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.
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?
After 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.
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.
Another day, another anniversary… it’s 6 years ago today (4th October 2003) that I left England on the first leg of my “living abroad” experiment. I’m off to the Red Bull Air Race in Barcelona to celebrate!
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:
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.
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.
Recently referred to as Vejer de las Fashionistasin 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.
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 AlcÃ¡zar of Seville (the old Moorish/Arabic palace).
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.
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.