‘Botched’ Cádiz Castle Restoration Goes Global

The 9th-century Matrera fortress in Villamartín, Cadiz, built by the Medieval Arabs and now in private hands, was declared a ruin three years ago after torrential rain gradually eroded its foundations, but its recent and necessary restoration has horrified townspeople, been ridiculed on national TV and even reached the British national press.

A smooth concrete block wall has been built inside the two remaining sides of the castle, not even in the same colour.

A full page in The Guardian carried the headline: What the hell have they done? Reflecting the same rhetorical question asked on Spain’s channel 6, La Sexta. “It looks as though they’ve called in builders rather than restorers,” the presenter commented.

The article in The Guardian likens the botched castle restoration to that of the 19th-century Ecce Homo fresco in the local church in Borja by local amateur artist Cecilia Jiménez.

The architect who oversaw the restoration – Carlos Quevedo – described the process as ‘painstaking, professional and legal’ and stresses that the castle is a protected heritage site. He said the main aim was to stop the tower from falling down, but also to ‘show the difference between new additions and the original structure’.

Ski Resorts In Spain Take Advantage Of Extra Snow

This year’s skiing season has been extended thanks to the higher-than-usual snowfall at high altitudes in Spain – the slopes at Cerler, Formigal and Panticosa (Huelva province) in the Pyrénées of Aragón will remain open until April 10th.

La Rioja has opened 21 slopes at the Valdezcaray resort and with the forecast for snow continuing, it is likely they will remain open for some weeks yet. The Sierra Nevada has 75km of ‘skiable’ slopes and the Laguna chair-lift has opened, taking skiers to the highest altitude of the resort, allowing them to fly down a piste from 1,200 metres above sea-level.

Ski stations can be found in many parts of Spain including in the province of Lleida, in Catalunya, and in the mountains of the Greater Madrid region.

First Baby In Spain Born To Mother With Zika Virus

The infant, who was born prematurely, was still in hospital a month after the birth, but it is not yet known whether the child has caught the virus from the mother. The mother was four to five months pregnant when she went on a trip to Venezuela, believed to be her home country, but was not aware of having caught the virus or having been bitten by the tropical Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

Person-to-person contact is not thought to cause Zika to spread, although cases have recently been reported in the USA of it having been sexually-transmitted.

Spanish Au Pair Wins Case Against ‘Exploitation’

An Irish couple has been forced to compensate their Spanish au pair for ‘exploitation’ after she was forced to work long hours for just €100 a week.

The nanny said she felt ‘exhausted, depressed and weak’ and was able to prove she was earning far below the minimum wage for the Republic of Ireland of €9.15/hr before tax on January 1st 2016. She has been awarded €9,229 in compensation by the Working Relations Court (WRC) in Dublin. Her solicitor said the case was one of literally hundreds where au pairs were exploited.

Spanish Olive Oil Among The Best In The World

Olive oil from Spain swept the board at the recent Mario Solinas 2016 Awards, covering the whole of the northern hemisphere.

Run by the International Olive Oil Council, a total of 130 oils applied for awards, of which 79 were from Spain. Points are given for producers’ craftsmanship, flavour, quality and packaging and are classified according to whether they are ‘intense’, ‘light’, ‘medium’ or ‘mature, with a multi-cultural judges’ panel giving marks to those in each category.

None of Spain’s oils got into the top three for the ‘light’ category, but first, second and third prizes in all the other categories went to Spanish entries. Of Spain’s 79, a total of nine won top three prizes, all extra-virgin oils.

Changes to EU laws last year meant olive oil served in restaurants must now be in its own, original container so diners can see exactly which one they are pouring on their food, in an effort to boost marketing and sales for producers from all over Europe.

Eroski Sells 36 Stores To Carrefour

Eroski says its decision to sell off all stores in Catalunya is due to plans to concentrate on developing its network of Caprabo supermarkets in the region, another brand which comes under the Eroski umbrella. With the petrol stations included, the sale represents 10.9% of the chain’s income.

Carrefour has pledged to keep on all staff employed and will ensure their working conditions remain the same. The French chain currently has 173 hypermarkets, 162 Carrefour Express supermarkets and 114 Carrefour Market stores and with the purchase of Eroski premises, it will now be able to break into the markets in 27 Spanish towns and cities.

The sale will affect many stores including Ondara, Dénia, Santa Pola and Orihuela (Alicante), Lorca, Águilas and San Javier (Murcia) and Murcia City.

Protest Calling For End To Iberian Wolf Cull

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Madrid calling for special protection orders for the Iberian wolf, an endangered species whose population is reducing dramatically because of livestock farmers shooting them. Some demonstrators dressed in wolves’ masks and walked to the background music of a funeral march.

“Barely 1% of harm suffered by livestock is caused by wolves and their presence is necessary to guarantee the natural balance of our rural ecosystems,” said World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Spain’s secretary-general Juan Carlos del Olmo.

Ban On Unmanned Self-Service Petrol Stations

Self-service petrol stations have been outlawed in the city of Madrid, a move that will affect one in five premises.

A new bye-law has been introduced requiring at least one employee to be on the forecourt or in the shop and available to help at all times. Throughout Spain, only 5% of service stations have no staff, whilst in Madrid this rises to 20%. A few months ago, Valencia’s regional government outlawed the burgeoning new trend of ‘low-cost’ petrol stations, which were self-service only and unstaffed, allowing their owners to offer cheaper fuel.

€30m In Francis Bacon Paintings Stolen

Paintings by the Irish artist Francis Bacon were stolen from a mansion in one of the city’s most élite and safest districts.

Although the artworks were stolen in June, the theft has only just come to light – partly because of plain clothes officers purporting to be buyers expressed an interest in purchasing some Bacon paintings at the recent ARCO art fair, without success. They had been hoping one of the five portraits and landscapes inherited by the late artist’s personal friend, J. C. B., 59, would be offered to them.

Francis Bacon, who died in Madrid in 1992, produced some of the world’s most expensive artworks. His Three Studies of Lucian Freud, the painter grandson of Sigmund was only recently knocked off the top spot for priciest painting in the world by Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers, having sold for US$142.4 million in 2013. One of Bacon’s more ‘cheap and cheerful’ paintings includes Seated Figure which was snapped up at Christy’s two years ago for a ‘mere’ US$32m.

Woman Dressed In Hospital Uniform Attempts To Steal Babies

A 21-year-old Spanish woman who attempted to steal new born babies has been arrested. She was caught trying to steal a baby from Valencia’s La Fe hospital, but the infant’s father stopped her from taking the child away after he became suspicious. The same woman was being searched for by police from Cartagena for trying to steal two babies from a hospital there on the same day. According to the father of the infant in La Fe, she appeared in the obstetrics ward in a uniform which did not appear to be the same as that of the other nurses and doctors and did not have the correct identification. He said she tried to take the baby from his arms, saying she needed to carry out tests.