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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.

Final Days Before Setting-Off
29 June 2018

I must admit I got stressed.

I tried not to be, did actually feel like I was coping & that most things were on track, but our leaving date was getting ever-closer & all becoming real!

But I just couldn't comprehend how to pack-up our remaining possessions into the car & leave the house 100% empty!

The bed would need to go & the sofa, all pots, pans, cutlery & towels etc etc.  We needed these items right up to the last minute!  Where would we sleep & how would we dispose of the kettle & everything we'd need for the last breakfast?  The car would be packed with everything we want to take, so no space for a run to the local dump.

So, once we knew we were definitely leaving the UK, I researched self-catering holiday sites to discover a holiday cottage in the next village.  Perfect!  This would allow us to practice packing-up the car & moving ten minutes down the road.

After all, would we fit everything in?  Would we have to reduce our belongings?  At least we'd be using someone elses bedding, cuttlery & crockery etc giving us a last opportunity to sell or give away our remaining possesions.

A priority to take were our favourite PG Tips tea bags.  I'd been buying boxes with 50% free & ended-up with 2,400 tea bags!!  Topped-up by a couple more boxes brought back from the UK, after eight months in Spain, they've still not run out wink

We were chasing back & forth to & from various family members who agreed to store some valuables (think guitars & keyboards) & I had people arriving to collect things I'd sold via a local Facebook group.  But everytime we turned, there was still a house full of items & the cleaning needed to be done too.

Finally everything we owned was in one room in our first rented holiday home!

The car had been packed to the gills, everything was dumped inside & we headed-off down the street to the local Chinese take-away.  It was late Tuesday & we would leave for South Devon on the Friday.

I'd planned to settle-down & do a couple of days work in our temporary 'holiday' home whilst Rob cleaned out our old house.  But it wasn't actually that straight-forward.  During those two days before departure, both dogs were booked-in (separately) for a trim & groom (in preparation for warmer weather), the car for an MOT, Rob had an appointment at the dentist & we had to go to Leicester with Woody parrot to collect his export documentaton.

So it was hectic.

The furniture project took what they were legally allowed to & Rob was clearing-up & visiting family. I was trying to keep on top of client work & on the last day, as I still had fast internet at 'home', I worked from our plastic patio table for as long as possible.

A neighbour across the road, never one for passing-up a bargain, took many of our remaining items, the bin was full to overflowing & my mum came to help clean a more-or-less empty house.  As the last person we saw, she was also the recipient of store cupboard items which I had thought to take, herbs & spices etc, but then reaslised that they just wouldn't fit in the car.

We owned so very little, but it didn't, & still doesn't matter.

My mum didn't let me get maudlin & encouraged us to have fun & an adventure. The previous week she'd organised a family meal at the local pub.  I hadn't thought about this, both not wanting to make a fuss & due to being so busy, not wanting yet something else to organise.

Due to their jobs, it's rare that my son & his wife can attend family dos on-spec, but they were there with my mum & dad, together with my daughter, brother & sister-in-law.  It was so lovely, but at the end as we hugged goodbye, it was very emotional.  I'd enjoyed our meal & chatting to family, but didn't take any photos of everyone so will have to carry the memory in my mind.

We didn't have space for pictures anyway as most of our photos are online, since we purchased our first digital camera, so we thought to buy a digital photo viewer in the future.  My son would look after photo albums from his & his sister's baby/childhood, whilst I'd scanned all my favourite wall pictures, scrapped the frames & stored the paper images.

I'd keep in touch with family & friends via phone & Skype or similar to see their faces, but this was really it - we were due to be off!



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Pet Passports and Paperwork
27 June 2018

A quick trip to the vet & the procedure regarding travelling with dogs to Europe under the PETS travel scheme is clear.

A minimum of 21 days before leaving the UK, our two dogs need their rabies vaccination, pet-passports updated & we're good to go.  Meanwhile Max Cocker Spaniel & Roxy Collie-cross have had their booster jabs.

Brittany Ferries insist all dogs are muzzled so we have a few months to introduce them to these in the safe, secure environment of home.  We also have plenty of time to take them out frequently in the car so they can adjust to travelling.  This is more essential for Roxy than Max who we've driven around since he was a puppy & happily settles in the car.  We feel really fortunate to discover that Roxy also doesn't seem to suffer travel sickness.

Then there's Woody, the African Grey parrot, a breed we know is on the Cites protected list.

Attempting to determine what paperwork is required to travel with Woody began like this:

  • Asking our vet if he knew about parrots, but no so advised to call Defra (APHA deprtment) who advised to check with the authorities of the destination company.
  • Call to the pet-shop where we bought ten year old Woody a year ago for any advice & instructed to phone Defra & ask about a Cites Article 10 Certificate.
  • Researched pet export companies online & contacted a few by email.  The most host helpful explained that whilst an importation certificate was required for France, they had no details for Spain.
  • Call to Defra/APHA who promised to send an Article 10 Certificate & recommended we obtain a receipt to prove we'd bought Woody legally.
  • Another call to the pet-shop owner who thought he'd actually bred Woody & asked us to read the number on his ankle ring so we could be sent a hatch-certificate.
  • No certificate received from Defra.
  • Another call to Defra/APHA & an Article 10 Certificate was emailed through.  A document which seemed excessively complex & not right for our circumstances as we won't be using/selling Woody for commercial purposes.
  • Woody's ankle ring was twisted & turned, photographed & blown-up, but no markings or number identified.
  • Call back to the pet-shop to inform the breeder who insisted, once again, that we call Defra to ascertain exactly what paperwork we needed.
  • Yet another call to Defra/APHA who advised we'd been misinformed & Article 10 Certificate was not required, just a letter from a vet to state that Woody was in good health to travel.
  • Call to Brittany Ferries who advised a pet-passport was required for parrots as for dogs.
  • A further call to the pet-shop to request a receipt to prove we'd bought Woody as I'd feel better having this & also ask for details of micro-chipping a parrot & expert vets to do-so.
  • Advised that Chine House Vets in Leicester the most well-know for experience with parrots.  Also searched the Parrot Society website for closer vets than Leicester, an hours drive away.  Called four vets, including Chine House to enquire about chipping & decided Chine House gave the most confidence over the phone.
  • Made appointment at Chine House Vetinary Hospital & was impressed with parrot micro-chipping procedure as Woody seemed none the worse for wear.  We now have three chipped pets registered with Petlog.
  • Call from pet shop to advise that Woody's Hatch Certificate, a receipt for purchase of the Cockatoo (who we acquired first - another story) & a receipt to state that Woody was an exchange for the Cockatoo (& that no monies changed hands for Woody) were in the post.
  • Decided to complete Cites Article 10 Certificate application anyway & called friendly Defra/APHA who advised on completion & said an exportation certificate was also required!
  • Sent off Article 10 application form with a cheque for the fee of £31 - only 2nd written from cheque book in more than five years!
  • Exporting birds to Spain paperwork (four attachments) emailed through, but there would be no charge for this
  • Attempted to decipher what was required & identified a very tight timeline so called Chine House Vets & spent significant time explaining process to a keen receptionist
  • Forwarded Defra email & paperwork to vet reception for attention of exotic species vet with my explanation & understanding of procedure which was:
  • complete online application form & PDF copy of certificate (which has English & Spanish translation) with full information about Woody, destinantion address & authorised vet contact details
  • send this to Defra/APHA who would issue official copy direct to the nominated vet
  • no more than 14 days before date of exportation (landing in Spain), a sterile faecal sample to be obtained from Woody by the agreed authorised vet
  • sample to be sent to Penrith Government laboratory & results sent back to vet
  • official Defra certificate to be received by vet approximately one week before exportation
  • Woody back at vets no-more than five days before export by which time the faecal sample results would be ready
  • vet to sign & stamp official Defra issued certificate
  • I therefore completed the export certificate paperwork with a quick call to Defra to ensure I'm accurately doing-so & email to them
  • Call Chine House reception to ask if vet has seen the paperwork & has any further instructions.  Explain process again & discover that Penrith labs only do the Pcittacines test once per week on a Wednesday.
  • Make two appointments with same vet one week apart within necessary timescale relevant to our travel, but have to work around his shift & days in surgery
  • Receive call from Chine House vets as exotic pet vet wants to see Defra paperwork.  Explain this was emailed & provide date & time when message was sent.
  • I'm asked to send this again so do-so with newly acquired procedure, dates of appointments etc which are also explained to this different receptionist on the phone.  I request confirmation from vet that all received & understood OK
  • Call to Defra to enquire after both certificates & informed that, due to a back-log, they will be working on the Article 10 the following week whilst the export certificate is scheduled for dispatch to the vet the Friday before our appointment the following Tuesday
  • I don't hear from vets so call to inform them of expected arrival of official export certificate & enquire if vet has seen application paperwork.  Assured all is OK
  • 13 days before our arrival in Spain, drive over an hour to arrive at vets for 8.30am as receptionist was unsure of the procedure of taking a faecal sample from a bird or how long it may take.  Straightforward process of scraping from newspaper lining Woody's travel cage, but as not quite enough, wait a while for more samples to be produced.  Woody not relaxed enough to poop much more, but advised sufficient has been collected & Woody scanned to ensure chip is reading OK.  It's a Tuesday & vet confirms he will send sample to Penrith & call me in two days when results are back
  • No call from vet so phone myself & advised all seems OK on Woody's record, but receptionist cannot advise on test results
  • Four days before arrival in Spain, call vets before setting-off to ensure this won't be a wasted journey.
  • Arrive at vets & wait whilst vet completes the export certificate (doubling-up as the fit for travel letter too) & he shows Defra issued certificate stating there has been no incidence of Newcastle Disease within a 30 mile radius of Woody's home.

Phew frown All done!!!!

Meanwhile, one month before travel, dogs receive their rabies vaccination, but passports need to be picked-up at a later date.

Two weeks before travel, return to local vets with dogs.  Their chips are read, passports photocopied & the dogs are ready to travel...



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Planning & Packing
23 June 2018

I was so excited about our change of life & lifestyle!

Once the decicison had been made, I couldn't wait to get started planning & packing.  I'm a control freak & (sadly maybe), I do love organising (after all, it's what makes me a good VA), so I was really keen to get started on this new project.

First of all we'd need to fit all our belongings in an estate car & whilst storage would likely be necessary, we'd need to de-clutter in a big way.  Rob does tend to be a hoarder & finds it difficult to part with belongings, even if they've not been used for years & we have a garage full of stuff.  One day I'll have to recount our 'wire-box' experience when I was actually proved wrong surprise

Anyway, I couldn't wait to clear out my stuff, to have an excuse, permission almost, to do-so.  There's a certain attraction to not having cupboards & boxes full of clutter.

I trimmed down my wardrobe first, selecting favourite clothes that fit & ruthlessly discarding the rest, either to sell or give away to charity.  There was so much that I didn't actually wear, or even particularly like, but kept just because I had the space to do-so & well, you never know when it may be required. I'm intruigued by 'Project 333' which challenges you to dress with a maximum of 33 items or less for 3 months.  Check out the Be More With Less website.

I used to love to sew, but became too busy running my business & hadn't done-so since making my daughter's bridesmaids dresses a few years ago.  Could I take my machine with me?  Will there be space?  I really want to as the machine, of all my possesions, was the one item I was reluctant to part with.  however, my large collection of fabric, patterns, threads & accessories can be cleared out, or given away & I just retained a couple of favourite dress fabrics & a few more favourite patterns - the rest was destined for Ebay.

Rob meanwhile had a number of Djembe drums & other percussive instruments from when he used to run drum circles & a total of four guitars, not all used.  He's mentioned selling a couple to buy a travel guitar instead, whilst his little Cahonita always travels on holidays with us anyway, usually stuffed with undies!  One favourite Djembe will be put into storage & he arranged for a music teacher friend to take the other instruments.

Having not Ebay'd for a long while, there was a learning curve & it wasn't a worthwhile success.  It took so much time for so little reward & for someone who sells her services by the hour, time is money.

However, I did have a good feeling that some fellow-sewers will make good use of their bargain purchases & overall, feedback was very positive.

I'm a book lover & although use my Kindle for holiday, did have shelves full of books of all kinds, copies of fiction, business & self-devlopment.  Some sold for a few quid on Ebay, others on Amazon & the majority would go to car boot.

Next job was the DVDs.  Family had their opportunity to choose favourites, I had a pile I wanted to watch before discarding, a very small number would be taken with us & a few were actually worthwhile selling on Amazon.  I purchased a CD/DVD travel case & Rob needed to check through the audio CDs for his favourite sounds, however, I'd already copied the entire collection to MP3 on my laptop smiley

Rob really didn't want to leave his music dedicated tower-PC behind as composing music on Reason software is his main hobby, so he decided to take it.  Along with the amp, speakers, one guitar in a hard case (not a travel guitar as previously mentioned) & his favourite Djembe....

So I was determined to find space for my little sewing machine, but would sell the much bigger overlocker - it gave a great professional finish to garments, but was a luxury & not essential.

But, with two dogs & a parrot on the back seat, we cannot make full use of dropping the seats in the estate car, so would need to buy a roof box.

We had a quick look online at car roof boxes, but hadn't a clue which roof racks to buy for the Honda, never mind a box!  I'm not good at estimating size without actually viewing the space, so we took a quick trip to Halfords to look at these in person. We ended-up ordering the biggest most expensive box they had in the store, but saving some money on the free bars & fitting.  Both the bars & box are locked into place so our belongings would be secure & they are suitibly aerodynamic so (apart from the noise when the sun roof was open) we didn't notice their addition whilst driving.

The box came in very useful for transporting things to the car boot too & someone actually asked if it was for sale!

Rob & I had a fun morning at a local car boot & raised some travelling funds.  We sold the camping chairs straight away so had no-where to sit & the table went before we'd finished so the remaining items were displayed on the ground!  No-one wanted my books so they were taken to the local Oxfam bookshop.  We decided not to have the expense of a storage unit which, at the best value I could find, was still £25 per week so a few bits will be stored in my mother-in-law's garage, but absolutely everything else had to go!  My son agreed to store some personal items & business paperwork, but my most sentimental belongings fit into a small cardboard box.



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The Decision to Travel
16 June 2018

As I've only just begun this blog, this is a flashback to the notes I made when we first decided to packup our home on the North Notts/North East Derbys border & travel!

I've been a virtual assistant since spring 2010, full-time since summer 2013.  I love the flexibility, being able to work from home, on holiday if I choose, from a coffee shop or bar or on the train.  But, although I did this travelling to & from clients' offices, or killing time between meetings, I'd not actually considered the reality that I can work from anywhere in the world!

Hubby Rob enjoyed his job as an independence worker for a local charity, but on a zero hours contract, he wasn't the main bread-winner.  He's also been disillusioned with the UK, the government, rising costs & taxes, the cold, damp climate & general negativity of the populace in Britain for as long as I've know him. This actually has nothing at all to-do with Brexit as I've known him a long while - we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this year wink

So we decided to travel....

We rented our home in the UK, the kids are all grown-up with their own homes & relationships, my elderly mum-in-law has always been aware of her son's wanderlust dream & my parents thought I was brave & accepted our decision to live elsewhere.

So where to go?

As we have pets, flying across the world wasn't impossible, but wouldn't be easy & although we'd holidayed many times in Europe, there was so much we hadn't seen.  Decision made! We'd take our car & travel Europe.

In March 2017 I bought a one-way ferry ticket to Santander in Spain for the 24th September to actually land on Rob's birthday on the 25th.  This wasn't planned, it was just the first date in September that the Brittany Ferries Pont Aven ship had two large kennels available for our two dogs.

I'd looked into ferry routes & we decided to miss France & head straight for Northern Green Spain, a destination on my bucket list. The Brittany Ferry routes to Bilbao & Santander required research as we didn't want to leave two dogs & a parrot together for long hours in the car.  The dog friendly cabins get booked-up very quickly, as do the kennels, then a couple of calls to Brittany Ferries identified that we needed the ship with ventilation & heating in the car dock as the parrot would have to stay in the car.  Their flagship Pont Aven.

I'd planned to take two weeks annual leave & my VA associate would cover my clients as she usually does when I'm on holiday.  We'd take the time to slowly travel to Plymouth, overnight nearby, then on the ferry for a night.  We'd have just over a week to settle somewhere in Asturias, then I'd be back to work from my new temporary home office.

The decision had been made & the ferry booked leaving just six months to research legalities for the car & necessary paperwork for the pets.



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