Tag Archives: Spanish Holiday Rental

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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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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My family abroad: The Big Move

The big move

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As Mum and Dad were moving full-time to Spain they decided to sell up the UK home, releasing funds for their retirement years.   Having put most of their belongings into store they moved into a small furnished flat for their last couple of months in England.  Within a week of Dad’s 60th birthday cum retirement party they headed for Moraira, but not to their own villa.  Instead they stayed up the road at the neighbour’s new villa, completed but not yet lived in, to oversee their own being built.   There were many funny stories we heard over the coming weeks and months, most long since forgotten, but some still stick in the memory.

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I do remember was how Dad arrived at the villa to meet the builder one day to find no workman there, when asked where they all were the builder simply replied that “the oranges are ready”.  It transpired that most of the workforce had family owned citrus groves and the perfect time had arrived for the oranges to be harvested so the workman had gone to the family homes to help with the fruit picking!  The builder assured Dad the workman would be back as soon as the oranges were gathered in, and they were but not for two weeks.  This also happened with other citrus fruits, almonds and olives!   I don’t think that would be tolerated these days, but it was considered perfectly reasonable at the time.

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Then the time Mum was puzzled when looking around one of the bathrooms as there was no waste pipe for the toilet.  Mum did not speak Spanish and I’m told there was great hilarity as Mum enacted what she was trying to convey (!) but once the man understood he made a few measurements then hit the floor with a heavy hammer revealing the top of the waste pipe that had been concreted over by accident!

And the time towards the end of the build when Dad pointed out a socket was missing.  The builder opened the connection box on the wall and poured a coloured liquid in and waited without saying a word.  A few minutes later a coloured patch appeared on the wall and he calmly took a hammer and hit the patch opening up the plastered over socket location!

Mum and Dad finally moved into the villa about 6 months later, the underbuild wasn’t finished, the gardens were not planted and there were still many small jobs to be completed but they were more than happy to be finally in their own home in the sun.

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My family abroad: Mum and Dad’s villa plans

 

Dad retired at 60, just over four years after they bought their plot of land.  They had chosen the plan for the villa, taking one of the builder’s standard designs and modifying, extending and altering it in numerous ways to suit their needs.  Oddly their UK neighbours also chose the same basic design and also modified it so that by the time the two houses were finished they were quite different.

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The main living area was a three bedroom single storey villa which formed the upper floor, reached by a set of stairs build around the curved front of the villa.  As the hill sloped away another lower floor (or underbuild) was created which Mum and Dad would use as the garage, utility room and huge games room with a full size table tennis table, darts area and table and chairs, with doors to a covered outside bar, barbeque area and lower garden.  (The future owners would convert this into a separate, independent apartment for guests.)  The pool was on the main living area level and above that was another garden with petanque courts and fruit trees, and above that two further high level gardens for cacti.

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Their friend’s house also had the main living area on the top floor, although this was slightly below street level.  They too had a utility area and garage in the floor below but as their plot was steeper they also had another underbuild below that which in time the friend’s turned into a home cinema with the rock of the hillside protruding into the room on one side as a feature!  Below that was the pool and garden – it was a long way down from the house terrace to the pool, if I remember correctly it was well over 40 stairs!  I think that was possibly my first lesson learnt about buying in Spain – find a reasonably a level plot if you intend staying there into your old age!

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My family abroad: Costa Blanca

My family abroad:  Costa Blanca

In the 80’s my parents begun looking around Spain for the area they considered most suitable for their own retirement.  Dad had always said he would like to retire somewhere warm, Mum was less sure about the idea but agreed to look – the extra holidays were a bonus and she had always loved looking around show houses anyway!  Having holidayed in various locations in Spain and other Mediterranean countries and islands they first considered the Balearics, but soon decided that mainland Spain would be their best option.  They checked out the Costa del Sol market but settled on North Costa Blanca as they both loved the dramatic scenery.960x640_bestfit-copy-126

The A7 motorway from Alicante airport going north had yet to be built but was planned, so each trip they had to travel through Alicante city, along the coast road (the N332) through Villajoyosa, Benidorm, Altea, Calpe, then either head slightly inland before reaching Javea and Denia or turn off to follow the minor windy coast road to Moraira.  Dad loved Moraira on the first visit.  Back in the early/mid 80’s it wasn’t the slick up-market resort it was later to brand itself – sometimes referred to as the jewel in the crown of the Costa Blanca by estate agents in the early 2000’s.  The town centre was small, old, and typically Spanish, a little tired and quiet.   In fact, Dad once described it as ‘a bit like being in the wild west’!

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They recalled the tale of how they stayed in a rather shabby hotel in town and Dad announced this was where he wanted to live.  Mum was not enamoured at all!   However she agreed that IF they could find the right house she would be prepared to ‘give it 5 years’.  Dad was still five years off retirement (which he would take at 60) so there was plenty of time, Mum figured, to change his mind!  Several trips later they concluded that the only way to get the house they wanted was to have one built so they started to hunt for a plot of land in Moraira.

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My family abroad: The beginning

My family abroad:  The beginning

My aunt and uncle were the first people in the family to buy a property in Spain.  In the mid 80’s they bought an apartment on the Costa del Sol, a small Spanish fishing town called Fuengirola near Malaga.  I didn’t visit there until 2012 and by then it had grown to a huge and very busy town busting with people.  Initially they bought the apartment as a holiday home, about 10 minutes’ walk to the marina/port area in a small apartment block overlooking a park.  Their neighbours were all Spanish, they had deliberately avoided an ex-pat community.

My aunt and uncle worked hard on learning Spanish as they intended to integrate as much as possible into the local community when they moved there in their retirement.  They had a neighbour in the UK whose sister had moved to the town in the 60’s with her daughters and the lady, Doreen, agreed to look after the apartment while they were in England.  They had several years of visiting the apartment before their retirement and it was on one such trip that they took my widowed Grandad with them.  I was told that when he and Doreen met it was love at first sight!  There cannot be many who emigrate at the age of 86 years old but before my aunt and uncle retired my Grandfather packed his bags and moved to Fuengirola to be with Doreen, who was only a couple of years older than my Dad.

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Not that long after my aunt and uncle moved permanently to Spain.  Grandad stayed after Doreen passed away, spending his last few weeks in a Spanish nursing home at almost 95 years old.  My uncle passed away a few years later but my aunt has stayed, still in the same apartment, and now in her early 80‘s is still active and leads a busy life in her adopted country.

Also in the 80’s my parents were visiting various parts of Spain, searching for a place they felt they wanted to call home.  And so my family abroad had begun.

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