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Discovering a new life in Costa Almeria

Having made the decision that full time work really is bad for your health,my husband convinced me that we should get 2 puppies and retire early. What I hadn't anticipated was that retirement would see us in Almeria, in southern Spain. This is our story from making the decision to move to our life here. For more posts read the full blog at http://relocatetospain.blogspot.com. What I hadn't realised was that I wasn't ready to retire so after 2 years we are back in the UK. However, when I am finally ready to retire - Spain is still in the mix.

Shopping for a telly - Part 2
26 October 2008

http://www.mediamarkt.es/

OK, both Neil and I like technology, we like gadgets, we like electronic gimics - we have found our Mecca as we walk through the door of Media Markt, it is like Christmas to us.

As we approach the TV's we can tell there are more tellys here than in the previous places combined. Not only do we have choice of make and size, but even same make, size - different styles.

So, we start off with the Sony's. So far we haven't seen any LCD above 40" in Sony so we decided which Sony we liked to compare it to the 42" LG's - after all, once we have the set at home are we really going to notice a 2" difference? We've had a few LG products before including previous flat screen TV's and the American Fridge/Freezer and we've always found them good. (And the American Fridge/Freezer is 2-3 times the price over here than the UK)

We noticed some tellys were much better pictures than others so we started reading all the small print on the product cards, and realised the difference was the resolution. OK, something else to think about. The prices we had previously been quoted were not for the higher resolution - and of course you pay more for higher resolution - but wow, they were obviously better.

So, as we get older and the eye sight gets worse - a big telly that's really clear should suit us best. OK, another re-think on the price. We decide we like the LG 42". The 50" are really too big - ah, what's this? LG do a 47" - unfortunately it wasn't switched on or connected up to check the picture. But it didn't really matter, the 42" was big enough, wasn't it?

Well, after wandering back and forth around the department, we agreed on the LG 42" high resolution set. We couldn't buy it today as we were on our way to the airport - but decision made, we could come back in a few days and that would be another job done.

So, 2 days later we were back on the road for Cartagena to buy agreed telly from Media
Markt - or so you would think.


When we arrived at the Centro Comercial straight ahead of us was CarreFour. Now, I've read a lot of mixed reviews about the place but know they sell TV's - so, 'maybe we should check it out before we buy, just to make sure we have the best deal' I said to Neil as he's about to park up. OK, we're not in a rush so we'll have a walk round and see what they have.

http://www.carrefour.es/index.html

And that's when a decision made became all fuzzy. They had a good selection of large screen TV's and they had the LG's we had seen before and they had another LG 42" high resolution which was a further €100 less than the one we had decided to buy already. Close inspection of the TV and the product card left us none the wiser as to why this one should be cheaper than the one in Media Markt. Oh, confusion reigns!

Nothing else for it, take loads of notes and go back to Media Markt and compare.

Why is life never easy. Rather than going back to the car and driving across the carpark, we decided to walk through the shopping centre, the nearest place I have found to Meadowhall - and I thought it would be good to know what was there in case any visitors needed a real shopping fix.

It's a really good shopping centre inside which is, yes you've guessed an electrical store which sells amongst other electrical stuff - large screen telly's.

We looked at each other - and yes, we decided we really needed to check it out.

So there we are, standing infront of a working 47" LG LCD cheaper than we've seen it anywhere before and cupid's arrow has hit both of us together. Suddenly, the 42" look small! As we both stood there gazing at the clarity of the screen a young assistant came over to us and said 'Is it Hola or Hello?'

Now, to cut a long story short, we never got back to Media Markt, we got the 47" from this shop cheaper then the 42" in CarreFour, which was cheaper than the one in Media Markt.

Bigger telly for less money - seems too good to be true. No, the one we were wanting, we could take away with us - the additional saving was because it was last years model, the new model has a red back and a posh lit up hole on the front which is the touch sensitive on/off switch (we agreed we could live with out a red back and gimmicky on/off switch) and we were getting an additional reduction as it was the display model on sale.

So, we told the assistant to box it up and we'd take it with us. He did ask if we had a big car, but we were happy it would go in the back - and it did.

So, we now have a beautiful telly all connected up and working and it's brilliant after spending the last 6 months watching a 22" screen. And the savings we had made - well, we spent that on a home cinema kit - big screen, big noise! And because we were buying both together we got 10% off the home cinema kit.

So, how did it compare to Comet's online price? Well, with the Euro as it is we paid about £100 more than if we'd bought it from Comet, but then there would be the delivery, the worry about it getting here OK and problems if it went wrong AND Neil is currently watching Arsenal & WestHam rather than still waiting for it to be delivered - we're both happy with our purchase.

And the moral to this story - do your research on the big stores where there are lots to compare and you can see all the pictures next to one another, after all without we wouldn't have realised about the different resolutions. Be prepared to travel to the bigger Centros Commercial and don't forget about the smaller independent shops who are giving good service and good prices in the current economic times, they have some good deals on and if it's on what you are looking to buy - and don't stick to english speaking shops, we found all the product cards were in english because it's how the manufacturers print them, so we had no problems checking what we wanted. We bought from Miró in The Centro Comercial Mediterráneo in Cartagena.

What you may also need to ask friends about is whether there is a local guy that installs TV's and satellite as that's where the problems may be if you aren't familiar with the technology. It took us a while of pressing buttons on all the remotes before the sound came out of the seperate speakers, by which time the volume was up around twice comfort level and all the street shared our new system and the pups went in to hiding.


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Shopping for a new telly.
24 October 2008

When we were in Sheffield we had a wall mounted 28" tv, but Neil always wanted a really really big telly, at least 42". So, in one of my good moods I promised him, when we were settled in Spain we would get one.

So, 5 months later, it's official - we're telly hunting so we must be settled!

OK, time to interrogate some of our new friends, who already have big tellys, about where to go. We have a reasonable idea what we are after but want to get a good deal and then check to see whether it's better to buy in-store, on-line in Spain, from the UK and ship out - oh, the options are endless.

It doesn't matter whether we buy from a spanish speaking place or english and we are happy to drive up to an hour to check our options.

First place recommended was in Mojacar Playa from an english owned shop so off we went with the parting phrase being - they are a little more expensive but the service was superb. Ok, we don't mind paying a little for good service so armed with a notebook we took a drive to Mojacar Playa.

First impressions were not good, I have to say. It was a really small room with only about a dozen tv's on display - I wanted choice, I wanted a bank of tv's to look at, I wanted something to shout at me 'take me home' - but they did have both Sony & LG, the 2 makes we were interested in so we didn't give up straight away. Well, after 15 minutes and a few prices scribbled on a bit of paper we were sent on our way having been told to ring them back in a couple of weeks, well maybe a bit longer and they may have more information for us. Er, shouldn't the shop be ringing us? I have to say that I was significantly unimpressed by the whole experience and left the shop hoping we didn't end up buying from them as I had been made to feel that we were completely insignificant to them. I'm wanting to spend money now - not maybe in 2 weeks and I want to feel they are prepared to make me feel a little important to them, not as if I was an interruption to their coffee break. Maybe they have so much work on they don't need to try (isn't their a pending recession which is making the purchase of luxury goods plummet - obviously not here)

So, another conversation with another friend and we were off to Albox, if we get to the Indian Restaurant - we've gone too far. This time we walked into a large shop which sold everything for the home and had a reasonable range of tv's. We compared the prices to those from the previous day and we could see we would be saving €150 on the Sony and €250 on the LG. Result.

BUT, we had also heard about a shopping centre at Cartagena where Media Markt was. We'd never heard of Media Markt and had no idea what it would be like but..... it seemed logical to take a drive up there bearing in mind we would be spending roughly €1,000.

So, on Tuesday we were driving up to Murcia airport to pick up some friends and Lucy's Great Aunty Gladys - and we pass Cartagena on the drive up, so we decided we would set off an hour or so early and call off at Media Markt to see what they had.

Boy, were we in for a surprise!

Part 2 later.


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I've joined the 'Can you feed the cat?' brigade.
22 October 2008

Before moving out to Spain, we made sure we had the pups passports sorted so that we could take them back to the UK with us if we went for any length of time visiting. They are our little babies and the thought of putting them in kennels in a foreign country - well, it just didn't bear thinking about.

Then we arrived in Spain and discovered that no-one near us puts their dogs into kenels and the cats are all well looked after when people are away because there is a network of pet-lovers who all take it in turns to look after someones animal(s).

I''ve already covered how well Brandy & Brinkley were looked after when both Neil and I were back in Sheffield in August, but now..........I too have joined the brigade of being responsible for someone elses pet.

Now, if you have been keeping up with Brinlkey's blog you will have seen a sneak preview of next doors cat. For those who haven't - here she is!



















She doesn't come into our gardens, but she does peak through the fence occasionally so the pups do go a bit crazy at her. Well, now they have something to thank her for. She is solely responsible for extra biscuits this week. Why? Well, last week our neighbour came round to ask if I would mind feeding their cat for a few days while they were a away.


My first thought was 'I've made it, I'm now officially recognised as one of the gang'! 

My second thought was 'oh heck, it's a cat - I don't do cats!


And my final thought - what the heck, how hard can it be?

So, I was duly given the bag of food, food bowl and a key to the gate.

Thanks very much, see you Tuesday they said as they left for the airport - oh, what's your cats name I asked - wait for it.....


Biscuit, they said.

So, picture the scene. Mum takes a dish of food round next door and walks up the drive. The pups are already barking because this is not right, I should not be on that side of the fence and where's this food going?

Then, to add to their misery I start calling out 'Biscuit, Biscuit'. Well, of course the pups want a biscuit - it's exactly what we say to them when we give them a treat.


By now the pups are jumping up at the wall, running up and down our drive and then, a eureka moment pops into their heads and......

....... up to the roof terrace - where they can get a full view of me, the plate of food and the dreaded cat.


What torture, what a betrayal, what choice do I have?

On my return, I head straight to their cupboard to give them an unwarranted biscuit!

Have you ever seen dogs look smug? Trust me, mine do it very well!



 









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It's Sunday, time for a drive.
20 October 2008

We are gradually starting to explore further afield, and so today we loaded the dogs into the back of the car and headed south. The furthest south we have been before is Mojacar, so today we were into new territory. We decided to stick to the coast road and head for Carboneras.

As we passed the bay in Terreros, we had gentle waves lapping onto the beach and, despite the day being grey, the winds and rains of the previous days have gone and so we were looking forward to an enjoyable drive.

Whenever we go to Garrucha or Mojacar we are always surprised to see that there are bigger waves and the sea has a lot more movement than in Terreros and yet it's only half an hour's drive away. Well today, the Mojacar coast was getting well battered, the waves were breaking over the rocks and spray was reaching above 6 ft. Very spectacular looking.

Anyway, straight through Mojacar and onto new roads for us. We passed the new golf course at the south of Mojacar and it looks quite good, if a little flatter than we are used to so we may come down and have a game one day - just to see what it's like.

The coastal road started to get quite rugged and we started to rise into the hills. We soon passed through the oddly named El Agua del Medio, Sopalmo and reach the edge of the Capo de Gata National Park. At this point we are high above the sea on a good road with lots of bends, looking over some very volcanic looking inland terrain, quite fabulous We eventually start the rapid descent into the town of Carboneras. The first thing that we notice is the narrow streets and the very spanish feel to the place, shop signs are all in Spanish, unlike Mojacar where so many are in English. We get the feel we are in a really traditional Spanish town. We follow the traffic through the town centre and head for the Marina. This, like Garrucha port is a working port. We park outside a restaurant where we will stop for a drink before setting back, and get the dogs out of the car for a walk along front and around the Marina.

As we head towards the beach we can see that along the front there are play areas for children and a long clean beach. The marina area is open for us to walk around and we can see that some of the boats are large fishing vessels, definitely working boats. There is also a fish market area and I can imagine the hustle and bustle on market day - it may be something for us to check out sometime. There are also lots of smaller boats obviously for locals and holiday makers to spend the day out at sea dangling a rod over the side - some of them look a little smaller than I would like to be out in.

On the way back to the car we stopped off at Restaurant Almarisco. Unfortunately, they were not serving a menu del día so we had a mixed fish platter and salad. Not the cheapest of meals but excellent food - and we were sat with on the front with a sea view - so it was never going to be the cheapest. Just to re-enforce the spanish feel we had when we drove through, the waiter didn't speak a word of english - it's always great fun trying to have a conversation with our limited spanish and a waiter with no english, meals are always a surprise. One thing we did discover - our pups like sardines!

The trip back was uneventful so the dogs slept and we enjoyed the views. Carboneras was really quiet, again an out of season Spanish resort - but in the height of summer, I can imagine it would be incredibly busy and a lot of fun



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It's Friday - I should be on the golf course!
10 October 2008

One of the main reasons for choosing to live in the warmest, driest place in Spain was so that we could play golf all year round. Well, this week has been a challenge. We play at a new course just outside Terreros called Aguilon. It's a fabulous course set in the foothills of the mountains, with views over the sea. They have retained all the natural ravines and it's a really challenging course for a high handicapper like myself, I play off 28. My husband manages better but then he is a better golfer. (I'm sorry, I don't like to admit it - but he is! Yes, I know - I've had a hole in one and he hasn't - but I can't live on one shot for the rest of my golfing life, can I? Well, maybe I can, oh, ok - he's not better at golf he just hits the ball further, chips onto the green better and putts more consistently!)

Anyway, Monday was a good day for golf, we had a group of 14 guys over from our last club when we were in the UK (they weren't all staying with us I hasten to add) and we were really looking forward to showing them how wonderful our course was. The sun was out and the sky was blue - perfect!

Only, the mosquitos had other ideas! There are a few lakes on the course, but through the summer they have been quite low, they haven't put any fish in them and the mossies seem to have had the perfect breeding ground for the 'super mossie'. Needless to say, we were all bitten alive. It spoiled the game a little but we still had a good day with the guys from Sheffield who all came back to our villa for a BBQ afterwards.

I don't play on Wednesdays, but my hubby does and so before he went out we covered him in mossie sprays, patches and creams - all to no avail, he came back with bites all over his arms, face & back - super mossie had even managed to get him through his shirt. The only saving grace was that I had suggested he wear long trousers and his legs had not got any more bites on them, there were just the ones from Monday.

Then, Wednesday evening it started to rain, and rain, and thunder and rain - until about 9pm last night. That'll keep the mossies down for golf.

Well, today has dawned and there is no rain, there is no sun and there are no mossies! Why? Because we have a howling gale! So, I decided to stay in bed and give golf a miss. Instead I have taken the pups for a really long walk to make up for the fact that they got only the smallest of outings yesterday due to the weather.

Hopefully we can end the week on a high note - we're off to try a new Italian restaurant in Aguilas tonight - but we'll sit indoors, just incase!



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Spanish lessons.....any progress?
08 October 2008

The old adage of old dogs and new tricks seem appropriate to my ability to learning spanish. I have spent my entire adult life as an accountant, I do figures, I use the left side of my brain, I cannot draw and I have no ability to visualise how a room would look when changed - until it's actually been done - so, the right hand side of my brain has become somewhat unused and so I thought languages would probably be a right side function. That would explain why it felt like I was struggling to learn.

So, imagine my disappointment on checking and finding that language skills use the same side of the brain as figures, I was using the functioning side of my brain - and still I was struggling to remember so much.


I've been taking spanish lessons for a couple of months now and whilst I seem ok when I am doing my homework and I can understand quite a lot when it's written as soon as I am out and about without my translater chip in my DS, my mind goes blank...................

......and so today we had to take our car to the garage. We have a small problem with the engine when it's cold, it stutters a little. Now, we bought the car new from the Kia dealer from Stuart, who is english, and part of the decision to buy it was so that if and when something went wrong, we wouldn't have problems explaining what was wrong.

We spoke to Stuart yesterday and he asked us to take the car in today for the mechanic to have a look at it. So, on our way to Vera today, I rang Stuart to let him know what time we would be there and that's when we got the bad news...........he had been sent to Mojacar, he wouldn't be at the garage when we got there!!!

Now no-one else at the garage speaks any english. Stuart told me he had told the mechanic about the problem and if we couldn't make ourselves understood when we got there, we were to ask the mechanic to ring him.

OK, I had 20 minutes until we got to the garage, time to rehearse some basic sentences so I can try and explain why we were there. Oh, did I miss my DS!

So, how did I do?

Well, actually, I have to admit, I impressed myself. I managed to explain who we were, why we were there, what was wrong, the fact that we only had the problem when the engine was cold and after the drive there the engine was too warm to show the problem - all in Spanish. The mechanic had us bring the car in, he had a look under the bonnet while the engine was running, had his colleague raise the revs a few times, continued to look, smoked his cigarette and scratched his head and then tell me he couldn't hear any problem, he would need the car when it was cold. Yep, we'd already figured that one out for ourselves. I told him we would need to bring it in another day and leave it over night so that he could start it up cold and that we would ring Stuart to organise it. He seemed to understand all this and we said our goodbyes and thank you's.

I got back in the car and realised I had just had my first proper impromptu conversation in spanish, and although it had all been in the present tense, I had been totally understood - hey, maybe I am getting it after all.

OK, so I couldn't remember what the verb 'to bring' was, I found another way of saying we would bring the car in another day - exactly what my tutor has been telling me to do, don't think what you want to say in english and translate, think what you know in spanish and use it.

There have definitely been days recently when I have wondered whether all the effort I have been putting into my spanish were worth it, well today proved it has been. If ever I needed a boost to carry on, I got it today.

So, thank you Stuart, for going to Mojacar - now, what is the verb for 'bring'?

While speaking to the mechanic, I had in my mind that the verb to bring was traer, an irregular verb, first person singular - traigo. But it seemed too much like the verb to work, trabajar - so I wasn't convinced. I so wanted to tell the mechanic 'traigo el coche un otra día' but I thought I'd be telling him I would be working on the car another day - and there's no way in this world anyone would see me with my head under the bonnet - so I chickened out and said 'yo vengo un otro día con el coche'

Well, a quick check and yippee!!!!! I was right, I could have said it all as I wanted, so in future, I will trust my instincts, and hey, if I get it wrong sometimes, at least I will have tried!

Un vaso de vino tinto para mi, yo pienso!


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Fish & Chips in Aguilas
04 October 2008

We live very close to the provincial border with Murcia, in fact we live so close to the border that we leave Almeria to get petrol, do our supermarket shopping and go to the market - it's our nearest town, it has a castle on the hill as we do and it has some lovely squares to sit in and have a drink both during the day and in the evening.

Now, there is very little we miss from Sheffield but there is no question that good authentic Fish & Chips are, occasionally, just what the doctor orders. Now I know some of you think we spend our entire time eating out, drinking, walking the dogs and playing golf - and , well actually, that's probably pretty accurate. BUT, we do it out of a sense of duty to all of you who come out here and ask me where is a good place to go.......


.........so for anyone coming out here and wanting proper fish and chips, mushy peas, bread & butter with vinegar and ketchup......


we know the perfect place - Randy & Michelle's in Águilas.















Michelle is a Leeds lass and knows how to make a traditional fish & chip supper. Randy isn't from Leeds ( he is spanish, and as far as I am aware they met on a cruise ship) but is an avid Leeds United supported - but please don't let that stop you visiting.


When we were last in Sheffield one thing Neil wanted was some good fish and chips but we never got round to going to the chippy but we did have fish & chips in a local restaurant one night - and they weren't good. So when we got back and were telling some friends here that we had missed the opportunity to have traditional fish & chips, they introduced us to this place. It's up a little side alley a short walk from the main square, is covered if you want to eat outside but they do have tables inside and they do sell more than fish & chips.


Now, we came to Spain to embrace the spanish lifestyle, we don't shop in english shops, we don't buy english branded groceries and we eat in spanish bars and restaurants - but on the odd occasion, we will weaken and then a visit here is necessary.


Rather than last night being just about fish & chips I thought I would turn it into a small cultural visit and share some of the evening sights with you so here's the educational bit:


The castle dates back to the 18th century and although a ruin at present, I understand that there are restoration plans - for more brief history ( and a few photos) have a look at http://www.todoaguilas.com/english.htm



So, for an atmospheric view of the main Aguilas square on a friday evening,


















The fountain with a 'Turkey' that looks like a swan! No wonder we failed on the treasure hunt - eagles masquerading as phoenix's. turkey's masquerading as swans - whatever next, security guards acting as historians? - Oh yes, we had that as well!















And finally, the castle on the hill all floodnight and looking gorgeous (and yes, this IS the closest I have been to it - I understand you cannot take the car up and without a golf club in my hand, there is no way I am going to climb a hill like this)




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