Tag Archives: Spanish Dream Property

“Minor sea” or “Smaller Sea” Mar Menor

Mar Menor

Small sea

The Mar Menor means ‘minor (or smaller) sea’.  It isn’t a sea at all, it’s a lagoon, located on the northern stretch of the Murcian coast, just below the border with Alicante.  The lagoon is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a spit of land 22km long with several breaks where it opens onto the Med.  The spit is between 100m and 1200m wide, so in places the two ‘seas’ lap at beaches the both sides of the road!  The road runs most of the length starting at the southern end and a ferry links the northern point of the spit to Santiago de la Ribera on the mainland side.  Roughly triangular in shape it covers 170km2 with 5 small islands within the lagoon and a total of 70km of coastline.

Generally, the water within the lagoon is several degrees warmer than the Med, making it a popular place for swimming and water sports all year.  At the northern point by San Pedro del Pinatar are the famous mud baths and salt flats.  The salt flats and shallow lakes are noted for their importance to nature and protected by national park status. This area records some of the mildest winter temperatures in Spain.

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Sadly in 2016 the beaches of the Mar Menor lost their Blue Flags, but it hasn’t slowed the rising popularity of the area or the beaches, and the local authorities are working hard to ‘clean up’ the quality of the water and regain their European Blue Flags.

The most popular resorts are (from north to south) San Pedro de Pinatar and Lo Pagan, Santiago de la Ribera, Los Narejos and Los Alcazares, Los Urrutias, Estrella del Mar, Los Nietos, Mar de Cristal and Playa Honda.

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The world famous La Manga Club Golf Resort is Located to the south of the Mar Menor next to the Calblanque National Park.  More information on all to follow so watch this space…!

Calblanque National Park

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From a reluctant political brexit keyboard warrior.

From a reluctant political keyboard warrior.

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It has been a while since I last blogged. Is simply that so much of my non-work time (and some work time too!) has been taken up dealing with matters related to the dreaded Brexit.  I could write reams on how bad it has been so far for the UK.  Reams on how much worse it will get if it finally happens.  I could write about the undermining of democracy and the role of Parliament, the threat to the unity of the UK, the questionably illegal deal with the DUP made by our minority government and the very real concerns about using Henry VIII’s powers.

I could write about the problems caused by the fall in the value of sterling, the discrimination that has arisen against ‘foreigners’ in the UK since June last year.  Or about the fears of the Brits in the EU27 countries.  In fact, there are enough negatives to fill several books (and indeed several have already been written).

But today I want to say something POSITIVE instead.

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You see I have discovered that I have more in common with people with whom I have previously disagreed.  Politicians, broadcasters, journalists and experts from all walks of life.  I have realised that in times of adversity you see people’s true colours.  I have seen the hand of friendship extended across race, religion and colour.  I have seen that political allegiances matter less than moral standing.   I have discovered opinions are easy, but knowledge comes from learning and experience.

Until 2016 I paid attention to politics only when it was necessary – elections predominantly.  I have always viewed it as my DUTY to vote – not exercising my right to vote would be an insult to those past and present for whom fighting for that right has, or does, cost them their freedom or even their life.  But between elections I would express a view on things when they were on the TV news but DO very little about anything.  Even when our eldest son obtained a degree in politics I was still very much an observer.

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Now I have been on rallies, on two London marches, to local meetings and even joined a political party.  I have written to loads of MPs, party leaders, MEPs and Lords.  I have signed petitions by the dozen and become an active as a ‘keyboard warrior’.  I have learnt more about the European Union, its origins, its aims, its inner workings, than I ever thought I’d bother knowing.  I can explain the difference between the ECJ and the ECHR; between the European Commission and the European Parliament; between the Customs Union and the European Economic Area.  I have finally EDUCATED myself on matters that frankly I should have known about all my adult life.  I have also learnt more about UK politics and the working of Westminster.  Children should be taught these things in school because the saddest part of the debates I have had with leavers is discovering their ignorance about the EU and the UK.

I have politely corrected leavers statements that the UK bailed out Greece (it didn’t); that the UK has been forced to take hundreds of thousands of refugees (it hasn’t); that the ECJ doesn’t allow us to deport criminals (wrong again); that the EU makes laws about bent bananas (which it doesn’t); that EU migrants are scroungers taking our benefits (which they are not, they are net contributors to our economy); That the EU stole UK sovereignty (which even the leave campaigners now say we never lost); that immigration will dramatically fall when we leave (no it won’t, there will just be a higher number from non-EU countries instead); that the EU costs us soooo much money – £350m a week (no it doesn’t, in fact around 0.6% of the government’s tax revenues are spent on membership and we get more back in financial benefits from being members); that the EU needs us more than we need them (no they don’t); that we can have great global trade deals (maybe one day in the distant future, but in the meantime we lose dozens of very favourable existing deals plus the one with our biggest trading partners).  I could go on, and on, and on.  But the point is, although I was vaguely aware of the EU benefits the only one that I felt mattered to me personally was freedom of movement, so it was really all I had bothered to learn about.  Now I have educated myself and realise there is so much more to the EU than I thought.  So many benefits.  So many positives.  Instead of just accepting Brexit would be a stupid thing to do, I now have a better and clearer understanding of WHY it is the most stupid mistake this country can make at this point in time – and I am galvanised to do something about it too!

I got to be in my mid-fifties before politics became something real to me.   I have been an EU citizen all my adult life but it is only now, with the threat of losing it all, that it has become REAL to me.  So, thank you Brexit for educating me – now please can we cancel it! #stopbrexit

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Utilities in Spain

We are often asked about the utilities in Spain.  If you buy in a town you will almost certainly have mains water but if you have a villa on the edge of or outside the main town you may not have mains sewage but have a septic tank instead.  This surprises a lot of people but in parts of Spain this is normal.  If you buy a rural property you may not have mains water but use a private well or have water delivered by tanker to fill your huge storage tank.
Generally mains water is of drinkable quality these days, gone are the days when you had to buy it bottled.  To get around shortages of water there are now a number of desalination plants around the coast taking sea water and cleaning it up for local use.  There are also a number of reservoirs now that are also small hydro-electric plants.  Water supply in the Alicante region doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore.
Gas has until recently been bottled only in most areas but towns are slowly having mains gas installed.  Again this surprises many Brits looking to buy in Spain, and of course using bottles of gas for central heating is pretty expensive.  Using portable gas heaters is common practice and fairly economical too.  Modern air conditioning units have settings for cooling or heating and are sufficient for use in a bedroom, although not necessarily that cheap to run.
For many years Iberdrola were the only electricity company but in recent years de-regulation has allowed competition and there are now other options.  Also duel tariffs are available too now, so cheap electricity at night and in the morning with a slightly raised rate for the afternoon and evening means savings can be made.  Solar has come a long way too and with 320 days of sunshine a year in south Costa Blanca developers now include solar in their new build homes.
There are a few ‘anomalies’ that I have come across over the years.  For instance, where our house is located the water company are also responsible for collecting the rubbish so instead of the cost of rubbish collection being included in the local council tax it is added to your water bill instead!
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First time travelling alone with the children

First time travelling alone with the children
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In the early years we usually visited my parents as a family, but after the youngest was born I made my first trip with the children without Dave.  My Dad had to visit the UK for some reason so it was planned for me to travel back with him to Spain, but I had to do the return journey without help.  Travelling alone with children aged 7 & 6 years old plus an 8 month old baby was an experience!  I booked airport assistance for when I arrived back in the UK but the flight had been delayed, so my ‘assistance’ finally arrived after we had walked as far as the luggage collection area and consisted of a guy handing me a luggage trolley and disappearing to go and look after his next assignment!
I could see the pushchair and case on the carousel so asked a man who looked to be fit and healthy in his 30’s if he could please help by lifting them off for me as I was holding a baby, but he told me if I couldn’t do it myself I shouldn’t be travelling on my own with kids!
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 A bit stunned by his attitude an older gentleman approached and said he would help when the case and buggy came around again, and kindly removed both for me.  I strapped the baby into the buggy and found we were left standing alone with our trolley except for an elderly lady with walking sticks standing beside her case.  She too had booked assistance and she too had been let down due to the flight delay.  I lifted her bags onto my trolley and whilst the children pushed their brother in the buggy she held onto the trolley for support as I pushed it and we walked at a snail’s pace the rest of the way together.
Standing looking very anxious as we walked out through arrivals into the public area were two men, one was Dave and the other the elderly lady’s son.  They had thought we must have got lost, but in truth we had just been abandoned by airport assistance!

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PART 40 An Ex-pat, not an immigrant

PART 40 An Ex-pat, not an immigrant!

time for thinking

The British way to get yourself understood abroad seems to try first in normal English, when that fails we try speaking very loudly and slowly, but still in English. For reasons beyond normal rationality we figure that will work. Why? Is it because we are rude and arrogant or is it because learning another language in school in the UK is not prioritised or valued enough? The Scandinavians almost grow up bi-lingual, learning English alongside their native tongue from kindergarten age, and many, as a result, seem adept at learning other languages too. My multi-lingual friends and acquaintances all grew up bi-lingual whereas here in the UK it often high school before learning a foreign language is taken seriously in education.

The hypercritical way some Brits abroad defiantly, almost triumphantly, live in Spain for many years without bothering to learn more than café con leche or cerveza, or speak only their own ‘Spanglish’, never ceases to amaze and dismay me. They are the first to criticise the immigrants in the UK who don’t speak English within three weeks of arriving; but an Englishman abroad is not an immigrant, an Englishman abroad is an ex-pat!

However after years in Spain, having lived in their ex-pat (immigrant) community, drinking and eating in bars with only English speaking or ex-pat (immigrant) staff, and dipping into the odd Spanish fiesta or parade only when attending with a group of other ex-pats (immigrants), they can come unstuck. It’s when the difficult things in life happen, like illness, that they realise they are actually living in a foreign country (they are an immigrant!) and the nurses don’t all speak English and you have to pay for an interpreter or rely on ex-pat volunteers who did learn the language (immigrants who have integrated better!) to come to your rescue. One day, if you live in Spain, you will wish you had bothered with Spanish, so why wait? You may even find you enjoy living the dream a lot more through being able to live a fuller and more integrated life in the sun.

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My family abroad:Early Comunications Phone what Phone

Early Comunications

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We were in a time that was pre-internet, pre-mobile phones and there was no landline in the valley at that time.  Our contact was a phone call every Thursday evening at 7pm UK time initially made by Mum and Dad from the international phone box in town.  Later we rang the house phone of friend’s they had made instead, again every Thursday evening at 7pm, as soon as we returned from our children’s swimming lesson.   It is hard to imagine in this day and age of instant contact that this was only 25 years ago.  Today I am in contact with my children and grandchildren most days, we send each other pictures just seconds after the photo was taken and it doesn’t matter if we are not in same country, it is still instant.   We use texts, emails, ‘whats ap’ and facebook; I can even send a message via my phone to the little ones’ cuddly toys to be played to them; sometimes we even talk on the phone!

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Despite there being a telegraph pole positioned right outside their house, it would be nearly two years before Mum and Dad had their own landline phone.  One day workmen turned up, erected new poles in the valley, one just a few yards down the road from the villa.  A few days later the phone lines were hung on the poles, missing out the original pole outside the villa.  When shown the old pole the workman shrugged and as the lower part was encircled by the front wall they just cut the pole down at wall height and carried it away, leaving the bottom meter still in the wall.  To my knowledge it is still there.

Mum later described those early days as seeming like a great adventure into the unknown.  It was exciting and brave heading off to a foreign country with a different language, different culture and different food.  She says that today’s technology has robbed the younger generation of the chance to experience that feeling, that today it is so normal to move around and so easy to keep in touch and the cultural differences with our continental neighbours have blurred and merged as we eat the same foods and drink the same wines and the world is smaller.  Maybe she is right.

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