Monday, 9 May 2016

Well this was supposed to be a travel blog–but everything changes

I obviously have too much time on my hands.  Here's my memory picture for the winter. Including our friends and the dogs, Paddy, Bree and Connie (The smelly one).

It’s over six months since my last post which was on our way down to Spain in the Autumn.
The journey down was uneventful. We had planned to stay in the middle of France until all the group games of the Rugby World Cup had finished and then race down to Albir for the knock-out rounds.  However England’s early exit from the tournament changed that.  The great thing about living in a motorhome is that you can change your plans really quickly.  So we said stuff France let’s get into Spain and the warm as quickly as we can.

A few nights in Benicarlo at a favourite campsite and then we got to Cap Blanch in Albir for about 16th October.

So back again at our winter campsite.  The same one we’d stayed at for the previous two winters, so nothing new to report there - except that they have finally upgraded their internet so at least the last month we have been able to connect reliably and with much better (if not perfect) speed.

James and Jo were already at Cap Blanch when we arrived and we also had our local friends to say hello to.  Iain slipped back into the pool team for Thursday nights and we went to the Quiz on Wednesdays – so we settled in nicely for the winter.

More people arrived and left and we made some new friends but there weren’t any new ones who were staying for the whole winter.

Parties were in full swing with a street party for 28 (half English and half Dutch) for Christmas Eve and it was so enjoyable that we did it again on New Year’s Day. Look at the lovely weather we had.

A new bar had opened at the entrance of the campsite and although we were determined not to enjoy the noisy place we fell in love with it. The entertainment at Brew Rock is fantastic, lots of variety and we fell in love with Pablo Bloom, Rafa Raposo, Mike, Rafa and Monique (well Jo and myself did, the men just don’t get it) and spent many great nights dancing away in Brew Rock.  We’ve never had so many late nights.

I have to admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Pablo, but I think that's because he reminds me of my nephew.

New friends made – Swedish Willy whom we called “Willy Won’t He” because he kept saying that he was leaving but didn’t seem to get up early enough to get away and Harald – a very noisy, often drunken, Norwegian.  Also Adrian and Debbie from Devon. 

Old friends came by for a visit –  Shirley and Mick, Frank and Flo, Ali and Steve, Ben and Jolande, to name a few – sorry if I’ve missed anyone. 

Oh and of course our Christmas visit from Iain’s dad and brother Sean.

Then there are the regular over-winterers and full-timers at the campsite, Ruth and Paul, Henk and Jenni, Joy and Nick, Dave and Jessie, Meerke and Nol, Hannelle and Thomas, Fabienne and Frey, Hortense and Anton, Linda and John, Didi and Nol.  So as you can see we’ve made a lot of friends over the three winters we have been staying here. 

Sadly we said goodbye to Jessie who passed away suddenly a couple of weeks after she and Dave returned home in March.

Oh that reminds me, I learned to crochet over the winter as you can see my Christmas Angel in the photo with Jessie.  I made lots of things including a monkey and a granny square blanket – it kept me busy.

Also oriental dancing was a favourite of mine.  Iain said that if the teacher looked like this he would come along – I retorted that this is our teacher. Lovely lady Gisele Gibaut always has a smile and a great dancer. I must admit that I’ve a lot more than her to shimmy.

Connie (The smelly one) isn’t doing too well nowadays though.  She’s deteriorated quite considerably over the winter, she’s been deaf for about a year now but she’s now struggling to walk very far - her back legs are giving her some trouble which I’m sure has been exacerbated by the fact that I fell on her a few years ago and caused quite some damage to one leg (that’s another story) also because she spins so much she’s banana shaped and we always thought that she’d have trouble with arthritis.  I suppose that she is an old girl now at somewhere around 15 so it is to be expected.  So now we have a doggie push chair to wheel her around in.  I think we need to rename her Boudica because when she stands up it looks like she is riding a chariot.  We had been pretty limited about how far we could go with her before she got the push chair so it’s great to be able to get out and about again.  She loves it though and is quite happy to be wheeled around.

Benidorm series 8 is being filmed at the moment so there have been sightings of a couple of the cast members – last year it was Janine Duvitski who plays Jacqueline but this year it has been Jake Canuso (Mateo) and this unlikely character. Nathan Bryon who plays Joey Ellis. The picture is courtesy of Jo who accosted him outside Brew Rock a couple of weeks ago and she said he sounds just the same in real life like he does in the series.  For those of you who hate Benidorm, sorry, but we love it, mainly because all the places they visit are real and the people are just what you see in and around Benidorm. You either love it or hate it and the series, just like the place – we do both. 

Now the spring is here and the winter is over it’s been a time to reflect and decide on what we want to do next. 

Our journey to southern Spain and Portugal was scuppered last year when our tenant left and we decided to go home.  Then it took a long time to get another tenant to our eastern Europe plan was cancelled.  Oh well maybe another time.

We thought that we might in a few years replace our motorhome with a smaller one to use for travelling and buy a caravan which we would leave in Spain during the summer months.  This motorhome is great for living in but it’s an expensive ornament to keep in one place for 6 months of the year, it’s very big to move around when we are travelling – I won’t go to southern Italy in this.  Also at 9 miles to the gallon it’s expensive for travelling.  So whilst it is wonderful, it’s also not that practical.

Then suddenly everything changed.  We were planning to leave on the following Thursday and we’d already started sorting out the van ready to do so.  Then the previous Friday morning, I woke up and just suggested to Iain that we get an apartment.  I thought I’d have a battle on my hands but he immediately said, and without any discussion, “I was thinking that too”.  So there it was decision made in 5 minutes.

Later that morning I went to Jo and James to break the news.  They had been our immediate neighbours for the last two winters and like us live full-time in their motorhome.  Jo’s face dropped a mile with disappointment, but that was soon replaced by a beaming smile when James said “We’d been thinking of that too”.

Oooh, exciting.  We then looked at what we would have to pay for renting a decent apartment – a swimming pool was a must.  After some discussion, we struck a brilliant idea, what could we get if we put our money together and shared – yes a VILLA, not two apartments but a VILLA with our own PRIVATE POOL.  Now don’t get too excited, you may have some idea of a VILLA being a big rambling house in the middle of nowhere with views to die for, but in Spain a VILLA is basically a detached house.  The big rambling house is more a FINCA.

So from Friday morning when we decided we wanted an apartment, to Saturday when we decided we’d share a house, to Monday and Tuesday seeing Estate Agents and viewing in Alfaz del Pi, La Nucia and Albir, by Wednesday we’d put down the deposit on our VILLA. That obviously meant that we wouldn’t be leaving the following day as we wanted to get everything signed up before we left.
It was all very exciting, despite the fact that on the Saturday our tenant sent us an email saying that he would be leaving the house at the end of April.  Mmmm – bad timing or what – actually no, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and at least it’s better than him leaving in September when the contract comes up for renewal.  At least it’s the spring and we can go home for a while.

So we get our VILLA in September as it’s already promised for holiday lets in the summer.  It’s somewhere near to the arrow head, nestling at the foothills of the Sierra Helada natural park.  Unfortunately it’s up what is locally called “Cardiac Hill” so either we’ll get very fit or we’ll use the car a lot – yes we’ll be returning with a car.  But we will be getting "classy?" neighbours.  It’s just along the road from the Sha Wellness Clinic whose clientele includes Simon Cowell and Kylie Minogue!!! However at 400 Euros for an afternoon's treatment (actually I think that is for a swim) I don't suppose we'll be visiting it very often.

Of course, everyone who knows anything about living in Spain will know that you now hit the Spanish bureaucracy.  NIE numbers must be obtained before you can enter into any contract in Spain, whether it be to buy a car, open a bank account or to rent a home.  This entails filling out forms and visiting the local police station in person.  Although this can be done yourself it is much easier to pay a lawyer to do it for you.  Then you have to wait for the paperwork to come through.  This also puts you on the radar for the authorities that you are living in Spain and that then connects you to the tax office to pay Spanish taxes.  More of that another time maybe.

Once we had the NIE numbers which took about a week, we were in a position to sign the contract on the house.  Well no, not quite.  Despite having asked the Estate Agents twice if we needed to have a Spanish bank account and being told that we didn’t, when the contract was ready to sign they then told us that we needed to. Had they told us that at the beginning we could have arranged it at leisure.  So there Iain and James were running around getting bank accounts, which like everything else in Spain takes ages.  It actually took two days, come back manana and get the account numbers.  So at last we have signed the contract and we are now sitting here waiting for the debit cards to come through.  We could have sorted out the bank account weeks ago and be on our way by now.

When the bank cards arrive we’re off back to the UK.  Live in the house again until we get another tenant, buy a car, sell the motorhome, visit friends and family, go to my Nephew’s wedding then head back to Spain for around 1st September or before. The only problem is that if we sell the motorhome and the house gets rented, then we’re truly homeless until September – anyone feel sorry for us?

Maybe we’ll try real camping and live in a tent.