ben and Marina discuss the use of fields of solar panels to overcome energy problems in Spain, but wonder about the future of our landscapes )

New English teaching website IVOZI launched!

Aprender Ingles con IVOZIAfter a couple of months of fairly strenuous work since I arrived back in Spain, we’ve finally launched the initial version of our new English teaching website Ingles.fm.

Geared towards the Spanish speaking world, we will over the next few months be creating a range of audio-visual products to compliment the Tools of Fluency package that James – my partner in Ingles.fm – has already put together.

It would be really appreciated if you could help us out by becoming a Facebook fan of ours, following us on Twitter, or buying one of our fabulous products ;-).

For those interested in the technical side of things, we’ve built the site in WordPress (2.8.5) using a modified version of the Thesis WordPress Theme from DIYthemes. Thesis takes the already fabulous framework of WordPress and turns it into a Ferrari ‘blogging’ platform, with great support for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) ‘out of the box’.

Apart from this we are using Paypal for payment processing and E-Junkie to manage our Digital Downloads and password protection.

Finally, we’ve put in an affiliate system so that anyone can join up, place links and banners on their blog/website to ivozi.com, and make 40% commission per sale. Please support us, and sign up today! It takes 5-10 mins of your time and you can even make money by posting an occasional link to our website from the likes of Facebook or MySpace. Find out how here.

Thanks!

A year of travels – 14 countries

A year of travels

A year ago today I boarded a plane in London for Madrid, and began a journey that has taken me through fourteen countries in 12 months, culminating back in Spain where I am now. Along the way I have had some amazing high points, and also without doubt some of the most challenging times of my life. The countries I have travelled through are, in this order:

SpainGuatemalaHondurasNicaraguaCosta RicaPanamaColombiaVenezuelaBrazilEcuadorPeruBoliviaChileArgentinaSpain

12 months later I am speaking Spanish fairly well (albeit with multi-country accents & vocabulary), I’ve finally learnt some yoga, and I’m in the process of setting up an online English teaching business with an old friend here in Barcelona. You’ll be hearing more about this sooner rather than later as it should be ‘going live’ within the next couple of weeks.

Finally, I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the people I have met along the way. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without you. Special thank-yous to: All at the Cooperative School in San Pedro, Sushi, Francisco, my mother, Paul, Serena, Jameson & Laney, Pete & Heidi, Svayam, Carlos & the Reina Madre crew in Buenos Aires, Rachel, Ben & Marina, Rory/James & Marcela in Spain, and Ana-Maria.

Click here to see some of my trip photo colllections on Flickr.

Vejer de La Frontera & beaches, Spain

Firstly, some shameless Vejer plugs:

Having spent a couple of months travelling regularly on the Ave train between Madrid and Barcelona, I headed back down to Vejer de La Frontera in Andalucia to meet up with my mother and sister for a couple of weeks of catching up & ‘recuperation’. Arriving in early September, the weather was glorious – Vejer de la Frontera, like all of Andalucia, can become far to hot for comfort in July and August – and we spent our time on the beaches of El Palmar, Los Caños de Meca, Bolonia and Valdevaqueros, and made a couple of day trips to Seville, Cadiz & Grazalema National Park.

The photo below shows Vejer De La Frontera from the air – The town of Vejer de la Frontera occupies a hill overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar (with views all the way to Morocco on a clear day) and is surrounded by orchards and orange groves. It contains several ancient churches and convents, and the architecture of many of its houses harks back to the period of Moorish rule, which lasted from 711 until the town was captured by Saint Ferdinand of Castile in 1248.

Vejer De La Frontera, Spain: Aerial photo

Recently referred to as Vejer de las Fashionistas in the press, due to the increasing numbers of celebrities (like Jude Law) spotted lurking within it’s walls, the beaches near Vejer are some of the least spoilt and most beautiful in Spain. Lying on the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light), a section of the Andalucian coast facing the Atlantic, and with building restrictions brought in to combat the kind of development seen on the Costa Del Sol, it’s the perfect place to unwind.

Valdevaqueros, Tarifa, Spain

For those of you partial to your kitesurfing and windsurfing, Tarifa & Valdevaqueros lie only 35-40 KM to the South East. This is the busiest kitesurfing & windsurfing destination in the world. Luckily the huge beaches can cope with the hundreds of kites that descend on Tarifa – on busy Summer days there can be up to a thousand kites simultaneously flying. The downside for sunbathers is that on days that the Levante wind blows, sunbathing becomes a serious exercise in exfoliation. (Watch my video on Windsurfers on Valdevaqueros beach)

Map showing Vejer de la Frontera


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Tourist board video of Vejer de la Frontera

Seville, Spain

Finally I made it to down to Seville! More than 2,000 years old, Seville is the fourth largest city in Spain and the artistic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. Two of the most important historical sites in Seville are the Cathedral of Seville (pictured in the background below) and the Alcázar of Seville (the old Moorish/Arabic palace).

Seville Cathedral, Spain

The Cathedral of Seville was built between 1401"1519 on the former site of the city’s mosque. It is amongst the largest of all medieval and Gothic cathedrals. The Cathedral reused some columns and elements from the mosque, and, most famously, the Giralda, originally a minaret, was converted into a bell tower. You can just make this out in the photo – it’s the tower to the right of the palm tree.

The Alcázar of Seville (see photo below) is a royal palace. Originally a Moorish fort, the Alcázar (from the Arabic, al-qasr, meaning “palace”) is one of the best remaining examples of Mudéjar architecture. The Almohades were the first to build a palace, which was called Al-Muwarak, on the site of the modern day Alcázar.
Alcazar, Seville Spain

One of the main sections of the Alcazar is the Patio de las Doncellas – “The Courtyard of the Maidens.” The name refers to the legend that the Moors demanded 100 virgins every year as tribute from Christian kingdoms in Iberia. The legend may have had some truth to it in the sexual abuse of Christian women by powerful Moors.

Climate-wise, Seville is one of the hottest cities in Europe, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in July & August and a maximum recorded temperature of 47.2 degrees Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) in 2003.

View photo slide show taken in Seville