No Juan's Land

One of the biggest nights of the summer has been cancelled this year.

Noche de San Juan is traditionally held on the evening of June 23, when leaping over bonfires on the beach and taking your first dip in the sea, while dressed in white, is meant to absolve you of your sins.

The purifying nature of the festival has been somewhat neglected over the past few years, with recent celebrations featuring huge crowds, reggaeton artists and fireworks. The resultant clean up operation the following day always makes the front pages too, with the beaches left looking more like a rubbish tip than a tourist attraction.

This year, however, the Noche de San Juan celebrations in Marbella have been cancelled by the Town Hall due to the coronavirus situation. So at least the sea and beaches will remain pristine. And we will just have to live with our sins for another year...

Photo: Delphine Ducaruge on Unsplash


Sunday Morning Mutterings - The lighter side of Lockdown

By the time you read this, Spain will have bravely stepped into the ‘New Normal’.

To be honest, I have had enough trouble adjusting to the ‘Old Normal’ since the mid-80s, but I blame that on moving from Stoke-on-Trent to Marbella without a suitable quarantine period.

Although the lockdown period did impose significant restrictions on each and every one of us, there were some lighter moments. I spent the past three months providing daily COVID-19 updates for Talk Radio Europe – and there were some stories that made me smile.

Monty Python had a famous sketch called ‘The Upper Class Twit of the Year’ and Belgian Prince Joachim proved that upper class twits are still alive and well and living in Brussels when he decided to visit Spain during the pandemic. Obviously deciding that Crown Heads of State were immune to coronavirus, he regally decided to disobey the quarantine requirements and, after landing in Madrid, caught a high speed train to Cordoba with is girlfriend. Unfortunately for the Prince and his beloved, they were in town to party and after subsequent social gathering, he awoke with not only (we imagine) a champagne induced hangover, but also having contracted the virus and a resultant fine of over €10,000.

Meanwhile, Spaniards were also coming up with creative ways to leave the house. One man was videoed by police taking out the rubbish dressed in a fancy dress T-Rex costume. I can only imagine that was his own version of PPE – Prehistoric Predator Equipment. While you were allowed to take your pets out for a walk, police also stopped people taking sheep, hens and in one case, a toy dog on wheels, for walkies. But the best of the lot was the genius in Logroño, who was discovered sitting on a bench with his pet goldfish - in its bowl.

With the absence of humanity on the streets, wild animals ventured back into Spanish cities. Wild boar were spotted in Madrid, lynx in an empty factory in Toledo, wild horses on the slopes of Sierra Nevada and even peacocks strutting in Ronda. As many of you know, I overlook a lake, and couldn't resist the opportunity of putting up a scene from the dinosaur epic Jurassic Park - specifically the photo where Sam Elliot, Jeff Goldbum and the rest of the group get their first, awe inspiring view of the park, complete with brachiosaurus. It was meant as a joke, but my feed then started to get "Isn't it wonderful how nature is coming back?" comments. Either people hadn't spotted the huge dinosaurs in the lake, or some of you had started on the lockdown breakfast booze...

But the best story of all was the newscaster Alfonso Merlos who, like many of this media colleagues, was forced to broadcast live from his living room. The proverbial hit the fan when a half-naked woman casually sauntered by in the background.

If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, the young lady in question turned out to be fellow journalist Alexia Rivas, rather than his then high-profile girlfriend, Spanish Big Brother contestant Marta López. Rivas later claimed that Merlos had told her that he was newly single, a fact that was news to López. Not surprisingly the reality star swiftly dumped the caddish anchor man, but not after some very public mud-slinging.

Makes me glad that I work in radio. At least the public don’t get to see the half of what goes on in the background when I broadcast…

A version of this article appears in www.theolivepress.es


It's the Wheel Deal for San Pedro!

Look out London Eye. Marbella has plans to erect its own observation wheel - not on the South Bank but in San Pedro.

The revolutionary tourist attraction was announced on Thursday by Marbella Town Hall. At 50 metres height and with 30 viewing cabins, the wheel will be located on the western end of the Boulevard San Pedro.

Due to open next summer, Marbella Mayor Angeles Muñoz, explained that the wheel would be "a tourism icon that would revitalise the economy of the zone".

With uninterrupted views across the Mediterranean and La Concha, the plan is certainly ambitious. But I just can't help wondering if the traffic tunnel that runs underneath the boulevard will take the weight...


Quarantine Quarrel puts Brakes on Brits

Don't pack your bags just yet.

Spain may be opening its borders to international tourists on June 21, but British tourists may be forced to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

The impasse comes after Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya told the BBC that the government was considering maintaining a quarantine period if the British government did not lift the same requirement for Spanish tourists.

"We will be in dialogue with the UK to see whether or not we should be introducing reciprocity as they have different measures from the rest of the EU" she said.

Yesterday British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the quarantine "We don't want to re-import the disease just at the moment when we've really go it under control in this country. But we're certainly looking at air bridges and ways to ensure that people can safely go on holiday, eventually", he said.

British Heath Secretary Matt Hancock commented the measures were to "Protect us from countries where the rate of infection is much higher".

Yesterday the UK reported 233 deaths, while Spain confirmed 25 fatalities over the past seven days.


The British are coming! Spain to open borders to tourists from June 21

It's a small glimmer of hope for summer 2020 in Marbella

The British Embassy in Madrid today confirmed that UK tourists will be among those permitted to enter Spanish borders from June 21

After a video conference with the autonomous regions on Sunday (pictured), Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced that it would reopen its borders to most European visitors from June 21, 10 days earlier than previously planned, in a further easing of coronavirus restrictions.
 
From June 21 - when the state of emergency ends - it will allow the entry of visitors from the European Union and the open-border Schengen area, which also includes non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya tweeted.

British visitors will be able to travel to Spain from June 21 since Britain is still considered part of the EU.

Visitors from outside the EU or Schengen area will be able to visit Spain from July 1, though that will hinge on their country’s public health situation, Laya said.

“Tourism is a key sector for the economic recovery,” Pedro Sanchez told a news briefing. “We have been able to corner the virus in our country and on the European continent... but the risk has not disappeared.”
Sanchez said Spain’s land border with Portugal would remain closed till July 1 because Lisbon had requested it.


Sunday Morning Mutterings - It Matters

I didn't watch the video. I didn't need to.

The image of George Floyd being 'restrained' was enough. Social Media has fulfilled Marshal McLuhan's prophesy of a Global Village and in recent monts the Internet has been full of videos and photos of black men being killed – for jogging, for reaching for their wallets – for a myriad of reasons. So I knew at once how the video would end.

But the agonising nine-minute death of Floyd was the spark that blew the lid of a pressure cooker scenario that had been building in the US for weeks. A countrywide lock down, the resultant economic hardship, the failure to address the issue of racism and a President that – to put it mildly – lacks empathy. The streets and Social Media erupted and the hashtag 'Black Lives Matter' was everywhere.

Along with millions of others, on 'Black Out Tuesday' I put up a black square across my platforms. Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am not virtue signalling. But my parents brought me up to treat everyone as an equal, and my grandfather RSM Robert Hendrie Wilson, Royal Engineers, landed on the Normandy beaches 75 years ago to defeat Nazis.

Before the global fallout to George Floyd's death, people were saying that the reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic was that we would have more of a feeling of community, that things would never be the same after the quarantine and the Black Lives Matter protests.

Alas, the keyboard warriors blew that utopian ideal out of the water. I've seen everything from 'All Lives Matter', to claims that reverse racism exists. When I dated a mixed race girl in Balham in the 90s, I had an idiot come up to ask her what she was doing with me. But it went no further than assumptions on my lack of virility. Which is hardly the same as a sustained campaign of race hate),

Just for once, I practised restraint of tongue and pen and consoled myself in the wise words of the Fun Lovin' Criminals ' We all bleed red, even racist motherf**kers'.

I hope that George Floyd's death marks a turning point. I hope that my African – American, Afro-Caribbean, Native and Hispanic friends in the States won't have to worry about their beautiful and brilliant children – many of them now graduating from the virtual class of 2020 – coming home safely every time they leave the house.

But most of all I hope that these tumultuous times will make us all pause, take stock and rethink how we treat each other.

And in case you were in any doubt - Black Lives Matter.


Staycation Style

If the summer season 2020 is going to remembered for one good thing, it may be for the rise of the "Staycation"

As Spain heads into the 'New Normal', the UK still insisting on a two week quarantine for anyone visiting, and no sign of any deal being agreed for UK tourists to be allowed to visit Spain without having to isolate for 14 days, many hotels are looking to the Staycation market - enjoying all the pleasures and perks of a hotel break on your doorstep.

Landmark hotels such as the Marbella Club Hotel and the Puente Romano are preparing to open for business, but if you are looking for a more boutique and bespoke break, Marbella has some hidden hotel hideaways.

One of my favourite is the Jardines de la Reina Boutique Bed & Breakfast. Located on Istan road, just past the Manolo Santana Tenis Club, the building itself has a slice of Marbella history as it was formally owned by the late great 'Duke' of Duques Piano Bar - a legendary Puerto Banus venue in the 70s and 80s.

Diego and Kirsten Selinger, a young and international couple with a shared love of travel, culture, food, design and people, finally realised their dream on 2012 and have converted the property into a beautiful boutique hotel. It's really more like hanging out at the villa of your very stylish friends, and the eight rooms are individually and eclectically designed and furnished.

All the rooms have private exterior entrances with private furnished patios, perfect for relaxing while social distancing!

If you are looking for the perfect staycation location, check out https://www.jardinesdelareinabbb.com/


Will Spain bar Brits?

Spain may be opening up for foreign tourists from July 1, but at the moment that doesn't include the UK.

Discussions for setting up so called 'travel corridors' for British holidaymakers have yet to be scheduled according to the Spanish Foreign Ministry.

The bombshell for Brits came as officials said that they were planning on opening up resorts on the Balearic Islands to nearly 11,000 German tourists, a fortnight before the official reopening of the Spain's borders.

According to official plans, border restrictions in Spain will end on July 1. A pilot scheme for German visitors, however, will begin on Monday.

With British tourists making up the vast majority of visitors to Marbella, this threatens to be a huge blow to the town ahead of an already difficult summer season.


Masks for Marbs

Fashionistas can forget evening dresses or that little black number. It looks like the de rigueur fashion item for summer 2020 in Marbella will be a mask.

This fashion heads-up comes after the government said yesterday that face masks will be compulsory in Spain until a coronavirus vaccine is found, with police empowered to hand out fines for non-compliance.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said the measure would continue after the state of emergency ends on June 21 and will "remain in place until we permanently defeat the virus, which is when we have an effective treatment or vaccine against it".

So we may all be wearing them for a while...

At the moment it is has compulsory for everyone aged six and over to wear a mask in public where it is not possible to maintain a two-metre (6.5 feet) distance from other people.

But when the lockdown formally ends, the measure will remain in place with the government introducing a fine of up to 100 euros for non-compliance - although the security distance will be slightly reduced to 1.5 metres.

As well as remaining in force on public transport, the measure will also still be compulsory in private cars unless the occupants live in the same household.

But it begs the question. Could be the thin edge of the wedge? After all. If the police are checking what you are wearing in Marbella, who's to say they won't abuse this power? Marbella might end up with the Fashion Police - "You! Those shoes and that dress? Put the Gucci clutch down and walk away"...

Photo Tiziana Scamuzo/Elexia Beachwear


BREAKING NEWS - Marbella to move to Phase 3 on Monday

Get your motors running and head out on the highway. As long as you stay within the boundaries of Andalucia.

The whole province, including Granada and Malaga, will move to Phase 3 on Monday, it was confirmed today.

Phase 3 allows movement between provinces, which means that yes, you WILL be allowed to go to Tarifa.

Other points include

The timetables for taking walks and exercise no longer apply

Cafés will be able to open at 75% capacity.

You can get served at the bar, provided you keep a two-metre distance with other customers or groups of customers.

Social meetings of up to 20 people.

All retail outlets can open provided that capacity is limited to 50% and social distancing is observed.

Common and recreational areas in shopping malls will be able to reopen, at 40% capacity. Stores located in malls will be able to accept 50% of their usual capacity.