What’s this about?
This is the Spanish website for Peter and Maureen Scargill. When in Spain we live in Galera in Andalusia (for clarify that is the English spelling - Mid-Spain they spell it Andalucia and pronounce it "And-a-loo-thee-a").

We've had a home in Spain for a decade or more and now we're spending a lot more time here.

If you're familiar with what3words (if you're not now you soon will be) we live at dossier.bath.sawn

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Expat blogs in Spain

Archive

Archive for the ‘cave renovation’ Category

New Entrance and Instant Road Building

New Entrance and Lighting

For those of you who’ve been following the new wall and other updates – here is the new entrance complete with lighting – I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the dark.  The gate will come later but generally it will be black wrought iron.

That’s about all we’re going to have time to do this session, I need to get water over to the left side as well to water Maureen’s plants. It’s all starting to look pretty good now. We even have the street number sign plastered into the wall along with a “welcome” ceramic.

On a completely different subject but hopefully of interest, generally I’ve not been that impressed by facilities or technology in Spain. Their telecoms is distinctly backwards, electrical items, especially those from China seem incredibly poor quality, many rural areas are in a bad state of disrepair etc.

But one area that’s always impressed me are the roads here. While some of the country roads are little more than gravel, the main roads are superb… and most seem very new. Well, we saw this in action the other day and were well impressed.

When I arrived a couple of weeks ago I noted that pretty much the entire road from Galera to Huescar had been resurfaced. It had no marketing. A few days later I was driving along and watched the machine spraying down the dotted lines on the road quite rapidly.  On Tuesday gone, we left Galera and headed off to Baza.  There were no road-works at all. The “old” road looked just as it had always been. We spent most of the day there. On our return there was nearly half a mile of working, resurfaced road leading up to Galera. Now 2 days later they’re just finishing off the white markings. Incredible!

Gateposts are all wired up and working!

Considering a holiday in Northumberland? Why not stay at Hollyberry Cottage?

Almost Like Summer

Chinese Menu

What a day it’s been today, 20c in the shade and non-stop sunshine which made it feel a LOT hotter – if only every day could be like that. We’ve been over to BAZA for a spot of shopping and lunch at a local Chinese who offer menu delights such as “Sour and Hot Soap” and “Fried Rice with Trhee Delights”.  The mind boggles…but at 5 euros for the lunchtime menu comprising 3 courses – it really was quite nice (main drive into BAZA for those interested, not the shiny new Chinese on the left, the older one further up)  but first we stopped off at the lighting store who had a genuine 50% off sale to get white lamps for our new gate posts… they’re BIG – but they look good.

Tree at the garden centreAfter lunch we picked up one of those little plug-in FM wireless transmitters for the mobile phone to let you pick up the audio on the car radio – I have this facility back at home but that’s not much use in a rental car. Last night I downloaded all 64 episodes of “Coffee Break Spanish” podcasts which are really quite interesting other than taking up over a gigabyte of space – and so we started on that course in the car on the way to the garden centre (an aborted trip as we arrived at 2.15pm, figured they opened at 3pm and so went on a trip… turns out they didn’t open till 4pm – we’ll try again tomorrow. But the weather was so nice it didn’t matter.

Trees at the garden centreOn our journey into the countryside, something you don’t see every 5 minutes…  a field full of CD’s tied to sticks to scare off the birds.

In bright sunlight they look absolutely brilliant but they didn’t photograph too well. When we got back to the garden centre the entrance to the main building was closed, we hung around a little while taking photos of trees and plants – then cleared off. The sun is failing now as it’s after 6pm but it’s still very bright out there – hopefully tomorrow will be another lovely day. A quiet night in I think…

 

Owning a Cave Home in Andalucia – a Reality Check

I got up very early this morning for no apparent reason and started looking through blogs on the subject of cave homes in Spain.

What a lot of rot some people write: We’ve been here for over 2 years now (part time) and so I thought I would create a short FAQ for those of you thinking of setting up shop here, not to put you off but to give you some real information:

Q: I’ve heard that cave homes maintain a constant 18 degrees all year around

A: Rubbish – and you see this repeated all over the place – it’s almost as farcical as some of the claims for Android tablets. The only way you’ll keep that temperature in a cave in Andalucía is if you keep heaters on all winter with the thermostat set to 18.  It’s October here now and when I walked into the place last week the cave was around 12 degrees. We’ve decided not to come here between November and May because it’s FAR TOO COLD inside and out. Last Christmas even with a wood fire on all day we still ended up shivering. If you live here all the time and can afford to run a decent pellet heater or similar then you might just be fine – but constant temperature without assistance – erm, no.

Q: I’ve heard that Cave homes in Spain need little maintenance

A: Re-painting is one of the main hobbies for Brits over here and it’s not that unusual to hear of bits dropping off – like parts of ceilings. You just have to look at how many places sell “Pictura Plastica” and various other white paints, plasters and mortars to realise they must be going SOMEWHERE. Every winter, mainly due to really poor building practices and materials employed in some areas, the lovely white paint just drops off external walls and needs re-doing. Part of the problem is the way they construct a lot of the caves with external walls being made out of simple breezeblock, improperly prepared and with plaster or paint slapped straight on top. Take a real look at any quiet area in the hills in winter or early summer and you’ll see the kind of renovation that needs constant attention. Where we are outside of Galera, it seems to be commonplace to utilise a fairly useless substitute for sand when mixing up mortar and it has very little strength – with the result that the nicely rounded walls you see (breezeblock with a dollop of cement on the top) fall to bits as soon as the frost hits them in winter. We’ve found that the choice of materials is paramount to getting the place to look good and STAY that way… and in many cases you’ll end up doing your own renovations if you need the job doing properly. If renovation is not you thing, then you’re going to be needing a good relationship with your local builder/plasterer!

Q: Isn’t living in Spain cheap compared to the UK?

A: No, it’s not. It WAS, but fuel is now almost comparable in price to the UK (strangely, diesel is cheaper than petrol here so there’s a price advantage there), small shop pricing (at current pound-euro conversion) is expensive and electrical goods are often priced through the roof. You can buy lots of things cheaply at the Chinese stores but the level of quality generally starts at poor and goes downhill from there. On the other hand thanks to free tapas, a night out at the pub can be very reasonable indeed. The thing I miss the most here in Andalucía is B&Q. I’ve not found anywhere that holds a candle to it, the nearest being Brico-Depot in Granada and elsewhere – DIY stores in nearby Baza are so very expensive.

Q: Isn’t the weather great in Spain

A: Generally yes, it does depend where you go. For example right now in October, at the coast there are temperatures up to 23 degrees and it doesn’t get that much cooler at night – REALLY nice – but here in Andalucía we’re looking at 16-18c with early morning temperatures as low as 4-5 degrees.  In the height of summer this year we’ve seen temperatures exceeding 40c in the afternoon – which is not much fun if you’re working but is bloody marvellous if you’re up to your neck in the local pool or one of the lakes.

Q: What about broadband?

A: All depends where you live. Spain has horrendously high costs of telecoms and are still very restrictive overall. For example you can get Skype-In numbers for many countries in Europe – but not Spain (still true in 2015). If you’re out in the sticks you have a choice of very expensive 3G dongle or in some cases Iberbanda Wireless. We use the latter – and it’s expensive – basic cost 40 Euros a month for less that 1mb/s – though it is that in both directions which can be handy for teleconferencing friends and family. It’s our experience that reliability varies unpredictably (2015 update: the broadband situation has changed, we use Habland and they are reasonably priced – but the broadband has a tendency to go off in storms).

Q: And car hire?

A: Beware, we just hired a car from the airport and they asked us to take their insurance (we have our own – and you need it as people here really don’t think anything about dents in cars as you’ll see looking around) – when we said no we have our own, they insisted on a 300 Euros returnable deposit – even though there was nothing on the website or the paperwork we had for the rental to indicate that this would be mandatory.  In the summer a truck took away one of our mirrors – and back at the airport, because we’d not had the driver fill in one of the company’s unfeasibly large accident forms at the time, on the road, they simply didn’t CARE who’s fault it was. Always check EXTRAS and the fine print and when parking, retract your mirrors – never fit into a tight parking space unless you want side dents in the car when you come back.

Q: What about crime?

A: There’s a reason people have bars on everything. Be prepared – it’s a recession – but then that’s the same back in the UK. We initially took the approach that crime had to be low or non-existent out in the hills around Galera – that was before local yobs broke through the front door in our absence and stole our TV etc.  Now we have a very pleasant steel gate which remains locked when we’re back in the UK – and inexpensive cameras we can monitor from anywhere. Local kids have been known to come out and cause damage to other properties. Don’t have false expectations and you won’t be disappointed – oh and out in the sticks – don’t even think of assuming there will be a police presence.

Q: Postal Services?

A: Well, we have a post box and post arrives  – but it can apparently take weeks for post to get to and from the UK. Also if you’re not there all the time, the local post office will only hold onto parcels or letters for a short time – then you’ve had it.  We’ve had 2 notices of deliveries and each time we’ve gone to the post office it’s been too late with no information as to where the delivery came from in the first place. Couriers are UTTERLY USELESS and will not want to deliver anywhere but the town centre. They need constant pressure to deliver and sadly many locals have given up trying.

Is there a happy side to all of this? Yes of course there is – the scenery here is wonderful, people are generally friendly and the weather is MUCH better than the UK. In my experience the Spanish are very friendly – the Brits tend to form into cliques little – but I guess that happens anywhere.

A Panorama of the New Wall!

Gate next as soon as we find one….

The Airport Run

In Puebla De Don FadriqueYesterday was the airport run to St Javier (Murcia) – to pick up Maureen – and in the process I decided to make a travel day out of it and stopped by at Puebla De Don Fadrique at the same time.  A small town but it has some interesting sites as you’ll see in the included photos. I actually stopped off at some of the towns on the way to the airport just to check them out to see if any are worth visiting in the future…  I was wandering around Puebla De Don Fadrique when the solar power people rang me on the mobile to make arrangements -  they’re considering photo-voltaic tubes for our flat roof area(s) back in Wark in the UK so we had a brief chat on the subject and somehow by the time I shut the phone off I ended up near a Kodak moment.

Back street in Puebla De Don FadriqueI actually took quite a few pictures – at first with the conventional camera but I have to say for the likes of blogs I’m beginning to think I’m better off with the iPhone and the new processing software – slow but it does make decent pictures.

In Puebla De Don FadriqueWith only intermittent sun but decent temperatures, stopping off at the various towns made for a nice day out – sadly some are in bad shape no doubt not helped by the recession. Eventually after a shopping expedition to Eroski and the large Chinese store in San Javier, I arrived at the airport – Maureen’s plane turned up on time – sadly along with 4 others so it took them half an hour to get from the airplane to arrivals – this in a tiny airport carrying only hand-luggage!

We  headed off to San Javier and beyond and stumbled upon a pleasant looking Italian Pizzeria in the next town along…  and stopped for a pint and a pizza – my favourite type – Calzone – and one of the better ones I’ve had here (though I’m sure the Spanish know what they are doing, to me, most of their bread and pizza dough tastes like cardboard -  unless I’m just looking to the wrong places). This was the exception – very nice. Next time we’re there I’ll detail the name of the place and the location.

So the plan for today (Sunday) is to go to one of the better restaurants for lunch tomorrow then head off to Huescar for the last day of the festival. I’ve no doubt in between all that I’ll get a load of drilling jobs – re-sighting the letterbox etc etc….. All good fun.

The New Wall

The New Wall at Bedrock

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Here it is.. the new wall in front of Bedrock– now that’s a little more like it. I have to wait a couple of days for the plaster to harden properly before finishing off the paintwork but from this distance you can’t tell any discolouration. How we get just a little bit of privacy without losing our view of the mountains etc… Sometime next week we’ll get a couple of lights for the posts and a gate.  If only we could get the builder or the council to get their finger out and maintain our road – life would be perfect.

Yes, the little pokey green car is my rental car. We’re still wrestling with the idea of bringing the Merc over – problem is – it’s too big!

Meanwhile our new friendly donkey is still working on the same patch of grass… I’m going to take him down a bucket of water as the poor thing looks parched…