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El Pais

A week in Spain in February. From a very pleasant 21 degrees in Barcelona to a blizzard on the outskirts of Leon, this trip has been more than a little eventful. Traveling with my amigos in Espania I’ve visited one of the biggest, most modern pig farms in Spain, a huge cattle ranch and many vets and professors who specialize in animal care.
I thought they were having a laugh when they asked me to take my clothes off and shower, but no, this was just part of the high health system that keeps the pigs free of germs and, I suspect, gives the farmers a good laugh now and again. The animals themselves had lots of space and the care and technology in that place was amazing.
My Spanish was tested to its limit, as out there in the real Spain, people don’t need to speak English, and why should they. We are, as a nation, particularly lazy when it comes to learning other languages. Full emersion in a foreign language is the best thing if you want to improve.
As a part-time bird watcher, I was delighted to see storks and kites soaring over the tundra-like terrain on my long haul from Saragossa to Leon. Here too, they have the wind farm dilemma so the book Windscape should fit in nicely.
The food has been non stop. I’m not used to eating a big lunch every day, nor having coffee every two hours but my stomach is adjusting. The blood-meat spread, like a spreadable black pudding which you lather on on big chunks of bread, was strange but delicious. When I told my Spanish friends about the Scots habit of having fried black pudding for breakfast, or indeed, deep-fried in batter with chips, they were equally taken aback. One of my favorite views was of the cathedral in Leon. Estaba estupendo. Just look at the flag for the real Kings of Leon… Remind you of anything? Yup… The lion rampart of Scotland.

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Below is our Lion Rampant Flag, introduced by Alexander II in 1222.

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Leon, which means ‘lion’ in English, is one those places I must come back to some time. Founded by the Roman seventh legion, it is steeped in the kind of history that could easily sprout a great historical novel.

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