Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve fiesta

Finally the town hall has released a poster for tonight's main fiesta in the harbour of Vueltas, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera (see yesterday's party tips). The salsa bands are poshly called orchestras (orquestas) here and will start at 11pm for dancing into the small hours of 2015. The Spanish 'Nochevieja', literally 'old night', means New Years Eve.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Eve party tip

Memories of one Vueltas party last year...
To see off 2014 on La Gomera the best parties are once again to be encountered in the port of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey. There will be an official stage with bands in the harbour, private but wide open parties that you couldn't overlook with a bar where you can buy a drink, and for those publicans that want the late trade there is a general bar exemption for the whole Valle Gran Rey area until five o'clock in the morning. I'm sure there is going to be something special happening in the legendary 'Cacatua' bar as well, both downstairs in the beer garden and in the old 'upper house'. It's conveniently situated in the harbour area of Vueltas as well, where some pyromaniacs might even let off a bit of fireworks. There will be more action on New Year's Day with the same bar exemption for those who still find the energy to continue.
Here in Ireland there won't be much in the line of fireworks, but there'll be much partying all the same with a bar exemption until 2am and plenty of events everywhere to cater for all tastes. They'll even have a band called 'Mojo' not too far away from where I sit...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Year ends with further drop in population

La Gomera's population has decreased further in 2014. Latest figures show the total of inhabitants at 20.721, down 2.355 since 2011. All five municipalities across the island have suffered losses and the population now is spread as follows:
San Sebastian:  8.668
Valle Gran Rey: 4.181
Vallehermoso:  2.913
Alajero:           1.954
Hermigua:       1.919
Agulo:             1.086

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Spanish 'April Fool's Day' today: Atlantis sighted

Atlantis seen making an initial exploration, surfacing for a comeback in Atlantic waters not quite controlled yet by Spain

Saturday, December 27, 2014

New trailer for Ron Howard movie shows La Gomera

Hard-working Howard aboard the 'whaler Essex' with the southern coast of La Gomera in the background. Despite the tough challenges and the long hours Ron always had that twinkle in his eyes and a smile for everyone during the five weeks of shooting on (and off) La Gomera.      Image:  © Jonathan Prime/Warner Bros. Pictures
An official second trailer (below) for the upcoming Ron Howard directed film 'In the Heart of the Sea' has just been released by Warner Bros. and in this one the outdoor filming location of La Gomera can be clearly seen. Right at the start of the trailer the wide aerial shot of the whaling ship 'Essex' shows the island of La Gomera as a spectacular backdrop and there's a very short snippet of a scene that I remember very well... Can't wait now to see the full movie, due for release in most parts of the world on March 13th 2015.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A funny Spanish Christmas cartoon the end it says: ''If you like it or not - it's Christmas. SEASON'S GREETINGS ''

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holly on La Gomera hasn't got spiky leaves... its Irish counterpart (Ilex aquifolium, above), because no mammals existed in the Canaries to browse on the leaves and so Canarian holly (Ilex canariensisdidn't have to defend itself with spikes on them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A great new Christmas song

This has got to be one of the best Christmas anthems around. The talent who wrote, produced and performed it are all from Kenmare in County Kerry in the south-west of Ireland. Kenmare (aka Neidin in Irish) is the gateway to the beautiful Ring of Kerry and the even more stunningly scenic Ring of Beara.  
A very happy Christmas 2014 to you all 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tenerife supermoon in Wall Street Journal reports:
''A spectacular photo of the moon taken in Tenerife has made the Wall Steet Journal's album of Pictures of the Year for 2014.
The picture was taken by astrophysicist Daniel L√≥pez at the Canarian Astrophysics Institute's Observatory at the foot of Mt Teide on a night that attracted a host of photographers and astronomers given the likelihood of a so-called 'supermoon' phenomenon as the moon reached its closest point to earth during orbit and shone 30% more brightly than usual, while also appearing significantly larger.  The spectacular shot, which has made the national headlines in Spain, was taken on the night of 10 August and shows the moon against the silhoutettes of two solar observation towers at the Observatory.''

Monday, December 22, 2014

Refuelling facilities for La Gomera airport demanded

A Binter Airlines commuter flight approaching La Gomera's small but beautiful airport GMZ to land 
The parliament of the Canary Islands has adopted a resolution calling for the installation of refuelling facilities at La Gomera's airport (GMZ) last Thursday. It was stated by the leader of the Canarian nationalist group in the parliament that La Gomera's citizens deserve to be treated like the rest of the Spanish population and that the Spanish airport authority AENA left the airport without a tanker to supply fuel and that there wasn't even lubricating oil for emergencies. He also said that several Spanish airports with less air traffic than La Gomera had all these essential basic services at their disposal. They weren't economically viable but essential and vital in case of emergencies, he concluded.
The resolution was adopted with the support of several parties and as one deputy put it ''because above all it stands to reason''
I think he's right. The shooting of the upcoming movie In the Heart of the Sea by Ron Howard involved several days of shooting from a special camera helicopter which needed numerous refuelling trips. Even though many scenes were being filmed in the sea just a very short distance below La Gomera's airport, the helicopter had to fly further away to refuel from a tanker truck that had been brought especially from Tenerife, meanwhile we were refuelling with smoothies and resetting the scene.
A couple of years ago a route from London Gatwick directly to La Gomera was to be opened and tickets could be pre-ordered online - until they discovered they couldn't refuel at the destination.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter solstice Ireland where I'm now planning my next trip to La Gomera for some warmer winter sun.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie 'In The Heart Of The Sea' nearing completion

The film 'In The Heart Of The Sea' which was directed by Ron Howard and shot partially on location in La Gomera is in the final stages of production. The film is due for release by Warner Bros. in March of next year. 
Brendan Gleeson, one of the actors starring in the movie, had this to say about it: “I just saw it in the last week and I’m really happy with what it does. It ‘s a kind of extraordinary, full-on idea of what you can do with a film, but it has a heart and soul to it. I’m very happy about it.”
Meanwhile Ron Howard keeps us informed through his Twitter account:
Another intense action moment harsh uncomfortable but proud movie making flash-back for me
A last bit of music to mix for coming Mar 13 in US & most of the world

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Action on ferry demanded by president of La Gomera

There has been total silence surrounding the promised re-establishment of the 'interior line' ferry which covered the connection between the three La Gomera ports of Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, San Sebastian de La Gomera and then continued on to Los Cristianos on Tenerife. Now La Gomera's president C. Curbelo has called on the president of the government of the Canary Islands Paulino Rivero to make sure that his promise of a re-introduction of the service before the end of this year not just ''remains good intentions, but to redouble all efforts to make sure it becomes a reality in the shortest time possible'', reminding him that that the year is ending very soon. 
Curbelo also said that this ferry line is a basic necessity for La Gomera's citizens and stressed its social and economic importance as well as its significance for visitors to the island.
We'll see if this appeal will have any effect, but a least the silence is broken and the ferry hasn't been totally forgotten yet. I can see from my blog statistics that all articles concerning this ferry are amongst the most read, and the first question I'm always asked when talking about La Gomera is ''Any news about the small ferry ?''

Monday, December 15, 2014

Don't get caught out by new Spanish tax laws

Spain on the rocky road to nowhere ?
The following clipping from an article in The Telegraph was written some time ago for British expats, but it equally applies to all EU citizens living in Spain or intending to do so:

British expats living in Spain will have to be on their toes to keep up with the new Spanish tax rules

By Liz Phillips
''There are a number of changes afoot which could trip you up faster than a flamenco dance. These include:
· A new double tax treaty
· New disclosure rules
· New tax allowance bands
Before becoming too entangled in the new rules, you need to clear whether you are a resident for tax purposes. This applies to expats and homeowners. You are a Spanish resident if you spend more than 183 days (roughly six months) in Spain in one calendar year , and they don’t have to be consecutive days.
But you will also be presumed to be a Spanish resident if your “centre of vital interests” is in Spain. For instance, if your husband or wife lives in Spain and you’re not legally separated.
“The centre of vital interests was introduced to prevent fraud where individuals maintained their whole life in Spain, but made sure they remained under the 183 day barrier,” explains Jason Porter, Business Development Director at tax and wealth management firm Blevins Franks.
Double taxation
The UK and Spain have had a Double Taxation Convention for some time, but the new treaty only came into force in June with further rules covering income tax and other taxes kicking in on January 1 and April 6, 2015.
“The new treaty is especially relevant to individuals and companies who are tax residents in Spain, but who draw income from the UK, as well as those who split their time between the two, perhaps paying tax in both,” says Richard Way, Editor of the Overseas Guides Company.
“For example, the new treaty could affect the amount of tax certain expat pensioners’ pay.”
Government service pensions paid to retired members of the fire service, police, civil servants, armed forces and local authorities are exempt from Spanish tax. Under the new treaty the amount of the pension is still exempt but must be included when calculating how much tax is due in Spain. This could have the effect of pushing any other income - perhaps from investments and rent - into a higher tax bracket meaning you’d have to pay more tax in Spain....
The new Spanish ‘disclosure’ rules mean that Spanish residents and expats living in Spain will have to declare all relevant overseas assets worth more than €50,000 combined. This includes bank accounts, property and life assurance policies...
“Tax authorities are now openly sharing information about citizens’ taxable assets in order to claim unpaid tax,” says Rachael Griffin, head of technical marketing at Skandia.
''For Spanish residents who have been declaring their assets already, this should simply be an extra administrative burden. However, for those who have not been declaring assets up until this point there is a potential for a significant tax charge and fine. Individuals in this situation should seek professional advice as soon as possible”
And in a move that’s led to mutterings of a new Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish authorities have started automatically taking tax debts from people’s bank accounts.

There is more information in a 'This Is Money' article - click below:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Scenic road still closed after massive landslide

The scenic road past the El Rejo volcanic cone is subject to frequent minor rockfalls and landslides. During the recent bad weather in late November this stretch of road was closed for a few days after a larger landslide, then briefly reopened after debris had been cleared off the road. Then another landslide a few days later forced the renewed closure and it has remained closed since. Work is being carried out to prepare for reopening, but due to the very steep incline stabilising the hillside is proving difficult as conventional methods such as strong mesh-wire and concrete walls cannot bre employed due to the unstable terrain and for environmental reasons. 
The minor mountain road is popular with tourists and connects the main north road with the main west and south roads through the national park. For locals using this short-cut the closure means very long detours and the administration of Hermigua has  made a complaint to La Gomera's government which is responsible for this road.
Both mages by

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Yet another death in Argaga gorge

The body of a 73-year-old German tourist was recovered in the gorge of Argaga which is close to Valle Gran Rey with the help of a helicopter yesterday. The man had been reported missing when he failed to return from a hike in the ravine which is the most dangerous on La Gomera. It is presumed that he slipped and fell in diffult terrain, but a post-mortem is to be carried out today to establish the precise cause of death. There are regular rockfalls in Argaga any weather and the paths there are very steep, eroded and difficult to find and follow. Officially the hike through the gorge has been closed for years, but it is still featured in several guide books, particularly the older editions. Most rescue missions on La Gomera concern the Argaga area and the spooky ravine has claimed several lives over the past few years. Even the most experienced and very fit hikers have gotten into difficulties there. My advice is to avoid the Argaga gorge entirely, as there are plenty of safer but still challenging alternatives.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Tapas route through Valle Gran Rey

Tapas are tasty Spanish snacks usually eaten with a drink. The word tapa means lid or cover and originally tapas were intended to cover your glass with a small plate of items of food to keep the fruit flies from spoiling the wine. Nowadays they can be quiet substantial and a few tapas will substitute a meal. 
Starting tomorrow you can go on a 'tapas walk' in Valle Gran Rey when several bars and restaurants will offer special tapas for the reasonable price of only € 3. About 18 hostelries throughout the valley are participating - most of them in the lower part of Valle Gran Rey, but in the upper valley and in the mountain village of Arure some tasty tapas are on offer as well. Click map below for all tapas stations. The tapa route (ruta de la tapa) will remain open until December 23rd 2014 and if you have tried the snacks in at least four different hostelries you are eligible to enter a draw for several prizes.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Street festival in La Calera

Tomorrow Saturday the 6th of December 2014 there will be a small street festival in the narrow lanes of La Calera, the oldest part of Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. On offer will be food and drink, arts and crafts, workshops including El Silbo whistling, and live music. The event will start at 4 pm and all are welcome. The best way to get to it is to climb the steps between the juice bar Carlos (best selection of fresh juices on the island, by the way) and the town hall and then left up lots of steps more behind the town hall and you'll arrive in the centre of the festival where you'll be glad to get that drink. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Temporary road closure

The road connecting the mountain villages of El Cercado and Chipude will be closed until Friday December 5th 2014, and again from Tuesday Dec. 9th until Friday Dec. 12th during daytime hours due to road works and resurfacing. At night it will be open to all traffic. A signposted detour through the national park is available. The main bus line which connects Valle Gran Rey with the capital San Sebastian de La Gomera usually passes through these villages but will have to use the detour as well. Intending passengers will be brought from the two villages and all the bus stops along this road to the nearest alternative bus stop by a shuttle service when the road is closed.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Turtle flies from Ireland to Canary Islands for warmth

The Irish Independent in its online edition reported yesterday:

Leona the turtle goes home!

When turtles take flight.

After an epic swim which brought her thousands of miles from home and within minutes of death, Leona the loggerhead turtle finally flew back to warmer waters today.

The turtle, which was found washed up in Co Clare last year, was close to death but was slowly nursed back to health at the Galway Atlantaquaria.
For a number of months now her carers have been desperately trying to get Leona home but were finding it impossible to secure a warm flight back. Cold temperatures in a cargo hold could have killed her immediately.
But after an appeal for assistance in getting Leona home, Aer Lingus came to her aid, offering her a seat on one of their commercial flights back to Gran Canaria and warmer climes.  The turtle and her carers travelled to Dublin airport today to fly Leona home.
"We will absolutely miss her but we're just so happy that she's going home. We'll stay with her for a few days to get her settled in and hopefully we'll see her released back into the water before we leave," said Joanne Casserly, who has cared for Leona for the past year.
However, those who have followed her progress to date won't be left wondering about her future. A tracking device will follow the turtle, which is an endangered species for the next 17 months.

"We have no idea where she might go and it will be amazing to watch her. We just hope she doesn't come back to Ireland," added Joanne.
Aer lingus arranged to transport the endangered loggerhead turtle back to her home on the Canary Islands today. The airline whisked Leona to Gran Canaria at 14.10.
Aer Lingus carried Leona in a custom-made lined crate which was secured over two seats in the main cabin.
©  Irish Independent  Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Leona even got her own boarding pass, the airline says.
She was accompanied by Galway county vet Rita Gately and aquarist Joanne Casserley. The lid of the crate was removable to allow monitoring of the turtle’s wellbeing during the flight.
After her arrival at Las Palmas, Leona is to be cared for in a sanctuary until her release into the wild - which is expected to happen in the coming days.
In the ocean, the loggerhead turtle will have a GPS tracking device attached to her - enabling the aquarium and Leona’s many fans to track her progress.
Aer Lingus Director of Communications, Declan Kearney said:
“When we were approached by the County Veterinary Officer to assist with the transportation of Leona, we had no hesitation in agreeing. Leona is one of our more unusual passengers, but we are delighted to facilitate her return to her natural habitat.”

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Lucky escape

The driver of the van above miraculously escaped with only very minor injuries after the van he was travelling in left the main road to the north La Gomera town of Hermigua on a stretch with several hairpin bends. The van skidded and went down a very steep incline before coming to a stop in a small vineyard yesterday. It is supposed that drizzle which had fallen earlier had made the road slippery.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Ferry problems and delays today.

Armas ferry Volcan de Taburiente
Not only did the weather cause cancellations and delays over the past weekend, but the Armas ferry Volcan de Taburiente suffered ''technical problems'' as well and is not sailing at all now until further notice. Apparently a side thruster which is needed for mooring the ship to the quay has failed and there are ''electrical problems''. The Spanish-built ship serves the Los Cristianos to La Gomera and to La Palma routes is now undergoing repairs.
All the Armas passengers are switching to the Fred. Olsen Express ferry, but this is now causing long queues and delays for those sailings. If you are booked on any sailings on the above routes you're advised to contact the ferry company for further information.
As one reader of this blog commented on yesterday's post:
''...we were due to arrive on La Gomera today, Sunday. All went well except that when we arrived to get the 8.45 Armas ferry we were told that the boat was broken when we tried to board. Cue panic but we managed to get on the Fred Olsen (no help from Armas) and are now here and enjoying...''

Update Thursday Dec. 4th 2014:
The Armas ferry Volcan de Taburiente has now been repaired and has resumed regular sailings as scheduled this morning.

Valle Gran Rainbow

A few light showers can be expected over the coming days, This photo was taken yesterday afternoon