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A Video link to how we can help you find your place in the sun

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If you are looking to find your dream home on the Costa Blanca or Costa Calida then we are here to help you and walk with you through all the stages of finding and buying your dream property. And we are happy to help with information on settling into your new home or setting up a holiday rental to turn your second home into an income Have a look at a short video on how we can help you

Dave and Bev.

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PART 40 An Ex-pat, not an immigrant

PART 40 An Ex-pat, not an immigrant!

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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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Memories of a young Traveller – Don’t drink the water!

Concrete Jungle The Place I love

Torrevieja

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The town of Torrevieja is a short drive from our house.  The small city dates back to 1802 and is named after the old watch tower (Torre = tower and Vieja = old).  I have heard a number, and read a lot more, comments on how awful the place is and how crime-ridden by people who have not been there in recent years (if at all).  So large cities with high rise are not my kind of place but to my surprise I find I like many parts of this particular city.

The buildings are, in the main, not that tall.  In fact smaller than other large tourist towns I know well in the northern Costa Blanca such as Calpe, Denia, Javea and of course, Benidorm (which I don’t know well as one visit was enough!).  The place is truly international with influences from as far apart as Italy and the Caribbean, with one of the most diverse populations in Spain.  In 2014 the population is recorded as 108.063 of which around 47,000 are Spanish and the rest a wide mix from across the globe.  Native English speakers make up about 11%-12% of the total population, which is pretty much in line with the overall percentage in Spain and lower than some other coastal towns. To give you some idea of how the town has expanded the current population is around four times larger than in 1990 and twice that of 2000.

The town’s blue flag beaches, long promenade, fishing port, yacht club and harbour make up the sea front.  Much of the tourist area of town has undergone an up-date with new pedestrianised areas, new theatre, new out of town concert venue, new tourist information office and much more.  The narrow streets are packed with individual shops and bars run by the Spanish, not ex-pats, with residential apartments above, many to only five storeys.  The town has somehow maintained its identity whilst catering for international visitors which swell its number to 500,000 in high season.

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So is it crime ridden?  In the past the police force was over-stretched due to the very rapid expansion of the town, which stopped when the property boom ceased.  These days they seem much more on top of things and crime rates are comparable to other medium sized sea-side resorts.  As with resorts, cities and busy market places around the world there are pick-pockets and other opportunistic criminals taking advantage of the relaxed holiday makers.  But this is the same the world over.  If you take care of your belongings you will be ok.  As for comments I have read about ‘bars on windows’ I can’t help but laugh.  Window and door grills are, and have been for longer than the tourists have been coming, part of the way Spanish properties are built.  The sudden increase in eastern Europeans living in Spain a few years ago but unable to work in Spain caused a problem as they had to steal to eat but their numbers have declined as they have realised they can do better in other countries where they can find work or claim benefits.  In recent times the fact that there is no long-term benefit help to the unemployed has left some individuals desperate and feeling they have no option but to resort to crime to feed their families has become a challenge, but overall crime rates are not something to fret about.  Since the town made it illegal to buy from the ‘looky-looky’ men with their fake goods touted on blankets along the sea front they have almost disappeared.  Do I feel safe walking around Torrevieja?  Yes.  Do I feel safe walking around London?  No.

Church square

Perhaps one of our favourite pass-times when we go to Torrevieja is to visit Valors and enjoy their chocolate y churros, on the opposite side of the road to the square by the church of the Inmaculata Conception.  The original church, like much of the town, was destroyed by a major earthquake in 1829 and the current church was built in 1844 using the stones from the original watch tower (Torre) in the foundations.  If you have children then the fun fair and Park of Nations are a must.  Or if you prefer more cultural surroundings then have a coffee in the Casino (which is not a casino but a restaurant and art gallery and social centre).  If you are there for the right week in August then you can experience the Habaneras Festival which has been run annually in the city for over 40 years.  This is a music festival and competition where the music is a fusion of Cuban and Spanish.

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Torrevieja grew from the salt industry, still a major employer, producing half a million tons of salt a year.  There are two lakes, Laguna Salada de la Mata and Laguna Salada de Torrevieja, but they are more commonly known as the blue lake and the pink lake.  The Parque National surrounds the blue (La Mata) lake while the pink lake is a hive of industry.  The lakes, together with the Mar Menor to the south and the Santa Pola salt lakes to the north, create a unique micro climate, one the World Health Organisation lists as one of the healthiest in the world; particularly good for those who suffer with joint or respiratory problems.  Combined with the warm average winter temperatures (higher than the Costa del Sol and several degrees warmer than north Costa Blanca) of over 10 degrees (usually upper teens in the day)

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Memories of a young traveller part 57

Memories of a young traveller

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Flying

Spain is a place of happy childhood holidays.  Our first visit was the week following my 5th birthday and Spain was exciting and different, and the beginning of a life-long love.  I’d been on planes before, we flown to Northern Ireland regularly, sometimes twice a year.  Dad had friends and business clients who owned a hotel and an early memory for me was one cold Easter helping clear snow from car windscreens with my older sister while standing on some sort of box so I could reach.  We would have our tea in the kitchen early as we were so young, and got told off for running around the hallways, all the staff knew us.

We toured Ireland too; it was there I first rode a horse, first threw pennies into a wishing well and nearly got washed into the Atlantic by a freak wave.  We always had a holiday somewhere in England as well but my Mum longed for warm sunshine and package holidays to Spain had just begun, so Spain it was.

When flying to Ireland as a toddler I have a clear memory of worrying about the propellers spinning off and Dad reassuring me they couldn’t.  So my first memory of seeing a plane with jet engines is wondering where the propellers had gone!  No propellers was very worrying!

I wasn’t a ‘good traveller’, in fact I’m still not, plagued by motion sickness and ear problems all my life, flying can be a painful and unpleasant experience, but planes get me from A to B quickly and boats just make me feel ill for longer!  My parents and fellow travellers must have been very patient with me.

Spain in the 60’s didn’t have high rise buildings, air conditioning, kiss me quick hats, larger louts, fish and chips or pubs.  What it did have was terrible roads, strange food, lots of donkeys in hats pulling carts along dusty tracks, hot sunshine, warm sea and wonderfully friendly people.  We seemed a very long way from England or Ireland that first visit – to me, a little 5 year old, we had entered a whole new world.

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Memories of a young Traveller Ibiza Part 56

Santa Pola 3

Ibiza

My first visit to Ibiza was probably before 1970.  In those days the island was a lot less ‘touristy’ and less well known than Mallorca, which by the end of the sixties was already established as a holiday hotspot.  This was evident the moment we arrived as I remember the old airport terminal was little more than a long white single-storey building with palm trees planted along the front.  Wandering down the car-less lane towards the beach we passed the white mountains of sea salt waiting to be transported and were able to collect handfuls of the rough crystals – no fences keeping children out!  The whole island seemed very laid back and relaxed, a far cry from the 18-30’s party island image for which it became known a couple of decades later.

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