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Diary of a Spanish Holiday Home Owner

Owning a holiday home in Spain has always been my dream. The experiences I have had, and continue to have, never cease to amaze, frustrate, scare and delight me.

It's been a while
14 January 2013

 

Why has it been two years since my last post?

 

Is it because we no longer own a property in Spain or because we have fallen out of love with the whole Spanish experience?

 

No, neither of these are true, we still have our holiday home and visit as often as we can and can't wait to go back each time we leave.

 

The reason I guess is that since our original purchase in 2007, things have settled down now, everything is set up as we like it and our Spanish holiday home has become part of our everyday life. This is exactly what we set out to achieve.

 

We get great enjoyment from guests booking and staying in our apartment and reporting back their adventures and also consider ourselves so fortunate to be able to relocate ourselves to Spain whenever we can and pick up where we left off.

 

If you have not ever been to the Estepona / Duquesa area, or not been for a while, it's well worth a visit, especially to the old town in Estepona which has been recently transformed along with the Paseo either side of Puerto de la Duquesa.

 

There is so much to see and do and much has changed in recent years. There has been a significant and noticeable investment in local infrastructure and facilities in the area. All of which makes for an even better holiday experience each time we visit.

 



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Summer Car Hire Rates
08 January 2010

I'm just trying to book a hire car for August in from Malaga Airport and can't believe the prices. They all seem to want £280 or more a week for even the smallest 2 door car they have available without all the extra insurance and fuel they sell you on top of that.  This is ridiculous and the car is going to cost me more than the flights for a family of three.

 

 

Someone somewhere is seriously taking the p*ss.


 

All suggestions on cheap car hire would be gratefully received. I tried one "bargain" car hire company for a trip I’m taking in March and what a nightmare that was. The prices and cars they quoted were suddenly not available to be booked when I got to the payment confirmation screen and you are told to ring customer services. 3 hrs later I finally get to speak to someone at so much a minute only to be told they can’t help and to ring another reservations number that puts you on hold for another short period of your life. I gave up in the end, I lost faith in their ability to present me with a car when I arrived even if I did ever manage to make a booking.



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What I love about Spain - No 2 - The Pool
07 December 2009

On our development we have six different pools to choose from.  Some are large, some are smaller and one is specifically designed for the toddlers.  Some people swim in the pool all year round but we tend to restrict ourselves to the months between May and September when the air is constantly warm and the water is refreshingly cool.  There is nothing like being sat by the pool relaxing with a good book or your iPod and knowing that you can have a cool down at any time.  Shall I have a beer or shall I go for a swim? probably be the biggest decision of the day.

 


 


The best pool is directly behind us, but I would say that wouldn’t I.  Out of the main door, thirty five steps and you are there.  It is great for our seven year old son who would honestly spend every part of every day in the pool if he could.  It is great fun for him and therapy for us parents who take it in turns to totally relax when it is not our turn to keep an eye on him.

Harry actually learnt to swim this summer.  He started by trying to lift his legs and splash as much as he could.  That didn’t work so he gave up and we tried something else and we bought him a snorkel and mask whilst on a day trip to Tarifa.  We love Tarifa but that’s another story.  He started off by standing in the shallow end and dipping his head under the water.  Once he got used to that he started throwing himself forward until, without realising it, he was snorkelling and swimming for real.  Up and down and across the pool for hours just searching for everything and nothing.  We had to explain to him what he was doing and that he was actually swimming, but it took another couple of weeks before he was confident enough to swim without the snorkel.  There is no stopping him now.

I love the fact that you can go for a swim at anytime and tend to go out first thing every morning before breakfast to see how many lengths I can do.  I’m more of a runner than a swimmer so I started off at three lengths, progressed to ten and then twenty and maybe even thirty on a good day.  I have never been able to do it again but one day I actually managed fifty.  I just got carried away with the peace and quiet of it all.  When it got difficult I just thought how lucky I was and took a look around me at how lovely everything was and just carried on.



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Don't Forget Your Passports !!!!
03 December 2009

I would like to share with everyone a lesson I learnt the hard way. In this case it was on a trip to Toronto but I am reminded of it often and every time we travel out to our apartment in Spain.

It was a while ago now, but it was a Saturday morning and my wife and I were due to fly out to Toronto. I was travelling for my work for the week and Katie was going to check that her credit card worked okay in each and every one of the main stores in the Eaton Centre. As it happened our friends were also in Toronto at the time so the idea was that we would meet up for the weekend and do the touristy bits before I reported to the office on the Monday morning.


 

We arrived at the airport, checked in, had a little look around, headed for the departures gate and that’s when we realised that we didn’t have any of our passports. How did that happen, we had them a minute ago when we checked in !!!!!

The first call for us was the check-in desk who informed us that this happens a lot and they normally fall off the desk and down onto and under the luggage belt. After 30 minutes of unsuccessful searching in and around the belt it was off to the information desk. They also told us that this happens a lot but were totally unhelpful apart from saying time after time, where did you see them last !!!!!

Anyway we emptied the carry on case at least 5 times which is where I normally keep the documents.  Time went on and then the inevitable happened as they unloaded us (or whatever the jargon is), took the baggage off the flight and told us we were not flying and to come back when we had a passport.

I know it is not life or death but unless you have been there and its happened to you I can’t tell you how sickening and upsetting that feels.

Eventually we arrived home, made endless telephone calls and made arrangements to go to London on the Monday to queue up all day to get a replacement passport and we rebooked our flights for Tuesday. Our weekend break with our friends disappeared in front of our eyes and I was going to have to fit five days work into three.

That evening we sat there feeling sorry for ourselves and then started to unpack the luggage. With all the bags clear it became obvious to Katie that the carry on case still had something in it even though it was empty.

... and there they were our passports which had somehow gone down inside the lining of the carry on case, out of site but still there none the less. We were committed now to the Tuesday flight but at least we didn’t have to travel to London on the Monday.

There were two main results of this, firstly Katie never lets me look after the passports or any other documents when we go travelling. Secondly, and most importantly, the lesson we learnt is that things really are normally where you think they are.

I just wish that the staff at the information desk had sat and calmed us down and made us investigate further when we were checking the bags. There have been many occasions since when things have gone missing, including mobile phones and wallets. They seem to have gone forever but by keeping at it and continually looking where you know it to be, we have always found what we were looking for. If you haven’t done this yourself then try it next time it happens and you will be amazed how things turn up where you thought they were even though you have checked so many times before and they weren’t there.

It’s amazing what can happen to a mobile phone when it falls off of the car passenger seat while you are driving, but that’s a story for another day ......



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Last Minute Flight Changes !!!!
20 November 2009

I don't know about you but I find myself continually frustrated by airlines and the way in which they change the price and time of flights at a whim to maximise their profits. 
  
You would think that they would have some care for building long term relationships with their customers but it doesn't seem that way to me.  In fact, my experience is that they seem to go out of their way to make sure you never book with them again.
  
One airline I use must change over half of its flights.  Why do I continue to use them, good question, let me think about that for a while !!!!! 
  
I must book at least five flights a year for myself and the family and no matter when you book you always find that you could have got a better deal and saved as much as 75% on the price of the flights if only you had a magic ball and knew exactly when they would be cheapest.  Prices often change on a daily basis and also it can also make a difference depending on what time of day you book.
  
The other aspect of this that I find it even more frustrating is that having booked a flight, sometimes many months in advance, the airline wait until about two weeks before the flight and then tell you there has been a change to the date and/or time of your flight.  Mostly, it is a change of a few minutes or an hour or two but it has happened to me where it has been moved by a couple of days or cancelled completely.  Even small changes to the time can make a massive difference and impact on car hire and accommodation arrangements which may all need to be rearranged and can leave you out of pocket. 
  
One flight recently was changed by a few hours which caused us lots of problems.  When you call the airline’s “customer services” helpline on what seems like £’s per minute they make you listen for ages while they refer you to the website which you have already tried but doesn’t deal with your enquiry.  When you finally get through the member of staff on the other end of the phone kindly refers you to the small print on the contract which says that they can change the flight time by up to 12 hours without the customer being able to cancel and claim a refund.   You can however pay well over the top to rearrange your flight, pay their excessive administration fees and pay top whack for a new flight.
  
The same airline that has changed over 50% of the flights I have booked over the last few years took gold medal recently in the “how to patronise and loose your long standing customers in one easy go” award.
 
Having booked a flight many months ago the airline wrote to me to say that, because they are a quality airline who takes customer satisfaction very seriously, they continually review their schedules and as a consequence my flight was cancelled but they were delighted to offer me a flight a few days later.   This new flight was no good to us whatsoever so we had to cancel and book with another airline.  And yes, you guessed it,  the other airlines had cottoned on to the fact that a number of flights had been cancelled to our particular destination and had upped their prices accordingly so the flight now cost me three times as much as it would had I booked it with them at the time I made the original booking.


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Just another Saturday
24 October 2009

It is just another Saturday except this morning I woke up in Spain after a great flight out yesterday. I am writing this sat on the terrace watching the golfers as they parade past in pairs or fours. It is the end of October but its very sunny and we are expecting temperatures of around 25 degrees again today. We are spoilt for choice; shall we walk down to the local port and beaches or take a drive out into the mountains. Whichever we choose I cannot wait to finish the day off with a barbecue on the terrace with those massive prawns and the sea bass we bought yesterday and helped along by a cold beer or two and the bottle of locally produced dry white we bought for 2 euros yesterday


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Show me the money !!!
14 October 2009

We have been renting the apartment out ever since we took ownership of the keys back in February 2007.  When you are buying your property the agent or developer will tell you that you can rent it out for over 40 weeks a year and the income from that will easily cover any size mortgage you may want to take out. We took all that with a pinch of salt and a good job as well. The costs of renting are very high (more on that later) and it takes a lot of organising but it is well worth it. Personally, I like the idea that other people are sharing your own experiences and the apartment is not sitting there dark and locked up.

The second, or maybe third, most surprising thing that has happened to us was when Katie and I were in the kitchen washing up after breakfast. We put away the cutlery in the draw and Katie noticed a bit of paper sticking out from underneath the cutlery tray. What with Katie and her OCD tendencies and everything she just had to tidy it away, lifted up the tray and there it was about 160 Euros in crisp new notes. I don’t think she believed me for a while that I hadn’t put it there myself, nice and safe and out of the way. Being the honest types we are we emailed everyone who had ever stayed in the apartment and asked if they had left “anything of value” in a kitchen draw? Everyone came back and said no, so “finder’s keepers” in this case and with a clear conscience as well. In this case we are 160 Euros in credit but it hardly ever works out that way.

I’m sure I didn’t put it there myself, or did I?
 



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What I love about Spain - #1 - The Sun
09 October 2009

No, I'm not talking about a national newspaper which some would say believes it can determine the outcome of the next election.  It is obvious I know but one of the things I look forward to most when we go out to Spain is the warming and heeling feeling of the sun on my back.
 

 


 


Apart from a couple of weeks in October, when the weather breaks at the end of summer and what seems to be like the whole of February, you are guaranteed sunshine most of the time.   It doesn't have to be the middle of summer for it to be warm enough to walk around in shorts and tea shirts.  If you can find a corner where you are out of any wind a day in the middle of Janauary can often feel like the best day of a British summer.  With this in mind, one favourite winter venue or ours is the Dolphin restaurant in our local port.  It's a perfect location for a sunny mid morning coffee with the opportunity to relax and watch the world go round.

For a moment then I was actually sat there ..... Oh well, back to work.  Only two more weeks more before we fly out.  I must find out when they are going to turn the heating on in my office and check how the pound  is doing against the Euro !!!!



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All Work and No Play !!
04 October 2009

Okay so we now have our dream holiday home in the sun and as I mentioned earlier we can go there as often as we like, or can we?   Obvious I know but the biggest draw back is that because we have a mortgage on the property in Spain both my wife and I have to work in the UK to pay the mortgage.  Don't get me wrong, I must have the best job in the world and no one can or should take paid employment for granted, but we are restricted to 25-30 days holiday a year.  Also we have a seven year old son at school so we are restricted to taking our holidays in the school holidays at a time when those nice airlines demonstrate their true customer care skills and take advantage by tripling the fares for their captive audience and loyal customers.

The other issue is that you may not always want to go to the same place every holiday.  Strange as it may seem to many, we do actually take all our holidays and some long weekends in our apartment in Spain.  Since we "owned" the apartment we must have been there about five or six times a year.  Are we bored, no not at all?  There is always something new to do and places to go.  I can't tell you how relaxing it is to turn up on holiday to somewhere comfortable that you are familiar.  From the first second you arrive you are relaxed and totally in the holiday mood.

There will be a time when we decide to venture elsewhere, as we did before, but for now we make up for it by making the most of our time in the UK by going away at weekends and exploring the south coast of England where we live.

 



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So why start this Blog?
01 October 2009

 

For more years than I care to remember I have always wanted to own a house, apartment or any sort of home in Spain.   It all started when my wife and I took our very young children to stay in my uncle's apartment  in Calpe on the Costa Blanca.   It was a three week holiday and after endless packaged holidays I couldn't believe the freedom you had to get up when you wanted to and to have all the convenience of a home from home.   I even got to watch Spanish football on the television in a comfortable chair with a beer direct from the fridge.  Okay, so I picked up an ear infection from the swimming pool and almost lost my hearing but for a while, well for three weeks at least, I felt I was actually a true part of Spain and dreamed of the time when I would have a place like this in Spain of my own to stay in whenever I wanted to.

There was always a reason not to and it took me many years and another marriage to actually take the plunge and buy something.  So in 2003, yes I know, at the height of the property market,  I decided that prices would never come down and now was the time to buy.  My dreams came true when I signed up for a 2 bedroom apartment on an off plan development on the Costa Del Sol.  The apartment was completed in 2007 and my new wife and I (and the bank of course) are now the proud owners of our own Spanish holiday home.

The experiences I have had, and continue to have, never cease to amaze, frustrate and delight me and I want to document and share them on this blog.   I know i'm not alone and ask that others join in and comment on my posts and share their experiences as well.  I'm referring to the holiday home and not the marriages of course !!!!

Some of my posts will be historical reflecting on what has happened and how it unfolded and others will be current as the jouney continues .......

Thank You Uncle Vic, well at least I think so!


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