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Spanish Steps from Sussex to the Sierras

Many years of thinking and now a year of doing............the diary of our move to Spain...............................

It is all very beautiful and magical here
01 April 2014

Here we are again another 4 weeks have been lost in the preoccupation of moving to Spain.   Life it seems, can, pass you by very quickly if you are not careful.

 

We are now in Spain and settled into our basic but cosy rented accommodation.  The house sits on the border of Spain with Portugal, so close that I am in the bedroom typing this piece in Spain, whilst my husband is sitting in the Garden  having a coffee in Portugal.

Left foot Spain  right foot Portugal

The scenery here is, I have to say amazing, and it is easy to see why those who came before us were seduced into living here.    Extremadura is, I have been told ,(I have not measured  it to confirm) about the same size as Switzerland  or was it Holland, anyway it contains approx 1 million people, (1 million and 2 now!)  Of that million, 300,000  live in the 2 major towns/cities, Badajoz and Caceres and a few more in Merida.  Leaving the rest of the landscape, roads and sheer beauty for the rest of us.  You can travel down the Motorway/Road/ Camino for miles and miles and not see another car, house, village or person, you will see endless oak, Cork trees and fruit trees under which grazing on the land are, cattle, pigs and sheep.  Small enclaves of houses come into view and villages appear all of which are welcoming and a joy to visit.

 

 

 

 Roman fortresses and moors buildings are to be seen all around, and the villages are awash with cobbled stones and houses with little red roofs. You can be in a town and suddenly come across small green areas of grass where goats or sheep graze.

 

In our little enclave of about 50 houses, we, like most villages in Spain, have the advantage of a merry band of dogs, all of which ,look well cared for and contented.   We have named them and look out for them on our excursions  out of the village.

 

Monty -  Monty is, without doubt the top dog, if he had a baton under his front leg, and a little beret on, you can almost see him arranging the troops in Africa.   Monty is usually the first to spot  our GB car heading out of the village.  He will sit and nod you through like someone at a border patrol one false move and you're in the brig.  Following closely behind Monty is Yorkie, who is the most untidy and scruffiest little dog I have ever encountered.   Yorkie always looks like it is all too much for him, and simply follows Monties commands.  I think he has decided that Montys' ways are to be suffered and it is probably easier to follow than to argue.  Yorkie, unlike Monty who sits and nods, lays in the middle of the road, and lays, and lays, eventually he will lift his head, give us a cursory stare shuffle over a bit and let us proceed to the next checkpoint charlie, who we call Squeak.

 

Squeak looks to be a cross between a doberman and a Chihuahua, erring on the side of a Chihuahua ( re his size)   He really is there just to make up the numbers, he trundles down besides the car, driving my other half mad as he keeps going out of sight and we are worried he will end up under the wheels.  Soon enough though the gang of 3 are sighted in the rear mirror trotting back to the border control, job well done.   If you can manoeuvre through the gang then you can get get out of the village to get to where you need to go.  There is a caveat to that.  If the Cowman has decided that his Cows need to go up or even down the village you may have to wait a bit longer, equally if the local goat herd takes a sudden urge for village life as opposed to mountain life then you really are in a  M25 situation.

 

 

Finally, of course there is more to moving here than the pretty pretty, we have been busy viewing houses and have made some decisions , there is the getting on and living bit to do yet, but  to start with , we want to enjoy these moments and I just wanted to explain and show to you the pleasure we, at this early stage, are having in this glorious environment.  The title of this particular piece comes from a quote, I read a few days ago

 

It is all very beautiful and magical here - a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breathe it, let the sun bake into you. The skies and the lands are so enormous, and the detail so precise and exquisite that wherever you are you are isolated into a glowing world between the macro and the micro, where everything is sidewise under you and over you, and the clocks stopped long ago. 


Ansel Adams

from A Letter to Alfred Stieglitz from Abiquiu, New Mexico., September 21, 1937

 

He could have been describing Extremadura



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4 WEEKS AND COUNTING
23 January 2014

Having just checked my very first blog post I note that it was published on the 12th Jan 2013.  As I sit here and write this next chapter it is​ hard to believe that a whole year plus 4 days has past.laugh

 

Since that post we have made many friends on this journey to our next destination,  most who have advised us and supported us.  But we have also encountered those who have looked at us like we are 2 bricks short of a full load. 

 

  "De cuerdo y loco todos tenemos un poco."

 

 A few have made comments such as

 

I could not leave my children...

wont you miss them”

 

I think it is they that  “miss” the point. Our two Daughters have been our biggest supporters, and for that I am very grateful. The hardest part of having children is when it is time to say goodbyeBe it when they first went to school,  left home or moved in with boyfriends.   Now it is different, although the goodbye is the same,   it  somehow  feels different, our “children” are in their 30's,  but now the difference is that we are doing the leaving,  it feels unnatural for the parent to leave the child, however this has to be part of  our process.  I have tried to bury these feelings deep, but now with 4 weeks to go, its there, raw and red, rising in my stomach, making it churn and acid filled. I have to face reality and either I quench the acid , and stay in the UK  or we have to learn to deal with it. But I also know that my husband and I need make this journey, we need to do it for us, it is not a whim, its a yearning that we have had for a long time. I know in my heart that although the distances may be long between us and them,  mere roads, seas and mountains cannot separate our hearts from each other.

 

So, it is a year since we first started the final part of this stage of the journey, (as you know we eventually settled on the stunning area of Extremadura), We have now sold and move into a rented flat here in the UK. This,  it turned out , was to be a very quick process, it only  took 8 weeks between putting our house on the market to completion.  I have now handed in my notice at work and leave shortly, with my NHS pension in place.  A leaving party has been organised, and everyone at work has been very kind with their words, however, I am sure some, young bright thing will take over and improve on my work, after all that’s what makes the world tick, one person goes and another takes their place.

 

S1 healthcare forms organised, we both have cover for 2 years, hopefully they will arrive in Spain, we wait and see. Producing these will be our first foray into Spanish bureaucracysad

 

We have scheduled a ferry crossing Portsmouth to Santander, and managed to obtain a “pet” friendly cabin,  we are allowed to to take the cats into these particular cabins.  For those of you interested, the ferry is the Cap Finistere and they also have a dog walking deck.

 

We have decided to take the journey slowly, after all we are in no rush,  nothing else planned! so a hotel and dinner with our girls the night before in Portmouth, a 24 hour ferry crossing and then a hotel in Palencia 2 hours out of Santander

 both the Uk and Spanish hotels accept our cats in the room which is brilliant. The following day we arrive at our rented accommodation.

 

Our rented accommodation is a fully furnished pad. When we sold our UK home most of our goods and chattel were put into storage Once we have bought a place to live we will send over for them.

 

Apart from the goodbyes, I am feeling unsettled. Usually when you sell a house, you are either buying a property or renting, you know whats next.  We only know that it will be in Spain. When I describe my feelings as unsettled that is probably the wrong word, it is a combination of unease and excitement, where will we live, what will the views be like, will it be,  how are the locals etc etc etc...............So much to think about. I think we just now want to get on, make our way, make the mistakes and learn, we are under no illusions there will be mistakes, but as one stage ends another stage starts, and as my Granny used to say

 

el que hace la paga.

 

Back Soon x

 

ps apologies for poor Spanish Translations I am still learning

 

 



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When you have an itch you really just need to scratch it - Day one our first impressions
24 September 2013

The last time I looked at this blog was back in May. Shortly after our trip to Andalusia, and the discovery that there was Capital Gains Tax to pay on our house sale in here in the UK if we sold and moved within the same tax year.


Throughout the months that followed, we have continued to carry on with life in the UK as usual.
Maintaining the garden, tea at the local garden centre. So British!







We did have an unusual event. My husband had spinal surgery in July, which we always knew was on the cards, and, I am pleased to say he has recovered well, and as we suspected, is now unable to work in the industry he was in before, the upside is no pain, and can walk, prior to the operation chronic pain and could just about make it to the kitchen. Now he is unofficially semi- retired, and looking forward to new experiences in Spain. At the age of 55 we count ourselves lucky that we are in a position to be able to commit to a change in our lives.

As the husband was now at home, he has become the main "seeker" of information on our move to Spain; he has been following the ebbs and flows of the economic situation and the housing markets, collated information etc. I think he sees himself as a BBC Correspondence in charge of the move to Spain. When I return home after work, I get an immediate update on what has happened, where and why. I almost expect him to sign off with his name!!!





The summer months past, what a glorious summer we had here and we continued with our daily routines, but always at the back of our minds was the eventual change that we would be making to our lives. I have continued to make progress learning the Spanish language and now I feel, that I am at a stage, where I just need to be in Spain, using the language skills that I have so far learnt. My husband on the other hand needs to study more, and to that end, I am about to take the old adage used in the medical profession. See one, do one, teach one, and teach him, what I have so far learnt. Not sure how that will work, but if this blog is renamed, one man goes to Spain, we have divorced.


As you may remember from my previous posts, I always had an itch that I had to scratch, that itch is called Extremadura.
If I am honest I had concerns about this trip.   I have no idea where my desire to move to Extremadura came from. I think many years ago I stumbled across something on the web or watched something on the TV. I then started to investigate the region more. Its history, flora and fauna etc. Although we had discussed the possibility of moving abroad in the future, the where and when was not decided, although we had always thought it would be Andalusia,    Extremadura was not on our list of possibilities. However, whatever it was that I had read, it must have stuck with me, as I was the one who pushed for this particular visit. My husband agreed that we needed to go, if only to rule it out, and to ensure that I had scratched my itch. I just hoped we would not be disappointed and I had not built up some fantasy in my head.  So on September 9th we flew to Madrid to start our reconnaissance trip to this fairly unknown and remote corner of Spain.


Our first Destination was the town of Trujillo, which is situated approximately a 3 hour drive from Madrid airport. At first the landscape was pretty uninspiring as we drove towards our destination, not wows or look at that. Not the endless olive groves and white villages clinging to the hillsides in Andalusia. We drove the empty roads, and commented on the lack of people, it looks as though no one actually lives there. I have read that the population is about 1 million and all in an area the size of Switzerland.

As we drove into Extremadura the landscape unfolded in front of us. We started to drive through forests of corks and oak, areas are known as Dehesa (scrubland).




The Oak woodlands went on for miles, dotted throughout the landscape, with their brown trunks and the green foliage, sometimes these forests were dense at other times they were scattered throughout the hills, Dark shiny skinned Iberian pigs wandered beneath the trees, grazing on the grasses and the acorns. 



The acorns contain oils and enzymes, which are, apparently crucial in the production of Iberico Hams. Amongst the trees we also saw cattle grazing on the wild grasses. Extremadura is full of cattle ranches some go on for miles. Then suddenly we would drive through an area of open plains called chorros. Again where cattle and horses grazed.

Usually I am not a fan of what I refer to as “flat Lincolnshire land”, but in Extremadura I will make an exception. Although when we were there the grassland was scorched dry and brown, from a long hot summer, it was not hard to imagine how, after the first rains and in Spring time, the land would burst into life with flowers, what a sight that must be, We made a mental note, even if we do not move here we must come and see it,when in full bloom.

Among the forests, and the plains the Cork trees came into view. Whilst you may not have heard of any famous Extremdurian wines, the cork you remove from your bottle of plonk, may well have come from a cork tree in the area. I have read that 26% of the world’s market in wine corks, actually come from Spain. Many of the trees had already had their cork harvested, what was left was highly polished trunks, shining like conkers in the sun. 




There were mountain ranges in the distance and sometime around us, it was truly gorgeous.

We continued to drive to Trujillo, a perfect little town, where we spent the evening, having dinner in the exquisite square and preparing for our first full day in Extremadura and viewing our first properties in the area.

Next time, Trujillo, brain on plane and a sense of peace.........................





Main Square Trujillo.


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Death, taxes and childbirth! - Did not see the second one coming
05 May 2013

 So here we are another month on from my last post and another month closer to the move.If I am being perfectly honest my feelings about this move change from absolute certainty to real fears of the unknown. Which I think on reflection is healthy.

 

The one thing that all mankind has in common is that we have all made our fair share of wrong decisions; anyone who has not made a bad decision has never had to make one or has spent their life avoiding them.  Every day most of us make decisions, from minor ones - should I have the large chocolate cake, to changing jobs or moving to another country.  Life is full of choice but it appears that the bigger they are and the more options we have the harder they get, choosing to jump out of the way of a speeding car is an easy decision to make almost, choosing to live in another country and then decide where, is much more difficult.

 

How we originally came to the decision I cannot remember. It seemed to be a long drawn out process over many years. It is said that you should, when making a decisions review the pros and cons. I am not in favour of the pros and cons rule after all how you can decide a pro or a con until you have lived it or experienced it. For those of you already in Spain some of the Pros you went for probably did not materialize  and may have become cons like for instance intense heat in the summer and cold in the winter, how many times have I been told - lucky you moving to Spain all that lovely weather, and yes the con is the weather will be fairly decent for a fair amount of the time, but there will be intense heat and freezing cold.

 

You could always spend time analysing the decision and choices that you have for example

·        What is the probable outcome of this choice?

·        What outcomes are highly unlikely?

·        What are the likely outcomes of not choosing this one?

·        What would be the outcome of doing the exact opposite?

 

Finally there are those who follow their gut instinct.

 

I have read somewhere that research shows that people who make decisions quickly, even when lacking information, tend to be more satisfied with their decisions than people who research and carefully weight their options.

 

Well to be honest although I have said we are following our gut instinct we have also spent time researching all the issues around moving to Spain. This leads me, to where we are now.  Having researched to death the move to Spain it was a HUGE shock to find out this week that if the house does not sell this side of 2014 and we move in 2015 the same year as the house sale we are liable to pay capital gains tax in Spain, unless we arrive after the tax residency rules of 183 days

Of all the things to miss this is one thing that could have caused us a major concern.

This is not really mentioned on any of the forums etc. and it is my belief that this is because people did not declare CGT when they sold up in the UK and moved to Spain, it is only now with the new overseas assets declaration that immigrants ( ex-pats) are starting to think about this.   I thought that this was a recent tax law but no it has been in place for many years. If you sell in the UK, move to Spain and do not invest ALL of the capital gain in a new property you are liable for CGT on the portion that is left UNLESS you were not TAX resident in that year. However if you know different please leave a comment and let me and others know.

 

 So for us if we sell before end of 2013 and move out in 2014 then we are fine. However if the house sale takes place in 2014 we have to ensure we do not take up permanent residency until July 2nd. This reminds me of a line in Gone from the wind

 

Death, taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them.

 

Why am I telling you this, because I think it proves that no amount of research can prepare you for the pitfalls that will occur once you have made your decision, you can analyse, write up the pros and cons but we are always at the mercy of governments, and legislators, whatever country you live in and at the end of the day as my old Nan and probably yours used to say, you have made your bed now lie in it.

 

We are still making our bed and it’s looking good. If not a little untidy from recent developments!



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The best laid plans of mice and men
30 March 2013

 Home and thinking about the Future

 

So here we are now back in the UK, full of hopes, fears and a little confused.  We know that Spain is where we want to be, where in Spain is another subject. We started this journey with a plan, large house, lots of land, up in a mountain, goats, horses etc etc.  Sitting at home in the UK that looked like the ideal life for us, everything we had always wanted, self suffiency plus the potential to have some rental income to top up my pension. The original idea changed as the trip progressed.

This trip to Spain enabled us to meet ex pats already living in Spain.  Some fell  into the category of those who had something to gain from us moving to Spain and others  fell into the category of future friends.  I will briefly cover the former.  If I heard the phrase  don't worry, its Spain once, I  heard it hundreds of times, especially from the agents.  It is clear to me that the " turn a blind eye" culture is alive and well in certain quarters, which actually worried me more.  We were told that we were under no pressure to buy, really, your telling me, I never had any intentions on buying a house on this trip, we had told everyone we contacted prior to our visit that this was the case, I can only assume that some prospective buyers do change their  minds once they are in Spain.  It was amazing as to how many properties would not be their in a few weeks, and did you  know you can put a 3K deposit down and move when you wanted.  Plus buy to lets are a great investment at the moment.  Needless to say most if not all are still for sale with a lot more added to the lists since we arrived home, and I am still not sure about the buy to let investments after all and 11% return on investment, I would have thought they most people would be biting the agents hands off.   Having said all that some of the agents were informative without any pressures and answered our questions with knowledge and experience.  Moving swiftly on we also met folks who I know we would love to meet again and would easily become friends.


We had one day out of researching areas, and we spent that day in Cordoba, near to where we were staying with Alan and Lorna and the Alpaca farms.  Their house is in what can only be described as an idyllic situation, 20 minutes down a track, up and down, round and round, amazing views and surrounded by olive groves and a pretty babbling river flowing through.  Although if you read Lorna's blog  from a few months ago, you will know that the pretty babbling river turned into a torrent of flood water complete with a run away car.


Lornas Blog

olive groves

 

 

views of Alpaca's and Olive groves

 

Cordoba was lovely, although the highways into the city made you realise that this is not just a little historical town but a major city, living and breathing. We managed to park and walked to the old quarter.  How pretty is this, lovely cobbled streets, old buildings,leaning into each other covered in the early signs of the up and coming patio festival, which must be an amazing sight when in full bloom. Orange trees in full fruit, ripe for picking except don't they are very bitter and husband found out. The Cathedral was just beautiful and we spent a long time in here, truly amazing. Lunch was had in a little restaurant up one of the side streets,  We shared a salad to start and then Spanish Omelet and Calamaris it was all very yummy. The afternoon was a gentle stroll looking at what else was on offer, the amazing Roman bridge for one.



The Start of the Patio Festival

Smiling before the first bite

 


After Alan and Lorna's we traveled to Alcala Real, stayed at a lovely B&B run by a young couple a real family home.

Sunny Spain

The view from the window was amazing, the castle in the distance. We woke up the following morning to 3 inches of snow. This actually enhanced the view even more, however it did nothing for my nerves re driving, the B&B in Alcala Real, is at the top of the town and we were heading down to move to our next stop Valor in the Alpujarras. Snow was not on the agenda however, after a gut wrenching drive we managed to get to the main roads safe and well and headed for out next destination.



The weather over the 3 hour drive was mixed, snow, hail sunshine and more snow.  As we eventually arrived in the region, the climb up and around the mountains began. The roads were amazingly well looked after, we did come across several rock falls, but these appeared to be well cordoned off and managed.  The views were amazing, as we travelled up and down the weather changed, lots of snow, not so much snow no snow.  As we travelled the signs for all the Alpujarras villages came and went, and they brought alive for me the book I had recently read, The Hand of Fatima, a lovely story about a boy and his life in the 15th century. Eventually we arrived at Valor, and met our next hosts. We were shown to our accommodation, which was a lovely little house, typical of the Alpujarras. However the arrival was marred by the Hosts. Remember it was freezing, we were offered a tiny little heater which apparently we could use for an hour or two, it would have just about heated a mouses toe.



 However that was not what upset me the most.  Having offered us the minuscule heater, they asked if we were there to look at houses, yes we said, well that was a big mistake.  We then received what I think they thought was constructive advice, which actually came across as offensive and actually plain bloody stupid., and while sharing the knowledge with us became actually aggressive.  I will select some of the phrase that stuck with us.

Don't buy a house in the country, the police will make you work the land - Not much fun when you are retired and they make you work.

The shops don't open in the afternoon, so you cannot buy milk

I don't drive..........and I never use the buses.

If the house you buy is  too close to the road the police will knock it down

Know I know that everyone has different experiences of their lives and I know that if you buy  property with agricultural use then yes that's what you have to do, But I have yet to hear of British OAP's being picked up on a Saturday and being made to work in a chain gang. Maybe I was being sensitive but I was really angry, I was paying money to stay in the house, I did not ask and pay for advice from someone who had not even asked my name.

That night I text someone who I had been in contact with before our arrival for a recommendation for a hotel. However one of the best things that happened on this trip was that they invited us to stay. So after our house hunting day around the Alpurujjas we arrived at the house.  I cannot express in words how welcoming they were.   We had a  fabulous dinner, several drinks and some amazing star gazing. We awoke the next morning, rested, warm and happy,  this was our last day in Spain and what a way to end.  This couple were living the life of  our dream, a lovely home, not fancy as in huge rooms or marble bathrooms, but comfortable and Spanish,  land ,not acres and acres, but enough to grow vegetables etc, lovely views but close to a sweet village that was  full of Spanish life .They were  rich in spirit and giving and we found new friends.  They gave us advice in a calm and measured manner a great deal of which we took on board, including some that we may not have wanted to hear, but enabled us to re consider our ideas.

So back to the beginning, here we are back in the UK.  We have made changes to our plans. No longer do we want a top up income, we would rather have the money in the bank, a smaller house with land but a smaller than originally thought. No horses, but definitely dogs, two, Spanish Mastiffs, maybe a goat, but heating is a must as in a priority.


We are not bothered that we have changed our ideas, that's the whole point of visiting Spain, what works on paper here in the UK is not necessarily going to work in reality.  Always remember, YOU have the power to change your life because YOU have the power to change your mind


We have another region to visit, we are going to Extremadura in August, as this is an area that  I have always had a yearning for and it is an itch that I have to scratch. 

So I leave you for the moment with a selection of photo's from our trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Location, Location, Location
29 March 2013

 Property, location, don't worry, no one worries about that, its Spain!

So we have discussed the travelling the roads etc now we look at the real reason for the visit.. does the property in reality, match up to the prose produces by the Estate agents on the web sites.

So prior to arriving in Spain, we had emailed loads of estate agents, and in the end four different agents came back with ideas and thoughts based on what we had told them about our criteria.  At the outset we were perfectly up front with them with regards to our plans.  This was not a "buying" visit but a reality visit, what were the houses like in the areas we had chosen, what did - " needs a little work" mean,  whats a large garden in spain etc etc.  Our original criteria was

·        House with seperate letting potential

·        Decent size plot of land

·        Rural

·        Walking distance of village

or

2 houses  one to live in one to rent out either holiday or long term.

So off we went.  I am not going to go into all the individual properties we saw, but believe you me we saw a lot.  We were not dissapointed, the reality was in line with what we thought, although I am still of the belief that Estate Agents all have degrees in flowery prose.  Needs a little work usually meant, needs a complete overhaul, liveable meant,  you might live there but I would not.

Everyday we viewed various houses, made notes, looked at the possibilies, fell in love, then fell out of love - with the houses not each other, walked around the land, gasped at some of the most stunning views, laughed at the prospect of driving up and down some of  the hair raising camiros(sp) me with my eyes closed, talked in the evenings about what we had seen and eventually the visit was over.

The areas we visited were firstly around Estapa, I am afraid this did nothing for me, I do not know why, but there you have it, either a place grabs you or it does not.  Our next stop over was Nr Cordoba, this was a lovely area, the views etc were amazing. We also visited the lovely town of Alcala Real, where we woke up to snow, a beautiful scene, but a slippery drive down to the main road, where we visited a lovely house near Montifrio.  This was a house that you fell in love with, and we did, but we were not ready to move and were not going to be pushed into any on the spot decision. From here we moved onto the Alpurajjas.  This was without doubt my favourite area. Stunning views fabulous little villages and houses that fitted our original criteria.

A constant phrase we heard was as I have said in a previous post was don't worry.  When we asked questions about, legal issues, renting our properties etc, planning permissions nearly all said the same thing, don’t worry, we can sort that out, we have a solicitor who manages all the details, at one time someone even said the word investment. I assured each and every one that we would instruct our own solicitor, and we did worry about planning permissions etc. In fact as soon as someone says don’t worry, I worry!  .Sometimes I was made to feel like an illiterate itinerant!  There was some pressure to make decisions from some, but others were more understanding of the need to research and look around. I cannot count how many times we were told, if I had the money I would buy this or this house will not be here next week someone will snap it up.  Needless to say, they are all still there with new ones added.

Seven days later we arrived home tired and a little confused. There were houses that we saw that we really liked and others that we hated, some we just did not understand. Why do some people rip the original guts out of a house and turn it into a box.  Did we want a mountain  life, or lots of land or..............confusion reigned.

Despite the confusion we did learn a lot.  Heating the house is a must in the winter, water rights, living off/on grid, the benefits of solar power types of roads to and from houses, location of shops, did we want a village house or rural.  Now having been back for several weeks we have changes the criteria.  We are now looking for a house just for us, no rental at all, we are reducing the budget. No we do not want a lot of land, enough for veg, chooks etc.  We now only need a small house so as to manage reasonable heating costs in the winter. No we do not want a village, we do want rural. We want views and wildlife we do want dogs, no rental accommodation. We only want one house.  Location wise, we are still undecided.  The other thing we have learnt since we came home is that although the UK is only 2 hours away on a plane it is a long way away from emotional contact with family and friends. When we arrived home we had two phone calls. My mother was ill and awaiting results. My daughter was also undergoing tests.  The latter of which was ok the former we are still awaiting to hear about. This gave us a reality check of being away from our family. It has not made us change our minds, but has made us think about the costs of returning home and how we deal with these situations when and if they arrive again. . However, we are certain about one thing. Yes we want to move to Spain, yes we can afford it, it offers a lifestyle that we want.

Next time………who we met, what we did and where we ate



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The Journey, the Roads and Driving around Spain.
23 March 2013

 Well the day arrived and off we went to Gatwick airport for our flight to Malaga. All went well, found Monarch airways efficient and had no issues with the flight.  Although I have to say, nothing to do with the airline as such, but what are all, those flipping suitcases, on the plane about and why, we had paid to put a case in the hold, 50 odd people did not, and then at the check in they are made an offer to do so at no cost, seems a bit unfair, and why does someone have to recline their seat back on a 2 hour journey.

Arrived in Malaga on a drizzly grey morning……picked up hire car, the care we had been allocated was damaged. A couple of large dents on both sides, I was concerned and highlighted this to the staff, it was then we heard for the first time the immortal words  “don’t Worry”,  my husband was not particularly happy with this but we were caught between a rock and a hard place, as they said, they had no other car… which I know was a lie, but not fluent enough in Spanish to argue.  It was not the last time we heard these words and already I was worried. Anyway upshot was, they had documented on all the paperwork, and we took some pictures.

  So off we went to our first destination, towards Puento Genil. Except 100 yards out of the car hire compound we ended up in a shopping centre car park, a few deep breaths and a brief argument over whose fault it was.

We eventually got on the main road towards our destination dark foreboding mountains came into view, dark clouds gathered over head.  This was not the “sunny” welcome that most would expect. We knew in advance that the weather is not all sun, sea and sangria all year round.  Many do not, lots of people said to us before we went = “oh how lovely… at least you will get some sunshine………Well, they should have been there when we arrived. Sun shine was in short supply. As I said we knew the weather could get cold and we felt this first hand during our visit, More of which later.

We found the journey to our first stop over a breeze, and both commented on how empty the roads were. We had been given excellent directions from our first contacts which helped, along with the Sat-Nav. Generally we had no issues with driving in Spain. Maybe I should clarify that statement, I did not drive, and this is something that I am going to have to eventually be able to do. We travelled around all sorts of roads when we were there including some scary winding roads with what looked like sheer drops. Some dodgy tracks, however as we progressed through the week, I felt more confident as a passenger! On our next trip, I will definitely have to drive and am determined to do so.  I wish I could practice here in the UK. As I have already stated we were stunned at how empty the roads were, including the motorways we encountered some traffic the day we went to Cordoba and the on the journey from Alcala Real to the Alpujarras I was very nervous about the roads etc. around the mountains in Alpujarras, and although I did have brief moments of OMG, generally the roads were great. We came across a few rock slips, and some ice – but on our return to the UK we had more pot holes between Gatwick and home then in Spain.  Yes some of the Caminiro’s were bumpy, but we expected that. 

Generally we had no major issues driving… he had no major issues driving!  But when we were travelling around the little villages in the mountain regions it became apparent as to why the cars all have knocks and bumps. Those little villages have such tiny narrow streets with so nice bends, just sharp turns. 

 

 

 

Tomorrow Houses and Estate agents!!!!!!!!!!  Don’t worry its Spain comes into its own



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Nothing is ready today, but everything is ready tomorrow..........
17 February 2013

 So here we are a week away from our trip to Spain to discover locations for our new life.  One of the key recommendations from everyone we speak to us LEARN THE LANGUAGE.  Now for me, this is a must.  As I have stated before I can speak reasonable French, above school level below work level is how I would describe it.  When ever we have travelled abroad I have always tried to learn a few basic words, Thank-you, please, hello, goodbye etc, these few words have held us in good esteem in Turkey, Egypt, Mauritius and a few other places, and I have always felt that it is nothing  more than good manners to try and converse with someone in their own language.

 


Language is not a genetic gift, it is a social gift.  Learning a new language is becoming a member of the club -the community of speakers of that language.”

Frank Smith

 

 

However learning a few basic words in a foreign language is not the same as learning a language, and it was not until I was studying Spanish that it occurred to me that I had actually forgotten the basics of grammar how to speak and write my own language, so how could I possibly learn a foreign language. I looked back at my school days and we did not have English Grammar and English Lit we had a joined  up class covering both.   So off to the book shop where I purchased a book on  English Grammar and reacquainted myself with the joys of verbs, adjectives, pronouns and conjugation. I am so glad I did it Spanish verbs so much easier.

 

So onto the language.  I did, a while ago, studying  with an O.U. course in Spanish - which although working through I find a bit like working through treacle, if I was honest I would say I have wasted my money and learnt  nothing.  That aside brings us to today venture in to learning Spanish.

 

I am going to be the "key" learner ( so my husband tells me!!!!!)  I did well leaning French with Micheal Thomas so I have the Total Spanish CD.  I am doing very well with this as is my husband. He started a few weeks ago, a nervous learner, embarrassed  trying to pronounce the words, but you know, I am very proud of him, and he can now string the words together and is going to be able to make himself understood which is the main thing and if nothing else it is giving him the confidence to move forward with learning.

For me  Total Spanish is OK but I do find him very irritating more so than I did when learning French - and the guy on the CD I could happily beat with a lump of 2 x 4 wood!!!!!!!!!.  Also I am concerned that I will not learn enough about the conjugating of verbs, which as I type this is making me smile, at what stage in life did I think conjugating a verb would be a goo idea and I never thought I would once again be in  Smiths looking for pad, pens and a pencil case!

 

 I am fortunate that I have a friend at work who is Spanish and she is helping me a great deal and  although I get it wrong when i talk to her, it is great to have a native speaker to correct me.

 

So I am marching through the CD's but feel that I need to study more in depth.  Thank goodness for the kindle..  To be honest my feet were always firmly in the  if i want to read I'll read a proper book thank you........However I decided to dip my toe into modern technology and purchased one before Christmas. Since then I would not be without it. So I am no longer a Luddite in the world of book reading!.  Anyway I digress.   There are some great books written in Spanish on the web some are  really cheap and others are actually free.  These are two that I downloaded for free

 

Learn Spanish - Word Power 101 & 

Spanish Tales for Beginners (Spanish Edition)


I use these to read Spanish I understand very little but its great when something clicks!.


My  other two recent purchases, which I bought in Hard copy  are

 

Spanish  - Verbs and Practise by Collins

Spanish Verbs Tenses = Dorothy Richmond


So this is a quick update.  We travel to Andalusia next Saturday flying Monarch...luckily the Iberia strike is not affecting us.

I will take loads of pictures of EVERYTHING and let you know how the Spanish holds up


Bye

 



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Planning
02 February 2013

 

Before I post the main part of the blogg  I would like to make a few commments re the comments on the previous posting. Firstly I have no idea how to edit or reply to indvidual comments any thoughts would be gratefully recieved, and many thanks too all those who offered advice and friendship.

The main advice that came across was not to sell in the UK but rent and then rent in spain.  For some this may be appropriate, for us this is not.  I can see perfectly well the meaning behind this and we did consider it. But we, for our own reasons, decided against.  However, we are fortunate in respect of Family support should it all go very wrong. So we will rent in spain for at least 6 months but we wil buy eventually and will be selling this year in the UK.  

 

So here we go Blogg post number two.

 Planning

 

Well after a several hours of looking at Maps, airline schedules and with some assistance from the Mog our cat we eventually established a route for a week in February.  
 
If I lay here you can measure the distances
 
Yep thats great put an x just there
 
There were a few disagreements along the way re the Car Hire, should we get a 4 x 4 but think of the fuel costs, what about a little tiny car…the idea of Blane spinning around those mountain tracks in something the size of a baked bean fill me with terror.  I came up with a People Mover, he disagreed “there’s two of us” eventually a very boring Ford Focus was the decision. A brief look at Blane and we took the top up insurance!    Additional driver, not sure, oh had better… If we get a clear long road you can drive he very generously told me!  Driving on the other side of the road is the one thing that scares me, I have never done it. I recall a trip to the USA with a friend from work 
 
it took us over 4 hours to work all this out, a quick break for Sunday roast and then we were done.  So then it was only the accommodation to book. I already had places in mind, so that would be simples!.
 
Our first night is near Puento Genil …
The origin of Puente Genil begins with the construction of a bridge on the river Genii, a work designed by Hernan Ruiz, and paid for by don Gonzalo Yanez Dovinal, Lord of Aguilar.
This new population centre grew up for clear strategic and commercial reasons, not to mention defensive reasons and control of an important passage from the south of La Campina to the Muslim lands, maintaining a close eye on this area close to the border.
In the last third of the sixteenth century Puente passed into the possession of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, with Alfonso de Aguilar who said, according to his testament -1498 - will be repopulated despite being desolate, and also being known as "la puente de Don Gonzalo".
In 1583 they completed el puente del Piedra (stone bridge) with two arches which, the next year, suffered major damage due to river flooding which destroyed most of the Barrio Bajo (Lower Town). The continuing flood damage was so bad that in 1874 a major reform was needed at the hands of the French engineer Lemonier.
 
We have several properties to see in this area.  The next 2 nights we will be staying with Alan and Lorna at the Olive Mill, just north of Cordoba.
 
Again hoping to see a few houses but this stop is mainly to see what Alan and Lorna have created. I discovered this couple after reading a book Alan wrote. Basically   Alan and Lorna moved to Spain in 2008 to start Alpaca breeding….. yes,   Alpaca breeding. If you  are thinking to you self   what’s and Alpaca then I suggest you pop along to  amazon  and get the book  seriously Mum whats and Alpaca........................then you will know  They have an inspirational story about moving to Spain.  We are looking forward to meeting them and their Alpaca’s
 
Plus we get to visit the city of Cordoba, which I am really looking forward too
 
Following on from there we are travelling to Alcala La Real where we will be staying at a lovely  Bed and breakfast , and then onto the Alpajurras   This is an area that has always had a pull for me, I have no idea why but it just does.
 
 Once everything was done it came to me it took 4 hours to decide on a trip that could change our lives, how amazing is that.      On the other hand, if it took 4 hours to schedule a trip, think of all the stuff we have to do in the next 8-9 months!
 
As I sit here thinking about the flights, car hire and accommodation we have booked for out
voyage of discovery, I am always amazed at how simple booking travel arrangements over the internet can be, may be its an age thing, I am still have no idea how it all works, I am not afraid of technology but have no understanding of how it works… how can I be instant messaging someone in Spain when they are halfway up a mountain and I am sitting in rural Sussex!  That the got me thinking.  What about those who forged a path before us….way before a google search brought you up a myriad of ex pat forums, information about NIE, residencies, healthcare, what each area was like, where it rained, where it snows?
 
Forums that’s another whole other post, which I am writing next
 
But imagine, leaving your homeland, friends and family and arriving in a destination that you nothing about, pre internet, you do not speak the language etc.  How exhilarating must that be, I am not sure I would use the word brave, as I feel that is a world over used in today’s culture, some may say foolhardy, but I would disagree.  In today’s society we seem to want to know the ins’ and out’s of everything, what the eventual outcome will be, how we get there, its like individual lives have become a corporate company, a business case to be investigated and adjusted, planning for failure, planning for success, it seems to me that we have lost the ability to just let Life happen. Having said all that, I love researching on the forums and reading
. I have already mentioned the book “Bloody hell what’s and Alpaca”.   The other recent books I have read are by Victoria Tweed. The first 2 books are based on Victoria and Her husband Jo’s move too Spain, where they live in the Alpajurras Mountains. The 3rd is based on their year, teaching in Bahrain.   Alan’s or Victoria’s books are not about the practical side of moving, Tax, buying houses etc., however they are insightful look into the cultural differences  between the two counties, and a lot of these will make you laugh.  
 
I have refrained from reading any “practical” books as the economic situation in Spain is ever changing at the moment, new rules and regulations seem to appear and then disappear week. Basically we just try and keep up with the news.
 
Well thats it for todays ramble.  I do have something to say about forums but thats for another day.
 
Hope you all have a happy and healthy weekend, and many thanks to you all for your comments and support. I apologise for any spelling mistakes busy day today..........Bye


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The first step is the hardest................
26 January 2013

 The Journey to  of Spain started many many years ago. When our children now aged 28 & 30 respectively were young.

We often used to think about moving to another country, but many issues held us back the most obvious being was what we would do for a living> With 2 young children, it was a scary thought to try and start again in a foreign country. We would spend months researching various countries in particular France and Spain, but then as the months went the interest would tail off and we would resort to normal living in the UK.
Life took over, the children did well at school, it seemed wrong to move them, my husband - a Self Employed wall and floor tiler who had his own business and we were managing.   We had set backs, as everyone does, the recession in the 90's hit us hard, we lost our house, but we continued onward and upwards and eventually ended up back on our feet again.
 Life carried on and we had up's and down's, The ups have included some fabulous holidays,  and when I sit here and reflect on what we have done in our lives to date its not too bad. We have managed to drag kicking and screaming two daughters into independent and beautiful women, who make us very proud with their work and life ethics. Like most parents we worry about our 2 girls, but we have discussed the move with them. There response it YEP go for it... cheap holidays!!!!!!!
I wish they could come with us but they have there own lives. Although I would have given anything to keep them little, so they would have to come,  as parents we understand the fact that they have outgrown us far quicker than we outgrew them. 
So if life in the UK is not too bad why  the decision to move now. Well I have always had high admiration for those who take the plunge especially those with young children, forging a new life in a strange place, trying to maintain stability for the family. I often think back to programs we used to watch on the T.V, in particular get a new life, no going back and of course the imitable Lee and Cheryl looking for a snail farm in Spain!!.
The original series can be found on U-Tube ,( If you know where they are now let me know!)
 
Lee & Cheryl  
 
 
Needless to say, neither my husband or I have any desire to run a snail farm, but the time has come to make a move in life.
So the reasons for moving are as follows
I work in the public sector (NHS)  and as such am in the fortunate position to be able to take early retirement with my pension. Although don't be fooled by the press and the headlines, trust me the average "gold plated" pension is about £5000pa not £69K pa -  I wish.
This decision has also come about because I do not trust either this government or any other government to mess with it again. My husband Blane has worked in the building industry all his adult life, he is now at a point where the knee's and back are not going to be able to continue in full time work. Mortgage has not got long to go so we sat and thought about our options.
 Option 1
Buy a small terrace house here in the UK. carry on working part time and carry on as now 
OR
 Option 2
Do something different but what
Well, said my husband why not rekindle that desire to  move to France or Spain, the same issues arise. what will we do, how will we live, where will we live and so on and so forth, but when it is just the two of you and you  have a guaranteed income, albeit basic its an easier decision.   Blane looked at the financial side, pension forecast etc etc  we then had some arguments, my first choice was France, Blane preferred Spain. Eventually we agreed on Spain.  It is a joint decision and one that we are both happy with;  At the time of writing this blog the world is in recession, and Spain is in a bad way, but the flip side to this is with the economy in Spain as it is, we can get more bricks for out money.  We will gain from someone else,s misfortune and that's not a nice feeling but not, to be perfectly honest, enough to stop us.  We have been on the receiving end of recession before and am totally aware of what it is like. 
Having told our daughters who are fully supportive, we have told parents. Mine live in Lincolnshire near my brother and family, Blanes' mum and brother live in London.  All have wished us well and we have had no negativity.  Although I am sure that my Mum & Dad think we are stark raving.  To be honest,  we do not have a wide circle of friends here in the UK.  However the ones that we do have, have been very supportive and completely with us, understanding out need for a new adventure, and yes this is an adventure a risky adventure, in the next 12  months we have to sell our house, decide what to do with our belongings, to store or not to store, arrange finances, maybe rent in the UK for a few months depending on how long it takes to sell the house. Sort out pet passports, oh yes the cats are coming!. Re-home our 4 chickens and charlie big bananas our cockerel.
I can say one thing for we are ready for an adventure, we would rather try and fail than fail to try.
I  have found 2 quotes which I think sums it up.
If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary - Jim Rohn
It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being the subject to hald the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for dear of what might happen - Herodotus
I know that some think we are stupid,   these are usually people who do not understand why we are going, some think that the only reason for moving to a foreign country is for the sun and a better life, of course long hot summers are appealing, however anyone doing there research will tell you that, hot is Spain is HOT and when its cold its COLD and no the rain in Spain does not fall mainly on the plain.  But these folks have it wrong, we are not going for a better life, we are going for a different life, and who knows they may be proven right in the end, but I do know one thing, when we woke up on January 1st this year we both felt exhilarated  by the year ahead.
******************
if you wait to do everything until you're sure it's right, you'll probably never do much of anything
Win Borden

Our attitude towards life determines life's attitude towards us
John N. Mitchell
*****************

This blog will not be a retrospective look at life after moving to Spain it is about how we got to this point .. OK some some retrospection  but also a chance for me to record how the process happens as it happens, the issues that arise and how we deal with them and then finally we can look back and see where and how we end up compared to where we started. I will provide links and support to anyone who needs it along the way. An on line diary I suppose.
I hope you will join in on our journey    
There are two mistakes once can make along the road to truth.. not going all the way and not not starting. Buddha


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