The following article is taken from Eye on Spain, www.eyeonspain.com

"Ever Thought of Retiring to Spain?", She Asked

"Ever thought of retiring to Spain?", was her query when I returned from a particularly tiresome meeting with an unusually disagreeable client. "How quickly?", was my response. And so it came to pass...

Moving houseMy wife was becoming restless, after selling up her pet grooming business, she needed a challenge, a change. She was an avid watcher of "A Place in the Sun", which was on Chanel 4 TV virtually every afternoon around that time.

We were set to sell up the large family home and bank the majority of the proceeds, but - what to do?, where to go? Where in the World, (or at least Europe), could we retire to on our savings? We were'nt due to collect any sate or personal pensions for another 9 years!

It was January 2002 when my wife and I, set off in our slightly dilapidated VW Passat, towing our vastly over-loaded Ifor Williams box trailer, replete with our life-long possessions, heading for southern Spain.

We had visited Spain the previous January and 'sussed out' the country, by taking an Easyjet flight from Liverpool to Malaga and hiring a Daewoo Matiz, ( which is similar to a dinky toy car, for those of you unfamiliar with the vehicle), and proceeding to drive 2500 miles around Spain in 10 days.

Needless to say Georg, the car hire tout at the airport, who rented it to us, said on seeing the speedometer when we returned the vehicle: "Ze nes' time senyor, mebbe you rent ze larger car", (or words to that effect).

He was probably starting to regret accosting us in the airport forecourt, where after the flight arrived late, and the car hire office had closed, we were stood looking non-plussed. His vehicle had probably depreciated in value by 20% with the additional mileage alone, let alone the wear and tear.

It was only our second visit to the country, and our previous visit to Spain had been in August 1993 to Barcelona. The year after the city had hosted the Olympics, so we weren't fluent in the language, nor did we have friends there, but I guess we decided that we had to start some where, and what the heck! - "Carpe diem", (or maybe Fugit was starting to Tempe a bit quick).

We had booked a couple of nights at the 3 star "aparthotel" in Benalmadena Costa, (the True Spain??), and after spending a couple of days acclimatizing and working out a plan, as well as visiting local 'beauty spots', such as Mick and Tracy's Guinness bar, we decided that this part of Spain was definitely not for us!

We set off inland towards the 'white towns' of Alhaurin El Grande, Competa, Coin, Pizarra and Alora, which were OK, in a sort of 'raggy round the edges way'.

Don't get me wrong - I am not knocking these places. To each, his own. Far be it for me to run down towns which find much favor among British ex-pats, it's just that they weren't what we were looking for as an idyllic spot to retire to.

We had this vision of the "Real Spain" or at least as seen through the eyes of the curvaceous Amanda Lamb, and "A Place in the Sun", (yes by now I had also gotten addicted, though fairs fair, did you ever get an eyeful of Amanda in 2000?).

Not for us the 'kiss me quick' hats and English pubs serving Cornish pasties and fish 'n' chips for lunch, whilst watching English soccer on large Sky TV screens! - we wanted to speak the lingo, fraternise with the locals, soak up the culture, do the real Spain bit, walk the walk and live the dream.

My wife, Anne had read "Driving over Oranges" by an erstwhile pre Phil Collins Genesis drummer, so a decision was made to head east toward the province of Granada.

If we didn't like what we found there, we would head for Almeria, and up the coast of the Costa Blanca toward Valencia.

To be continued.

 


Comments:

CommentDateUser
I do love reading other people's stories and shall look forward to the next instalment. Dave's style is very endearing - I like his breezy misquotations. :-) 06/04/2010 23:02:00Finisterre
I did chortle over his idea "of visiting local 'beauty spots', such as Mick and Tracy's Guinness bar" as opposed to how I would describe our local beauty spots as being either Mont Caro or Fontcaldo. 07/04/2010 10:15:00Rosie Reay
the one thing no one ever talks about is language, if you want to live in the ´real`spain. Basic Spanish, enough to get around is one thing, fluency to the point of being able to follow a fast paced conversation is another. And unless your gifted with languages you will find the real spain to be very lonely. 10/04/2010 20:46:00Rob in Madrid
Real Spain? - Oh Really? Everywhere these days, according to some pundit or other it seems, is "the real Spain". I even read on a blog that Benidorm! - which is about as far away from anything resembling "real Spain" as it's possible to be, whilst still being on the Iberian peninsula, now carries this soubriquet. There seems to be a surfeit of articles relating the joys and pleasures of this 'mythical' land of nectar and honey on various blogging and article promoting web sites these days. The definition of 'real Spain' depends on your point of view, I guess. If you think that cheap booze, Irish theme pubs, all day English breakfasts and scantily clad people, either cooking on the beach whilst recovering from last night's "falling down drunk" hangover represents your image of what Spain is all about, then that's your slant on things and you are entitled to it, however wrong it may be. Take Almeria, (and as many would say -PLEASE!) Costa de Almeria is known by the locals as the Costa Plastico! This is due to the vast tracts of land along the coast given over to ‘forced’ growing of various crops under shabby looking polythene ‘greenhouses’. Kilometre after kilometre of the coastline is given over to these enormous polytunnels, many of which are derelict, or contain no descernible life form, (even the odd tomato plant is absent!). They require no permission to erect and have no obvious controls applied to their size or siting. The desert is interminable. Mile after mile dry dusty scree, (which of course, apart from the reliabilty of ‘the daily sun’, is ideal for shooting bleak westerns, and why Sergio Leone chose this barren semi-wilderness to make Clint Eastwood’s career. The desert has the ‘de rigeur’ Spanish golf course, which despite the shortage of water in the region, has lush greens and fairways, lavishly watered by this scarce resource. It used to have just the occasional outcrop of rock, to break the monotony, but now it is famous for it’s vast tracts of illegally built housing projects, which include Cabo de Gata, where the biggest illegal hotel in Spain was allowed to be built on the beach, and only stopped in it’s tracks by the continued vigilance of GreenPeace. It bears no comparison to the real Spain of Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba and even Malaga! The modernity of Almeria city has swamped much of any antiquity that ever existed there. Costa de Almeria should be considered alongside Dubai as the perfect desert holiday. If you prefer the "truly Real Spain", and the richer more traditional flavour of Iberia, you should head further west along the E15 via the much better Costa Tropical, and after strolling around the centre of Malaga, head up the A45 toward Sevilla and the real essence of Andalusia. Stay awhile in the very real Spanish town of Antequera why don't you? Try a "great city break in this great Spanish city", with the added flexibility of self-catering, a great city vacation. If you like fine renaissance architecture, or just superb old buildings in beautiful surroundings, good food, great wine, nice people and the enjoyment of an ideal city break destination, this is where you might just have struck lucky! A city break in 'RealSpain' in Antequera will open your eyes to what "Real Spain" is really all about! With it's fabulous and manifold churches, ancient monuments and architecture, the historic city of Antequera, in the province of Malaga, Andalucia (el Andalus), in southern Spain, is truly a hidden gem. It lies at the crossroads of major highways and train links between Granada - Malaga - Seville - Cordoba and Huelva. It is also on the main AVE high speed train link from Malaga to Madrid, and indeed, this makes the centre of Madrid, a mere 2 hours travelling time away. Antequera an ideal city break destination with it's proximity to some of Spain's most prominent historical cites, along with it's own abundance of romantic links in to Spain's fascinating past. Take for example it's many ancient and splendid churches, cathedrals and convents. These, along with the Dolmenes, (or pre-historic caves), the 'El Torcal Montagnes' (dramatic mountains with astounding antediluvian rock formations as well as incredible vistas of the Costa Del Sol over 40 kilometres distant), make the city a place to visit time and time again. Antequera, as well as being one of the best kept towns in Andalucia, is also one of Spain's best kept secrets! As Washington Irving was once said to have remarked - "A visit to this historical Andalucían town is a journey almost 5,000 years back through time, beginning with the Bronze Age and the original native Iberians". With it's ancient burial mounds, Roman baths, Moorish Fortress, Gothic churches, Renaissance fountains and baroque bell towers, Antequera is indutiably a truly fascinating and remarkable city. Driving from Malaga, and the nearest international airport along the A45 autovia, your first glimpses of Antequera and 'The Indian rock' evoke feeings that cannot be explained. Maybe the fact that Antequera is not just another typical white Spanish medieval town begins to permeate the senses. The towering spires of the many ancient churches and the walls and towers of the great Moorish Alcazaba dominate the town, whilst sprawling across the valleys below are rich farmlands and olive groves watered by the Guadalhorce River. Antequera is a step back in time, and yet it's blend of modernity is there to be seen. For thousands of years this has been one of Andalucía's most productive areas, and a leading provider of olives, asparagus and cereal crops. In summer, its fields are abundant with yellow sunflowers. The town and ferile valley are overlooked by an enormous peak called La Peña de los Enamorados, or "The Lovers' Leap". The name derives from the well known local legend about a doomed love affair between a young Christian lad from Antequera and a beautiful Moorish lass from Archidona nearby. Legend has it that "they were pursued to the top of the cliff by Moorish soldiers, where, rather than forsake their love, for each other, they chose to fling themselves to their deaths into the chasm hundreds of metres below". On a lighter note, the feature is known by many of the expat locals as the 'Indian Rock', because of it's resemblance to the face in profile of a North American native. Well worth a visit for a day, week or even longer if you are a golfer. Antequera hosts one of the best Golf courses in the region, along with it's own 4 star hotel. If you prefer something more flexible and a lot less costly, try casa cuatro at http://www.realspainbreaks.com There are very few self catering properties advertised that are ACTUALLY in the city. Most are in the outlying villages and 'new towns' (Villanuevas), which means, as well as a car being a must, much of the character of "the real Spain" is absent, not to mention the choice of sights, sounds, shopping and entertainment. So, if your interests go beyond holiday breaks in the sun, and the lure of a better life draws you, inland Spain offers a great choice of lifestyles, particularly if you are looking beyond holidays at retirement perhaps?26/07/2010 19:09:00Dave Robson
I love Antequera; our house is in Sierra de Yeguas which is between Anteqera and the lakes and completely in real Spain. Our intention is to retire there......and I can't wait12/05/2011 20:40:00Louise Ward
I enjoyed all comments but most are about the southern regions of Spain. After many months traveling in Spain, I discovered Asturias & Galicia, although not the sunniest part of the country,(it is not called green spain for no reason), these are the most relaxed areas I have so far visited with the most welcoming population found so far. Both areas are the holiday destinations of the people of the south which means that speaking basic Spanish here is a must; Spangleesh will not do. Definitely thinking of retiring here. Another advantage of this area is there are not too many Brits here so far so will not have to put up with the "wingeing pom" attitude I encountered in the South.10/05/2013 05:48:00Paddy Rafferty
Where to go in Spain on retirement living with 1100 euros and no language? Please,help me.20/02/2015 01:05:34markioni