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How not to buy a house in Spain: The top five pitfalls to avoid

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Buying a home in Spain comes with its challenges, not least the possibility of being scammed, getting charged hidden fees or missing key points in the smallprint. The Local spoke to someone who experienced these problems first-hand to help others avoid them.
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Food & Drink

All-vegetarian Burger King pop-up restaurant opens

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ONE WOULD not normally associate a name like ‘Burger King’ with a vegetarian and vegan restaurant, but one of the planet’s best-known fast-food brands has launched just that: A branch with all its usual menu items as well as new ones, but with no meat, or even fish.

Sadly, only one is in place at the moment and will only be open for a month, although in addition to Burger King’s existing veggie options, it is likely more of these, including the ones on sale until November 19, will start to become mainstream at ‘standard’ outlets.

The pop-up restaurant on the central Paseo del Prado in Madrid includes new recipes already – one of Burger King’s biggest sellers, the ‘Long Chicken’, now comes in a meat-free version.

Known as the ‘Long Vegetal’, the chicken substitute is made from soya and wheat protein, created by the firm The Vegetarian Butcher and, like the non-veggie version, comes in a roll with lettuce and mayonnaise.

To make it a vegan version, just ask for it without mayonnaise, says the firm, since none of the other ingredients are of animal origin such as dairy or eggs.

The Whopper Vegetal, or meatless adaptation of the original ‘Whopper’, and the Nuggets Vegetales, or chicken nuggets without the chicken, are now on the chain’s permanent menu in its established branches, so vegetarians out with carnivorous friends who get a craving for a Burger King no longer have to just stick to chips.

Anyone who will be in Madrid in the next month will be able to spot the veggie Burger King fairly easily, since it uses the firm’s standard logo and typeface, but entirely in green and white.

Managing director of Restaurant Brands Iberia Spain and Portugal, Borja Hernández de Alba, on behalf of Burger King, says the company wants to ‘reach both those who base their diet on foods of plant origin’ and also those who are not vegetarian but ‘want to cut down the amount of meat they eat’.

All vegetarian and vegan items on the menu in Burger King’s branches are clearly marked as one or the other, as are the new varieties at the Madrid pop-up restaurant.

They all carry the internationally-recognised ‘V-Label’, which guarantees that their ingredients are entirely of vegetable or plant origin – not including extras like mayonnaise, which are listed on the menu in any case – and also proves they have not been in contact with meat of any description.

“V-Label products are cooked in the fryer that’s only otherwise used for chips,” Hernández de Alba explains, meaning they do not share frying oil with burgers or chicken.

Recent research shows that around 13% of people in Spain follow a mostly or entirely vegetarian or vegan diet – about 8% are completely vegetarian and about a quarter of these are vegan – with many describing themselves as ‘pescatarians’, who eat fish, albeit occasionally, but not meat, or ‘flexitarians’, who eat meat, fish, dairy and eggs but whose consumption of the first two is very rare.

Vegetarian and vegan options are often the first choice for meat-eaters who either want to cut down, or who are consciously seeking a healthier diet with a greater proportion of nuts, seeds, pulses, fruit and vegetables, and also for weight control.

Some care needs to be taken where the aim is the latter, though; vegetarian options frequently use cheese as a protein source, and butter, oil and other high-fat ingredients mean a consumer is no more likely to lose weight than if they ate meat and even less so than if they ate lean, grilled meat or fish, and vegan diets may be higher in saturated fats given that many food product substitutes are made with coconut oil.

But meat-eaters are often pleasantly surprised when they try vegetarian or vegan burgers, sausages and soya mince, with many preferring the texture and declaring there to be more flavour in these than in their meat equivalents.

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Animals/Pets

Safe and sound: Dogs trapped by volcano rescued as their story moves the nation

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A GROUP of Podenco hounds walled in for days by volcanic ash on the island of La Palma whose plight reached international media are safe, according to the latest happy twist in the rollercoaster drama – and photos have appeared on Twitter to prove it.

Now in caring hands and getting plenty of food and love, the dogs trapped in ponds in Todoque were photographed post-rescue by Canary Island magazine Jara y Sedal (photo: @jaraysedal_es on Twitter)

Emergency services permanently at work on the Canarian island, having been coordinating evacuations and controlling fires caused by the lava, have been keeping close watch on the dogs, whose location was considered practically impossible to reach by humans on foot.

Although they were out of the danger zone, they have lost weight due to a limited food supply – smaller drones brought them food and water once a day – and needed proper care, as well as to be placed safely away from the potentially toxic fumes, dust and smoke in the atmosphere as the Cumbre Viejo volcano continues in eruption.

A petition was launched on Change.org calling for the hounds to be rescued by drones, given that volunteers had come forward with the knowledge and skills to do so.

It did not take long – barely 24 hours, in fact – since the petition went viral before officials drafted in these unmanned aircraft to lift the dogs to safety, but before they had time to take off, the animals had vanished.

Fruitless search and mystery sign: Who are ‘The A-Team’?

A handwritten message was found nearby, signed off by ‘The A-Team’, and assuring that the hounds were now rescued and in safe hands.

The drone firm Aerocámara had travelled from Galicia in the far north-west of mainland Spain, but after two days of searching for the dogs, had to give up and return to base.

Only human footprints were found in the ash-filled ponds in the village of Todoque, said Aerocámara, and their operators pledged to remain in close contact with authorities and animal shelters so as to be ready to set off at a second’s notice if the dogs were found.

A screenshot of the sign that appeared after the dogs went missing, assuring they were well, and signed off by ‘The A-Team’

Aerocámara said they did not believe the animals would have wandered off by themselves, pointing out that dogs being given food and water daily would typically stay there waiting for their next meal, rather than straying off over hot lava.

It was only after the hounds’ disappearance reached the national media that a huge white bed-sheet with writing in red letters was found by the Todoque ponds, reading: “Stay strong, La Palma. The dogs are okay. The A-Team.”


Major animal rescue operations across La Palma

Hundreds of animals, from family pets to feral cats, have been rescued since the eruption began and are being held in shelters or cared for by emergency service workers until those who have owners can be reunited with them.

A fireman reportedly rescued a cat and kept her, naming her Laguna, after the area where he found her.

Canary Island animal welfare authorities have since revealed that ‘anonymous persons’ rescued the dogs – although it is not clear how, given that they would have had to traipse over cooling lava of between 40ºC and 60ºC – and that they have been attended to by vets.

Food and water were delivered daily to these dogs, but nobody could get to them; a petition to deploy a drone company gained a near-immediate response

They are now in established animal protection facilities and said to be in good health, other than their weight loss.

An inquiry will be launched into who owns them and why they were not reported as trapped or missing from the start, given that their presence was only detected by drone footage at the beginning of this month.

But the local hunting society claims the hounds’ owners had been working on a rescue strategy for several days and it was probably they who had saved them, and stressed that the dogs had ‘never been abandoned to their fate’.

British tourists failed in rescue attempt…and fell foul of police

In the meantime, four British men who were warned off by police after being spotted taking selfies against a backdrop of the erupting volcano spoke to a UK newspaper to explain they had been trying to rescue the dogs.

Fines and even criminal proceedings can be taken against anyone who goes beyond the cordoned-off zone and gets too close to the volcano, putting themselves and, potentially, emergency services who go to their aid, in serious danger.

Personal trainer and bodybuilder Seb Jones, 33, and his friends Andy Flavell, Tom Whaite and Zack Hurley did not get near enough to even see the dogs before the smoke and ash beat them back.

Seb told the Daily Mail that the four are animal-lovers and are especially fond of dogs, and as they are all experienced hikers and climbers, decided to give the rescue a try.

He admitted, though, that although they had been attracted by the idea of a ‘volcano hike’, they had underestimated the sheer magnitude of the damage and how hard it would be to get near.

“We’re animal-lovers and experienced hikers!” Four British tourists on a mission to rescue the dogs could not resist taking some ‘volcano selfies’, but were pulled up by police for breaking into the ‘danger zone’ (first photo, on left, by Andy Flavell on Facebook; remaining three by Seb Jones on Facebook)

The group, who had taken a ferry to La Palma from their holiday villa in Tenerife – but which was delayed for three hours, meaning they arrived as it was getting dark – said the sky was ‘blood red’ and they could hear the roaring of the volcano over the sound of their hired car.

A four-hour hike across a platform of ash a metre high, with burning ash raining down on them, trying to shelter behind the charred remains of trees, they had to give up as they could not breathe.

Back near the houses still standing, they heard the dogs whining and barking close by, but could not locate them.

Given that entering the volcano ‘exclusion zone’ is a criminal offence, and whoever rescued the Podencos would have needed to have done so, it seems unlikely they will reveal their identity publicly.

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Andalucia

IMAGES: First snow of the season falls in Sierra Nevada in southern Spain

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The peaks of Spain’s Sierra Nevada received their first dusting of snow during the night on Friday, as the weather turned colder across the peninsula.

Operators of the ski resort in the mountain range shared images of the first snow fall on the pistes, although it isn’t yet quite enough to start the ski season.

Snow fell across the area of Borreguiles and Laguna, said Cetursa, the company that runs the resort which shared some images of the early snowfall.

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  • Snow in the Sierra Nevada
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Images from the slopes of Sierra Granada’s ski resort on Saturday morning. Andrés Amaro/Cetursa Sierra Nevada SA

Located just outside Granada in Andalucia, the Sierra Nevada is Spain’s largest natural park and boasts the highest peak on the peninsula,  the 3,478-metre (11,411-foot) Mount Mulhacén.

But it is Mount Veleta’s northern slopes which provide the slopes used as a ski resort, offering over 100 kilometres (62 miles) of skiable routes spread between 124 pistes.

In some years the season opens as early as mid-November if there has been sufficient snowfall and can run until mid-May.

Other images of the sprinkling of snow was shared from the Sierra Nevada Weather Station and the Observatory.

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