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:

Best Spanish city to live in? No, it’s not Barcelona or Madrid

Por: | 28 de agosto de 2014

How should you decide where to live in Spain? Barcelona and Madrid both offer world-renowned museums and art galleries that house priceless pieces.   One has a beach, the other an enormous palace.  They are regularly listed as two of the most desirable cities to visit for their food, music and history, but according to the data, you’re better off living in Malaga or Oviedo than either Madrid or Barcelona. 

Urban Audit, a research group from the European Commission, earlier this year released the results from its 2012 Perception Survey.  Its aim was to measure the “quality of life” of 79 European cities, including 4 in Spain.  With questions ranging from how satisfied residents were with their public spaces to the presence of foreigners the survey makes for some interesting reading.

According to the survey we should all be on the next flight to Malaga.  96% of those surveyed from the southern city agreed that they were “satisfied to live” there, placing Malaga in the top-fifteen of the 79 European cities surveyed.    10% fewer said the same about living in Madrid (86%).  Malaga was pipped to top-place by Aalborg (99%) Hamburg (98%) and Zurich, Oslo, Copenhagen and Groningen (97%).  According to the results you should think twice about moving to the Greek capital as last place went to Athens (52%) trailed by Athens Surroundings (59%), then Napoli (65%) followed by Palermo (71%).

While the southern city came top on the big question, Oviedo took the most individual top-spots in the survey, and is high on the list of Spanish cities with a high quality of life.  According to the survey, a resident of Oviedo is more likely to be pleased with their city’s “public transport, “schools,” “public spaces,” “streets and buildings,” “sport” and “health care services,” than someone living in Madrid, Barcelona or Malaga.

Also in Oviedo, with its 225,000 residents, you are most likely to “feel safe” in both your city and neighbourhood.  94% of respondents agreed they felt safe in their city, while only 68% feel safe living in Spain’s capital.     One reason why people in Oviedo feel safe may be that this year Asturias witnessed a 6% drop in crime, whereas Madrid and Barcelona witnessed reductions of a much smaller rate.

Trust in public services and the belief that they run efficiently elicited some of the lowest levels of agreement of the entire survey nationwide.  50% of residents in Malaga in the survey agreed, “the administrative services of the city help people efficiently.” In Madrid it was only 38%.  Two figures that have both decreased since the same study was carried out three years ago.

If you’re looking for job satisfaction however, Malaga isn’t the place to go, as it comes out bottom of the four.  Oviedo comes first, with 63% satisfied with their “personal job situation.” Barcelona is second with 62%, Madrid third with 56% and Malaga with 55%. 

As for health services, Malaga, the sixth largest city in Spain, is the least satisfied coming bottom at 63%, however respondents did claim to be most pleased with their “retail shops.”  The other three cities score lower on shopping but higher on “public spaces.”  The residents of Oviedo are so happy with their public spaces that they recorded the second highest level of satisfaction out of all 79 cities.

What about how foreigners are perceived? These results also make for interesting reading.  

The four cities agreed that “the presence of foreigners is good.”  They are however less likely to agree that foreigners who live in their city are well-integrated.   While Barcelona has seen an increase of 18% in respondents agreeing that foreigners are good for their city since the 2009 survey - the second largest positive change in perceptions of foreigners of all the European cities surveyed - there was a lower level of agreement that these foreigners “are well integrated.” Barcelona and Madrid scored 50%, Oviedo 59% and Malaga 64%.  These statistics on foreigners integrating are however up in each city since the 2009 survey.

To live in a city that is satisfied with its schools, transport, streets and buildings and agrees that both their city and neighbourhood is safe and its people trustworthy, Oviedo will be the city for you.  Your job satisfaction will be one percent higher than Barcelona if Oviedo is your home, but satisfaction with the “life you lead” will be two percent lower. 

Looking for a city to set up a home in Spain can be a tricky affair but marshalled with the facts it is evident you should book a flight to one of only two Spanish cities, and they aren’t Barcelona or Madrid.

You can follow Christopher Finnigan @chrisjfinnigan

You can’t stop the party

Por: | 08 de agosto de 2014

Thirteen thousand people had a date last weekend with French DJ David Guetta at a much publicised event in Majorca, only to be stood up at the last minute when it transpired that the promoters hadn’t quite got round to organising all of the paperwork. “Boo”: a lot of disappointed people and “Whoops”: terrible PR for the internationally famous DJ who had only just got over the embarrassment of another gig being cancelled due to licensing issues at the Jarama stadium in Madrid in July (also organised by the same promoter).

As the news was announced coincidentally Guetta’s manager was having lunch with the owner and founder of Ibiza and Mallorca Rocks, Andy McKay. A plan was soon hatched to try to stage a free gig to compensate the fans.  Only a quarter of the original audience would be able to fit into the snug confines of the Mallorca Rocks Hotel, but it was decided that at least this would be some way towards making it up to the people. At a press conference on Wednesday evening, prior to David taking the stage at Mallorca Rocks in Magaluf he and his manager spent twenty minutes with the press: a rare chance to meet a man who is adored all round the world.

David Guetta at Mallorca Rocks PHOTO CREDIT PHOENIXMEDIAMALLORCA  (2 of 5)
The first questions from the press were dominated by the subject of “what exactly happened?” Guetta replied, “To be honest I don’t know what happened, I was ready to take the flight to go play and they told me it was cancelled, my team was there, everybody was there, the sound check,  everything, we were ready to perform.  When I do a concert I am hired by a company who is the promoter, and they hire a venue and I work for them. Unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute; I felt really bad for my fans, and I wanted to give something back to them”.  Guetta went on to thank Mallorca Rocks and Andy McKay for the enormous effort they had made with short notice.


It’s hard to understand David Guetta’s appeal until you have experienced the effect his music has on an audience. To many people a DJ is just someone who puts on records, but to others a DJ takes you on a journey through sounds, beats and melodies interspersed with meaningful lyrics and potent hooks to bring you back around and deeper in. This is what David Guetta is famous for, producing and playing music which makes people feel good. He has been DJing for more than twenty years, but only really started to attract attention in 2001 and then hit the big time internationally in 2009 with “When Love Takes Over”. He has collaborated with a roll call of famous singers and musicians, including Rhianna, Kelly Rowland, Flo Rida, and even Madonna. What did he think of her? “She is a legend, I respect her longevity.  I am finishing my next album now and it’s difficult to reinvent yourself as an artist so many times, so I respect this a lot. To have one record which is amazing is already great, sometimes it can be an accident, you have a sound or an idea and it comes at the right time, but when you do it every time then it’s really something else”.

David Guetta at Mallorca Rocks PHOTO CREDIT PHOENIXMEDIAMALLORCA  (5 of 5)
It wouldn’t be summer in the Balearics without a single from Guetta, and he has finally released his offering for 2014. “It’s called “Lovers on the sun”, I’m finishing the video now, I produced it together with Avici and we are presenting a new vocalist, Sam Martin. As much as I have been working with the big stars I like to work with new talent as well”.

The French are famous for being the “avant garde” and being in front of the fashion, so in five years’ time what kind of music does he think he will he be doing? “In five years? I have no idea. I am actually learning about how to live in the present. This is a very tough job for me because I am completely a control freak, I always want to know what is going to happen and plan everything. My personal journey now is to try to enjoy the present and to live without the fear of the future, so it’s not the right time for me to answer a question about what I am going to be doing in five years because I am doing all of this work not to think about it!”

The press conference closed with David being asked what he thought of Majorca compared to Ibiza “You shouldn’t ask me the question because I don’t know Majorca enough. But by definition I prefer Ibiza to any other place in the world, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t love Majorca as much”.

Having heard the roars of love and excitement from the crowd as they waited for their idol to come to the stage at the completely packed out Mallorca Rocks Hotel on Wednesday night I think Majorca is quite fond of him as well. Guetta made a short speech to the audience saying “Thank you for coming, nobody’s going to stop THIS party!” and with that he played his hits back to back and inside out for two solid hours.



Photos and text: Vicki McLeod 

More photos at Vicki's blog here.

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved islands for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only English language daily 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. 

Shhhh Seville, I'm trying to sleep

Por: | 06 de agosto de 2014


I clearly remember my first night’s sleep in Seville. It was 2am as I slipped into bed, late by UK standards, though in most Spanish cities the time when an already ebullient population comes into its own. But for the next 4 hours I was party to, rather than partying with, a pulsing arterial flow of revellers going from one bar to the next, stopping just outside my bedroom window for a typically Sevillano animated chat. Throw in a bit of flamenco sung by someone who’d clearly had one Ballantine’s and Coke too many and a stream of passing cars and motorbikes, it’s easy to see how a peaceful night’s sleep was never on the cards.


I managed to last 2 years living in an area in the old part of Seville called the Alameda, before throwing in the towel (and earplugs) and moving a quiet stone’s throw away to nearby district, The Macarena. So I do have some sympathy for the vociferous outpourings of groups such as the ‘Sevilla sin Ruido’ (Sevilla without noise), who campaign against the city’s noise levels, proclaimed by the World Health Organisation as the second highest in the world. You would imagine then that such neighbourhood action groups would be delighted by the recently announced noise abatement measures introduced by the city council to temper the cacophonous reality of every day life in the Andalusian capital.


The lengthy official document outlining a whole host of bylaws appears not to leave any stone uncovered, in which noise pollution misdemeanours include playing dominoes or dice on a bar’s terraza, eating standing up outside a bar, shouting and singing in the street, no unnecessary revving of car engines or playing music too loud on the car stereo, no pulling tables and chairs along the ground on outside terraces, no televisions set up outside bars, no honking car horns unless to warn of a possible collision or danger, no car alarms going off for more than 3 minutes, no leaving noisy domestic pets alone and no playing musical instruments at home if there have been any previous complaints by neighbours, to name but a few.

There is, however, one important fly in the ointment. While most of the legislation is geared towards guaranteeing the basic human right of getting a good night’s sleep, the environmental inspectors charged with measuring noise levels on their specialist equipment work only during the day, with any night time complaints being left to the judgement of the local police force as to whether decibel limits have been broken. And on this auditory discernment, would be based the fines of between €300 for minor infractions up to €300,000 for more serious cases, plus the immediate closure of any commercial activity that has infringed the legislation.

However, some of Seville’s noisiest but most entrenched traditions find themselves exempt from the noise restrictions. Religious processions such as the week long Semana Santa parades, church bells and rockets fired to send off the hermandades on their way to El Rocio, all get a big, noisy thumbs up from the council.


And much to the ire of ‘Sevilla sin Ruido’ there is a surprising and much out of character leniency with nightclubs and karaoke bars bordering residential dwellings, which will be able to operate with levels of up to 90 decibels as long as they have the appropriate soundproofing within. The complaint being that this will not legislate for the inevitable late-night loitering outside the venue as cigarettes are smoked and the world is set to rights in alcohol-induced high tones.

This is the problem: Sevillanos are a city of street dwellers. I don’t mean in a no fixed abode kind of way, but just that it goes against their very nature to sit down in enclosed spaces, with doors firmly shut, when there’s a whole world of street corners and pavements beckoning invitingly. It partly explains why there are a staggeringly small number of bars boasting cool interiors and decent music; people just aren’t interested. Entertainment is a small, cool Cruzcampo beer in hand, somewhere to lean your elbow, some animated conversation and the warm, sultry Sevillano night air.


In the past in matters of noise pollution and general social nuisance, it was easy to point the finger at the seething masses of the botellón generation, knocking back liter bottles of beer, smoking spliffs and making a racket until either the police moved them on or the street cleaners literally hosed them away. But this new legislation strikes at the very heart of Sevillano-ness, i.e. the positive lifestyle choice of eschewing sofas and going to bed at a sensible time, choosing instead to linger outside, beer in hand until the early hours. I mean really, can you realistically prevent a Sevillano from consuming their tapita standing up outside a bar? I would hazard a guess that even the most militant of anti-noise protesters sneaks in an alfresco ration of jamón, elbow perched on an upright table from time to time. So at the risk of layering one sweeping generalization on top of another, it would be like banning Romans from eating ice creams in a piazza or Brazilians from playing football in the street. It just goes against nature, and I’m not sure that’s something you can legislate against.

El País

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