Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

Questions must be asked of Spain’s footballing authorities

Por: | 27 de febrero de 2014

On the 11th of this month a lighter was thrown from the stands of the Vicente Calderón Stadium, striking Cristiano Ronaldo on the head. No lasting damage was done, and the Portuguese had the last laugh as his two first half penalties fired Real Madrid past their city rivals Atlético into the final of the Copa del Rey.

A couple of days later the Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) Competition Committee looked to show it was taking a serious stand against such actions, and handed down a fine of €600 to the Rojiblancos, saying despite the fact it was an isolated incident, it was nevertheless “reprehensible conduct from the spectator”, and the club was warned over the future behaviour of its fans. A small amount, yet enough of a reprimand to ensure there were no repeats. So far so good.

The RFEF deemed this incident worthy of a €600 fine (Photo via

The 15th of February is International Childhood Cancer Day, and upon scoring Real Jaén striker Jona lifted up his shirt to the cameras to reveal a show of support for children suffering with the disease: “ánimo pequeñines” (keeping going little ones), read the handwritten message, complete with the hashtag #diamundialcontraelcancerinfantil. The referee, Raúl Gago, who had been told by Jona before the match that he planned on doing as much were he to score, approached the player post-celebration and informed him that he was required, under the rules of Spanish football, to make a note of the incident.

Four days later the same Competition Committee somewhat unbelievably charged the player under Section 91 of the Disciplinary Code, which refers to the displaying of publicity, motto, text, signs, anagrams or drawings, whatever their contents, and fined him €2000 - over three times the amount that Atlético Madrid had received for the lighter incident.

The Committee’s decision caused a mixture of shock, outrage and astonishment, not least from the player, who said: “I did it with all the best intentions in the world because I wanted to support and encourage all the children who are having such a hard time. I wanted to make them smile, I had no idea it could lead to a fine."

How an organisation such as the RFEF, whose chief Ángel María Villar has signed a document requesting that former Sevilla FC president Jose María del Nido be pardoned following a court’s decision to sentence him to seven years in prison for his role in the embezzlement of public funds, can come to such a conclusion is bizarre. It is one thing to fine a player for showing his support to children with cancer, but it is another thing to effectively deem an innocent message of support over three-times worse than throwing a lighter at a player.

Whilst this message of support for children suffering from cancer was deemed worthy of a €2000 penalty (Photo via

This fact was not lost on the Spanish public, who took to social media to express their feelings. Prominent figures called up the RFEF on their decision to support del Nido, whilst newspaper Marca demanded the fine be dropped, a campaign that picked up a lot of support, including from the Spanish Football League’s (LFP) president, Javier Tebas (who, incidentally, has also signed the aforementioned document).

Following a petition that quickly collected over 10,000 signatures, Real Jaén‘s appeal was accepted by the RFEF with their already fragile reputation under even more scrutiny. Serious questions must now surely be asked of the Spanish footballing authorities, who did little to help themselves when they allowed the country’s two biggest teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona, to choose a midweek slot on a working day for their Copa del Rey final. The decision was taken, according to Real Madrid’s official website, because said date gives both sides more time to prepare for a potential Champions League semi-final that they may, or may not reach.

Whilst the RFEF's initial fine should rightly be deplored, one consolation that can be taken is that the their actions have raised more awareness and provided more support for children suffering from cancer than warm-hearted Jona could ever have imagined when writing his message. 

Catalan independence Pro-independence  waving the flag of Catalonia in Barcelona. Flickr: Ivan McClellan

In an interview with the BBC last week, President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said it would be, ‘very difficult, if not impossible’, for an independent Scotland to continue as a member of the European Union citing Spain as one of the main obstacles for Scotland’s reentry into the EU as an independent state.

Barroso said that member states seeking to prevent their own semi-autonomous regions from calling for independence would almost certainly block Scotland’s membership and that Scotland would have to apply for EU membership in the usual way.

Insinuating Spain would veto Scotland’s entry, Barroso said: “We’ve seen that Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosovo, for instance, so it’s to some extent a similar case because it’s a new country...”.

Reacting to Barroso’s remarks, Scotland’s Finance Minister, John Swinney, said there was no indication any member state would veto Scotland’s membership, even Spain where Catalan separatists are pushing for independence.

Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, recently told Britain’s Financial Times that Spain, “...has no plans to interfere”, in Scotland’s push for independence.

But Spain has always maintained strong opposition to separatist movements in Europe and while García-Margallo refused to comment directly on whether Spain would veto Scottish accession to the EU, he did say that the cases of Scotland and Catalonia were, “fundamentally different”.

Scotland and Catalonia - the facts 


So how threatened should Spain feel that its own autonomous region of Catalonia might fight to follow in Scotland’s footsteps?

As The Economist points out this week, “there are distinct parallels between Scotland and Catalonia, both small nations merged into larger kingdoms in the 1700s both now seeking to rule themselves”.

In November last year, the regional government of Catalonia set the date for a referendum on independence for 9 November, 2014, less than two months after the Scottish referendum. It asked Madrid for permission to hold the referendum, but its plea was rejected last week in the Spanish Congress. Catalans are increasingly looking at David Cameron and the UK’s dealings with Scotland as the democratic touchstone, and bemoaning Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy’s unbudging stance on the matter.

Where the debate and subsequent deals surrounding a referendum on Scottish independence have been relatively polite, seeking to reach agreements where possible, the debate surrounding a Catalan referendum seems at a permanent stalemate: the Spanish government unwilling to budge an inch on the matter.

“I believe that our ties cannot be broken without huge...economic, political and social costs”, wrote Rajoy to the head of Catalonia’s regional government, Artur Mas, in December 2013. In the letter, which came after thousands of Catalans formed a 400 km human chain to push their independence bid and demand a referendum, Rajoy offered to meet for talks, but was clear that there would be no independence vote.

Calls for a referendum on independence in Catalonia have been growing steadily since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008. As Spain’s economic and industrial hub, the region, of 7.5 million people, accounts for around one fifth of the country’s economic output and one quarter of its taxes. Catalans are becoming increasingly fed up with bailing out the poorer regions of Spain, a factor that has contributed to an increase in support for the independence movement.

Recent polls put Catalan support for independence at just over 50 percent with over 80 percent of Catalans wanting the chance to vote on the issue. In Scotland, polls suggest that around a third of the population would vote for independence, but support for the yes vote has been growing in recent weeks.

Even David Bowie waded into the debate this week during his Brits acceptance speech, urging Scotland to, “...stay with us”.

There have been indications that the Spanish government is worried about growing support for Catalonian independence. In December, Spain embarked on a major diplomatic offensive, instructing its overseas embassies to explain why secession was not the answer for Catalonia or Spain.

Rajoy and MasSpanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy and President of the Government of Catalonia, Artur Mas. Mas has vowed to continue to demand a referendum on independence for Catalonia. 

While there are certainly parallels between the two regions, there are also some fundamental differences.

Scotland’s referendum will be simple yes/no vote for independence, while Catalonia’s nationalist groups are split on whether to press for increased devolution, full independence or a version of federalism. The Spanish government maintains that a referendum on independence in Catalonia would be against the Spanish constitution.

“I will see to it that the law and the Constitution are observed. That's my plan for Catalonia. I guarantee that the president will observe the law and will comply with the law", Prime Minister Rajoy reiterated in an interview on Antena 3 TV in January.

While the Scottish National Party has always campaigned for independence and support has hovered at around 30 percent for decades, support for Catalan independence has shot up dramatically from the teens to over 50 percent, many say as a reaction to Spain’s economic crisis and the unfair burden Catalonia has to bear. Critics point to this fact, suggesting the overwhelming surge in support for independence is more a knee-jerk reaction to Spain’s financial crisis.

Scotland’s independence referendum has the power to affect both the Spanish government in Madrid and the pro-nationalists in Catalonia. The government will be worried that Spain’s autonomous communities will follow Scotland’s example and Catalans will feel emboldened to continue pressing Madrid for a referendum.

Despite last week's rejection of Catalans’ calls for a referendum, pro-nationalists show no sign of stopping their fight,

“...we will call new elections by 2016 at the latest and this election will become the election on independence”, said Catalan President Artur Mas, when asked what he would do if the referendum were blocked.

“You cannot convince the Catalan people that they have no right to vote on this. You cannot stop a democratic and peaceful movement like this."           

La Montia restaurant - a revelation

Por: | 23 de febrero de 2014



Just over a year old, La Montia, nestled in the backstreets of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the foothills of the Guadarrama mountains, packs a punch way above its weight.  A charming and diminutive restaurant whose natural and minimalist dining room features just eight or so tables around a log stove has no Michelin stars (yet) and prices start at just €30 for a degustación menu.  It is no surprise then that the legion of growing fans that have recently discovered it feel as though they’ve stumbled upon a hidden gem.  However that is undoubtedly about to change given its chef owners, Daniel Ochoa, 36 and Luis Moreno, 31 – last month won the prestigious culinary accolade – Madridfusión Revelation Award 2014.

The award hails chefs with the promise of culinary stardom.  Previous recipients have included David Muñoz who won the award in 2009 for his game-changing restaurant Diverxo which last year gained its third Michelin star.  La Montia was selected for the 2014 award by 40 members of the Spanish food press and in an online vote via social media, making it not only the experts’ choice but the people’s choice.  The panel at – Madridfusión said of La Montia: “This is a pure Third Way, with a sparkle and a fine-tuned sense of balance.  And it is authentic market cuisine: there is no à la carte menu, no wine list, just two basic menus, at a very reasonable price, that are served with a few very carefully chosen wines.”

La Montia is a creative capsule that lives and breathes a certain philosophy based on the recovery, study and creative interpretation of local ingredients in the Guadarrama mountains.  The dishes are inspired and dictated by the local seasonal ingredients of the sierra and its environs.  This includes products from small farms, orchards and local bakeries as well as seasonal wild fruits, flowers, roots and herbs.  This even trickles down to the table water, which is not bottled or tap but drawn from the nearby mineral rich natural spring, Fuente de la Concha in the Abantos mountain.

Ochoa and Moreno told me that “Natural, ecological, sustainable, streamlined, clean, pure and honest” are the adjectives usually used to describe their wines and dishes and they see their vision as a mixture of all these things. 

When I ask the young and trendy looking chefs that would not out of place snowboarding in the Pyrenees or in cool bars of Madrid, why they chose to locate the restaurant in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Ochoa says: “We love this land.  We grew up here in the Sierra.  We cannot imagine cooking elsewhere.”

As a result of their love of the land and connection to it, Ochoa and Moreno are hunter gatherers of sorts who live by their philosophy, going out into the sierra, their canvas, researching and foraging in their spare time.  Ochoa says: “You have to have contact with the environment.  Otherwise, all this philosophy we defend would be just a movie."



This large rural area provides a rich seam of natural products to mine.  For example, when I visited in early February the chefs prepared a special risotto dish using amazingly potent blue mushrooms that had been picked that morning from the forest of Abantos, growing beneath the snow.  I also sampled a refreshing and zesty salad of Montia Fontana, which inspired the name of the restaurant.  These tiny clover-like leaves that grow on river banks are delicate and peppery, seasoned with lemon and tomato.  Other local grains and roots you will find lacing the dishes of La Montia include borage, mallow, watercress, sloes and rosehips.

La Montia is also close to a wealth of pioneering providers that have a passion for creating produce the natural way.  The restaurant serves artisan breads from a biodynamic farm in Cercedilla, Colmenareña grand cru butter, made in Colmenar Viejo, Fresnedilla fresh milk, vegetables from Guadalix, and ox from the sustainable farm Finca Jimnez Barbero in Colmenar Del Arroyo.

I ask Ochoa and Moreno how they select these suppliers.  Ochoa says: “Firstly we contact a provider who has an interesting product.  Then we will visit the farm, garden or wherever it does business.  We always know how our products are treated from the beginning.  We have three basic pillars to guide us: what, who and how.  If we are not convinced by any of these elements, the product does not come into La Montia however good it may seem.”

This insistence on the freshest seasonal and natural produce means the menu is constantly changing.  This offers up new challenges and opportunities for the chefs who have to be continually on top of the game.  “We let ideas flow.  What we do every day revolves around the Sierra,” says Ochoa.

Ochoa and Moreno have honed their culinary skills through 14 years working under pioneering chefs in restaurants such as Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz in San Sebastián, currently listed as the fourth best restaurant in the world in the San Pellegrino Top 50; and the slow food aficionado Manuel de la Osa of Restaurante Las Rejas in Cuenca.

Eating at La Montia definitely echoes my experience of eating at Mugaritz.  At both you will see little in the way of theatre and heavy sauces.  The dishes use contemporary techniques to create dishes that are imaginative and bursting with subtle complex flavours.  The taste of earth pervades everything from the food to the wine and beer - from savoury to sweet.  You leave both restaurants feeling truly nourished body and soul by the experience.  Like Mugaritz, visually La Montia offers up a treat.  The presentation of the food is artistic and stylish, using natural materials such as polished woods, wine bottles and simple earthenware to create aromatic and evocative landscapes in miniature on your table.

One of the great aspects of the Montia experience is that the chefs themselves serve the food and explain with great intricacy what makes up the dishes and where the ingredients are sourced from.  The chefs will tailor dishes according to clients’ dislikes or allergies.  The service is impeccable, personal and takes time, it is not a conveyer belt, clients are not rushed. 

In terms of décor - simple, clean white walls and linen table cloths provide the backdrop to natural installations of wood, river rocks, flowers and herbs.  The design blends clean lines and freshness with the earthy tones and organic fluid shapes of nature; creating an ambience very much in keeping with the La Montia vision.  When I ask Ochoa about the value of the architecture of the restaurant he says:  “We believe in the energetic influence of certain materials.  It all adds up.”

Moving into the future I ask the young chefs what next…more awards?  Michelin stars?  Ochoa’s reply is understated and honest.  “Just under a year ago our legs were shaking and we had no idea if this restaurant was going to last more than a few months.  You always have uncertainty.  Just enjoy the moment.”

For more information go to La Montia’s Facebook page at:


Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. / GORKA LEJARCEGI


What will happen to women in Spain when the Ley Gallardón comes into force? There has been much speculation in the press as to what the effects of the new law may be, and a look at statistics from across Europe paint a distressing picture.

We’ll start in the UK, where government statistics show that the vast majority of those coming from abroad to undergo abortions come from Ireland, where abortion laws are amongst the strictest in the world. Just a glance at a graph shows the influx.

Strict laws do not remove the problem they simply move it overseas, often with tragic consequences.

The Republic of Ireland has similar laws to those suggested under new legislation in Spain, and abortion is permitted only in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. Spain’s proposed law change may be slightly more liberal, permitting terminations in cases of rape, but such cases are relatively rare.

According to government statistics, in 2012 a full 91.26% of abortions were carried out at the request of the mother and not ostensibly for health reasons or fetal abnormalities. Only 5.67% of operations were carried out because of a threat to a woman’s life. It is unclear how many were because of rape.

As data in the above graph show, many women travel abroad when they are unable to get the treatment they need at home. This was the case in Spain before law changed in 2010.

These data highlight the issue at the centre of the debate: choice. A move away from more liberal rulings would put Spain in a bracket with countries not famed for their human rights records, such as Djibouti and other less than liberal third-world nations.

As the map below shows, Spain would be in a conservative minority, on rough legal parity with Poland. Only a tiny minority, including Ireland and Cyprus, will have stricter laws. Ireland stands as a poignant reminder of the possible effects of restrictive legislation. A woman died in 2012 after being refused an abortion. Although abortion is permitted in the Irish Republic if a woman’s life is in danger, the stringent nature of the rules mean that there is more scope for mistakes.


Countries shaded in darker colours have more restrictive laws. Note that Spain’s colour is representative of the situation under the Ley Gallardón.

It is worth noting that this map is a rough guide; although some countries may have more laws in place, eg. the UK having stricter rules than France, this may not affect the ease of getting an operation in practice. An interactive map showing abortion laws across the world can be viewed here.

There is much speculation about whether a trip across the border is likely to be the solution for Spanish women who cannot receive treatment at home. However abortions are incredibly costly.

For a Spanish woman wanting to travel to the UK the prices make sobering reading. A consultation, whether over the phone or in person, is £82. A non-surgical abortion, by way of a pill, costs £464. Surgical abortions range from £562 to £1958 depending on the length of the pregnancy at the time of the operation. A woman must pay an extra £42 if she wants to be seen at the weekend.

 For many vulnerable Spanish women earning average wages the costs are simply too high. The mean salary in Spain is around €1,639 a month, and some procedures exceed this figure. This does not factor in the emotional costs of having to travel abroad, perhaps alone, perhaps without understanding the nation’s language, to undergo a difficult operation.

What is more, those women who are most likely to need an abortion are those hardest hit by the crisis - 20-24 year olds. With unemployment so high in this age group, relying on family members for financial help may be crucial. Many futures will be at the mercy of others who may not be sympathetic.

Choice, then, is what this is all about. Giving women control over their bodies is one of the greatest liberal triumphs of the 20th century, and Zapatero’s 2010 overturning of archaic rules was a triumph. The consequences of the PP’s reversion may be catastrophic.

What do you get the city that has everything? Two of everything, of course. And that brings us onto Barcelona’s Santa Eulàlia.

While I’m not trying to claim that the Catalan capital has everything, exactly – some decently priced public swimming pools would be a start – the city can proudly boast two patron saints in Santa Eulàlia and Mare de Déu de la Mercè and therefore two annual festivals.

The first of these, the festival of Santa Eulàlia, took place last week although you’d be excused for not noticing it. Of the two events, La Mercè, which takes place around September 24, is by far he better known: it has a public holiday, for a start, and the festivities are widespread, taking in everything from filthy techno parties to a Catalan Wine Fair.

Pretty much everybody in Barcelona has taken part in La Mercè, in other words, while many Barcelona dwellers have never so much as glimpsed a cavallet during Santa Eulàlia.

You might assume, therefore, that Eulàlia is the latecomer among the two patron saints, bustling her way into the limelight as only a 13-year-old girl can (Santa Eulàlia was a 13-year-old Christian who was tortured by the Romans in various unspeakable ways  for refusing to recant her Christianity).

But you’d be wrong. In fact, Eulàlia was first, holding the title of Barcelona’s patron saint outright until 1687 (some reports say 1637), when Barcelona’s governing Consell de Cent asked for La Mercè’s help in ridding the city of a plague of locusts, awarding her co-patronage when the insects eventually buzzed off.

Tough luck for Santa Eulàlia, you might think, and all the more so because La Mercè has become Barcelona’s emblematic day of celebration. But the festival of Santa Eulàlia retains a certain charm nevertheless, particularly for those who have children.

In fact, to La Mercè’s flash and hedonism, Santa Eulàlia offers tradition, child friendliness and a spectacular array of light art, with Santa Eulàlia now incorporating LlumBCN, Barcelona’s festival of lights.

This year, the event saw the city turned into a “giant canvas”, according to Barcelona Mayor Xavier Trias, “where artists paint the city using technology as if it was a paint brush”, transforming areas like the Parc de la Ciutadella and the Plaça de Sant Jaume into living exhibitions of light, courtesy of bespoke installations and projections beamed onto some of Barcelona’s most iconic buildings.

The park was especially impressive: I may have visited on a rainy Saturday night but I was charmed by what looked like a paper heart, hidden in the trees, which pulsated along to thunderous Euro techno as children watched on entranced. It was spectacularly pointless, seemingly random and all the better for it.

Equally impressive, if somewhat more low-key, was the use of subtle, refracted lighting to transform the Convent de Sant Agustí into a gothic fish tank (pictured above), just the place to spend an early Saturday night floating among the purple patterns.

Best of all though was the correfoc dels Diables Petits, which managed the near impossible task of making the correfoc – essentially a load of people dressed up as devils spraying spectators with fireworks in tightly packed streets – even more Health and Safety unfriendly, by giving over the devil costumes and fireworks to a load of kids and letting them run free, in a way that would make most British councils faint with the sheer audacity of it all.

Of course, to visitors from Britain having a festival of light in Barcelona probably doesn’t make much sense. February may be among the city’s coldest months but there’s still a fair amount of sunshine, creating the impression that the beach season may be just around the corner.

If you compare the situation to, say, a February in Dundee, you might think that the Scottish city would be better served with getting out the light installations than the Catalan capital.

But no matter. Santa Eulàlia’s lights are a delight, an unexpected sunny bonus and a reminder of how good Barcelona can be at reinvigorating its history without destroying it.

La Mercè may have the glamour, then, but Santa Eulàlia has the charm.

Two's company, three's certainly not a crowd

Por: | 13 de febrero de 2014

There are some things in sport that are a given. Rafa Nadal winning the French Open, a teary England captain trudging off the pitch at a major tournament after losing on penalties, your football team, whoever they may be, taking one step forwards only to then take two steps back. Unless, that is, you support Real Madrid or Barcelona, in which case you’re guaranteed to win the league or, at very worst, come second.

Whist these preconceptions might be largely true, it now appears that somebody is trying to spit in the proverbial soup. No, England aren’t practicing penalties, nor has a new king of clay arrived, but thankfully Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid have.

When I lived in the UK I would rave about the technical qualities of La Liga. Aesthetically pleasing all over the park, you can’t help but be impressed: centre backs who are comfortable on the ball as opposed to hulking, gurning galoots. Midfielders with a bit of flair and a touch of class contrast England’s try-hard headless chickens, added to tiki-taka galore with no Sam Allardyce route one in sight, not to mention the world’s two best players. But I would always get the same unanswerable retort: “it’s a league of two teams”.

For years there have only been two sides in the Spanish title race. Photo via Flickr user Manto Football T-shirts

They were right, and the history books don’t lie. The last team to win the title other than FC Barcelona or Real Madrid was Valencia (in 2001/02 and 2003/04), and they now find themselves in a situation that make the overdraft figures in your average university lecture theatre look laughable (around €350m in arrears), not to mention the fact that they are sitting on what The Guardian’s excellent Sid Lowe once called “the second greatest white elephant in Spanish football after Dmytro Chygrynskiy” (four years on I think the Ukrainian can rest easy), the Nou Mestalla. Before them it was Deportivo (1999/00), who are now battling for promotion in the Segunda. Right now you might be thinking it would be wise for Atleti to fall off the pace.

But isn’t it refreshing to see a third wheel? People often say that two’s company, three’s a crowd, but that is definitely not the case where one of Europe’s more mundane duopolies, Spanish football, is concerned. After 23 games in La Liga the three sides sit joint top of the table with 57 points, meaning it is the most tightly contested major league in all of Europe.

Atlético’s rise has been quite meteoric, considering two seasons ago they finished 44 points off the pace, a deficit they almost halved as in coming third last year. But still, nobody could have predicted that the less illustrious city neighbours of Florentino’s gálacticos would mount a serious title challenge after they lost their best player, Ramadel Falcao, to AS Monaco last summer, whilst both Real Madrid and Barcelona spent astronomical sums of money - the less said about the actual amounts afforded by two clubs in a country succumbing to a crippling economic crisis, the better – on Gareth Bale, Neymar et al.

Wind the clock back a week and Los Colchoneros were league leaders in their own right. For the first time in 18 long years the capital’s second side looked down everyone. Not since an Atlético side containing one Diego Pablo Simeone won the double in 1995/96 had they been able to do so. Between then and now they’ve been relegated, promoted, Cup winners and losers, Europa League winners, Super Cup winners, Super Cup losers and sellers of their prized assets.


The last time Atlético won the league, their manager Diego Simeone was playing for them. Photo via

The Argentine returned to the club where he had two spells as a player on the 23rd of December 2011 and immediately led the side to their second Europa League title in three seasons. More recently he has been talked of as becoming “the Ferguson of Atleti”, developing a side that have improved despite the loss of the Colombian striker, instilling a team ethic around a nucleus of outstanding individuals including Thibault Courtios, Koke and Diego Costa. Ultimately, the XI is good but the squad is thin, and the high-intensity manner in which they play will take its toll on such small numbers.

Come July 1st, club management will face an uphill battle to keep Europe’s prying eyes, and chequebooks, away from such talent. Courtois, who isn’t actually contracted to the rojiblancos, will either take Petr Cech’s place at Chelsea or be targeted by a manager who has deeper pockets than ‘El Cholo’. Diego Costa, now Spain’s Diego Costa, will more than likely lead the line, and catch scouts’ eyes, for the defending champions at the World Cup come summer. Meanwhile Koke has been spotted house hunting in Manchester by the Twitterati more times than Robbie Fowler as United lurk.

So for now, lets just enjoy them whilst we can, and hope they can sustain their title tilt before normal service is resumed.


Madrid's Golden Cinema

Por: | 11 de febrero de 2014

Cine Doré 2
On a back street in Madrid, flanked on either side by covered markets, sits a hundred-year-old icon of the city. The Cine Doré’s peach and white art deco facade clashes with the graffiti-daubed shutters of the surrounding shop fronts; a cinephile’s elegant haven in a sea of gritty hustle and bustle at the northern point of Lavapiés. 

One of Madrid’s very first cinemas, the Cine Doré opened at Calle Santa Isabel 3 in December 1912. It showcased the relatively newfangled invention of cinema, still in its infancy during the early twentieth century. On entering the cinema, or ‘salon’ in 1912, visitors would have marveled at the spacious screening room; there was enough space for an audience of 1,250.

As cinema captured the nation’s imagination the Cine Doré was renovated by acclaimed architect Crispulo Moro Cabeza and reopened, as it looks today, in 1923. The modernist style was in keeping with the Madrid architecture of the time and typical of the cinemas of this period.

During the 1920s the cinema experienced a resurgence, a golden age of popularity that saw business boom and Madrileños flock through the Art Deco columns to discover a whole new world that lay beyond on the silver screen.

Old Cine DoréThe Cine Doré in 1928. Photo: druidabruxux

Silent films were accompanied by an orchestra in the pit under the screen. Some of the Cine Doré’s most successful films of the period include Rafael Salvador’s 1925 documentary Gloria que mata (Glory that kills), about the death of legendary bull fighter Manuel Granero. The story of Granero, gored by a bull only three years previously, in 1922, was fresh in the minds of Madrileños, who flocked to watch the story retold on the big screen. 

Another successful premiere at the Doré was Arturo Carballo’s Frivolinas in 1926. Carballo, the owner of the Cine Doré, filmed the most famous musical revues of the city and the film is the only still in existence that shows the revues typical of the era.


Arturo Carballo's 'Frivolinas', which premiered at the Cine Doré in 1926

Despite the rip-roaring success of the 1920s, premieres began to dwindle and before long the Doré’s trade was in reruns, shown twice a day to locals who had a habit of chewing seeds while watching the film. Christened ‘El Palacio de las pipas’ or The Palace of the Seeds, the cinema became a favourite hangout of the barrio.

Contrary to popular belief and the title of this article, the Cine Doré does not derive its name from Doré, the French word for golden. Nor was it named after French artist Gustave Doré as commonly thought. According to the writer Sanchez Dragó, the cinema’s original name was Cine DO-RE, most probably alluding to the first four musical notes. It was during its most recent restoration that the dash was dropped and the elegant French accent was added.

During the Spanish Civil War, films at the Cine Doré offered Madrileños a brief respite from the horrors awaiting them outside. That is until one day those horrors landed right in front of the screen, when a shell whizzed into the theatre. Amazingly, no one was hurt. Almost thirty years later, in 1963 the Doré’s doors closed and would not reopen for another twenty years. 

In 1982, Madrid’s municipal council decided to take over the building as one of environmental and architectural interest. The Cine Doré had its second grand reopening of the century in 1989, after extensive restoration under architect Javier Feduchi. Since 1989 the Doré has been home to the Filmoteca Española, an official institution of the Spanish Ministry of Culture. It restores, researches and conserves the film heritage of Spain; including putting on frequent public screenings at the Cine Doré.

According the the current manager of the Cine Doré, Antonio Santamarina, the enduring appeal of the cinema is due to, “...its audience, who have ensured the Doré, as the permanent screening room of the Filmoteca Española, is not a cold museum of cinema, but a cinema that preserves its soul and is more alive than ever”.

The cinema is championed by Madrid’s adopted son, the giant of modern Spanish cinema, Pedro Almodóvar. Not only does the cinema feature in his 2002 film Hable con ella (Talk to Her), but he was the very first director to submit his six chosen films for the ‘Presented by...’ series, upon the Doré’s grand reopening in 1989. 

Cine Doré girl

By the time the two small ticket booth windows open at quarter past four in the afternoon, a queue stretches down the street. Old, young, Spanish and foreign, you can’t pigeon-hole the typical audience member at the Cine Doré. For such a grand and imposing building the cinema has a diminutive ticket price; for €2.50 you can spend a couple of hours transfixed, surrounded by a hundred years of cinematic history. You can discover anything from films of the Silent era of Alfred Hitchcock, to a retrospective of the films of Zhang Yimou, the director of Hero and The House of Flying Daggers (just two of the retrospectives on this month). There are four screenings per day and in summer, you can enjoy outdoor screenings under the Madrid night sky. 

Inside, the cinema feels more like a theatre; the original box seats remain, and the red velvet seats of the stalls are overlooked by the dress circle, high above. These days the Cine Doré retains its grandeur and history while enjoying over 2,000 Twitter followers, embracing social media to entice the next generation of cinema goers.


For manager, Antonio Santamarina, the Cine Doré of 2014, “... maintains the spirit of yesterday and at the same time opens its doors to the cinema of today. It’s a unique space, where we project films of every kind from 16mm and 35mm to blu-ray, in every kind of format and sound”.

During the last hundred years, the Cine Doré has weathered many storms: from the shelling of the Spanish Civil War to its closure in the 1960s. It has emerged the other side a legend of Spanish cinema. As Santamarina says, “...the Filmoteca at the Cine Doré is in a unique position... to pass on the knowledge of the history of cinema to new generations and maintain and preserve its memory.” Here’s to the next hundred years of Madrid's golden cinema. 

El País

EDICIONES EL PAIS, S.L. - Miguel Yuste 40 – 28037 – Madrid [España] | Aviso Legal