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EU Strikes Blow For Passenger Rights

The European Court of Justice struck a big blow for passenger rights last week as it passed down a landmark ruling against KLM airlines. A move which will now ensure that travelers delayed by technical issues on flights in the EU are correctly compensated in accordance with EU regulation 261 which governs the relationship between commercial airlines and their customers.

Until last week’s ruling, which revolved around a case brought by a passenger who suffered a 29 hour delay on a KLM flight from Quito in Ecuador to Amsterdam in 2009, many airlines were dragging their feet on making compensation payments to passengers who had lawfully made claims in accordance with their existing rights after their flights were delayed by technical issues.

Now however the airlines can only refuse compensation when a flight is delayed by three hours or more if it has been caused by bad weather, air traffic control or strike action. Which means that recalcitrant flight operators such as Ryanair, Thomas Cook and Jet2 will be obliged to fork out for existing claims or face enforcement action in the UK from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Passengers whose flights are delayed by more than three hours by technical issues are entitled to up to €600 in compensation, depending on circumstances. So it certainly pays to know your rights before heading to the airport just in case you encounter any problems or issues.

The EU’s website offers more detailed information about passenger rights and compensation claims.

Exploring Fuerteventura – The Tranquil Canary Island

Fuerteventura may be Lanzarote’s closest neighbour of the seven islands that make up the Canaries, but it is actually offers a very different experience to visiting holidaymakers. It is not only reckoned to be the oldest of the islands but it is also the nearest to the African continent.

Beach, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Soft white sands…

While tourism has taken off more slowly on the second largest island (after Tenerife), its wonderful white sand beaches are an understandable lure to those seeking a sunshine destination. In fact it has more beaches than any other island in the archipelago, including the amazing Dunas National Park which lies just outside the northernmost town of Corralejo.

And although the island’s formation was also the result of volcanic activity, there hasn’t been any seismic activity on Fuerteventura for around 7,000 years. This means that its landscapes are less rugged than those found in the Timanfaya region of Lanzarote, as the elements have given Fuerteventura’s volcanoes a more worn and weathered feel.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of picturesque villages to visit, such as Betancuria, which was established in 1405 by Jean de Bethencourt. For several centuries it served as the island’s capital and has an impressive church as well as well preserved examples of the colonial style of building that typify the historic towns and villages of the Canaries.

The central region of the island is home to a handful of other towns, such as Pajara, Antigua and La Oliva. Each of these villages was founded during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the first wave of Spanish inhabitants and many of their former residences have been transformed into accommodation for tourists looking to experience a different side of Fuerteventura.

The main coastal tourist hotspots range from Corralejo in the far north, which has plenty of apartments and hotels right by the beautiful beach, to Caleta de Fuste which is just south of the new capital Puerto Rosario. Caleta de Fuste has good self-catering and hotel accommodation arranged around the pretty sandy bay.

Thanks to its incredible beaches and ideal wind conditions, the island has become known as a great place to practice windsurfing and every July the Professional Windsurfing Association meets in Sotavento for one of the stages in its annual competition.

Also in the far south of the island is the beach at Jandia, which again extends for several kilometres of fine white sand and turquoise waters. It is widely considered one of the best beaches in the whole of Europe and has been awarded a blue flag for several consecutive years. Here there are several larger hotels, almost bordering the beach.

The Costa Brava’s Best Beaches

Despite the region’s name denoting it as the ‘Wild’ or ‘Rough’ coast of Spain, the Costa Brava is actually home to some of the most picturesque beaches to be found anywhere in the country. And these stretches of golden sand, rounded pebbles and turquoise waters are much of the reason why the area was landmarked for tourist development in the 1950’s. So which are the best beaches to visit or plan a holiday around?

Secret Coves and Bays

Cadaques, Costa Brava, Spain
Beautiful Bay of Cadaques

Starting in the northern most part of the Costa Brava, there is the pretty seaside town of Cadaques, which has a stunning natural harbour and a shingly shore lying just in front of the promenade.

Only a few kilometres south of Cadaques are several smaller beaches and bays that make this one of the prettiest stretches of coastline. In fact, Cala Calella, Cala Pedrosa and Cala Ferriol in the Montgri Massif area are only accessible by foot which means that these little bathing spots never get overcrowded. The rocky promontories all have pathways leading down to the shore, where there are gently shelving pebbly beaches.

Golden Sands

For those who prefer long vistas of golden sands, the five kilometre stretch at L’Estartit joins up with Pals beach and is also where the Ter river meets the sea. L’Estartit is also favoured by scuba divers, while the usual beach facilities come in abundance, with pedalos and kayaks for hire and a good range of beach side bars to choose from.
Along this part of the coast you will also come to Platja de la Pletera, which is close to the Ter Vell Nature Reserve, so this is a good place for birdwatchers to come. The beautiful sand dunes and rocky islets just off shore give this beach a very unspoilt feel.

Further south, the beach at Lloret de Mar successfully combines a seafront holiday town with a lovely curving bay of golden sand, surrounded by stone pine forests and rocky bluffs. This pretty spot is ideal for a family day at the beach, although obviously it can get quite busy during the height of the summer season.

City Beaches

Holiday makers who prefer the more vibrant scene of a city break won’t have to sacrifice the opportunity for a spot of sun-bathing as the beach at Barcelona is equally stunning. Not only does this cultural hotspot have its very own stretch of golden shoreline just minutes from the town centre, but there are also the neighbouring sandy bays at Castell de Fels and Sitges only a few kilometres away.

Tourists Flocking To The Canaries

Although there are still three months remaining of 2014, it seems that tourist visitor numbers to the Canary Islands and Lanzarote in particular are set to exceed figures for the last few years. With the most easterly island in the archipelago already having received more than 1.5 million tourists between January and September this year.

Ryanair, Lanzarote
Ryanair Boosting Tourism In The Canaries

Much of this growth is down to rapid expansion in new markets, such as Finland, Poland and France. Countries which in the past have contributed only a tiny proportion of the annual total of holidaymakers. Some of these gains will be attributable to the addition of new routes by budget airlines such as Ryanair.

Other reasons why the islands are enjoying such a resurgence probably owe more to their relative isolation from other parts of Europe, Africa and beyond, with their physical location in the Atlantic providing the perfect barrier to socio-political difficulties that are currently hampering countries such as Egypt and Turkey. Recent negative publicity regarding poor hotel hygiene in resorts in Bulgaria will do little to boost tourism in Eastern Europe as well.

Poland’s sudden emergence as a growing tourist market may owe much to the fortunes of its residents having improved so much during the last fifteen years. Since freedom of movement within the EU was introduced for many Baltic States in 2004, Polish workers have found their way to many European countries where pay is significantly better than at home. With the result that a decade later, there is clearly a strong demand for foreign holidays in warmer climes.

And while the figures themselves are still comparatively low, with only 22,826 Polish visitors so far this year, the increase represents growth of nearly 42% (41.97%) compared with 2013. The quantity of French visitors is far greater, with over 63,000 holidaymakers arriving on the island from France. Statistically, this is an increase of 67.2%, with the annual total for 2013 of 58,864 already well exceeded.

Amongst the Finns, although only 12,740 have so far flown over for a holiday on Lanzarote, this total represents a healthy rise of 85.5%, meaning that they may be on course to try and catch up with their Scandinavian neighbours in Norway and Sweden who already have a long history of choosing to holiday in the Canary Islands.

The perennially strong British market also shows no signs of slowing down, with 852,119 tourists arriving from the UK during the first nine months of the year, which is only 107,000 less than the total for 2013. This rise is probably more a reflection of economic improvements, allowing greater numbers of people to take a holiday again after several years of austerity.

 

 

Cuisine On The Costa Brava

If you’re planning on taking a break in one of our villas in Costa Brava then you’re in for a real culinary treat. As this coastal stretch of Catalonia is now well established as a world renowned destination for foodies.

The quality of cuisine in the region is high across the board, making it difficult to have a bad meal even in relatively low to mid-range eateries. But it’s at the high end that the Costa Brava really hits the top notes, not least as the region boasts Michelin starred restaurants that don’t always have to cost the earth.

Sea and Mountain Mixture

It’s fair to say that the region’s location is key to its position as one of the best culinary destinations in Europe. Squeezed between the sea and the mountains this part of Catalonia enjoys the very best of the bounty from both of these environments, so ensuring meat and fish dishes are all totally top quality.

The El Bulli Factor

Ferran Adria, El Bulli Restaurant, Costa Brava, Spain
Master At Work…Ferran Adria

The region really came to prominence thanks to the creative efforts of the world famous chef Ferran Adria, who set new, experimental benchmarks at his renowned restaurant El Bulli, located close to the lovely coastal town of Roses.

At the height of its popularity El Bulli was said to have received over 2 million reservation requests. Yet despite the fact that they were also charging northwards of 250 euros per head it was still nigh on impossible for Adria to turn a serious profit, such was the scope of the project and the investment in personnel and product. So this once much loved restaurant is now more of a culinary research centre.

Great Places To Eat

So now that El Bulli is no longer with us which are the best restaurants to visit? The region is stuffed with Michelin starred restaurants but the current leaders of the pack are El Cellar Can Roca and Restaurant San Pou, both of which boast no less than three stars.

El Cellar Can Roca

Dining Room, El Cellar Can Roca, Costa Brava, Spain
Dining room at El Cellar Can Roca

This modernist and streamlined restaurant is located on the outskirts of Girona and is under the stewardship of the Roca brothers, serving classic Catalonian dishes with a contemporary twist. However quality of this calibre doesn’t come cheap, so expect to pay €155 for their current tasting menu, which includes five courses and two desserts.

Contact Details
Tel : 972 222157
Web : www.elcellerdecanroca.com

Restaurant San Pou

El Cellar is not the only three starred Michelin establishment in the region however as south of Girona in Sant Pol de Mar lies the fabulous San Pou Restaurant, which is home to the talents of Carme Ruscadella and her dedicated team.

The location is almost as stunning as the food, as the restaurant is located in an old seafront townhouse which looks out over a lovely garden to the shimmering Med below. The current tasting menu comes in at €159 and features six courses and a dessert, with dishes including Pirinese Foal Loin cooked with black garlic and banana and Miso and Diced Foie Gras served with champignons, vegetables, umeboshi & lemon.

Contact Details
Tel : 937 600662
Web : www.ruscalleda.cat

Discover Historic Gerona

If you’re planning to rent one of our holiday villas in the Costa Brava then make sure you allow some time in your itinerary to explore the historic gem of Gerona.

The Catalonian city of Girona is in the far north eastern corner of the province, only 70 kilometres from the French border and 100 kilometres from Barcelona. It was founded in 79BC by the Romans and as a result has the typical feel of an ancient Mediterranean city, with architectural landmarks from many different epochs.

Gerona, Catalonia, Spain
Picturesque Gerona

Its location is at the confluence of several rivers, including the Ter and the Onyar, alongside which much of its older dwellings have been constructed. These riverside houses are now painted with a palette of natural colours, such as ochre, terracotta and umber as set out by Enric Ansesa, the Catalonian artist and James J Faixó.

As a tourist destination, it has plenty of historic buildings to explore, with the existing cathedral having been built on the original site of a mosque from the Moorish period of the town’s past. Apart from the cathedral there are also several other significant churches, including Sant Feliu, located on the banks of the river Onyar and dating from the 14th Century and the church of Sant Pere de Galligants which is Romanesque in style and has been built on the foundations of the monastery that was first constructed in 992.

Surrounding the perimeter of the old town are the ancient fortifications, which were begun when the city was founded by the Romans and which have been added to down the centuries, culminating in the city wall that was built under Peter III in the fourteenth century. After this time, the walls and castle battlements were incorporated into the city´s structure as it expanded beyond the walls that originally defined its limits.

Nowadays, Girona´s landmarks have merged seamlessly into the cityscape and can be found amongst the narrow streets and stone stairways connecting the various areas of the town as it straddles the steep hillside of Capuchins.

The old Jewish quarter is testament to the period of Girona´s history before the Alhambra Decree was introduced in 1492, leading the majority of Jewish residents to flee from Spain. Prior to this point in Spain´s history, many cities thrived upon a successful cultural mix of Muslims, Jews and Christians.

The climate varies from cool winters, when temperatures may drop as low as freezing, to summer highs of 30-40º C. It is described as a temperate humid climate, receiving the majority of its rainfall in autumn and spring, although thunderstorms are also common during the summer months.

Battle Of The Sunbeds Hots Up

Who are the biggest hoggers of sunbeds and loungers in Spain´s holiday resorts? Quiz your average Brit and the response is likely to be unequivocal, with the Germans widely regarded as the most avaricious space invaders when it comes to annexing additional lebensraum for their families by the pool side.

Summer Sun Lounger War
Summer Sun Lounger War

However now Germany´s leading tabloid newspaper Bild, has weighed into the fray, claiming that British tourists are in fact the main culprits!

The latest front in this annual ritual of the summer sunbed wars was opened by Bild in conjunction with the German tour operator, Urlaubstours. Who together monitored the towel reserving antics of various nationalities at a hotel in Lloret de Mar on Spain´s Costa Brava.

This highly scientific study examined the number of sun loungers reserved around the hotel pool by the traditional tactic of towel placement between the hours of 7.30am and 9.30am. According to Bild´s highly trained investigators, British holidaymakers were the worst culprits, far outnumbering the Germans! However in their defence British tourists when challenged refused to throw in the towel, claiming instead that they had no choice, as there simply weren´t enough sunbeds around the hotel pool to go round.

Much like The Sun newspaper in the UK, Bild delights in poking fun at their old enemies in Britain, offering resorting to war related themes and puns. The tabloid also recently suggesting that British tourists suffer from ´Prince Harry Syndrome´ – a ´condition´ that manifests itself in extreme and anti-social forms of behaviour such as nudity and drunkenness!

Indeed German tourists seem to be about as keen on the Brits as we are on them, with another recent survey there concluding that the bulk of UK holidaymakers are drunk, fat and covered in bad tattoos.
One way of course to avoid getting embroiled in this annual battle is to book your own villa with pool, so ensuring total privacy and obviating the need for such underhand tactics!

Spain – One Country,Many Cultures

Spain’s popularity as a holiday destination is renowned, with over forty years of high annual demand for its beautiful beaches, reliable sunshine and warm hospitality. British holidaymakers in particular have fallen in love with the Iberian Peninsula and often return year after year to specific resorts or locations.

Beach, Spain
Spain – Land Of Sand

Yet the country that comes under the name of Spain has numerous cultures and even separate languages which exist concurrently under this single identity. For instance, the Basque region, which abuts the Pyrenees and takes in the city of Bilbao, has one of the oldest European languages still in daily use and which is quite distinct from Castilian Spanish.

Similarly, the area of Catalonia, which is where Barcelona can be found, also has its own language, spoken not only in and around the Catalonian capital but also in the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. These differences in idiom are just the most obvious aspects of the cultural divide between the regions of Spain and the dominance of the Castilian heritage.

Thus the traditional assumption that flamenco is a typically Spanish style of dance and music is erroneous, as this unique artistic expression emerged from the gipsy or Gitano culture that was first documented in the eighteenth century. And it was firmly associated with the area of Andalucia, in the south-eastern corner of the country, until much later when its popularity began to spread to other regions.

Flamenco dancers, Spain

Similarly, bull fighting is only practiced in certain parts of Spain, with a ban introduced in Catalonia in 2012 and the sport never having really taken off in the Canary Islands. The first records of bull-fighting in its current form date back to 1726 although the culture of bull worship is far more ancient and it is thought that the sport may well have developed from Roman gladiatorial combat.

While the Balearic Islands owe their distinct cultural differences to a fusion of many diverse influences, due to their important logistical location in the middle of the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands are overwhelmingly Spanish. With the obvious caveat that Canarian culture has deviated from the hegemonic Castilian mode over the centuries, due to the islands physical remoteness from mainland Europe.

The reasons for the dominance of Castile over the other regions of Spain came about after the marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella I in 1469, uniting the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. And it was their grandson Charles V who first emerged as the King of Spain in 1516, although even six centuries later the country is still defined by its distinct regions and histories.

The Great British Summer Getaway

The school bells have sounded across the UK, signalling the end of term for kids across the country.  And despite the fact that the country is enjoying its best summer weather in years the annual exodus known as the Great British Getaway is now well and truly underway, as millions of tourists flock to airports across the country, sparking what are now almost routine scenes of chaos.

Queues, airport, UK
Aiport Chaos

July 25th – aka Black Friday – didn’t pass off without incident this year, as the end of term at schools in the UK sparked a mass dash to get away on holiday, with an estimated 2 million tourists passing through British airports this weekend.

And as you’d expect the system inevitably buckled under the pressure, resulting in nightmare delays at Manchester airport as the third busiest hub in the UK struggled to process over 320,000 passengers and a chronic luggage log jam at Gatwick, thanks to what were described as ‘resourcing issues’ with baggage handlers Swissport. Delays were also experienced across the UK road and rail network, making it an equally grim experience for those choosing to enjoy a staycation.

Passenger volumes were at their highest in the South East, as Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted serviced a combined total of just under one million holidaymakers.

And where were they all headed? Well according to ABTA Spain is the number one destination this summer for British sun-seekers, followed by Greece and Turkey.

Beach, Spain

This would certainly seem to tally with figures recently released by the Spanish tourist authorities which reveal that the country’s tourist industry enjoyed a real boom in growth during the first half of 2014, particularly to key destinations such as the Canaries and Catalonia.

On Lanzarote for example, where we offer a great selection of villas and apartments for rent in the popular resort of Playa Blanca, passenger numbers have soared by over 15% versus the first half of last year as a total of 1,127,456 foreign tourists took a break on the island. British holidaymakers have been the real driving force behind this growth, accounting for 525,850 arrivals, whilst the Germans, Irish, Dutch and French markets account for 129,935, 99,112, 52,426 and 43,756 visitors respectively.

The local tourist authorities (with self-promoting predictability) have claimed that much of this increase can be attributed to initiatives such as Saborea Lanzarote – a project designed to promote the island as a gastronomic destination – and the positioning of Lanzatote as a sports destination.

But in reality the increases can be more accurately attributed to the greater availability of lower cost flights and new budget services from key metropolitan areas, such as Paris, which have helped to make Lanzarote more accessible and affordable.

Don’t Dilly Dally, Do Dali

The Costa Brava is well known for its rugged coastline, cosmopolitan cities and top quality cuisine. But for culture lovers the real icing on the cake is the region’s close relationship with the world famous surrealist Salvador Dali, who was born in Figueres close to the coast of Catalonia, adding a huge dash of stylish flash to the region’s already varied roster of tourist attractions.

Salvador Dali
Surreal Salvador

All About Dali

Salvador Dali was born in 1904 into a relatively comfortable middle class family (his father worked as a notary, a role very similar to that of a registrar in the UK) and went on to study at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts – an institution also attended by his close contemporary Cesar Manrique, who also had a similar, pronounced impact on his respective birthplace of Lanzarote.

He staged his first one man show in Barcelona in 1925 before finding international recognition at the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh three years later, which was the first step on the road to establishing himself in the vanguard of the Spanish surrealist movement, which also counted Picasso and Miro within their number, before his expulsion in 1934 after a disagreement with other members of this highly influential artistic clique.

Throughout the 1940´s and 50´s Dali´s work developed along different lines and he began to focus more on larger canvasses, exploring quasi-religious and scientific themes, such as The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and The Sacrament of The Last Supper.

Dali Attractions in The Costa Brava

Towards the end of his career Dali founded the Teatro Museum in Figueres before living a more secluded lifestyle after the death of his wife Gala in 1982. Today this is just one of a three high quality Dali attractions that are a real must for any visitors to Costa Brava and which are sometimes referred to as The Dalinian Triangle!

Dali Museum, Costa Brava, Spain

Dali Theatre Museum

The Dali Theatre Museum is located on the site of a former municipal building in Figueres, which was raised by bombing during the Second World War. Dali rebuilt the edifice which boasts a wealth of his finest surrealist work.

Open : 09.30 – 18.00 daily
Admission : 12 euros adults, 9 euros children students and OAPS
Tel : 34 972 677 500

Dali House Museum

Dali actually lived in this property in Portlligat for much of his career and it now operates as a house museum.

Open : 09.30 – 18.00 daily
Admission : 12 euros adults, 9 euros children students and OAPS
Tel : 34 972 677 500

Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum

Located in Pubol this is the castle that Dali retreated to not long after the death of his beloved wife Gala.

Open : 10.00 – 18.00 daily
Admission : 8 euros adults, 6 euros children students and OAPS
Tel : 34 972 488 655

Further Info

For more information and to book tickets online for any of these Dali Museums in Costa Brava visit www.salvador-dali.org