Thursday, July 30, 2009

We’re all going on a lemming’s holiday

Everyone likes to squeeze the last moments out of their summer holiday, but no-one moreso than the Spanish. The ‘Salida’, the mass exodus from city to beach that takes place on Friday afternoon, the weekend nearest the 1st August, and the ‘Entrada’ the return on the Sunday of the last weekend of the month, are the times when you shouldn’t be seen dead on Spanish roads or that is what you might actually be seen – dead.
No-one seems prepared to leave a day later or earlier to avoid the record pile-ups or massive tail-backs, and each year the government and national police launch ‘Operación Salida’ (and ‘Entrada’) in an attempt to lessen the traffic blow – and invariably fail. The May holiday weekend is seen as a barometer of the August rush (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) and this year’s indicates that is going to be a busy time for the emergency services.
The Costa Blanca has been historically known as la playa de Madrid - Madrid’s beach, and hordes of escaping masrileños descend on the beaches and resorts of the region. Last year traffic jams covered almost 170 kilometres of motorway during the salida, almost half the distance from the Capital to Valencia city, and a trip that usually takes a comfortable four hours was taking up to twenty. On their return, the tens of thousands who fought their way to the coast fought their way home again, this time, according to pleased police sources, they only had to endure tailbacks of 90 kms trying to enter the capital city. It was also a good weekend as far as deaths were concerned, a mere 39 people died in 37 accidents, while in 35 accidents in which no mortality occurred a paltry 16 were considered serious.
After a month of wall-to-wall people on Valencia’s beaches last year, fighting for a restaurant table and facing the worst traffic jams for years, the madrileños and Spanish from all corners of the country will have forgotten all about them in their lemming-like rush to the sea for the August holiday. Only one question remains to be answered – why?

@2009 Derek Workman

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