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Travelling Spain with Two Dogs & a Parrot

With a good internet connection, I can work remotely from anywhere, so my husband Rob & I took advantage of this & are travelling Spain with our pets & everything we own packed into an estate car with roof-box.

Our Home in Malaga Campo
21 June 2019

We packed-up our last Air B&B rental for a while & even though we'd taken a car full of stuff over to the new house the previous day, the car was still packed to overflowing!

After unloading into our new home, Rob immediately took some photos of the view outside, then tried to connect to the internet to upload them to Facebook.  Strangely, his mobile couldn't find the Movistar modem.

That's because it wasn't there!

Not that it wasn't there wirelessly, but that it wasn't there physically.

It wasn't where we'd left it on top of the old TV.  It wasn't in it's box nor in all the drawers & cupboards we searched.

 

My heart sank.

I swore.

Then I mentally accused my landlady.  Well, not Belen (daughter of our actual landlady who we'd taken an immediate liking to), but whichever thieving member of her family had access, or key, to the house.  Whoever it was, wouldn't use access the internet for long as I'd be putting a stop on the 4G sim.  All they'd be left with was a piece of white plastic only useful for someone with another sim.

I fumed & cursed, left voicemail & Whatsapp messages for Eva at the Estate Agency & texts, voice messages & emails for my landlady.  When Belen popped round Sunday evening, she was mortified & had been away for the weekend so hadn't been able to respond earlier. It transpired that it was highly likely that her elderly mother had taken the modem, but unfortunately had since thrown it, or at least couldn't remember whether she'd chucked it, or where she'd put it.

This isn't as odd as it seems as we'd had a conversation with Belen & her mum about the small TV box in the house & not necessarily requiring it as we don't view much TV.  Belen's mum took the nice new bright white modem, with it's glowing green light, for the small black TV box, as they were both plugged-in at the side of the TV.

Belen was extremely apologetic & promised to visit the Movistar shop the following day, Monday, & pay for a new modem.

But it wasn't that simple.

Apparently it wasn't possible to buy a replacement modem & Belen had to take out a contract herself in order to obtain one.  We'd then have to cancel ours after the minimum one month & she'd transfer her contract to us!

Thank goodness for more-or-less PAYG agreements here in Spain, no signing-up for 18 months or more.

Last time, as soon as our sims were activated, the engineer came out the following day, but not this time.  Maybe grumpy engineer didn't fancy negotiating our tight lane again...

However, I needed to work so had camped out at a cafe-bar in Alhaurín el Grande with a secure wifi connection, but by the middle of the week I was cheesed-off.  I'd had two busy days moving into & cleaning the house, then wasn't spending any time there or with Rob & the pets.  The cafe aircon was nice though wink

Belen had been told it would take 2-5 days for connection on the Monday & so Friday was only the 4th day.  By the following Monday, not receiving positive news from phone calls to chase, she was back in the Movistar shop.  Feeling I'd perhaps outstayed my welcome at Cafe Dani, I moved to the Black Horse for my second week to work.

On Tuesday, Belen turned-up with an engineer, not from Movistar, but from EverBit who supplied her brother's house a short distance away.

Jesus stood at the end of the terrace to take a reading, turning to give thumbs-up.  A short while later, we had a shiny white dish fastened to the TV ariel on the roof & I had a new white TD-Link modem laugh

I'd ordered the fastest speed & capacity, but until Jesus could activate this from his office, I managed an afternoon's work on 10 mbps well enough.  On Wednesday, I could work from home, with extensive views & have a dip in the pool - this is what have a portable business & living in the sun was all about!

On Thursday evening however, we lost the net completely & turning the modem off then on again didn't work.  Friday morning we still didn't have a connection.

I was wary of calling a Spanish company as I find understanding the language so much more difficult when I'm unable to look at the person & see their face.  Therefore, I used my mobile to send an email via 3G.  As I was preparing to leave for town once again to work, I received a really lovely reply & apology, in good English, from EverBit.  They explained what had caused loss of signal, that they had worked all night to find the source of the problem, before managing to fix it.

When we couldn't get wifi, I'd been concerned that our service wouldn't be reliable & pleased that I'd identified at least two bars in town where I'd be able to work.  However this message immediately increased my confidence in EverBit as a provider.

We settled in to our home for the next 7 months & looked forward to our first full summer in Southern Europe.



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Our Long-Term Rental
31 May 2019

After a few days enquiring at various agents & online, we found a house to rent for the rest of 2018.  Eva at Ideal Property in Alhaurin el Grande did very well & we viewed three properties in the same week.

The first, although close into Coin, wasn't fully furnished & didn't have much outside space.

The second, right on top of a hill, had more than enough land & 360 panoramic views, but was so far up an unmade lane, it would take ten minute to reach the main road & likely trash the car - unless we bought a 4-wheel-drive....

The third house was out of town & rural, but not far off the main road & looked as perfect as we'd find with lovely views. We even had a friendly landlady who even spoke a little English.

So we committed to rent for seven months, as six months from June would be December & we didn't fancy trying to find a place so close to Christmas

I needed to ensure we'd have an internet connection to our new home as soon as we moved in so I could work without interuption.  Eva had recommended a couple of companies with English speaking representatives.  One didn't answer the phone & the other did, but then wouldn't proceed because we didn't have a Spanish bank account.  We knew we needed an account, just hadn't got around to it & this was the push we required.

So off to the bank we went.

After a short wait in Sabadell Solbank, we'd opened a non-resident current account with the lovely Susana which was nice & straight-forward!

I called Conred back who said an engineer would be in touch to survey the property.  He was, the day after, & went straight to the address.

Only to report back with this Whatsapp photo to show that these trees would block the signal from the mast.

As the other providers would 'apparently' be receiving their signal from the same direction, I resorted to 4G & we took a trip to the Movistar shop to find out more.

We had to go back the following day to collect our activated phone & data sims, then later on, the Movistar engineer called to install the modem.  However, he didn't speak English & our Spanish was nearly non-existent so we waited until the following day when we were signing the rental contract & asked Eva to assist.  We signed the tenancy agreement in person with the landlady the day before our rental was oficially to begin & received the keys with approval to install wifi.

Eva helped us to call the engineer & organise for us to meet him a couple of hours later at the local service station & we led him to the house.  Only to find we didn't have keys to either sets of the large new metal gates across both drives leading down either side of the property...

This Dominion engineer was the first Spanish service provider with an impatient & downright aggressive attitude that we'd encountered.  All others throughout our journey & experiences in Spain had been consistently friendly & accommodating, but this guy, who didn't speak English, wasn't at all happy.

It was Friday afternoon & perhaps he'd had a trying week....

Eva to the rescue once again.  Firstly to speak to the engineer & explain the situation, that it wasn't our fault & we weren't actually as incompetent as appeared, then to direct us down a narrow overgrown path between fences, past the water storage tank & up to the house with the grumbling engineer in tow.

The 4G modem/router was setup & we unloaded a few of our belongings, but as the trek down the long grassy path was awkward, couldn't empty the car as planned.  However, we'd agreed to return a couple of hours later to meet Belen, our landlady, who promised to bring the correct gate keys smiley

All good.

Later we unloaded more belongings & although informed we could stay in the house that night, we'd planned to packup & clean our Air B&B home the following morning then move in on the official rental date.

I was once again impressed with our productivity due to the efficient Spanish telecoms providers:

  • Monday - call Conred & request installation
  • Tuesday - engineer site visit to notify us they couldn't assist
  • Wednesday - sign-up with Movistar
  • Thursday - return to Movistar shop for activated mobile & data sims
  • Friday - engineer visit to install modem.

In the UK, I once signed a lease on a house at the end of July & (apparently due to the London Olympics that summer) Openreach couldn't connect my phone & internet (a wire from the pole directly opposite the terraced house without a front garden) until the beginning of November...

However, this particular story isn't over just yet!



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Our Car Options & Implications
17 May 2019

Since landing in Santander in September 2017, we'd been travelling in our own aging spacious blue Honda Accord estate. A car which we loved & which was spacious enough for all our possessions & pets.

However, by May 2018, we'd had problems with the battery & other repairs were becoming necessary, but we thought that importing old 'Blue' wouldn't really be cost effective.

We'd also discounted taking Blue all the way back to the UK for an MOT due to time & expense, whilst Rob was concerned about long-term driving in a right-hand-drive car on the right.  So we'd tentatively planned to buy another used vehicle by September 2018 latest.

Whilst in Portugal, we'd spent a considerable amout of time looking at cars for sale online & options for buying there as we already had a Pt Fiscal tax number & bank account.

Then we looked in Spain & as a bigger country, there was more choice, together with the advantage that Spanish cars don't require an ITV for the first four years, then until the vehicle is ten years old, an ITV is only necessary every two years.

This, we thought, would allow the opportunity to travel eastwards for a couple of years before returning to just over the border in Spain when necessary.

We researched but frustratingly, there still doesn't appear to be an MOT equivalent valid throughout Eurozone.  Surely road safety regulations are more-or-less standard across Europe?

Further research then revealed that to either import a vehicle, or buy a car in Spain, we'd need an NIE number (necessary, as it turned out, for any large purchases or contracts in Spain) & proof of address (from long-term rental agreement). If we bought in Portugal, we'd also have needed a permanent address there. So much for travelling & only staying a month or two in any one place.

The world is just not set-up for a nomadic lifestyle.

So we revised our options:

  • MOT Blue in the UK for another year in September 2018 - a long drive & expense from Southern Europe
  • Import Blue into Spain - need an NIE, proof of permanent address & lots of paperwork
  • Buy a used car in Spain - need an NIE, permanent address & bank account
  • Buy a left-hand-drive car in England - a long drive back to Spain, or both ways if Rob returned to the UK in Blue
  • Hire a car in each country we travelled to - we'd need a large one, worry about the dogs (hair, mud, sand etc), we often rented homes off-road (exluded from hire car insurance) & have to negotiate swapping at each border
  • Pay someone with residence in Spain to buy the car - we'd transfer the funds & 'our' car would be in their name until we could arrange a transfer, subect to having an NIE, address & bank account etc, etc...

There seemed to be no option but to stay in Spain for six months which could have tax implications on my income, but we'd deal with that issue later...

Our travels at that point in May 2018 had brought us to Alhaurin de la Torre, near Malaga, so whilst staying in the temporary Air B&B accommodation, we popped into a few estate agents to find a long-term rental.

With pets, our needs were quite specific - a simple studio apartment just wouldn't suffice.

"You've picked the wrong time to look for a house."

we were told.

"It's the start of summer, you'll be lucky."

&

"We had lots of rentals last month, but not now." we were informed.

Why had we loitered in the Algarve for three months when we could have been in Spain much earlier!

Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing?

We continued looking for a home & even considered a cheap apartment rental that we wouldn't actually live in, but use just for the address.  That could have still been cheaper than the returing to England options.

Meanwhile, not being too confident to negotiate Spanish admin & authorities, we contracted a Gestor to help us apply for our NIEs as fortunately we didn't need an address for that process!

The Spanish tax system, admin & red-tape for doing anything is notoriously well-known so I expected & was prepared for this. However, we obtained our NIE numbers without a problem:

  • Friday - email a Gestor I'd found in Torremolinos via Google
  • Monday - initial free consultation with the Gestor who then completed application forms
  • Wednesday - meet the Gestor at Torremolinos Police Station & after an hour's wait, produce passports & hand in paperwork
  • Friday - meet Gestor to collect NIE documents & pay his bill.

No hay problema!

It would likely have been more of a hassle in Malaga due to the sheer numbers of applicants & the appointment system that the authorities have to run as a result.  But I'd researched this, hence heading to Torremolinos wink



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Easter in Western Andalucia April 2018
02 May 2019

We were in Sanlúcar de Barrameda for a month over Easter in 2018 & my brother & sister-in-law joined us for the first week. Of course we headed into town for the church parades &, after a Winter out-of-season, enjoyed the buzz of people on holiday enjoying themselves.

Sanlúcar had a lot to offer, but we actually preferred the nearby coastal town of Chipiona & often setoff in the car with the dogs in the back to walk them on the extensive beaches on the outskirts, heading back to town for a beer or coffee afterwards.

It's strange how we warmed to a particular place,or not, & couldn't really pinpoint why.

We loved Galicia & our nearby town of Sarria, but then didn't feel at all comfortable in Marco de Canaveses in Northern Portugal just a few hours drive away.  This was strange as we'd travelled in Central Portugal a number of times & loved it! Moving on from Sanlúcar, we really enjoyed Conil de la Frontera for our next home base & would definitely like to return there.  The Atlantic beaches in South Western Spain are wonderful with the advantage of lots of out-of-town areas where dogs were allowed.

One evening's drive along the coast took us to the Trafalgar lighthouse peninsular & the Ohana beach bar with music playing.  We do love these unplanned & unexpected surprises & stayed a while, though neither of us were dressed for dusk, did feel cool & were bitten by mozzies.

Max is very much a people-dog & will make friends with anyone for a fuss so spent all his time with another couple who thought he was really cute.

Roxy had taken to travelling very well considering how nervous she'd been & always happily settled down under the table in the various bars we frequented.  In fact, very much a creature of habit, she'd often head straight for the closest beach bar as soon as we reached the beach, before we'd even had a walk wink

Rob usually reacts quite badly to insect bites & there were a fair few mozzies that Spring in Sanlúcar.  His hand swelled-up quite badly & we were tempted to head to the hospital.  However, we decided to try the advice of a Farmacia first where Rob showed both hands & was issued with anti-histamines & some topical cream.  Fortunately this reduced the swelling quite quickly & eased his discomfort.

We discovered that Sanlúcar is famous for it's annual beach horse-race & there were horses everywhere, carriage rides in town, horses were being ridden down the roads, exercising on the beaches, grazing on waste land & even in the back garden of the house opposite to our rental.

We did know that Spain had many street & stray dogs, but after Portugal, where emaciated, matted-haired dogs are frequently chained up, we did notice more pet dogs being walked on leads on the Spanish streets. A refreshing change & less upsetting for us, being animal lovers & very fond of dogs in particular.

We made the most of our time in Western Andalucia, visiting historical Cadiz & beautiful Seville. Whist Ronda was just over an hour's drive away, I knew we'd be within easy striking distance from our next home near Malaga, so we saved that visit until later.  However, on occasion we were thwarted by the car battery draining & being unable to start the engine, though this was sporadic & didn't really follow any pattern.  Our plan was to either import our aged, but beloved Honda into Spain, or buy a second hand, left-hand-drive car.  It seemed that we'd be best off looking for a used car in Malaga & hoped that more delaers would be able to speak English there due to the sheer numbers of ex-pats in that area.



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Patience & Perseverence - it's Spain!
19 April 2019

After a week in Gandia Francesc de Borja Hospital, I was discharged.

I'd progressed to being stripped naked in ICU, to a back-tied ass revealing gown & finally into a button front number. When I knew I'd be admitted, I'd instructed Rob to pop out & buy me a nightie, an old-fashioned thought really as I'd not realised the hospital would prefer their fresh laundered camis for hygiene reasons.

However, the long-sleeved wynceyette nightie would certainly be welcome for the cold Spanish Winter nights wink

What a week!

After what had appeared to be an efficient & seamless healthcare service whilst in hospital, it all seemed to fall apart upon discharge.

I was discharged by my 'young' efficient, fast speaking (in English, fortunately) doctor. She handed me a sheaf of paperwork, which I understand was for:

  • Details of a check-up at the hospital with her 2 months hence

  • Instructions to make 2 appointments (both required before my appointment with her):

    • 1 for CT scan

    • 1 for echo-cardiogram

  • Dosage sheet for my anti coagulants & date for a blood test in just 3 days time.

Despite trying to think of everything, I forgot to ask:

  • where & how to make the 2 scan appointments

  • whether to take my prescription to the hospital pharmacy, or one in town

  • if the blood clot checks would be at the health centre or hospital.

The doctor left informing me I could leave immediately, so I I emptied my snack drawer, got dressed & did-so!

It was odd, I just wandered out of my room, leaving everything tidy, like leaving a hotel room.

I'd messaged Rob & suggested he wait for me in the entrance hall.  Meanwhile I asked the receptionist where & how to make the appointments. Apparently I needed to go to both Out-Patient & Radiology departments to do this, so we trooped off to find them.

We picked Out-Patients first where three receptionists were all behind the desk chatting together as there were no patients in the waiting room. Apparently they couldn't (wouldn't?) Book my appointment there & then so I had to leave my phone number as they said they'd call.

We left, but as my poor Spanish understanding/listening skills are worse on the phone, I decided to nip back & ask if the appointment details could be texted or emailed, but no, it would be a phone call only. I'll wait to hear from them & have been practising times & days of the week, but am hoping for a letter too.....

Next we headed to Radiology, but arrived at 2.40pm to discover that reception for the general public closed at 2.30pm so we'd need to go back the next day.

The queue at the hospital farmacia was long so whilst we waited at the end, shuffling my discharge papers & debating whether I could go to one in town instead, a lovely English speaking doctor stopped to ask if we needed help. He confirmed any farmacia should be able to fulfil the prescription.  Desparate to leave the hospital by now, I keenly exited into fresh air!

Only to arrive in town just after 3pm in the middle of siesta closing time!

We killed time at a cafe over a coffee & snack until 5pm (better than this hospital food!) & a really lovely farmacéutica sorted out my prescription.

Finally I could return home to the pets, but knowing I needed to be back to both the hospital & health centre in the morning.

I donned my warm nightie (so comfy), but couldn't sleep.

I'd Googled 'thrombosis in the lungs' & only then realised I'd had a Pulmonary Embolism!

My lack of medical knowledge together with the lack of English spoken by the doctor at the medical centre prevented me truly understanding the seriousness of my condition!

This was a blessing really as I was chirpy & confident about my recovery when speaking with family, not realising they were falling apart with concern & worry.

The doctor who transferred me from the Urgencias admission ward to ICU had shown me my heart with & expressed her concern.  But at 2.30am in the morning, after a long, stressful, uncomfortable day on oxygen & drips, wired-up to monitors, I'd peered at the image on her portable echo-cardiogram machine, but didn't really understand.

Anyway, the day after discharge, we drove back to the hospital, a little later than planned after a lazy morning, took a ticket in Radiology & waited 30 minutes or-so for our turn. Only to find out I was apparently missing a TAC authorisation form (Tomografía Computerizada) from the doctor - sigh.

We returned to Cardiology & Pneumology ward to obtain the form &, at 2.25pm, dashed back to Radiology, just in time before they closed. This time I was allocated an appointment - yeaay!

But too late for Oliva Health Centre which closed at 3pm - more sighs.

Two days after discharge we arrived at the health centre at 11am to be advised to take a number & come back at midday due to SIP card administration being open 12pm - 2pm.  We only had to wait 90 minutes before being served & issued our temporary SIP cards wink I could then make an appointment to see the doctor for my blood test the following day.

My first blood test showed the anti coagulant level to be too high & the doctor would have to phone the hospital for guidance.  I was instructed to return a couple of hours later to be issued with a new dosage sheet & appointment in 3 days.  I imagine the same routine may be necessary until the correct levels of blood thinning meds are determined.

At the time of writing, I haven't had a phone call regarding my echo-cardiogram out-patient appointment...

Patience & perseverence - this is Spain!!



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My Spanish Hospital Experience
12 April 2019

Last Spring were were in the far South West of Spain, this year in Valencia.  I'll pick-up the account of our journey soon, but wanted to share my most recent story as it was certainly an unexpected & unwelcome experience!

After twisting my foot on the rocks near Moraira beach on Saturday, I rested it Sunday & worked at the computer with it raised on Monday.  In hindsight, this was definitely not the best thing to do (isn't hindsight great?), but my foot was swollen & it hurt.

On the Tuesday morning, I rose &, couldn't walk the dogs, but pottered about the rest of my usual routine for a couple of hours, before heading to the shower. Apart from a sore left foot, I'd been fine, but all of a sudden I felt faint & sick, with a pain in my sternum, thumping heart & breathlessness!

My first thought was perhaps a panic attack (though I've never had one & wasn't hyper-ventilating) so I crawled to bed to rest. I was out of breath as though I'd climbed a steep flight of stairs, not gasping, but breathing so very deeply which calmed a little after a short lie down. It was the most frightenening experience of my life.

Until I rose again when the sheer exhaustion & breathlessness returned, so we were off to the medical centre.

I was put straight on various monitors with clips to my chest, fingers, ankles & wrists, followed by oxygen, then a CT scan of my chest. I was wheeled to a room & lay sucking in oxygen whilst Rob & I waited what seemed like hours for the doctor to return.

Rob had to disappear a couple of times to check the parking ticket on the car, then move it, whilst I mentally made peace with potentially receiving bad news.

I reflected on taking the decision to leave home in the UK & travel Europe, though we only made it to Portugal & then stayed in Spain. I was happy we'd enjoyed some great experiences & if that was it, if I had less time than expected to continue on, so be it.

When the doctor returned with nurses in tow, then shooed Rob from the room, I was really scared.

The doctor didn't speak much English, so one of the nurses passed on the message that I had thrombosis in both lungs so would be transported by ambulance to Intensive Care in Gandia main hospital.

Wired-up to machines & monitors, with twice daily blood thinning injections, scans & x-rays, I wasn't allowed out of bed.  I tried to remain positive, but didn't feel great & slept a lot so time didn't pass too slowly especially as my bed was the last in the ward & all the staff had to pass on the way to their rest room.

A young trendy bloke clocked on to work in his shiny shoes, tight jeans & smart leather jacket.  On the first day, he remained in this outfit so I assumed he was in admin or IT.  However on day 2, he was in scrubs - someone elses I think as his trousers were waaay too big & he walked about hitching & holding them up.  Definitely a knock to his cool image!

When visiting, Rob commented on the waveforms on my monitor, attributing a sound to each so I changed the 'noise' by wiggling my finger & moving my arms wink

Only once though as I didn't want the nurses to come running unecessarily!

My progress was good & late Thursday afternoon I was transferred to the Cardiology & Pneumology ward, not allowed out of bed until 24 hours later, but then still limited to my room.

After having to call for a bed pan & having nurses give me bed baths, being able to get up was wonderful & Rob helped me shower. The feel of warm water on my skin was sheer bliss.  I'd a decent view out of my window too, over orange groves to the hills & Rob even brought me tea in a flask!  Other than this, my only 'warm drinks' were tepid milky coffees at breakfast & late afternoon.

Little things, but life was good as I was alive & recovering.

I was so grateful to be alive, likely to fully recover (albeit on meds for a while), grateful for the efficiency of the Spanish Healthcare system, the tireless work of the healthcare professionals, who should be praised & thanked in whichever role or nation they work.

It was probable that my blood coagulated in response to the shock of the strained foot & resting it allowed a clot to form before working it's way to my heart & lungs. I should have moved more, but my foot hurt & prevented my doing-so - a natural instinct.

I was receiving anti coagulants, having frequent blood tests & sent for scans on my legs & heart. My chest pain subsided & I gradually felt stronger. I'd kept my clients up-to-date by WhatsApp & had an associate colleague covering work for the largest.

It's been a really surreal experience for Rob & I, a worry for our loved ones, but thanks to having my smart phone we were easily able to keep in touch. This was crucial, for them, to know I was improving, & for me as being so far away from family, Rob was my only visitor.

It's said so many times - live life to the full & don't take a moment for granted, love your family & friends, take time for & spend time with them - it's true, you just don't know what will happen tomorrow, next week, month or year etc.

Not all our family understand why we left them & chose a nomadic lifestyle, & we do miss them.  I'll be back to see my loved ones in the summer when I'm fully well.

But we wanted to try a new life too, before it's too late because no matter your age, you just never know how long you have left....



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Moving Back to Spain
29 March 2019

It was moving day!   This was in March 2018.

After three months in the Algarve, we were moving over the border to Spain & were ready.

Perhaps it was beacause the weather in February had been shocking, or that we were ready for a change of scenery.

I had to admit I'd been a little disappointed with the Winter weather as I'd  expected more bright, sunny days.

However, it had actually been windy most of the time, cloudy & downright wet.

England had bad snow storms & Europe in general had unsettled weather, with snow in Barcelona disrupting the F1 Grand Prix 2018 post Winter testing sessions.  Here in the Algarve we'd had torrential rain & even tornados which caused damage along the sea-front & to homes.

We'd taken a couple of trips to Spain as the border was only 40 minutes drive away & there was damage to the sea wall at Isla Cristina whilst most of the wooden board walks & steps to the beach at Islantilla were broken & cordoned-off.

Our Algarvian cottage had been rustic with shutters & single-glazed sash windows.  The windows & doors had large gaps so we could see the effect of the strong draughts from the wind blowing the curtains around indoors.  The rain blew in under the doors too, making puddles on the brick-tiled floor.  Whilst not icy cold like the Northen yellow house, the cottage had been cool & fresh with the constant movement of draughty air & we'd had the electric radiators on almost non-stop.

So we were ready to move-on.

Our next home in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain was only a three hour drive away,  so I'd informed our host we'd be there at 3pm.

In fact, this was too ambitious as packing the car (between heavy showers) & finishing cleaning took longer than anticipated so I'd had to message at 11.30am to add an hour onto our arrival time.

I'd checked our progress & time after a comfort break, thinking it would take a little over an hour to get to Sanlucar, I had an hour to inform our host of any changes.  But then it dawned!  Spain was an hour ahead of Portugal so at 4.05pm (not the expected 3.05pm), we were already late...

Following a hastily written apology, the host responded to say she'd leave written instructions at the house & not to forget that the clocks would also move forward an hour at 2am in the morning.

In less than 24 hours we'd 'lose' two hours.  Would we ever get them back?

We drove towards Seville & followed the motorway across the river to the South of the city with just an hour left of our journey to the coast & estury of the Guadalquivir river.  We were amazed at just how flat the landscape was, with fields extending for miles.  Closer to Sanlucar, there were low rolling hills with no hedgerows or substantial trees, few towns or turnoffs from the main road.

Typical to Spain, it was a well-maintained fast road, but both Rob & I agreed the journey seemed to be one of the longest hours we'd experienced!

In the end, after following Google Maps through Sanlucar to the house without problem, the host was there with her hubby & to help translate, their son-in-law & two lovely grandaughters.

We emptied the car & dumped everything in the house, cracked open the two bottles of Sagres beer we'd brought, then Googled direcions to the nearest supermarket to fetch provisions.  A qickly cooked meal later & we were in our new home for the next month.



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How Many Pairs of Shoes Do You Have?
08 March 2019

"How many pairs of shoes do you have?"

This was a question I was asked recently.  I'd flown to London for a meeting with one of my clients, her team & board.  As I work remotely, although I'd been in contact with everyone by email or phone, I'd actually met very few of the people there.

Some may have known that I was based outside of London, but few were aware that I lived & worked from Spain.  Naturally they were curious & wanted to know more about my lifestyle.

Learning that all hubby Rob & I own fits into a car prompted the question about the number of shoes I have & a peer under the table to see what I was wearing!

This was funny & I half wished I could show something more shocking than my smart brown & red ankle boots!

12 pairs if you're wondering, plus wellies.

In just under 18 months, I've never worn my black kitten heels or cream wedge sandals, whilst there's a few other pairs have only rarely been used.

With wide size 8 feet, fashion footwear has generally never fit so when I find smart comfy shoes, I look after & keep them for as long as possible.

So even if I worked in London, I'd still not own many more pairs than I do now, but then I'd never work in London & consider myself fortunate not to have to conform with appropriate attire to be accepted in the corporate world.

Not when being a Virtual Assistant has given me the opportunity to work from Spain in my flip-flops!

We pack carefully, having a couple of suitcases in case we go on holiday elsewhere, but with most of our clothing & a change of towels & bedding in vacuum sealed plastic bags with the air sucked-out.  This idea didn't seem quite so bright once I realised continental homes have tiled floors & no vacuum cleaners...

I resort to first rolling on the bags to expel air & then sucking as much more out as I can by, well, sucking!  It's the reverse of getting light-headed when blowing-up a balloon laugh  But it works well-enough.

I have a few packing cubes for our smalls, but did cram so much in these that some of the zips broke.  My shoes are in a (now tatty) canvas storage case & I stuff my socks into the boots & trainers.

I have to be organised with packing so I know where to find everything.  This works most of the time as we have toiletries bags, a blue holdall for wires, cables & extension leads, a cream one for small electrical items (hairdryer, straigteners & travel kettle etc), a bag for my sewing notions, large laptop bag for my computer & accessories & nylon backpack for pet paraphernalia.

But there's always a last-minute bag or two for all the bits & pieces that naturally collect on tables & worktops, or that we need right-up to leaving a home.  These are the items that drive us nuts when we attempt to find them & cannot remember in which bag they may be.

We've undoubtedly left stuff behind, but if we cannot remember what & haven't missed it, then we cannot have really needed whatever it was we left!

We've never been possession oriented & I'm appalled by today's throw-away society & shiny-object syndrome, having to have the latest new thing, when the one you already have still works fine.

I've been surprised that I haven't missed anything we used to have but don't now.  Admittedly, we need to rent furnished property & accept the varying degrees of comfort, how well the kitchen is equiped, (or not) & someone elses taste in ornaments & art.  But that's a minor detail to the life that we're enjoying.  We move stuff around to suit when arriving somewhere new & hide the most appalling clutter, then put it all back when we leave.

No problem.  Where to next? 



Like 3        Published at 09:26   Comments (2)


Living in Temporary Homes
08 February 2019

Not having a permanent home isn't for everyone as many people take pride in their posessions, furniture, decor, kitchens & gardnes etc & would hate to give them up!  We're more than happy however, to stay in temporary homes in new places & countries :-)

When I'd booked the Algarve house, I'd mentioned being cold in the North to our host.  So when we arrived, João showed me that he'd plugged electric radiators in every room to warm the house through - so lovely.

One of the benefits of an Air B&B holiday rental, even for long-term lets, was that power costs & internet were usually included.  You pay a service & cleaning fee with the rental cost & that's it.

Although we'd paid almost 50% less for a month's rental for the yellow house, the €100 cleaning fee & €250 deposit brought the initial booking cost up to about the same.  We were also later to discover that we 'apparently' owed an additional €63 for cleaning & an extra €218 for electricity as apparently, the power for the month cost a total of €468!

Lesson learned...

We also know from shorter self-catering holidays, that it's necessary to:

  • Find the fuse box - there was a fan heater at the Galician house which, when switched on, fused the circuit if there were too many other appliances already turned on.
  • Have a torch to hand - handy in the event of the fuse flipping out, or an overall power cut.  To-date, we've had power cuts in all but one of our temporary homes.
  • Have a spare gas bottle - if hot water is supplied by gas from a bottle, ensure there's a spare.  You can guarantee the gas will run out part-way through having a shower!
  • Ascertain how the water is heated - we've had electric hot water tanks (of varying sizes) & combo gas boilers (which needed batteries for the ignition).  If your hot water turns cold, you'll need to know why.
  • The water supply - is it town water, or from a bore-hole?  If a bore-hole, then the pump won't work if you have a power cut.
  • Torches & candles - keep a supply of batteries for the torches & matches for the candles (which do seem to be acceptable & available in some rentals).

Renting fully furnished & fully serviced accommodation is great, but you do have to put up with what's provided, rather than haven chosen it yourself.  Sofas & beds may not be comfortable either & appliances may not work well.

In the Algarve, the elderly washing machine didn't initially work correctly & there were no instructions, in Portuguese or otherwise.  After it didn't stop at the end of a cycle & went around a second time, I sat & watched & waited for it to finish.  (I'm not at all photogenic & this is not the most flattering photo!)

We've had cooker hobs where the diagrams & temperature guide has been rubbed-off & ovens with just two temperatures, very low & very hot!

I also work as a virtual assistant full-time so am sat in front of a computer for long hours.  Back in the UK, had a comfortable chair & dedicated desk setup at the right height.  Travelling means I have to use chairs of varying comfort & the kitchen or dining table as my desk.

I brought a laptop height riser & have separate keyboard & mouse, but often have pillows & cushions on my chair to find a comfy position.

But these issues are all part of the journey & the experience, they provide stories to tell, blogs to write & I wouldn't swap my current lifestyle!



Like 4        Published at 09:45   Comments (6)


The Black Kitten
25 January 2019

We've acquired a kitten!

We don't want a kitten & cannot have a kitten because of the parrot, but the kitten doesn't care.  It came running down the drive towards us when we returned home one evening & stayed, crying outiside.  We didn't feed it for two days thinking it would realise that there was no food here & that the dogs would chase it away, but kitten's not afraid of the dogs.

It was insistent & persistent, mewling pitifully & obviously starving.  It wasn't a typical stray, scavenging & hunting, happy to walk alone, it craved love & attention. 

We're in a single story house & it sits crying on the window sill of whichever room that we're in, including the bedroom - all night.  So we relented & gave it dog food, being fully aware it wouldn't then leave.

It's a cute little thing, jet black with bright green eyes & not very old.  It's also lightening fast, shooting in the crack of any open door & obviously doesn't have whiskers to indicate the gap is too small.  When taking it some food out, kitty squeezed past me & dove between Max's legs to tuck into his food.  Max wouldn't give up his dinner & snarled nastily, but did I mention that kitten's not frightened of dogs?

Roxy's intrigued by the constant feline presence & has now befriended it so they follow each other around.  I can imagine them eventually snuggling-up together, but we cannot keep a cat with a parrot as the smallest scratch can be leathal.  I took the dogs a good half-hour walk & kitty followed us all the way down the lane & around the fields & back.  It wants to play, but we can't form a bond or become attatched because what will happen to it then, when we leave the house & the Algarve?

I found an animal rescue centre in nearby Loule (Canil de São Francisco de Assis - AAAA Associação dos Amigos dos Animais Abandonados) so we set-off with the cat in the only box we had - a Sagres beer box.  Or tried to set-off, but the car battery was flat.  Due to this happening in Galicia, we'd bought a battery charger, but couldn't charge-up in time before the centre closed.

So, when they're back open in the morning, we'll try to take kitty there again...

But the car battery was flat again!  It didn't fully charge the previous day & we only went a short drive into Loulé so not far enough to really put the charge back in.  The engine was attempting to turn-over, so we left the charger plugged in whilst we turned the ignition...

& blew the charger fuse!

So we had a flat battery, a car too heavy to push, a charger that wasn't working & no transport to go anywhere!  I was about to call on our Air B&B host (once again), then thought to look in the box & found a spare fuse :-)

We'll now need another fuse for a spare, but then again, we'll not attempt to start the car whilst the charger is attached...

Is something in the universe informing us that it's not our place to take the cat to the rescue centre?

It's Friday now & they're not open again until Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, after a weekend of throwing the kitten out of the house time & time again, we determined, once more to take it to the rescue centre.  However, although the car started, the kitten was absent!  This creature which had permanently been under our feet for a few weeks!  Although we were tempted to call "Puss, puss", we didn't as we'd deliberately tried to avoid any affection.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), kitty soon appeared & was settled into his box.  Arriving at the St Francis of Assis animal rescue centre, we were informed that the decision makers were in a meeting & asked to wait, or take the cat to the municipal pound.

We waited.

It was sheltered in the yard & hot & the dogs barked, especially loud when workers walked through the pound.  The kitten was very wary for a while, then as he was being fussed, settled down to enjoy the warmth & attention.  An hour passed & once again, we were beginning to think kitty was destined to stay with us, so we waited.  The centre closed to the public for the day, but we were inside, so we stayed put.  Eventually a be-suited man, accompanied by a couple of women, exited the building & into the pound.  We'd arrived during opening hours, but apparently in the middle of an impromptu local authority inspection so had to wait a little longer whilst the official made his checks.

Finally, a friendly worker came over & fussed the kitten, exclaiming that he was so cute & friendly, then she took him out of the box & wandered off.  Although the centre was apparently full, they kindly accepted black kitty & we made a donation in thanks.

The rest of the week, I still thought I heard cries & expected a furry black shape to come shooting indoors.  I hope little kitty finds a good home as he'll be an affectionate pet for someone.
 



Like 2        Published at 09:03   Comments (4)


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