New Year – 2016

So, another week has gone by and I’m sat on the beach again. I shouldn’t grumble, but it’s been gorgeously sunny all day while I’ve been busy working, but now at 3:00pm, when I down tools and come down here to the beach , the sun has gone behind a huge black cloud.

There are about 10 other people on the beach, including me, for as far as I can see in both directions. I see the harbor wall at Fuengirola as I look west and the breakwater separating Torreblanca from Carvajal in the other; possibly 3-4k? It’s a bank holiday here, but obviously not a beach one, unlike New Year’s Day when the promenade was heaving with families and groups strolling along. The beach was also well occupied.

Betony and Josh left today, I dropped them at the station off this morning. I’m not sure what they thought of the place though. When they went to Malaga on Monday, ostensibly to see the Christmas lights, they were back early – tired from walking.

 

When we’d been to see the lights, with Tony and Gill it was a fabulous day out. We strolled through the park alongside the marina and then, whilst I sat and watched the world go around, the other explored the marina itself, before we set off into the city to find somewhere to wait for it to get dark and the lights be switched on. We had a couple of drinks, some small tapas and then walked around the corner to see the wonderful display they have put on here this year. Well done Malaga.

We all spent New Years Eve downstairs at Montemare and had a great time. there were several more people there this year than the last two years and although the music was – well, poor – it was a lovely atmosphere and great food. Betony had a vegetable lasagne and the rest of us had steaks! Great.

Last night, the three of us (Sharon returned home on Monday because she had to work) went down to Los Boliches to see the 3 Kings’ parade – Día De Los Reyes Magos. But we missed it! Apparently, this is the first year that the parade has set off from Fuengirola and arrived in Los Boliches long after we’d given up and come back to the apartment. Hey ho.

So I’m all alone now, until Friday when Sharon returns (we thought it’d be fun when we booked it) and there’s plenty to do – workwise. I still want to walk in the mountains, explore the coastline on a bike etc. etc. but not this time. Apparently I have an appointment with a podiatrist later in the month. That’ll be fun.

Christmas 2015

Well, as I start this post, Sharon is off rollerblading up the promenade between Torreblanca and Los Boliches.  I am sat here on the beach, in the mid-afternoon sunshine, wishing I’d been able to find a bike I liked before Christmas; then I could have accompanied her.

I have developed plantar fasciitis, for which there seems to only one real cure – time! I first experienced it back in November and it seems to have got steadily worse. The pain when walking for extended periods is excruciating, hence my unsuccessful search for a bike and me sitting on the beach. Just to point out, it is still December.

We’ve just said goodbye to Tony and Gill who have been with us since the day before Christmas Eve. I cooked Beef Bourguignonne for us all that first night and we spent Christmas Eve itself downstairs at Marlene and Rene’s place.  On Christmas Day, Tony and Gill made their way up and across the hill/mountain behind us to Mijas – something I’d also wanted to do this visit as the weather was perfect.  We picked them up mid-afternoon and after a coffee in Mijas itself, we set off for an hour on the beach. Gill and I went in the sea!

me and Gill swimming in the Med. 251215

 

We actually swam for a few minutes – it was cold but not so cold that we couldn’t celebrate Christmas Day with a dip in the Mediterranean!

For Christmas dinner I started us off with tapas as the sun went down about 6:00pm (patatas bravas, new potato and chorizo sticks, sliced cheese, dried (jerky?) tuna and roast red peppers are what I can remember).  We then took our time with poached hake on French peas, roast pork and all the trimmings, a Sharon-cooked cherry clafoutis and some Betty’s Christmas cake with crumbly Lancashire cheese! A toast at midnight and we were done.

 

In France

Our drive up from Saragossa (Zaragoza) has taken two days (which were planned).  We’re at Billy and Angela’s place now near Roussines in France.

The bit where we drive over the Pyrenees to Pau was supposed to be scenic and beautiful, but the weather was a bit unsettled to say the least.  Spain must sit a good bit above this part of France as there was a lot more ‘down’ from the Spanish Tunnels than there was ‘up’.  The torrential rain made some of the journey quite scary (bends etc.) and the same didn’t help when it came to looking for our late lunch in Pau. We were allowed to park in the hotel car park before we booked in and at that time, the sun was shining, but as we sat for lunch in a very busy restaurant (we’d moved on from Two saladsyet another very busy restaurant because outside rain was dripping from the brolly AND people were smoking), it started again in earnest.

We asked to move tables (one had just come free under the canape) but the waiter said “non” with a quite serious expression. I thought he was joking, but he then proceeded to say something which my poorly educated ‘French’ ears interpreted as “of course not, the kitchen has your order and table number“.  At exactly the point at which I’d formed the French to say (I paraphrase of course) “then stick it up your posterior and bring me the bill“, he saw that we had in fact NOT ordered yet and rather sulkily grabbed our drinks and commanded “allez” as he sashayed himself inside the bar and sat us at a table there. It had taken some time to get our drinks and now it took some time to get our food, but (and I MUST say this) the food was delicious and plentiful – so much so that we didn’t eat again that day.

Pau may well be worth another visit, the bit of it we saw was OK and interesting, but with so many places closed for holiday and the weather being AWFUL, it rather spoiled our visit. We woke early on Friday for the last leg of this stage of our journey.  The weather had upgraded from awful to ATROCIOUS!

The entire journey was plagued with torrential rain.  Even when we got to Roussines, the rain was still persisting.  This made the house feel quite cold, so we set off for a supermarket to buy warm clothes (we’d packed in +34° heat and not given a thought to changing weather). One of the beauties, and one of the main reasons for breaking our journey in this way, is so that we can cook for ourselves and eat normally. Some of the portions we’ve eaten this week, driving back have been huge and, more meaty than usual. Neither of us are or want to be non-meat eaters, but we don’t eat much meat and often don’t have any at all. Our first meal at Billy and Angela’s was such a meal: Spanish Omelette and Salad.

Today’s will be different – it’s Sharon’s birthday.

We’re off again

That’s it we’re setting off back to the UK tomorrow – 9:00am ish.

We have a shuttle booking on 22nd August from Calais to Folkestone so we’re going to take our time returning, unlike our less than relaxed dash down here. Despite the heat, it’s been great to be here and to begin settling in to what we can do around here and what’s expected of us from community and commune alike. Looking forward to the next (Flying!!) visit in October.

Our first stop will be in Toledo, just south of Madrid, the Spanish capital city. Hopefully we can get there in time to visit some of the historical sights and (at least) get a feel for the place. The same applies to our next stop on Wednesday evening: Zaragoza (Saragossa). I planned this two cities to a) avoid Madrid and b) to see a little more of the real Spain before heading back to France. Hopefully, like Segovia and Jaén on our way down, we may choose to visit one of more of them for longer, in the future.

The other reason for visiting Zaragoza is the route it (almost) forces back into France – over the Pyrenees. We’ve booked a hotel in Pau for Thursday night, so, we’ve never been there, or over this bit of the Pyrenees, that should be fun.  Then, on Friday we head for Billy’s place in Roussines. We’ll stay here over the weekend and then drive a long day to Mark’s place in Normandy.

We decided that Mark’s would be a good place to set off back to Calais from and hoped to catch him and Jean there, but sadly they leave the same morning. Hey ho.

Here now

Being here, at the apartment (at last), is really rather strange. It’s as if we’ve walked into someone else’s home and taken it over. 

Jo NesboWe knew, from our flying visit in April and the various legal shenanigans, that most of the furniture would be left as part of the sale. Yet, we were both surprised and pleased to note that everything we had seen had been left. That included towels, sheets, quilts, candles, tea lights, drinking glasses, T.V. – the lot!

Of course, we’re very grateful, as it means there’s so much less trailing about to do this week. We’ve also got a full set of Jo Nesbo books – in Danish, along with around 50 other Danish tomes. [Monday 3rd August – we’ve donated Jo Nesbo and some of the others to Marlene’s library at Monte-Mare)

We’re meeting our lawyers on Wednesday and will then (hopefully) receive full documentation for our purchase and accompany them to the local notary (not so local for us – as they [solicitors and notary] are in Marbella) to complete formalities and get our Spanish Will approved.

Titisee in Spain

Titisee in Spain

One purchase we really need to secure is a freestanding rotary fan – it’s so hot here at this time of year.  What we’d thought were a/c units in the apartment are not, they are in fact wall-mounted fans, which simply do not cut the mustard. We have talked about a self-condensing (plug-in) a/c unit, but I think I need to be convinced (that one would not blow the electric or make too much noise). . [Monday 3rd August – we now have a freestanding fan].

Another purchase is Internet. In fact it’s the most important!  We have Internet in the apartment, but as yet we don’t know who supplies it. On Monday we aim to visit the WiFi-Blue office in Fuengirola to see if they have the apartment listed. I guess they will have, as most of the apartments here in the ‘block’ use WiFi-Blue. If not, we’ll negotiate.  [Monday 3rd August – done!]

So that’s it really, it’s taken us a few days to settle in, mainly through Sharon’s valiant efforts at the DIY and plumbing stuff (I cook, I don’t do DIY). The main sink was blocked and after she removed and cleaned all of the plastic gubbings, it was still blocked, so we had to buy some ‘chemicals’. They did the trick [ish].

The rain in Spain

Courtesy of Wikipedia

We had a fairly passable meal last night (Tuesday) at the Campanile Hotel in Angouleme. The hotel is clean, perfectly adequate for an overnight stay and right next door to their restaurant.  We’d thought that we might walk the 3kms into the city but the never ceasing rain put dampers (pun) on that. So we stayed ‘in’ and this allowed me to have my first ever Picon Biere – it was so nice, I had two :-)

The weather was no better when we set off for what turned out to be an almost 500 mile journey. We stopped for fuel first at the nearby Auchan (€1.04) and then got on our way. The traffic (wagons mainly) was horrendous – and remained that way until after the motorway split for Bilbao many hours later. Furthermore, the heavy rain got steadily worse; first as we approached the Spanish border and then afterwards as we climbed over the pass between the Pyrenees and the sea. 

Poor Sharon was still driving, partly so she could say that she’d driven all the way from home to Spain and partly because my back was still twinging. Anyway, after the motorways split for Bilbao, we headed south and as we passed through the tunnels (there are many, and many are very long) the weather improved. After Burgos, we saw much more sun and the temperature began to rise.

We’re staying tonight (Wednesday) at the Santana Hotel just outside Segovia, northwest of Madrid. Just before we set off, Booking dot Com offered us an upgrade and so we now have a suite. Breakfast and evening meal are included and it’s really comfortable. This is my first experience of being somewhere where language really is a barrier – they don’t speak English and I speak VERY little Spanish.  However, we’ve just manged a nice meal, some beers (with tapas) and to communicate quite well.

Thursday

After breakfast (not so good), we spent an hour looking around the old town of Segovia before setting off for our next stop in Jaén. We found the Roman Aqueduct easily enough but spent most of our time looking for the cathedral – which we sort of found on our way back to the car – but by now we now didn’t have the time to visit. Another time?

Roman Aqueduct, Segovia

The journey south was interesting with fine weather all the way, the feeling of being ripped off half of the way (we’d agreed to use toll roads, so we could get to our destination in time – but the tolls are doubled for summer) and wonderful views. We circumvented Madrid by using the outer (western) ring road and eventually dropped off the high plains and headed towards the Sierra Nevada before landing in Jaén mid-afternoon.

We took a walk up towards and then around the cathedral here and then spent little time in a nice bar; watching the world go by and eating the nibbles that are freely given. 

We also ate dinner here in the town and once again found that the prices of beer and food (as we found in Segovia) are not bad at all – certainly not what we will try not to pay once we’ve reached the madness of the Costa del Sol.

Which will be tomorrow.

Andalusia – here we come

During our last visit to Spain in April this year we looked at a variety of apartments, with a view to ‘considering’ a purchase. To cut a long story short, we made an offer on a two-bedroom apartment in the same block we share a single bedroom apartment with nine other partners. This was accepted and the purchase was completed early July.

We are now driving down there to pick up the keys and finalise the ‘stuff’ that our solicitors cannot.

We have chosen to drive as the flight costs are so expensive at this short notice. We therefore thought we’d make a trip/holiday of it and take some of the larger things we have that we would like down there, but which could not easily be flown in. So we decided to set off on Monday 27th and booked hotels in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Angouleme, (both France), Segovia and Jaen (both Spain) – with a hope of arriving on Friday – hopefully before siesta-lunch.

Day one was a disaster. I’d hurt my back doing nothing more than lay the table on Sunday, so was pretty much incapacitated most of Sunday (for packing and preparation) and Monday (for driving). Poor Sharon had to pack the car and then drive all the way to Boulogne. That might have been OK had we not got caught up on a 90+ minute delay en route (one hour on the A14 waiting for police to turn us all around and join the now horrendous A1 London bound traffic, and then congestion along M25). We were in fact late for our book-in at the Shuttle terminal, but managed to scam a drive straight on to the train. Wonderful.

We’d booked a Premiere Classe hotel for this night, knowing that we wouldn’t get there until 11.00pm ish and that they did at least have a gated car park (remember, we have a car full of ‘stuff’).  I’d forgotten how nasty these places can be. And, the WiFi didn’t work. And, we had to park in the not gated, car park opposite as the hotel one was full. The saving grace was that it was cheap. 

Tuesday night, after another day of Sharon’s heroic driving, we’re in Angouleme, in a Campanile Hotel. This chain are a step up from the other (although by the same group) and don’t cost too much more.  We’ll see how the evening goes :-) At least we have WiFi and a/c (although it is overcast and raining).

Tomorrow – Spain.

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