Category Archives: Spain

Five Michelin Stars for One Catalan Lady


One lucky lady has good reason to be cheerful. She is the only chef in the world, male or female, to be given an accolade of five Michelin stars. Her name is Carme Ruscalleda.

Carme Ruscalleda is a Catalan lady, who was already proud about her three star Michelin rating for her ‘Restaurante Sant Pau’, in Sant Pol de Mar, some 35 minutes east of Barcelona. The restaurant is set in a villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea. But now, she has also been given two more Michelin stars for her relatively new venture, the ‘Restaurante Sant Pau de Tokio’, opened in 2004 in Tokyo, Japan. Mrs. Ruscalleda admitts that she had hoped for a one star rating for her Tokyo restaurant. She says that she was surprised but delighted to have been handed two stars.


Ferran Adrià, eat your heart out. 

This fancy Tokyo branch of Carme Ruscalleda’s famous restaurant serves some serious Catalan cuisine. The tasting menu is ¥21,000, whilst main dishes are around ¥7,000 each. The lunchtime “Bento menu” is ¥8,000. There’s a more informal wine bar downstairs, with some 350 varieties of mostly Spanish wines and a menu of light tapas.

Senyora Ruscalleda was raised in a family of farmers and began cooking as a young girl. Later she studied Charcuterie technics. After marrying a grocery shop owner in 1975, she convinced her husband to open a restaurant. The ‘Restaurante Sant Pau’ opened in 1988. Just over two years after its inauguration, ‘Sant Pau’ won one Michelin star. In 1996, Carme Ruscalleda was given a two-star rating by the Michelin critics. She finally obtained a third Michelin Guide star in 2006.

Carme Ruscalleda is one of Spain’s top and most international women chefs. She is best known in Spain for having been chosen in 2004 as the chef for the wedding celebrations of Principe Felipe and Letizia Ortiz. Her restaurant ‘San Pau’ in Sant Pol de Mar is a convincing example of how to create unique dishes by combining a sense of imagination with traditional Catalán ingredients.

If you want to test Mrs. Ruscalleda’s fine art of cooking yourself, or if you have a wedding celebration coming up, here are her details:

Restaurante Sant Pau

08395 Sant Pol de Mar (Catalunya)

Tel.: +34.93.760.0662

Restaurante Sant Pau de Tokio

Coredo Nihonbashi Annex 1/2F

1-6-1 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku

Tokyo (Japan)

Tel.: +81.03.3517.5700


If you enjoy eating out you probably know that Spanish gastronomy as a whole is highly esteemed by the gurus of le Guide Michelin, especially so if chefs from the Basque country and from Catalunya are involved in the cooking. 

Guide Michelin rated a total of 134 Spanish restaurants with either one, two or three stars, in their new Guide Michelin Hotels & Restaurants for Spain 2008

Six restaurants (three Basque and three Catalán) were confirmed for 2008 for their high food standard. These restaurants are those of chefs, Juan Mari Arzak (restaurant ‘Arzak’, San Sebastián); Santi Santamaría (‘Can Fabes’, Sant Celoni, Barcelona); Ferran Adrià (‘El Bulli’, Roses, Girona); Martín Berasategui (‘Martín Berasategui’, Lasarte, Guipúzcoa); Pedro Subijana (‘Akelarre’, San Sebastián) and Carme Ruscalleda (‘Sant Pau’, Sant Pol de Mar, Barcelona), mentioned above. Well done, and congratulations to all. There was no change to the 2007 compilation. Against all expectations, no additional Spanish restaurant was rated highly enough to rise to the top accolade of three stars.

These are the current two Michelin star restaurants in Spain: ‘Tristán’, in Portals Nous (Mallorca, Baleares); ‘Atrio’, in Cáceres; ‘El Poblet’, in Dènia; ‘Mugaritz’, in Rentería; ‘El Celler de Can Roca’, in Girona; ‘La Broche’ and ‘Santceloni’, in Madrid; ‘Zuberoa’, in Oiartzun, and ‘La Alquería de Hacienda Benazuza’, in Sanlúcar la Mayor (Sevilla), as well as now, for the first time, ‘Abac’, in Barcelona.

There are fifteen new one star eateries in Spain, according to the Michelin opinion, bringing the total of one star rated restaurants in Spain to a stunning 119. Ten previous one star bearers have lost their star rating.

The new one star rated restaurants are ‘Comerç 24’ and ‘Lluçanés’, in Barcelona; ‘Yayo Daporta’, in Cambados (Pontevedra); ‘Kokotxa’ and ‘Kursaal’, in San Sebastián; ‘Arrop’, in Gandía; ‘Massana’, in Girona; ‘Azurmendi’, in Larrabetzu (Vizcaya); ‘El Club Allard’, in Madrid; ‘Calima’, in Marbella; ‘Els Casals’, in Sagás (Barcelona); ‘Retiro da Costiña’, in Santa Comba (La Coruña); ‘Villena’, in Segovia; ‘El Molino de Urdaitz’, in Urdaitz (Navarra), and ‘Ramiro’s’, in Valladolid.

The following restaurants lost their single star, ‘La Posada de la Casa del Abad’, in Ampudia; ‘Aldebarán’, in Badajoz; ‘Jean Luc Figueras’, in Barcelona; ‘Gallery Paladares’, in Gijón; ‘Carballeira’, in Lleida; ‘Casa d’a Troya’, in Madrid; ‘Mesana’, in Marbella, ‘Chez Víctor’, in Salamanca, ‘Lluçanès’, in Prats de Lluçanès, and ‘Koldo Royo’, in Palma de Mallorca, where I live. Oh, well. It has to be Marc Fosh then, at Read’s, in Santa Maria, I suppose. About him, some other time, soon.



Funnily enough, Tokyo was rated with a surprising total of 191 Michelin stars, a record, given that Parisian restaurants were only awarded a total of 94 stars (New York has a total of 54 Michelin stars, just for the record). Japan is a new departure for le Guide Michelin but, no doubt, food lovers will flock there soon to try out the culinary delights, of eastern as well as western inclination, of the great gastronomic treats of Japan. Some connoisseurs consider some restaurant food in Tokyo as amongst the best cuisine in the world.


Others, of course, take objection to a European venture daring to consider themselves capable of judging traditional Japanese cooking.  


According to Restaurant Magazine (not related to le Guide Michelin), Spain has four establishments in the top eleven restaurants in the world, with the unique ‘El Bulli’, in Roses (Girona) being rated the world’s best restaurant for two years running. I have not eaten there myself, as yet, I must admit, but I do give the highest of my own ratings to Ferran Adrià’s lavishly edited El Bulli books. Always a sensual delight. Mouthwatering, again and again. 




Some volumes are available in English language editions for your convenience (as well as in Spanish, German, French and Catalán).



The Forgotten Spanish War of Ifni


Not many of today’s school children in Spain have been taught about a war that their country was embroiled in fifty years ago, in 1957, the War of Ifni. Many Spaniards, young or adult, don’t even know what Ifni is or where it is situated.

Ifni, or rather: Sidi Ifni, is a Moroccan town of about 15,000 inhabitants, situated in the south of the country, just south of Agadir, at the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ifni had been brought under Spanish rule in 1476, a few years before the capture of Melilla. Ifni, but not Melilla, was re-claimed by the Moroccan Saadien rulers in 1524.

The Treaty of Tangier of 1860 allowed the Moroccan cities of Sidi Ifni and Telata, as well as what later was known as Spanish Sahara, to be incorporated into the Spanish colonial empire. In 1946, Spain’s various coastal and inland colonies in Morocco were consolidated as Spanish West Africa.

France, having earlier been accorded protectorate status by the Sultan of Morocco, was at that time in control of all of the northern part of Morocco, plus all of Algeria.

When Morocco gained independence from France in 1956, the country expressed their keen interest in all of Spain’s possessions in Morocco, claiming that it was historically and geographically all part of Moroccan territory. Sultan Mohammed V encouraged efforts to re-capture the land and personally funded anti-Spanish conspirators, Moroccan insurgents and indigenous Sahrawi rebels to claim Ifni back for Morocco.

Violent demonstrations against foreign rule erupted in Ifni in April 1957, followed by civil strife and the widespread murder of those loyal to Spain. In response, Generalissimo Franco, then still very much in charge of a dictatorially controlled Spain, dispatched two battalions of the Spanish Legion, Spain’s elite fighting force, to El Aaiún in southern Morocco, in June 1957.

The Ifni War, sometimes called the Forgotten War (La Guerra Olvidada) in Spain, began in earnest on November 23rd, fifty years ago today. The Moroccan Liberation Army was now no longer tied down in conflicts with the French, and could thus commit a significant portion of its resources and manpower to the capture of Spanish possessions. The Spanish Legion repulsed the Moroccan drive easily, but two Spanish outposts were abandoned in the face of enemy attacks. Many others remained under heavy siege.

In the space of two weeks, the Moroccans and their tribal allies had asserted control over most of Ifni, isolating inland Spanish units from their South-Moroccan capital. Simultaneous attacks had been launched throughout Spanish Sahara, overrunning garrisons and ambushing convoys and patrols.

The siege of Ifni lasted until June 1958; it was uneventful and relatively bloodless, as Spain and Morocco both concentrated resources on Saharan theatres.

In January 1958, Morocco redoubled its commitment to the Spanish campaign, reorganizing all army units in Spanish territory as the Saharan Liberation Army.

In February 1958, Spanish troops, helped by French corps, launched a major offensive that successively dismantled the Moroccan Liberation Army. For the first time, massively superior European air power was brought to bear as France and Spain deployed a joint air fleet of 150 planes.

On April 2nd 1958, the governments of Spain and Morocco signed the Treaty of Angra de Cintra. Morocco obtained the region of Tarfaya (colony of Cabo Juby), between the river Draa and the parallel 27º 40′, excluding Sidi Ifni and the Spanish Sahara. Spain had won the Ifni War at the cost of 300 lives and more than 500 wounded, but very soon saw fit to slowly retreat from its Moroccan possessions. On Franco’s orders, the war was excluded from Spanish pupils’ curriculum. It was as if the war never had happened.



Spain retained possession of Ifni until 1969, when it returned the territory to Morocco.

Spain kept control of Western Sahara until the Green March of 1975 prompted a withdrawal, thus creating a power vacuum that was filled with brutal force by Morocco in the north and by Mauritania in the south. When Mauritania withdrew in August 1979, Morocco overran the remainder of the territory with great haste and eagerness.

A Saharan rebel group, the Polisario Front, has fought against Morocco since 1976 for the independence of Western Sahara on behalf of the indigenous Saharawis. Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed in September 1991 to a UN-negotiated cease-fire, which was contingent on a referendum regarding independence. For the past 15 years or so, however, Morocco has opposed such a referendum. In 2002, Morocco’s present King, Mohammed VI reasserted that he “will not renounce an inch” of Western Sahara. Abundant phosphate reserves appear to be the true reason for Morocco’s unauthorized land claims.

Last week, King Mohammed VI offered a status of autonomy to Western Sahara. There is no further mention of independence of Western Sahara. And no referendum either, which is a blatant breach of the United Nations cease-fire agreement.


Over to Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General.


Many Winners And Too Many Losers


November 20th is a significant date for Spain.


Thirty-two years ago yesterday, Spain’s Fascist era came to an end with the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, victor of the Spanish Civil War and head of state since 1939. Franco declared himself President for Life in 1947. His regime has been deeply reactionary, with political parties and trade unions banned, and with artists, intellectuals and sociological as well as ethnic minorities repressed. 

Franco ensured the Royalist succession by nominating, in 1969, Don Juan Carlos Borbon y Borbon as his “heir”. Juan Carlos became the first occupant of the Spanish throne since his grandfather Alfonso XIII had abdicated in 1931. 

Franco, also known as the Generalissimo, was buried in the mountainside mausoleum Abadía Benedictina de la Santa Cruz de el Valle de los Caídos (“Benedictine Abbey of the Valley of the Fallen”), a giant necropolis to the south of Madrid built under Franco’s auspices to house the Nationalist men who died under his command during the Civil War. 

Only a few weeks ago, the Spanish parliament passed a law (Ley de la Memoria Histórica de España) condemning General Franco’s regime, a law which provoked painful memories in Spain, three decades after his death. Up to one million Spaniards lost their lives during Franco’s Civil War between 1936 and 1939, which was supported by Hitler’s Germany and Italy under Mussolini. Many in Spain – the Military, the Church, the Bourgeoisie – had come out victorious, whilst many others found themselves on the losing side – artists, intellectuals, Republicans, and other democratically inclined citizens.

A mass was held yesterday at the cathedral in Granada, Spain, in Franco’s memory. Anti-Fascist demonstrators rallied in the streets of Granada to protest against this blatant demonstration of right-winged nationalism, against old-style Fascists and Franco-supporters, as well as against the role that the Catholic church played during the 39 years, condoning Franco’s tyranny. A dozen protesters were arrested; four of them were detained overnight.


A number of books have been published recently in Spain, giving an, as yet, untold insight into the darker aspects of Spain’s atrocious years of Civil War. One interesting example, albeit in Spanish only, at the moment, is Habíamos ganado la guerra, by Esther Tusquets (Editorial Bruguera, Barcelona).




Also, a number of filmmakers have begun to focus on the, as yet, untold stories of the victims on either side. One remarkable new movie is Las 13 Rosas, by Emilio Martínez Lázaro. You may have seen his work El otro lado de la cama.


If you live in Spain and are not afraid of the spoken Spanish word, this is a film that might help to look back not in anger, but in hope. The film is one of three Spanish entries for an Oscar nomination next year, for films in a foreign language, but let’s not get too excited. After all, Hollywood is Hollywood.



The Importance of Being Earnest


The XVII Cumbre Iberoamericana (Ibero-American Summit) was celebrated in Santiago de Chile over the last few days. Political leaders or their trusted representatives from 19 Latin American nations were united to confer about ‘social cohesion’, as well as Heads of States from Spain, Portugal and Andorra, plus Spain’s King Juan Carlos I.

Spain, or course, has a very special relationship with most of these nations, due to its colonial domination of most of Latin America during the best part of the past 500 years or so.

King Juan Carlos of Spain is usually regarded as a moderate and considerate Monarch, not usually known to be losing his tempers. On Sunday, however, he set a precedent that he may come to regret by telling Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to shut up (“¡¿Por qué no te callas?!”).

The King’s quite undiplomatic, angry outburst at the Ibero-American summit followed days of criticism by a number of Latin American leaders of Spain’s contemporary political and business influence in former Spanish colonies.


President Hugo Chávez reminded the summit amongst other calamities that Spain had been responsible for the largest genocide that the history had ever seen, after the Latin American continent had been conquered in 1492, claimed for the Spanish Crown, and colonized thereafter.

Spain’s El Periodico newspaper, representing the Catalonian region where anti-royal sentiment runs high, said on Sunday that Chávez’s behavior had been quite intolerable.

The Spanish national newspaper, EL PAÍS said in an editorial, “Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to say but the Monarch’s fit shows just how much the Venezuelan (… President’s …) diatribe upset the Spanish”.

But some observers reacted with unease about the King taking on a more political role when the Monarchy really has a symbolic state function under Spain’s constitution.

Juan Carlos I won the trust of Spaniards by promoting the transition to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and has always distanced himself from any political role.

One of the few voices in Spain to criticize the King over the attack on Venezuela’s Chávez came from the Izquierda Unida group, which said that King Juan Carlos acted like a 17th century monarch addressing his vassals.

“Telling an elected head of state to shut up is something you can’t do in Spain or abroad”, a spokesman of Izquierda Unida was quoted as saying.

According to the Associated Press news agency, Hugo Chávez responded to the King’s outburst: “I do not offend by telling the truth. The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner”. Hugo Chávez also pointed out that he had been democratically elected three times, whereas he hinted that no-one ever had voted King Juan Carlos into office.

King Juan Carlos already had a controversial time earlier last week when he visited Spain’s disputed North African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, sparking protests from Morocco, which claims the territories as theirs.

It looks to me as though it may not be so easy to be a King in this day and age, be that in Spain, in Morocco, or wherever. Perhaps times have changed and not everyone has taken it in, yet.

The world is no longer what it might have been in 1492, or so it would appear. 


Crime and Punishment


November 1st is celebrated in Spain today as Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saints), as it also is in all other countries with large numbers of Catholic worshipers, such as in Latin America and the Philippines, as well as other former Spanish colonies.

Todos los Santos is the day, when Spanish families not only honour the Saints, but also remember their own dead relatives. 191 families, most of them Spanish (but not all), will remember today their relatives who where killed during the 2004 Madrid train bombings (also known in Spain as 11-M). 42 of the dead came from 13 countries other than Spain, giving an indication of the level of immigration that is typical for Spain at the beginning of the 21st Century.

As it happens, a Spanish court in Madrid yesterday sentenced three men to thousands of years in jail each, for their respective part in the terrorist bombings of that fateful March 11th, 2004. One suspected mastermind, known as “Mohamed the Egyptian“, however, was acquitted in court.

The 11-M bombings consisted of a series of coordinated explosions against the Cercancías (commuter train) system of Madrid, Spain, on the morning of March 11th, 2004. Ten backpacks filled with dynamite and nails blew up on four packed commuter trains heading for Madrid’s Atocha Station. 191 people died and 1,841 more were wounded. It proved to be the deadliest terrorist attack that Spain had ever seen in peacetime.



The Madrid attacks and their consequences created a huge divide in Spain, as was to be expected, reverberating to this very day. 

The attacks occurred 911 days after 9/11 and three days before Spain’s 2004 General Elections. The Spanish government at the time, headed by José María Aznar from the Partido Popular (PP), quickly put the blame for the terrorist attacks on the Basque ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) organization, their favorite enemy.


The bombings changed the course of Spanish politics as voters subsequently ditched the Conservative government. Instead, an attack by Islamists was widely suspected, and perceived as the direct result of Spain’s involvement in Iraq, an extremely unpopular war that had not been approved by Spain’s Parliament.

Seven top suspects, mostly Moroccans, blew themselves up in a Madrid apartment during a police raid in April 2004, three weeks after the bombings.

The surviving suspects, 27 men and one woman, 19 Arabs, mostly Moroccans, and nine Spaniards, now defendants, had faced charges including murder, forgery and conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack. All the accused pleaded not guilty to any involvement in the Madrid attacks, during the four-month trial.

21 of the accused were found guilty yesterday of at least one charge whilst seven others were acquitted through lack of evidence. One person had already been acquitted earlier for unsubstantial provability.

The judge also said there was no evidence of involvement by the Spanish separatist group ETA. After the verdicts President José Luis Zapatero said: “Today justice was done and we must now look to the future”.

Compensation for victims was also decreed, ranging from 30,000 euros to 1,500,000 euros.

The victims and their families are organized in two competing lobby groups, mirroring the divide that is so typical of everyday life in Spain today, one of the Left and one of the Right. The  Asociación de Ayuda a las Víctimas del 11-M, expressed their disagreement with some of the findings and in particular with the proposed distribution of compensation. The other victims’ lobby group, Associación 11-M Afectados por el Terrorismo, has already announced that they want to go to the Spanish High Courts for an appeal against yesterday’s sentences.

But justice is a fickle thing, especially in our day when, post 9/11, there is an irrational dislike, even fear, of people from other countries and especially, Arabs, Moroccans, Muslims and Islamists.


We may never know what really happened on 9/11 or 11-M, nor today, nor yesterday. 


A General Election has to be held in Spain in March, 2008. I expect that 11-M and yesterday’s court sentences will once more have a decisive influence in voters’ decision making. I don’t think the present government can be too sure of a win, this time round.



Let’s Talk About the Spanish Inquisition



I am sorry. I got it all wrong.

In my blog entry dated July 18th, Better Late Than Never, I was under the wrong impression that the Catholic church would beatify 498 Spanish martyrs as a late but somehow inevitable gesture to make amends about their role during the years of the Spanish Civil War. I even thought that the announced beatification was meant as a way of saying ‘Sorry’, albeit a bit late. But, as I suggested, it would be better late than never.

Well, last Sunday was the big day in Rome. 40,000 Spaniards apparently attended the largest mass beatification that the Catholic church has ever celebrated. But, it was all wrong, from my point of view, and from the point of a balanced historical assessment.

Amongst the 498 martyrs beatified and postumously honoured, it seems that there was not a single name that can be attributed to the Spanish Republican cause. All of the dead martyrs were Catholic priests and nuns, and all of them had died standing up for, and siding with, General Francisco Franco and the totalitarian regime that the Generalissimo stood for. 

Critics other then me accuse the Vatican of playing politics by promoting recognition of one side of the Civil War’s protagonists.

Spain remains deeply polarized, even today, as it struggles to come to terms with its past.


Spain is currently governed by the PSOE party of the Socialists, under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. His government is in the process of passing a bill later this week, called Ley de la Memoria Histórica, under which Spain would try to come to terms with the atrocities of the Franco regime. Spain’s Catholic church on the whole sided with the Fascists led by Francisco Franco, who overthrew the elected leftist government, eventually won the war and ruled as a dictator for nearly four decades, granting wide power and influence to the church.

The Catholic church in Spain has a history of doing dark and wicked deeds, and getting away with it. Let’s just look at another chapter of Spain’s history, a possibly even darker one than the Civil War. Yes, I am talking about the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

In 1478, Queen Isabel established the Spanish Inquisition under the leadership of the Dominican monk Tomás de Torquemada. The Inquisition was initially founded to ensure the sincerity of former Jews and Muslims who had recently converted to Christianity, known as Conversos and Moriscos respectively. Insincere converts were suspected of disloyalty and punished. 

As an institution that operated in both Castile and Aragón, the Inquisition was an instrument for unity in Spain. It brought both monarchies closer to the Roman Catholic church and it helped guarantee that Spain would remain a profoundly Catholic country.

In its first decades, the Inquisition tried and punished thousands of people, including many Conversos involved in commerce and trade. However, it soon turned into a general witch-hunt. The Inquisition turned on any and all royal subjects. People judged to be heretics were executed, often by burning at the stake.



In 1492, all unconverted Jews were ordered to leave Spain, and as many as 100,000 emigrated to Portugal, North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and other parts of Europe. In the early 17th century the Spanish inquisitors turned their attention to Muslims. Between 1609 and 1614, more than 250,000 Spanish Muslims were driven out of Spain. Later, the Spanish Inquisition sought to discipline citizens suspected of practicing Protestantism.

At the time, many Spaniards considered the Inquisition a triumph for Roman Catholicism. The church, with Royal cooperation, also censored books, and students were prohibited from studying abroad to prevent the importation of Protestant ideas into Spain. These practices eventually cut Spain off from intellectual developments in Europe and turned Spanish universities into academic backwaters. This isolation made it more difficult for Spain to modernize in later centuries. In addition, the urge to protect royal legitimacy, power, and prestige, led Spain to fight wars it could not win, at great cost to Spain’s society and economy.

For the Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs) – a title given to Fernando and Isabel by Pope Alexander VI for their religious devotion – religious observation was central to achieving domestic peace. The Spanish monarchs, like their European counterparts, were believed to rule as trustees of God. This direct link to divine authority is what made rulers legitimate in Europe. It also made non-Christians or heretics dangerous because their rejection of Christianity implied that they did not accept the monarch’s right to rule.

Spain, in my view, is to this day a rather conservative country. The country is polarized, not unlike it was in the Thirties, between those, who think that Franco was not a bad man after all, and those who would prefer to live in the present world rather than in the Past. The old divide continues to exist, between those on the Left and those on the Right.


The previous Spanish government was ousted three days after the deadly Madrid train bombing of 2004, which many people understood to be a consequence to the government of José María Aznar’s decision to go to war in Iraq with the Big Boys, against the expressed wishes of large parts of the Spanish population.

The Church in Spain now wants to gain some of the influence back that it had in the old days. The Vatican’s ceremony two days ago was not an attempt to come clean and to offer an apology, but an attempt to turn the clocks back to a Spain that is conservative, that is non-democratic and that is xenophobic

I would not be surprised if the Church somehow, secretly, would want to resurrect the days of the Spanish Inquisition.  

May God save us all from his or her Catholic disciples.



The Tramontana, With Enthusiasm From Spain


Before you get all excited, let me tell you a secret: I am not a car man. I do not like cars very much. I am not in awe of sports cars. I do not follow the Formula I antics. I am definitely not a fan of Michael Schumacher (who collected his Príncipe de Asturias award two days ago in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain). I also would not like to own a Porsche. If they gave me one for free, I would most likely sell it.

So, what drives me to write a blog entry like this one, which is about the latest car, designed, constructed and built in Spain? The Tramontana does, a custom-made, hand-crafted vehicle that comes at a price. Highfaluting madness. Admirable though for the single-minded enthusiasm that created it.

What I like, apart from the general chutzpah, is the enthusiasm that is evident behind the story of the creation of this strange car. The fact, that the new car is made to the ergonomic measurements of the buyer. That the car is custom-designed and built according to each client. This includes using the materials of the buyer’s choice and, finally, by differentiating each unit with an engraving of a poetic verse by Catalàn poetess, Carme Pagés, in the chassis of the car. These characteristics assure that each Tramontana is a unique work of art modelled on the specific desires of the client.

The Spanish automotive industry used to have a name for excellence and superior craftsmanship. Those times are long since gone. No more iconic Hispano-Suizas. No more innovative Barreiros. Today, only Fords, Opels, Seats, VWs, some French and some Japanese cars are assembled in Spain. No more engineering required. No more craftsmanship. No chutzpah. Not a single Spanish make (SEAT having been bought by VW many years ago). No enthusiasm.

But now, a group of young and very enthusiastic Spanish engineers has developed a new automobile instilled with the same old values. It is the ambition of the young team of Tramontana car engineers to focus on the values and feelings that have been forgotten in the car-making world.

A. D. Tramontana S. L. in Catalunya has now created a custom-built, hand-crafted vehicle that is distinguished by its unique character and which is tailored to specifications, such as fixing the seat and pedal positions to the driver’s personal dimensions. And only 12 units will be built per year.

If you have to ask how much the cars sells for, then you are obviously not in the position to buy one. Just as well, I would say. You could most likely not drive the car’s powerful central V12 bi-turbo engine with over 700 horsepower to its cruising speed of 300 km/h in the country of your residence, anyway. At least not on the road, and not legally.

If you want one of those strange automobiles, here’s the Tramontana website. There you will find all the technical blurb, and some of the story behind the car.

I understand from the national press in Spain, that 3 Tramontanas have been sold already. Only 9 more to go. Now, they just have to be built.

I also understand, that a more family-oriented car is already on the drawing boards. Hopefully, that family saloon car to come will be somewhat more economically priced than the 680,000 € of the Tramuntana extravaganza