OH Come, all ye Faithful

Belén at Torre del Mar

Oh come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
Oh come ye, Oh come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
Oh come, let us adore Him, 
Oh come, let us adore Him,
Oh come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Yesterday I went to see the Christmas nativity scene (known as a Belén) at the council offices in Torre del Mar.  When I first arrived, I could hear the excited chatter of school children as I approached the Tenencia de Alcaldía offices, opposite to the National Police Station on Calle Andalucía.  

Just through the entrance door of the council chambers is an exhibition room, where the nativity scene can be found.  The children were just finishing their visit and were all excited to be receiving some sweets as they left the building – which gave me a perfect opportunity to have a look around, before the next group of children arrived.

As I entered the exhibition room, the first thing I noticed was that the walls were covered with children’s drawings, showing their perceptions of Torre del Mar.  As you can see, the lighthouse features in many of the pictures.

Creator of the Belén

The creator of the nativity scene, Antonio Fortes Calderón, was on hand to explain that the display covers thirty square metres and consists of 60 individual pieces – many of which were made of papier-mâché.

Antonio was keen to show me around the delightful Belén, pointing out various areas of the display which were representative of the area in general, but also very specific pieces that were instantly recognisable to me as parts the town.

I absolutely LOVE the revolving light on the lighthouse!

Belén at Torre del Mar

Here’s the very distinctive blue-and-white lighthouse and the beach, complete with the running track (Sendero Litoral), together with a model of the old church of Torre del Mar (now replaced with a more modern church).

Belén at Torre del Mar

Two of the (three) old chimneys of the Azucarera (sugar mill) are depicted, along with the old railway station (now the bus station).

Belén at Torre del Mar

And this photo shows the bandstand and the old lighthouse, which is now hidden amongst the buildings, just off the promenade.

Belén at Torre del Mar

Torre del Mar means Tower of the Sea, but that particular tower, after which the town is named, is no longer standing.  Antonio has included a model to show how it would have looked, back in the day.

Belén at Torre del Mar

If you’ve a spare half an hour, pop along and have a look at all the pictures the children have drawn, and as you walk around this magnificent Nativity scene, see how many buildings from the town you can spot.

You never know, you might bump into Antonio whilst you’re there!

Do YOU like to visit a nativity scene, to get you in the mood for Christmas?

 

Parking Blues in a white Andalucian village

Blue parking zones in Torrox

Look out for these street signs!

It’s the same the world over!

Finding a parking space is getting more and more difficult, no matter where you live. You might have thought it would be an easy matter to park your car in any one of the pretty white villages in the Axarquía but, in some of them, it’s almost impossible.

The difficulty seems to arise because there is no time restriction. Once you’ve parked your vehicle, you can stay as long as you like – which is all very well when you can actually find a space in the first place!

Two years ago, to try to alleviate this problem, the town hall in Torrox introduced Blue Parking Zones (Zona Azul) around the centre of the village.  This means that during certain times of the day, if you park where there are blue lines painted on the ground, you need to display a parking disc with the time correctly set to coincide with your arrival time.

Buy one these parking discs for €1, from local shops

Buy one these parking discs for €1, from local shops

The reusable parking discs can be purchased from most of the shops in the village for a one-off payment of €1. Once you have your disc, each time you park in the Blue Zone during ‘working hours’ (Monday to Friday, 9am – 2pm & 5pm – 8pm) you need to set the time on your disc to your time of arrival and the gap on the disc will indicate when you need to leave. You must display your disc, clearly visible, on the dashboard of your vehicle.

Within Torrox village, you are restricted to ONE hour of free parking.  Outside of these times, including weekends, there is no restriction. This means that if you arrive at 1.30pm on any weekday afternoon, you can safely park until 5.30pm without a problem.

Of course, if you overstay your allotted time, or fail to display a disc, you will be faced with a hefty financial penalty.

All pretty straightforward you might think.

Blue zone parking

Parking within the blue parking zone

The Blue Parking restrictions were extended to certain areas of the coastal area of Torrox Costa, last summer. On the coast, parking is restricted Monday to Friday, 10am – 10pm and on Saturdays between 10am and 2pm. The scheme apparently works the same way as in the village, with the difference being that on the coast you are entitled to park for TWO hours free, instead of one.

This means, I presume, that you will need to purchase a different parking disc for €1 from a shop in Torrox Costa, as the gap indicating your allotted parking time (two hours) on the disc would be different from the one you can use in Torrox village (one hour).

With me so far?

Blue Zone parking signs at Torrox Costa

Different Blue Zone parking signs at Torrox Costa

What is confusing (to me, at least) is the extra part at the bottom of the sign that indicates that during July and August the maximum time for parking is two hours. Does this mean outside of the restricted hours, too? Or that you are only allowed to park once (for two hours) and then you have to clear off?

Confused?  I know I am!

Of course, there have been some disgruntled drivers who object to the timed parking restrictions but, from a personal point of view I think the Blue Zone parking scheme works very well within Torrox village, as I really appreciate being able to always find a parking space since the system was introduced.  However, the scheme down on the coast at Torrox Costa is pretty confusing.

Are Blue Parking zones appearing in a white village near you? What do you think about them?

 

STAR OF THE SEAS: VIRGEN DEL CARMEN

Virgen del Carmen, Torre del Mar, Spain

Over the past couple of days, various festivities in honour of the Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors, have been in full swing.

Around 16th July each year,  many of the coastal towns and fishing villages of Spain celebrate by parading the statue of Virgin del Carmen through the streets, accompanied by the steady rhythm of a brass band, the resounding thump of a drumbeat and the cries from the crowd of “guappa” or “viva” as the statue passes by.

At dusk, after the procession arrives at the water’s edge, the Virgin del Carmen is taken out to sea on a flower-decked boat, accompanied by a flotilla of fishing boats (jábegas),to bless their fishing grounds.

The Virgen del Carmen is of great importance to the inhabitants of Axarquían towns and villages such as Caleta de Vélez, Nerja, Rincón de la Victoría and Torre del Mar because many larger towns and holiday resorts along the coast were once small fishing villages where the sea provided their daily existence.

But we need to look back to the scriptures of the Old Testament, centuries before the birth of Christ, for the origin of the Virgen del Carmen.

The Bible tells us that the prophet Elijah went up Mount Carmelo near Haife, in Israel to pray for rain to relieve a great drought that had parched the lands.  Whilst Elijah was on Mount Carmelo, he saw white clouds forming, which would bring the much needed rain.  Elijah interpreted the clouds as a sign of the coming of a Saviour who would be born of a Virgin.

In gratitude for the rain, the community dedicated itself to praying for the mother of the Saviour to come, and the Order of the Carmelites was formed.

On 16th July 1251, the Virgen del Carmen is said to have appeared to Englishman, Simon Stock, who was responsible for building Carmelite monasteries throughout Europe in the 13th century.   The story goes that when she appeared to him, the Virgen was holding a scapular and she promised that Carmelites who show their devotion should use this as a sign of privilege that they would be “granted the grace of final perseverance and be delivered from eternal Purgatory”.

Scapular worn for Virgen del Carmen, Torre del Mar, Spain
A scapular was originally an apron, forming part of the dress of a religious order, but for the lay-faithful, scapulars usually bear images, or verses from scripture.  Devotional scapulars typically consist of two rectangular pieces of cloth, wool or other fabric that are connected by bands. One rectangle hangs over the chest of the wearer, while the other rests on the back, with the bands running over the shoulders.

The Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo (the Virgin of Carmen or Virgen del Carmen) is also known as Stella Maris (Latin for Star of the Sea) which is the name given to the Pole Star (Polaris) used by mariners for centuries as celestial navigation.

EDITED TO ADD: These photos were all taken during the evening of 16th July 2014 in Torre del Mar.  I had to wade out into the sea, above my knees, to take them because there were so many people on the beach, it was the only way of getting the chance of some good shots without thousands of heads or bodies in the way.   My sundress was soaked and I had to try to hold it up with one hand and take photos with my other.   Happy days :) 

Which is your favourite Spanish festival?

VOTING IN SPAIN: LOCAL OR EUROPEAN ELECTIONS

elections-logo

Voting for took place yesterday (22nd May) in the UK for both local and European elections, but we have to wait until Sunday 25th May before election day arrives in Spain.

Thanks to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, I am entitled to suffrage (the right to cast my vote) as an EU citizen (UK expat) living in Spain, in both the local and European elections provided that:

  1. My name is included on the official Town Hall Register (Padrón Municipal), and
  2. I have indicated my desire to be included on the electoral roll

As I have done both of these things,  my census card (Tarjeta Censal) has duly arrived through the post confirming my municipality, and informing me of where my polling station will be (Cómpeta Town Hall).

Cómpeta Town Hall

On election day, I will need to take along my photo ID (passport or driving licence) as proof of identity and my census card to cast my vote.

Providing a person is registered on the Padrón and the Census, then they will still be entitled to vote even if they have not received their census card through the post, though it might be best to check with the Town Hall where their Polling Station will be.

Unlike the system in the UK where voters place a cross (X) next to the name of the person they wish to vote for – here in Spain it is the party for whom you cast your vote.  Each political party will have already chosen their list of candidates who will represent them, and these lists can be found inside the voting booths.

All I will need to do is pick up the paper listing the candidates for the party I choose, place that list into an envelope, take it to the official at the electoral table, prove my ID and then slot the envelope into the ballot box.

In the Spanish voting system not only are you are not required to mark an X against the name of the person/party you wish to vote for, but if you do mark the paper, your vote would be spoiled.

On Sunday, the people of Spain will be voting for 54 MEPs.  Polling booths are usually open from 9am – 8pm (but times may vary).

The list of parties that you can vote for in Andalucía can be found here.

Have YOU voted in Spain?  Is the system different where you live?