Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nice welcome home?

The reds, oranges, browns and olive greens of the Spanish landscape are a wonderfully refreshing complement to the blues and whites of sea and sky. Apart from walking, swimming, eating, sleeping, pondering and praying, I did little else, apart from taking photographs - over five hundred with my two cameras. It was a pleasure to do so, in an environment so aesthetically different from Cardiff.

The Costa Blanca is white, not simply because of its marvellous miles of beach, but because of its 'salinas' - rectangular lagoons where sea water is left to evaporate, leaving behind immense deposits of brilliant white sea-salt, a source of wealth in this region since the time when the Phoencians traded the length and breadth of the Mediterranean.

The ecology of the areas surrounding salt lakes and the sand dunes is uniquely adapted, rich with flowers, insects and bird life. The areas are well conserved, and there's a Salt Museum tucked in by the side of the Santa Pola by-pass, next to a non-working conserved salt lagoon, which explains not only the history and culture of the salt industry, but also the ecology of this unique environment with its indigenous flamingo colonies.

The birds roost a hundred yards from land, and are hard to photograph without a powerful camera. Unfortunately the local seagull colony was also in residence while its latest generation of young grew into flight capability, and were active in deterring visitors from using paths intersecting the lagoon. Nevertheless it was so fascinating to be there that our visit was the one occasion when I got a touch of sunburn.

We returned on an evening flight tonight, and came back from the airport on the 95 bus, which rattled us at high speed through the whole of Barry and Llandough before dumping us on Riverside embankment opposite a crammed and throbbing Millennium Stadium, just as 60,000 people were starting to spill out on to the streets after the first of two nights of 'Take That' pop concerts. The Bus Station was closed for these events.

For us it meant a mile an a half walk home trundling suitcases along broken pavements, since road closures had displaced usual public transport services. Streets were choked with taxis, eagerly waiting, legally or illegally, to take passengers leaving the stadium on more lucrative trips. Unless you're a fan of what goes on in the stadium on any given occasion, your need as a citizen for reliable transport is ofrced to take second place.

Big events are supposed to be beneficial for the city. A lot of money may be taken in the course of them, but how much of it works to improve the city? What is the additional cost to the city of managing them? How much of the money taken on the night is exported for use elsewhere? These are figures I'd like to see available to help establish the true worth of the stadium to the city. Far too much, in my view, is decided on the basis of sentiment.

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