Wednesday 1st September, Madrid, Spain.

RETRACTION I wish to apologize for a statement which I foolishly made in my last journal entry. Readers may have received the impression that in my opinion Spain was a country with little more to offer than sexy girls, bullfights and long afternoon sleeps. Obviously I am an idiot for saying such a thing, and I wish to retract it and offer the following statement as a clarification. I make this retraction *ouch* of my own free will, and am not under any form of duress, including being thrown out onto the streets and/or having my tender bits damaged and/or having certain personal secrets of mine revealed on my messageboard *Steve likes Celine Dion.* *Hey, you promised you wouldn't tell anyone!* *Just keep writing*

Spain is an exciting, modern country with beautiful natural scenery and vibrant metropolitan cities boasting an exuberance of nightlife that will outlast most foreigners. In spite of the national custom of the afternoon siesta, a recent European survey found that Spanish work more hours than many of their European neighbours. *I find that impossible to believe, unless you class eating chorizo, drinking vino tinto, and sleeping like an old black dog, as working! Ouch! What?* * I'm watching what you write. Now delete that bit!* *OKay, I will.* At the turn of the millenium, Spain boasted the fastest growing economy in the EU. One third of the country's workforce is employed in -and one third of the country's GDP is derived from- its burgeoning industrial sector. Spain has a thriving art scene, and many of you will be surprised to know *Do I really have to write this, Maria?* *Yes, you do. Now write!* that the award winning Nicole Kidman movie 'The Others' was actually a Spanish movie, made with Spanish money, directed by a Spanish director, but set in England.

The Spanish landscape is incredibly varied, possibly the most diverse of any country in Europe, ranging from its long sunsoaked Mediterranean coastline, to a semi arid mountainous interior, to the lush greenery of the Galicia region and of course the soaring peaks of the Pyrenees. This variety makes for an ideal tourist destination, with Sapin having something to offer everyone, be it hiking and climbing or lazy tanning. Not surprising that the country attracts over 50 million tourists every year.

To quote the Lonely Planet guidebook "All of these facets combine to render Spain one of Europe's most sublime, inspiring destinations. It doesn't matter how high your expectations are for the country: they will be surpassed."

The country is brimming with remnants of a fascinating, glorious and chaotic past, with aqueducts and ampithatres from the Roamn era, mosques and alcazars (fortresses) from Moorish times, and later Christian cathedrals and mansions which stand today as splendid reminders of the Middle Ages.

So you see, there is so much more to modern Spain than just bullfights, beaches and girls with dark eyes and firm breasts. *ouch!* It is very much a first world country (despite Russell Crowe's nasty remarks when he was here filming Gladiator) offering every modern convenience that can be found elsewhere in Europe.

*There, you happy now?* *hmmm... we'll see*

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