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Courtesy of Rimontgó
The region around and in particular south of Valencia, all the way to Murcia and beyond, is synonymous with the cultivation of oranges. The most important orange-growing region in Europe, it is also the iconic home of the famous Spanish orange.
Brazil and the US may actually produce more oranges than Spain these days, but within Europe the ubiquitous fruit is still firmly associated with Spain and its sunny climate. Known in many languages as the ‘Spanish apple’, Citrus sinensus is thought to have originated in the tropical climate of South East Asia and to have been in cultivation in China by the third millennium BC.
Developed from the cross-cultivation of the pomelo and the mandarin, the sweet orange is also perfectly suited to the Mediterranean climate, and is thought to have reached these parts in medieval times. The orange tree certainly took root in Iberian soil and before long had become so entrenched that it is now a part of Spanish iconography.
Where the regions of Seville and Huelva became known for their bitter oranges, as used in the making of marmalade, the region of Valencia was to become famous for its sweet oranges and mandarins. The majority of the country’s 80,000 hectares dedicated to the fruit are to be found in this region, where the dark green leaves of endless orange groves line the valleys and stretch far into the distance.
The little town of Nules has even given its name to an important variety of Clementine, while the Valencia orange has its origins in California but was named in deference to the city’s unique association with this foodstuff. Though production soon spread to other parts of the world, Spain was by the 19th century the most important exporter in Europe, eventually developing a huge industry that was centred in Valencia and sent much-needed vitamin C to other countries throughout Europe.
The medicinal importance of the orange was recognised in countries such as Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and the Scandinavian countries, with their long, dark winters devoid of sunlight. As a result, oranges and mandarins became an important delicacy for generations of children, a treat enjoyed above all at Christmas. The majority of the fruit consumed in this way in Central and Northern Europe not only came from the eastern region of Spain, but was shipped from Valencia as well as a host of smaller ports along the coast.
As a family business, Rimontgó traces its own roots to the orange-exporting business founded in Jávea at the beginning of the 20th century. With Britain as the principal market, it was to form the basis of a thriving business well beyond the Spanish Civil War, the iconic purple paper into which individual oranges were wrapped proving to be a powerful brand that still resonates with the generations that were growing up then. The link first established by oranges between this region of Spain and Northern Europe would later be revived when foreign tourists began to visit and later settle along the Bay of Jávea – with Rimontgó as a common link throughout.
Courtesy of: Doug Lierle, Lierle Public Relations
Another piece of Spain’s high-speed rail network has opened offering a quicker way to travel that will benefit tourists, businesses and the wider community. The new stretch of line links Seville near Andalucía’s Atlantic coast to Valencia on the country’s east coast, but bypasses Madrid so passengers no longer have to change at the capital’s Atocha station.
The journey time on the AVE is just over four hours, less than half that of the broad gauge trains run by Alaris. Passengers from Málaga can catch a high-speed train from the city’s María Zambrano station that leaves at 17.00hrs Monday to Friday. After two stops at Antequera and Puente Genil-Herrera the train arrives at Córdoba Central at 18.00hrs. Here passengers change to join the train arriving from Seville Santa Justa just a few minutes later. It then stops at Puertollano, Ciudad-Real Central and Cuenca Fernando Zobel before arriving in Valencia’s Joaquin Sorolla terminus at 21.12hrs. The return train leaves Valencia at 8.15hrs.
Ticket prices for this AVE route vary from 107€ to 174€, compared to 60€ to 80€ for the slower service. It is certainly the case that travelling on the high-speed train is more expensive per passenger than driving with more than one of you in the car, but it’s important to consider the comfort factor. With an interior that resembles first class on an aeroplane and a speed around 300km per hour, passengers can arrive relaxed and refreshed having enjoyed the myriad views available rather than being cramped inside a car toiling along the highways across the heart of Spain. For business travellers the advantages of being able to work while travelling on the train are obvious, while tourists may enjoy listening to the music and Spanish film channels on offer. Passengers will also appreciate AVE’s commitment to punctuality with far less unpredictability than travelling by road, and less hanging around time than using an airline.
It’s just over 20 years since the first high speed line opened as part of Expo 92 in Seville. Step by step, Spain has built the second longest high-speed network in the world, behind only China. Because of its topography and the long distances involved, each new link in the high-speed chain has to overcome significant physical hurdles at huge cost. For example, more than half the line between Málaga and Antequera runs through tunnels or over viaducts.
Ambitious expansion plans remain in place, with the extension to Granada being worked on now. The eventual goal is to link the high-speed rail network with France, connecting the Spanish system to the rest of Europe and beyond.
To read more about the high-speed rail link, please visit: http://www.renfe.es
Courtesy of: Michel Cruz, Rimontgo
New scientific tests have revealed that rudimentary cave paintings in some Spanish caves are much older than at first thought and may even date back 40,800 years, the point at which man first moved from Africa into the area that we now know as Europe. The paintings are so old – 15,000 years more ancient than previously thought - that some have proposed that they might have been created by Neanderthals; although this suggestion has sparked a heated debate among experts.
The oldest painting is a red sphere discovered in El Castillo cave in Cantabria, while another 25 handprints in other caves are reckoned to be 37,300 years old. In order to arrive at these conclusions, scientists measured the decay in uranium atoms, rather than employing the more typical process of carbon dating.
Spain’s cave paintings had already gained fame around the world (in 1985 the Altamira caves were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site), but this exciting news means that the country’s prehistoric heritage is thousands of years older even than France’s famous cave art in Lascaux and Chauvet, the latter of which is believed to date back 32,000 to 37,000 years.
These most recent results, published in the internationally respected journal, Science, do raise the question of whether the paintings could have been created by Neanderthals. Previously considered as little more than the knuckle-dragging, only partly evolved ancestors of modern man, Neanderthals have enjoyed something of a renaissance of image recently, with many anthropologists positing that their sophistication has been underestimated.
Certainly, the dates that have been established by means of uranium decay do allow room for debate. If, indeed, the red sphere in El Castillo cave is 40,800 years old, then the possibility exists that it was created by Neanderthal artists. As it is thought that modern humans began to populate Europe 41,000 to 45,000 years ago, the subject of authorship is now being enthusiastically debated.
João Zilhão, an anthropologist at the University of Barcelona, describes the cave paintings as, “one of the most exquisite examples of human symbolic behaviour” and is clearly excited by the hypothesis that these pieces of primitive art could conceivably have been created by Neanderthals.
“There is a strong chance that these results imply Neanderthal authorship, but I will not say we have proved it because we haven’t.”
Courtesy of: Michel Cruz, Rimontgo
When we were at school, food fights were actively discouraged by the teachers. But then we weren’t in Buñol, where once a year you have to stand up and fight, or risk drowning in a sea of more than 115,000 kilos of squishy, over-ripe tomatoes. They do say that tomato juice is good for the skin…
Buñol is a small agricultural town located approximately 38 kilometres west of Valencia, with a population of around 9,000. At first glance, their week-long celebration at the end of August seems not dissimilar to any other Spanish town’s fiesta with dancing, loud music, fireworks, processions, market stalls and late nights. On the Tuesday night there’s always a huge paella-cooking contest in true Valenciano style. And then Wednesday dawns, the tradesmen cover their shop fronts with protective plastic and it’s Tomatina time!
Banned by Franco but revived in the 1970s, La Tomatina is such an important event in Buñol’s calendar that the town council now supplies the tomatoes. The vibrant red fruit, no doubt ripened even further by its journey from Extremadura, is dumped onto the Plaza del Pueblo in the centre of town. But before the messy fun can start, one intrepid reveller has to successfully climb a greased wooden pole and reach up to a prize Spanish ham. Then you’ll hear the water cannons signifying battle commencement.
Up to 40,000 visitors annually invade the town to unleash their inner demons in what has to be the world’s largest tomato fight. There’s no beginner’s circle for the uninitiated, so here are some words of advice if you fancy your chances:
- If you’re not afraid of looking a bit daft, try climbing the greased pole. It’s open to everyone to have a go.
- Wear protective goggles or hide a rag down your trousers so that you can wipe your eyes when the tomato juice attacks.
Other recommended items of clothing include:
- Gloves (acidic tomato juice can make your hands really sore).
- Old clothes that you don’t mind ruining (tearing other people’s clothes is a no-no but still happens all the time).
- A swimsuit or trunks underneath your clothes will prevent you exposing yourself unnecessarily.
- Shoes that fasten securely but that you can wash or throw away afterwards. Wear flip-flops and you’ll be surfing the slush until they fall off and get lost in the crowd.
- Avoid taking valuables. They’re bound to get lost or ruined! If you want to take photos, get a waterproof disposable camera.
- Squish your tomato before you throw it. This is a fun event not an all out war!
- Don’t carry anything that could be dangerous when accidentally thrown and definitely no glass bottles.
- Looking for a strategic advantage? Stay low to the ground to avoid becoming a target!
- Keep clear of the lorries replenishing the tomatoes - they may think you’re a fruit!
- When you hear the water cannons sound for the second time, your time is up – stop throwing!
The fire engines will hose down the streets but you will need to head down to the Buñol River to join the masses in washing off the tomato slime! Unless a friendly local takes pity on you and splashes some water on your first!
Don’t expect to find a place to stay in Buñol and don’t leave accommodation arrangements to the last minute. Valencia is only a short train ride away and many of the hotels organise excursions to La Tomatina to make life even easier.
The next La Tomatina celebration is on 29th August 2012. Happy fighting!
Courtesy of: Michael Cruz, Rimontgó
There is no firmer confirmation of close commercial and cultural ties between two countries than the number of direct flights between them – and the network of air routes between Russia and Spain is growing denser all the time.
Among the links already established are those that connect the likes of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Madrid and Barcelona, but naturally Spain’s third city, Valencia, could not be absent from this list, so the route was officially inaugurated with the touchdown of the first S7 Airlines jet at the Aeropuerto de Manisas in Valencia on 2 June 2012.
The moment marked the start of a twice-weekly direct service between Valencia and Moscow, thereby bringing a host of Russian cities within a much more convenient two-stage reach whilst opening up the region of Valencia, Alicante and the Costa Blanca to Russian businesspeople, investors, cultural visitors and tourists.
A region such as this, with the cultural and corporate importance of Valencia, and a long coastline well attuned to summer tourism, offers a great deal of potential to Russian visitors, just as access to the Russian market benefits the greater Valencia region. High-speed rail links to major centres such as Madrid and Barcelona add further convenience as they link the air routes to the European high-speed rail network.
The new scheduled flights linking Moscow with Valencia and the Costa Blanca are in themselves a product of the steady increase in contacts between the two countries, but in providing a convenient direct link they will develop the volume of trade and transit further. Already, there has been a notable surge in interest and increase in traffic, and Russian visitors to the region will find it is well equipped to welcome them in style.
This also applies to Rimontgó itself, which prides itself on having both a dedicated Russian website and native Russian speakers in its team who know the local market well but are in an ideal position to provide information, support and advice to potential Russian property buyers and investors.
Courtesy of Antonio Ribes Bas, Rimontgó
Situated a few kilometres inland from Jávea and roughly 70 kilometres North of Alicante, the small town of Benissa is one of the Costa Blanca’s oldest, and its medieval centre has been meticulously maintained. Visitors tend to flock to the attractive Palacio de Torres-Orduña, which now acts as the town’s cultural centre and library.
Benissa is a wonderful place to enjoy a holiday or – as some have done over the years – settle permanently, since it is relatively close to both Alicante and Valencia, and all of their attractions, while also offering plenty of peace and tranquillity to those who wish to avoid big city life.
Visitors flock here during the spring, when the area is covered with a blanket of beautiful wild flowers, but amateur historians - particularly those who enjoy a touch of spectacle – would be well advised to arrive in late June. Like many towns in Spain, Benissa’s past was in large part defined by the battles between the local Christian population and invading Moors, and it is this conflict that is colourfully re-enacted in the annual Moors and Christian festivities. Unlike the original bloody clashes, this lively piece of street theatre is an excuse for the locals to don historical costumes and have a thoroughly good time.
Benissa itself lies inland, but the Mediterranean is close at hand. Those in the know enjoy spending the best days of summer at El Baladrar Cove, a beautiful beach protected from the easterly winds by rocky cliffs and natural vegetation.
One excellent way of exploring the coastline nearest Benissa is by sub-aquatic trekking, an activity that allows participants to explore some of the wonderful sea life that thrives in this part of the Costa Blanca. A total of six routes allow snorkelers to visit the underwater world, spotting and identifying en-route the creatures that they encounter, while also enjoying the fantastic scenery of this part of the world.
These sub-aquatic trekking trips take place from the following sites: Les Bassetes, La Fustera, Els Pinets, La Llobella, L’Advocat and El Baladrar Cove.
Courtesy of Antonio Ribes Bas, Rimontgó
The luxury real estate market is an island in the greater sea of property markets and this is true just as much in Spain as in the rest of the world. However, obviously here we are not speaking about an “isolated territory” in terms of the economic, financial, local or global environmental factors.
Buyers of luxury real estate usually have more than two properties – three, four, five… and, for this reason, they travel around the world, both long and short distances from their workplace or main family home. From this information, we can draw various instant conclusions, which, up to a certain extent, are defining characteristics of this market segment:
- Just as for any purchase of a product that is for our personal use, there are usually more subjective than objective factors involved in the purchasing process, which means that there are more people offering opinions and therefore entering into the decision making process.
- Taking on board the advice of a responsible professional is key in making a “good” purchase.
- These buyers are usually successful professionally and have high purchasing power; they may or may not have a traditional “nuclear” family, but usually have some form of higher education and speak more than one language.
- These buyers have a cosmopolitan profile; they are used to travelling and making informed decisions, and also to making decisions under a certain amount of pressure. They are informed individuals who know what they want in advance of choosing their real estate advisors and representatives. Once having attained a trusting, working relationship with a company or realtor, these buyers usually stay with them for many years; giving word of mouth recommendations to friends and relatives without hesitation.
- These buyers often don’t need external finance to buy, but in some investment cases, such as buy-to-let residential properties, they would not rule out examining different financing options.
Since 2009 we have been noticing a clear redistribution of investments; shifting particularly from stock markets, or more generally, the financial markets, towards more unique, tangible assets, such as the best located properties in city centre and exclusive locations.
Property uses can also vary greatly; from income producing properties which give owners a capital asset that would otherwise be losing value on the listed stock markets, to large rural farms, hunting estates or recreational properties for personal use or corporate retreats and even residential property investments in top cosmopolitan cities such as Madrid, London, Paris, New York, Berlin or Vienna.
The sudden wave of buyers from China, normally via Hong Kong, is striking in its numbers. Some Asian students in European universities pay their tuition and maintenance fees using income they receive from renting local properties bought by their parents; a custom that is on the increase. This simplifies their currency exchange processes and is a good medium and long-term property investment. The buyer is in a better position to gain the desired rate of return on investment if they have both the location and duration of tenancy or occupation of the property in mind when at the buying stage.
There is no use telling people not to buy flats in Spain right now, “because it is better to wait until the prices decrease when banks flood the valley in which we live by releasing the repossessions they hold in their dam”. This may be true in more remote sectors and generally for over-built areas on the outskirts of large cities or in macro coastal complexes, which bear absolutely no relation to luxury products.
Nonetheless, this statement does not help to deal with the excessive stock if there are no liquid assets or facility for finance. The first banks who have already started to put liquidity back into the mortgage market are being able to select both the most solvent debtors and the most profitable real estate transactions.
The demand for housing and the lack of credit are what they are; both on individual and aggregated bases in the economy as a whole. No matter how much property crops up in the market; there is no substitute for the best street in city centres, or for an exclusive plot by the sea in a highly sought after and beautiful location, such as Jávea.
As already mentioned, the luxury real estate market is an island, though it is not totally cut off from the rest of its economic mainland. For this reason, external forces will influence decisions made by buyers and sellers. As we know, these properties are exclusive, and therefore prices could tend to go upwards. Yes, upwards! But it is also true that these buyers have liquid assets, which, for someone who has taken the important decision to sell, are undoubtedly very attractive; otherwise they would not be selling. But what does this mean? – That a motivated and well advised vendor will be willing to accept a reasonable offer, but only up unto the point whereby the sale is still attractive to him.
If the offer reaches or surpasses this crucial point, the luxury property vendor must then make one of two decisions:
a) not to accept this particular offer (in this context, something which is becoming rarer), or
b) following the advice of his estate agent, the vendor can take the property off of the market – the most common occurrence for high value properties.
So what does remain constant in the luxury real estate market? The answer is the same across the whole of Europe: anything that is truly unique will always have a buyer. But there’s more; at the moment, whilst there is unfortunately a lack of liquid assets in the financial market, there are still many good opportunities everywhere. Where intelligence comes in to play is by knowing how to differentiate your investment criteria and your chosen purpose for the property.
As stated before, for three years now there have been movements of capital being discreetly targeted towards secure, planned property investments that are bought well and come with positive returns on investment, even if they are for the buyer’s personal use. Business is not built purely upon selling properties; the art of being able to “buy well” is learnt. This applies to both reduced price property purchasers and to the vendors; irrespective of the current economic climate, or of that at the time of sale.
The property market in spain, 3Q / 2011- http://www.realitysense.com/property-market-spain-2011/
Courtesy of Rimontgó
The agreement, originally signed in Hong Kong on 1 April 2011, came into effect on 16 April 2012, thus initiating a historic legal pact that bridges two continents.
The tax treaty, officially called the Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion, follows a host of similar bilateral pacts between Hong Kong and countries ranging from Belgium and Switzerland to Kuwait and Japan.
Essentially and very clearly aimed at avoiding both double taxation and tax evasion, the treaty defines the respective taxing rights of the parties involved and clarifies taxable status and rates applicable to passive income and assets. As a result, it provides a clear guideline for investors and enables them to quantify the tax implications of potential investment, trade, property purchases or similar activity, as well as avoiding the chance of incurring a double tax bill.
The intended result is to boost trade and investment between the two countries by taking away uncertainty about tax issues and ensuring that profits, income or other taxable assets paid in the one location are offset against the other. In addition, tax rates will be capped at lower levels than those normally applicable in Spain, and can be reduced to 0% in the case of a company that holds at least 25% of the assets of the taxable enterprise.
By reducing withholding taxes on interest (19%) and royalties (24%) to 5%, and annulling Brand Profits Tax (19%) altogether, it is hoped that an important barrier to trade and investment flows into Spain from Hong Kong will be lifted. Such an agreement can only be effective if it is properly managed, and with this in mind a lot of work has gone into creating a modern structure for the efficient exchange of information between the two economic zones.
Though it is based primarily on Spanish tax concessions, the tax agreement is seen as an important step towards ensuring greater flows of investment and property purchases by Hong Kong-based investors in Spain, and involved the intense collaboration of the Consulate General of Spain and the Spanish Trade Commission in Hong Kong, who have effectively opened up a new and potentially very important market.
Courtesy of Rimontgó
Though he travelled far and wide, and was to become one of Spain’s leading exponents of the impressionist genre, Joaquín Sorolla always remained true to his origins. Born in Valencia in 1863, this highly versatile artist became known in equal measure for the landscapes and portraits he painted – in which he recorded not only the faces, dress and social customs of the time, but also many an iconic Spanish landscape.
As a budding young artist absorbing the atmosphere of lively Valencia for inspiration, he was often drawn to the docks, where the detail needed to accurately capture the proportions of ships and convey the mood to the canvas did much to develop his technique. Though he left to pursue his career in Madrid when just eighteen, Valencia and its rugged coastline would always travel with him.
Ever keen to learn more and expand his horizons, the young artist obtained a scholarship that took him to Rome, Venice and eventually Paris, where he was to come into contact with leading artists of the time. These travels through Europe would do much to develop the talent in him and open up new worlds. A pivotal moment in his career came when he returned to the city of his birth to marry Clotilde García del Castillo, a young lady he had first met some nine years before.
Maturing into fame
It was while working in his father in law’s studio that he created most of the portraits that now make up such an important part of his oeuvre. When he next moved to Madrid it was already as an artist of stature whose work was much in demand. This national reputation gradually evolved into an international one, and before the century was out he had featured in high-profile exhibitions in Paris, Berlin and Chicago. Awards and praise started coming his way, and his finest works began to populate the halls of the world’s important art museums.
Though he increasingly returned to landscapes and seascapes populated with nymph-like women and children, highpoints of his career included the portraits of President Taft of the USA and King Alfonso XIII of Spain. Above all, however, he is remembered for the silk-like elegance of his brushwork in paintings of young ladies, as in My Wife and Daughters in the Garden (1910), and the way in which he captured the sights and way of life of turn-of-the-century Spain.
Though already inducted as a ‘Favourite Son’ of the city in his lifetime, Valencia has until now had a remarkably small collection, with most of his work finding its way to France, the United States and other parts of Spain. In recent years efforts have been made to rectify this situation, and the Museo de Bellas Artes in particular has been acquiring a growing collection that is now big enough to occupy a dedicated section of this fine museum on the banks of the former Rio Turia.
Here, among important local, national and international pieces dating from the early middle ages to the present time, it is possible to admire some of the key paintings by Joaquín Sorolla. There is a firm commitment to expand this collection further, in addition to which the regional authorities also recognise the many other parts of the Comunidad Valenciana that together complete his legacy.
A special characteristic of Sorolla was his ability to portray the rich golden light of the region, and particularly the idyllic glow along the coastline from Valencia to Alicante, a region he visited frequently and which now forms part of a travel itinerary dedicated to the sights and places that form such an important part of Sorolla’s life and work. The Ruta Sorolla has in recent times been extended from the city of Valencia to include the surrounding countryside and coastal regions, and now counts almost thirty points of interest where visitors can admire natural beauty, classic architecture and iconically Spanish sights that lovers of Sorolla’s work will recognise from his paintings. These include the coastline of Javea, Cabo de San Antonio and the Palmeral de Elche. Suddenly, you will understand the inspiration for much of his work.
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