A short trip

This has been another unusual visit.

Unusual inasmuch as we’re only away for a few days, rather than moving our lives out here for several weeks – which would be more usual.

As I’d said in a previous post (The ides of March), Sharon had fallen ill early in in her March visit and for reasons too lengthy to go into here, we came home early to get her checked out. That done (not overly successfully), we have returned to Spain for about 10 days.17362447_222205938258175_5676946301729226254_n

David and Gail are out here at the same time, so we have had lots of company, which has also made it feel more like a holiday than usual. We joined them at Marleen’s the first evening we were here and they joined us on a trip to Barra de Zappata, in Malaga, where Sharon and I visited in December, 2017 (see that post). We caught the 16:04 train from Torreblanca and took them to the Alcazaba first, as soon as we arrived in Malaga. I’ve never seen it so busy – it must have been the time of day. After a walk around the city and a couple of drinks we went for our meal.

This consisted of …

Three Tapas: Russian Salad (like we’ve never had before), Morcilla, Chistorra,
A Salad: Cruchy chicken salad
and a ‘champion’ dishPulpo.
(My apologies – I cannot find a copy of the menu online anywhere – so no ‘real’ menu names.)

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Sharon’s strength is improving day by day and we’ve had a few walks. Unfortunately, the first one we had to take was ‘up the hill’ from the train station on the night that we arrived as there were no taxis and we’d missed the last bus.  There were no taxis because the Feria de los Pueblos was opening that night and it appeared that the queue at the taxi rank outside Hotel Fuengirola had been waiting ages. Hey ho.  

Another walk was along the front and into Fuengirola for lunch at Café Costa Del Sol and yet another was down the hill to the Anchor Bar, close to the Maxi Mart, where we’d gone to buy milk for the weekend. The Anchor bar is a nice oasis – not especially sunny in the evening but welcoming.  We only had two drinks (Sharon just had sin-alcohol, I had normal sized cañas) but the nibbles were great. We were even given a tapa of bruschetta. Tapas are unheard of down here on this part of the coast, unless you buy them separately.

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Anchor Bar

We also walked down on our first full day to meet David and Gail in Los Boliches, to watch the procession for the Feria de los Puebos. This procession took quite a long time to pass and was supported by maybe a hundred thousand people – it certainly looked like Wembley Way after a big match. We sampled some of the food (all of which looked magnificent) but were not over impressed with the bits we ate. Again; hey ho.

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Another day, we took a walk up in the hills behind us and had a picnic outside the old house at Alcaparra.  We begin by walking up towards Rancho La Paz, passing Cortijo Alegria on our left and then turning right back down towards the coast. The old house is about 150 metres on the right. It has stunning views, but sadly it has, over the years become more and more dilapidated. Part of the back wall has now fallen, so how long it will be here, I cannot say. The grassy lawn is more overgrown that it was last year and the year before (obviously), but not in a nice way.  This time of year usually brings a big show of colour from the wild flowers but we didn’t see much evidence on this walk. Nevertheless, despite Sharon’s reduced choices of food, we still had a nice salad with egg and tuna.

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We arranged to meet Michelle and James for lunch in Benahavis. David and Gail joined us and we met them at the market ground car park, south of the town and walked up. It was a lovely hot day and we had a nice time chatting with each other as we walked. We had lunch at Los Abanicos. We shared a good few dishes but for me, the two stand-out dishes were the Carrillada (which was well cooked, well sauced and succulent) and the Solomillo de Cerdo; a whole pork fillet, perfectly cooked and served covered with a delicious cream and garlic sauce. Sharon’s salad seemed to be a hurried affair – not cared for the as much as our other main dishes. All in all, a very nice meal.

And soon, we will be on our way home.

The apartment is in some disarray however due to repair works on the outside wall of the building. We had been told that the repair men might need to check/repair bits of the inside wall too, so as advised, we have moved everything out of the terrace and into – well, everywhere else – including the spare bedroom. With Billy and Angela due to visit in July, we have had to book another trip out here to put it right (hopefully, they will have finished the repair work by then). See you in July.

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Doh!

As an addendum to my earlier post (Maslow), it turns out that a completely new transformer was fitted in the basement of our apartment block.  This transformer not only supplies our block (circa 200 apartments) but around another 200 homes in the vicinity. After three cuts in the week, this was excellent news.

However, as the power came back on, the lifts and the water went off.

This exact sequence wasn’t clear to me when writing, only that the lifts didn’t work until the morning after the power had came back on (so they were ‘off’ all night) and that the disappearance and return of mains water seemed coincidental.

Apparently, lift engineers were called out automatically – they get a warning when things are not working as they should.  They immediately found the problem – Endesa’s engineers had reversed polarity – so that the three-phase stuff (e.g. water pump and lifts) simply wanted to do the opposite of what they were designed to do. All the single-phase stuff (apartments) was fine.

Despite calls over night to Endesa, it was early morning before anyone turned up to fix the problem that they had caused.

Viva España.

Photo credit:

http://pt.coolclips.com/m/vetores/peop1668/Eletricista-com-no-painel/

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Maslow

The visit continues in less than perfect ways.

We have experience three power cuts this week; two lasted slightly less than five hours each.  One was early morning and so prevented us having our early morning cup of tea – but was back on in time for showers etc.  The first was in the evening, so we had to read by candlelight and hope that the power was back on in time to recharge all of our essential electronic items for the following day.  However, neither cuts were particularly inconveniencing. The third lasted around nine to ten hours.  The power was off when we returned from a quick lunchtime visit to Torreblanca and it didn’t come back on until the sun was almost down.

Then, that same evening, the water supply disappeared. No water! No means of cooking food! No heating! – etc.  Reminded me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs..

Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Maslow

We usually get warning of such things – which do happen when the apartment block has its tanks or pipes cleaned – but that night (last night, as I write), we had no warning.  We were able to clean teeth etc. with bottled water, but the toilet got a little desperate during the night. The water was still off this morning, so the plan was to go to the car park and see if the garden pipes were working (they were). Our stock of bottled water had been depleted during the last few weeks as we had not been out as much as we might usually do – so re-filling those bottles we’d just emptied became a priority.

I got to the lifts (we’re on the 10th floor) and found they were not working!

The apartment block lights were all on, which is normal during power cuts – but we were not experiencing a power cut!  So, we were becoming fairly alarmed.  I might have managed to wait until the big Miramar store opened (if it opened on Sundays) but Sharon’s illness has been of a gastric nature and despite the need for immediate toileting, she is also suffering from low energy. Not good.  But as we discussed what we would do, we saw the power go off again – then almost immediately back on.  Then, we heard the lifts working.  So, a quick trip was made to the car park to fill up our bottles while the lifts were working.

Upon getting back, filling buckets and just about to set off back – that water came back on.

Grrr.

As we’re flying back to the U.K. earlier than planned Sharon also decided that now was the time to book us onto the flights and print out our tickets – while we could.

Maslow Graphic by: vecteezy.com

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The ides of March

This year’s Easter visit to Spain hasn’t quite turned out as planned.

Originally, Sharon was supposed to be here for ten days in March, with her sister Joanne and cousin Ann-Marie. I was then to arrive early in April, giving Sharon just a few days here alone. As it turned out, I had to fly out on 25th March, for reasons I go into below.  It also turned out to be a good thing as Sharon had fallen ill early on in her ‘family’ visit. As I write, she’s still not well, but has a specialist appointment next week.

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Schengen countries in Blue. Yellow are committed to join. Grey (!!!)

Because of the Brexit madness, coupled with becoming aware of Schengen rules for travel in Europe, we had investigated ways of continuing to come into Spain for more than the 90 days in any 180 allowed by the Schengen rules. We decided to apply for Spanish residency, which, we were advised, would give us exactly that.

We have no wish to become full time residents, but as we own a small property in Spain and visit there regularly, we thought we’d better make sure we were ok. Our main residency is still in the U.K. where we spend well over six months of the year, but as we tend to visit Spain more regularly between September and April (overstaying the 90 days in 180 rule), the residency permit will prevent any difficulties.

Furthermore, as a U.K. pensioner, I had been told that I would need to provide (A): a SO1 form (may have been S1) from the U.K. government, and (B): proof of my pension incomes.  I was also advised that as a pensioner (presumably, a male pensioner) upon provision of (C): a marriage certificate, Sharon would be allowed the same services as me, with no extra proof of income required. These services would include access to the Spanish health system and sundry social benefits.

However, some of that was incorrect.

The SO1 form, if filled in and submitted, would have divorced me from all of the things I have had lifetime access to in the U.K.  The dentist, doctor, hospital etc. would all become unavailable to me. And, despite our government’s vicious attacks on the NHS – it is still a valuable asset.  So, to continue with our quest for residency, we would have to consider private health insurance. Luckily, as it turns out, we did just that – the insurance started on March 1st.

All of that needed completing before the (now ‘original’) Brexit date as both Britain and Spain had said that whatever was in place for foregn nationals in either country, when (if) Brexit happened – would remain in place afterwards.

So, during the first week of my time in Spain, we registered with the police as foreign residents, renewed our names on the Padron (local government) and made appointments with private health care providers.

Not a normal visit.

Paraje Natural Desembocadura del Guadalhorce

Paraje Natural Desembocadura del Guadalhorce
(The Guadalhorce River Estuary Natural Area)

Just after the new year, I noticed that the Junta de Andalucía was publicising the fact that it was to promote the continuance and completion of the Malaga Coastal Path. Also see: Senda Litoral de Malaga. Part of this continuance/completion was to be a bridge over the Guadalhorce Estuary.

framed-guadlehorceLater that week I was talking to Michael and Sheila, in Los Boliches and became aware that this area (the Guadalhorce Estuary) was especially good for birdlife and that there were a number of excellent walks in the vicinity. We’d never really heard of it before.

Further research showed that …

The [Guadalhorce] river branches off into two sections just before joining the Mediterranean, creating a swathe of land that is one of the most ecologically varied in Andalucia. (1)

… and as we had previously walked along various stretches of the coastal path, thought it would be a good idea to check it out.

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Sky View

So, on Monday we set off with a picnic, to explore the area.

From the west, it’s easy to find if you’re driving; simply follow the signs for the airport and then, just as you leave the MA20 (for the airport) take the Guadalmar exit. At the first roundabout, turn immediately right into the Guadalmar estate and then turn immediately left on the next, smaller roundabout.  Park outside the church you see here. Or, instead of turning left at the roundabout, take the second exit and follow signs to the river mouth, where there is more parking, close to the beach. Access to the reserve is via the beach or via a bridge higher up the river, nearer to the church.

The road that runs parallel to the river down from the church is one-way (the wrong way).

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Aerial View

We tried both areas and chose, at first to use the beach area parking. I’d read that the nature reserve was criss-crossed with paths ideal for cycling, so assumed (silly me) that we would be ok exploring on our scooters. So, we parked, decided to leave the picnic in the boot while we explored and set off scootering along the river side.  It took us about two minutes to realise that what is a good surface for walking and cycling is not a good surface for scootering.  The pea gravel surface made it difficult for us, so we returned to the car and moved on up to the previously mentioned church.IMG_1200

From this point, we were able to easily access the bridge over the river and into the reserve.  Again, as we were not sure of facilities or distances, we left the picnic in the boot and set off once again, this time on foot, to explore.

We didn’t do the reserve justice in any shape or form as we only gave ourselves an hour and on foot, that simply isn’t enough time. We walked down the central pathway and found a hide, from where we could view all manner of water birds in a fairly small lagoon.

If we had had the time to explore more of the site, we know that there are several other hides and several other lagoons to find. Circular walks are possible and if you feel adventurous, you can try the beach – which might just be a nudist beach. We can’t be certain, because from where we were on our first ‘set-off’ on the scooters, we could see onto the beach, over the river. The sight of two naked men was surprising but not entirely convincing. Because of the distance (and the reluctance to use the binoculars to check) it was difficult to see for any degree of certainty, whether they were wearing trunks.

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So, we’ll come again and maybe next time we’ll record some birds that we recognise – the web sites suggest flamingos and all sorts of exotica – but for now, Moorhens, Coots and Mandarin-type ducks were seen. And a bird of prey that acted like a kestrel but wasn’t a kestrel.

We eventually had lunch on the rocks, with friends, outside the chiringuito on the Safo Beach side of Guadalmar Beach.

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Friends

Information:

https://www.spain-holiday.com/Malaga-city/articles/guadalhorce-river-estuary-natural-area-malaga  (1)

http://www.andalucia.org/en/natural-spaces/nature-site/desembocadura-del-guadalhorce/

http://www.andalucia.com/environment/protect/guadalhorce.htm

Aerial View picture credit:

http://www.malagaturismo.com/en/tourist-resources/detail/natural-area-of-the-estuary-of-the-guadalhorce/461

Africa

Some of the greatest things to experience whilst out here in Spain at this time of year, are the fabulous sunsets.

You can pretty much tell the time by the way in which the sun heads towards and then disappears behind the mountains behind us.  At Christmas, the sun finally disappears just before six o’clock and now, towards the end of January, its creeping past half past six. (That’s probably still a good couple of hours after it disappears at home.) It’s not yet dark, but the sun had ‘gone’.img_1018

There follows a fabulous golden glow all across the horizon which, over about half an hour, turns a glorious deep russet red – and then gradually fades. When the atmospheric conditions are correct, and if there no clouds about, we get some fabulous views of the north African coast way over the other side of the sea. Africa must be 60-80 miles away, as the crow flies.

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That is just too far to get anything like a decent photo of what we can see with the naked eye. Last night though, the African coast was brought into even clearer context as one of the many ships that pass along the Mediterranean had managed to catch some of the dying sun and it shone like it was on fire.  This bright mid-point gave us a much clearer second focal point and made the distant coast seem even closer.

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Fabulous.

Netflix

13942782618113Due to an offer at Carrefour-Mijas being too good to miss, we now own a Smart T.V. that interrogates the WiFi better than we ever thought possible. Our internet signal here is not great (6 mbps) and watching English language T.V. stations through our 32” Sony Bravia, via other attachments (and the resulting variety of wires) was the best we could do.

We don’t have satellite here in Spain, so watching English terrestrial T.V. stations via a Virtual Private Network VPN on the computer was the only real way we could do that. This often meant downloading a programme overnight when the local internet traffic was lighter, as watching live is (still) nigh on impossible.

appletvAlso, since September, we have had an Apple T.V. which gave us access to whatever U.K. online offers were allowed in Spain. It still needed a variety of wires though as the router doesn’t seem able to cope with transferring programmes wirelessly from the Apple T.V. without buffering.

Now, with our new telly, we can access Netflix via the T.V. itself, making the Apple T.V. and the computers redundant for that purpose. However, we can still only access UK main channels via a VPN on the computer, which then needs to be HDMI’d to the T.V.

Such fun.

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But, what fun!  We have now invested in an international, online VPN (previously the one we used, was set-up in the U.K.) and as a result we can now also access American Netflix, which has so much more content. We’re finally catching up on The Blacklist; something we started several watching (via probably illegal jailbroken attempts) on our now defunct FireStick.

Anyone want a perfectly viewable 32” Sony Bravia T.V. (approx. 6 years old)? Best offer: buyer collects.