Monthly Archives: April 2016

Our Spanish DreamBeing stopped by traffic police, documents & glasses Part 48

Being stopped by traffic police, documents & glasses

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During our many visits to Spain with three children we often hired a car, although sometimes we used my parent’s second car.  Like many others back then we used the well known larger hire car companies, all of whom have advertising for their company on the back of the car. 

On one occasion we were driving back along the motorway towards the coast after visiting friends who live inland for the day.  Aware that there was a Guarda Civil traffic patrol car behind us, Dave was carefully ensuring he was within the speed limit.  The youngest was squashed in the back between his brother and sister and lent forward to ask me a question just as the Guarda Civil pulled out and overtook us, clearly scrutinising the car.  They immediately indicated to us to pull over.

Dave duly stopped the car and wound down the window, his two week’s worth of tan fading to a sickly white.  I took the hire card documents from the glove compartment, put Dave’s spare glasses on top and then rummaged in my bag for our passports.  Spare glasses are required to be carried in the car for the driver if they are dependent on glasses for seeing.  As the policeman looked into the window I put a passport on top of the other items, clearly seen by the policemen.

The man spoke in Spanish, pointed to our youngest and said he had not been wearing his seat belt.  I replied in Spanish saying yes he was, all the time.  Then he said something about he had taken it off, I said no.   I had an inkling that at least one of the men spoke some English so turned and asked the children in slow, clear English if they he had been wearing his seat belt all the time – three confused teenagers answered yes.  I then asked the youngest to lean forward and he did, and the policeman smiled.  He looked at the documents on my lap and in perfect English told Dave to drive off.

I asked Dave to pull off the motorway as soon as possible and stop at a local café.  It was only then that I informed the passport that had been on my lap, visible to the policemen, was in fact mine, not his – his was back at the house, for some reason we hadn’t taken it with us that day! Fortunately they never asked to see it, so we avoided a fine, and I drove the rest of the way back to the house!

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Our Spanish Dream Driving in Spain and hiring a car part 47

Driving in Spain and hiring a car


This brings us to the general subject of car hire in Spain.  These days we only use a car hired from a family run business in Alicante, but they will also bring a car to Murcia airport.  No hidden extras, your quote is what you pay, and no long wait at the airport to fill out have looked after our needs for many years now.

The big car hire companies are well known for adding ‘extras’ to your bill.  You arrive at the airport, queue for 40 minutes with 3 bored children, desperate for a decent cuppa and weary from the hours of travel.  When you finally get to the desk you have to confirm all the information already supplied, then you get offered an ‘up-grade’ and you say no.  They make the up-grade sound more attractive and you feel awkward still saying no.  Then they say there is extra insurance cover required for the windscreen and tyres, or whatever, but there is always an extra.  And don’t forget the charge for the child seats required by Spanish law.  And they want your credit card details for the deposit.

Then you pay for a full tank of fuel, being told to return the car with an empty tank.  Everyone knows that there is no way you will risk running out of fuel on the way back to the airport so every car is returned with some fuel in the tank, so why should you pay for a whole tank?  If you are only visiting for short time, or only doing local trips to the shops and beach, you probably won’t use a whole tank of fuel.  However if you do need to refill the tank the chances are you will find the same value in fuel for which you were charged at the airport won’t actually all fit into the tank!

The targeting of hire cars is the subject matter of several newspaper articles each year, both by the criminals and the traffic police.  You are advertising by the un-removable sticker on the car that you are probably on your holiday, so relaxed about personal security and unsure of the Spanish road laws, making you an easy target.  Removing the sticker will mean damaging the paintwork and therefore being ‘fined’ for damaging the car by the hire car company.  The rules are simple: never leave valuables on display, no matter what the temperature shut all windows and lock the car when not in it, drive according to road conditions and within speed limits, wear your seat belt, carry your documents (if you can, also keep a photocopy back at your accommodation), the driver must carry his/her passport, spare glasses and wear sensible footwear for driving.  After collecting your car from the airport drive straight to your accommodation and don’t at any time leave all your cases and belongings unattended in the car if you have to stop en route for refreshments.

Best advice, use local, small, recommended businesses rather than the big companies.  If you become a regular customer they will look after you.

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Our Spanish Dream Learning the lingo Part 46

Learning the lingo

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Neither of us are fluent in Spanish. Neither of us are gifted in language skills at all. Indeed I failed my school French exams in spectacular style, but somehow passed in Spanish. Despite not being able to hold a full conversation I find by listening I do tend to get the drift of the conversation, as long as the Spaniard speaks slowly. I am totally fascinated by the fact that many Spaniards who can speak English well do so at a pace to be envied by a horse racing commentator. How anyone can speak at that speed in any language amazes me but when it isn’t your mother tongue, well that is truly impressive.
Around the Spanish Costas it is easy to see why ex-pats don’t bother learning Spanish. In the bank I was doing my best pigeon Spanish and got stuck on a word, so resorted to English. Painful my attempts may have been but I was trying hard! The cashier then suggested we continue in English,
“But I am in Spain so must learn to say things in Spanish” I protested. Her reply explains everything; “That is not necessary, we like to practice our English, we need to speak it well.”
Examples like this happen every day around the Costas. But in my opinion, the foreigners (and by that I mean any non-Spanish) are being rude and arrogant.
Many local town halls haven’t helped the situation over the years, to be honest. The attitude that their staff need to speak English is commonplace and whilst admirable in some ways, it has also fed the poor attitude of ex-pats that Spanish is neither required nor desired. It’s just my opinion, but surely self-respect as much as respecting your new country and its culture (of which language is a part) should spur you on to make an effort.
So on that note I bid you adios mis amigos. Hasta pronto!

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Property Of the Week Spanish Dream Property

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Source: P O W Spanish Dream Property

Our Spanish Dream The Siesta Part 45

The Siesta

The Siesta is something that can take a bit of getting used to, as can shops shutting on Sundays. Both traditions are slowly disappearing in the coastal holiday resorts and towns but are still very firmly up-held in the less touristy places. The laws on Sunday trading were relaxed in some areas as a result of the financial crisis so shops could maximise opening times and therefore hopefully generate more income. Not opening up until 10am and then closing your business, whether a shop or a legal firm, for most of the afternoon is just not ‘British’! However once adjusted to the idea of an afternoon rest most people come to like it. In the height of summer, when it is too hot to go to bed before midnight, it makes sense to hide away somewhere cool at the hottest time of the day and take a nap to recharge your batteries for the cooler evening’s entertainment. A long lingering late lunch with friends is also a social event, not to be rushed.
Seeing young children out playing late at night is another tradition Brits are quick to criticise. But these children will have slept for two or even three hours during the day and taking your children out with you in the evening is not only acceptable in Spain but expected. In summer an evening meal starts around 9pm at the earliest so there is certainly no plan to be tucked up in bed by 10pm – the evening is just warming up then!
If you holiday in Spain in a resort you will find it easy to find some shops open all day and a full menu available from 6pm, but if you are in a traditional area either living or just visiting you need to accept that things are not geared towards northern Europeans timetables, it’s Spain so the timetable is Spanish.B4