Monday, February 11, 2013

Spanish links

One of the interesting aspects of living on the Mediterrane coast near Perpignan is that it takes only a couple of hours to be in Barcelona by car - and from April, in less than one hour by the new TGV rail link. A partial service is already operating, necessitating a change at Figueras, with a total journey time of under 2 hours.

These new developments of part of a wider European rail network scheme, which should eventually see a direct link from London to Barcelona by TGV. The new line passes under the Pyrenees and engineers have finally resolved the problems at the Spanish end where the line passes close (under ground) to Barcelona's 'unfinished' cathedral, the Sagrada Familia.

There are already extensive cross border links between Spanish and French Catalonia, including the same language spoken by many. With the high levels of unemployment in Spain, Spanish workers are crossing into France to find work in the building trades, which has upset French artisans. However, a recent programme on French televison revealed that many construction companies in other parts of France are so desperately short of skilled workers that they are recruiting - yes, you guessed it - Polish plumbers, electricians and other skilled tradesmen.

On the French side, it is estimated that most of the cigarettes smoked in the south are purchased across the border in Spain, along with petrol and alcohol, as a result of lower government taxes and generous cross-border allowances. Customs posts have officially closed but spot checks may be carried out - usually at rest areas either side of the border. Spanish and/or French police and customs are also be to be found on the international trains between Perpignan and Barcelona.

One final note, despite stories of heavily discounted property prices, holiday properties on the Spanish Costa Brava north of Barcelona are much the same as on the French Cote Vermeille, while Barcelona remains prosperous and attractive, and property prices are high compared with, say, Perpignan or Montpellier.