MY FIRST HOLIDAY ALONE

(GUEST POST FROM ONE OF MY LOVELY FRIENDS)

If you find yourself living alone either through choice or circumstance, going on holiday by yourself can be a daunting thing to overcome. However, taking small steps, enabled me to finally enjoy my first holiday alone – with complete strangers!

My husband and I were seasoned travellers and enjoyed many holidays overseas. But sadly after some 56 years together, my husband passed away, and as a still ‘young at heart’ woman in my 70’s it took me some time to come to terms with the fact that life goes on, albeit a different kind of life.

I decided to set myself goals to help me move on and to occupy my days. After successfully overcoming a few hurdles I began to think of holidays, and wondered if I could ever go away on my own.  I discussed this with my family and fairly soon after, my son and his wife invited me to join them on a cruise, giving me something else to work towards.

Whilst I obviously wasn’t completely on my own on the cruise as I had the ‘safety net’ of my son and his wife, unlike on previous holidays with my husband, I wasn’t one half of a couple anymore, but I really did enjoy it. (more…)

GOING SOLO in SPAIN

Word has it in the media that more and more ladies of a certain age are living alone in the UK, either through choice or circumstance. But from my personal experience of Spain related Face Book pages, more and more mature ladies are now either thinking about going solo in Spain or are already there!

Regardless of your circumstances a woman of any age can live so much more cheaply in Spain.  If you are lucky enough to be financially secure, your money will definitely last longer, but even if you are less affluent, the money you do have, will go further!  It’s a win win way of life.

ACCOMMODATION

Go Solo in the Sun

When you’ve narrowed down the area that you think will suit you best, the best advice is to rent a property first. You need time to get to know your surroundings and what interesting places there are to visit nearby. Remember you mustn’t view it through a tourist eyes, you aren’t planning a 2 week holiday. This is it!

If you are going solo in Spain you need to ensure you feel safe and secure and not too isolated. The fantasy of a little finca stuck in the middle of nowhere may seem appealing when you are looking to escape the grumpy ex, or some painful memories, but the reality of it may not be quite what you imagined! Choose wisely.

A six month rental to start say in February, would give you a good indication of the weather you are likely to get in high summer in the area that you have chosen.  It can differ quite dramatically depending on if you choose the South or North Coast of Spain.

Rental costs can also vary a lot. The inland hilltop villages will give amazing value for money, with a small house often costing around 400e per month, whilst in more popular expat area’s along the coast, you might be looking at 600/700e per month for an apartment with roughly the same floor space

Either way, in the UK, you would be extremely lucky to get a good quality 1 bedroom flat in a not very nice area for the same price, and in some cases the equivalent would only buy you a room in a house share.  By joining some of the Spain related Facebook pages you can often find private rentals or look on sites like  https://www.idealista.com/en/  or https://www.eyeonspain.com/rental-property-spain-long.aspx

FOOD AND DRINK

Sun and Sangria

No matter what diet you follow, all the basic food that you might buy in the UK is available in Spain. Every major town which has an expat community, has a Lidl or an Aldi and very often an Iceland as well. Unless you want to be stuck on a mountain top completely on your own, you will find what you need quite close by. All these shop are cheap as chips in the UK, so they are even better value for money in Spain.

The weekly markets which are in every town and village, offer fresh, mainly organic produce, brought in straight from the stall holders farm or small holding.  Imagine buying a big sack of oranges for the price you’d usually have to pay for a paper bag full.  Just get yourself a juicer and enjoy your own home made orange juice every morning.  Think of the money you’ll save.

If wine is your weakness, fill up a container at your local market, it’s extremely drinkable, and extremely cheap. Red, White or Rose’ they’ve got the lot.

Wine on tap in the markets.

EATING OUT

Anyone going solo in Spain should never think twice about eating alone in a bar or restaurant. Nobody takes a blind bit of notice. But how uncomfortable does it feel doing the same thing in the UK.  If you are like me, I sit in a corner, and try to be invisible, bolt down my food and get out of the place as quick as possible.

It’s different in Spain. A woman can go to a bar in the morning with her book or laptop, sit in the sunshine and enjoy her coffee and croissant.  She can then move onto 3 course menu del dia for lunch, and a few glasses of a good Rioja just because she can, followed by more coffee or even a medicinal brandy.

Menu del Dia

Café culture is the name of the game and I’ve frequented many bars, for many days, completely on my own and always felt comfortable.  In the UK, if I stayed in a Toby Carvery all day, I’d get some knowing looks, and probably a counsellors card dropped on my table!

MAKING NEW FRIENDS

In todays online world, you can make new friends in Spain even before you leave the UK.  One of the nicest online communities I have ever come across is a Facebook group called Ladies of Spain.  There are over      members dotted across popular towns and villages in Spain, and wherever you want to lay your hat, I’m quite certain there will be someone in this group who will be reasonably close by.   There are the ever popular U3A groups too, as well as choirs, and keep fit classes.

If you are on your own, just going regularly to the same café, and sitting outside, you will begin to make acquaintances who will become friends.

In a town in Northern Spain I was once looking for accommodation for myself and my partner at the time.  I had seen this very English looking lady many times in the same café, and began to say Hello to her.  One day she happened to be on her own and I got chatting to her. By the end of our first coffee together, she had offered me her brand new furnished 2 bedroom apartment, for 400e per month, where I ended up living for 2 years, and we then met up regularly for lunch and shopping trips.

But really, isn’t the whole point of going solo in Spain to change your way of life. It’s so much nicer to embrace the new culture, integrate with local Spanish people and adopt their way of life, rather than merely continue the one you left behind.

Would you like to make a move to Spain?  Are you already going solo over there.

 

 

DON’T LET YOUR FUNNY LITTLE WAYS SPOIL YOUR GIRLY HOLIDAY!

Let’s face it, going on holiday with a mate can be a bit risky, especially when you’ve known each other on and off for the best part of 35 odd years, and are well aware of each others ‘funny’ little ways. But don’t let your funny little ways spoil your girly holiday.

It’s one thing gossiping over the occasional coffee and sharing lunch in the UK, but quite a different matter sharing a small space with someone for a whole week in another country.

Will you still be friends at the end of it all, or, as soon as you arrive home will you be unfriending their ‘face’ before you unpack your case? (more…)

RYANAIR AND THE UNATTENDED QUEUING BAGS

I hadn’t intended to go home to the UK for Christmas.  I wasn’t going to pay the trumped-up Ryanair fare, which at most other time of the year would be half the cost.

So imagine my surprise, when in mid-December, I came across a flight from Murcia to Stansted for 9.99e, which equates to about £7.49 in old money.

I booked it immediately, telling myself if I couldn’t find Buddy a holiday home, or a comparably priced flight back to Spain then I hadn’t broken the bank.

Homeward Bound!

Homeward Bound!

In the end, the whole trip came in at under £50.00 so as an older person once said ‘mustn’t grumble’.

Buddy went off to the seaside for his own holiday and wooped it up with Woopy. He gave me the guilt trip treatment when I got back to Spain but this was more to do with him having to LEAVE Woopy and Uncle Dave, not because I’d left him in the first place!

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THE ESSEX GIRL’S SPANISH CAR BOOT SALE!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the thing about a car boot sale is you either love them or hate them. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, which is determined by whatever side of the bartering table you happen to be.

Elephant picture.But Saturday’s little car boot sale jaunt in Spain wasn’t about the quality of the shite people were selling, it was just that the whole thing was SUCH a hilarious experience.

Firstly the car park was more like a ‘let’s just leave it here’ park.  No cones, no orange tape, and no fit young men in high viz jackets helpfully lining you up with the bonnets of a hundred other cars.

No this was a lock it and leave it wherever you can. And so I did.

But what followed was an Essex girl’s dream car boot sale.

It had the lot. All forms of animals, a kind of Karaoke, Chips, and Chihuahuas and…Vino Rose’!  (more…)

STATE PENSION COLLUSION AND CALORIES

It’s 6th November, and today not only am I six weeks into my latest Spanish adventure, today I officially received my state pension. Bloody Hell, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I’ve just returned from taking Buddy on our favourite walk around the golf course, and here is the date stamped proof that there is indeed not a cloud in the sky! And whilst fog brought much of the UK to a virtual standstill this week, Mr. Blue Sky is thankfully still rocking and rolling here on the Costa Blanca.

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THE BOXES AND THE BOY ARRIVE!

After taking up residence in Mi Casa, the next few days were busy, finding the nearest supermarket and stocking cupboards with wine.  Jane in Spain 3 (2)

Always good to get your priorities right no matter where you happen to find yourself.

A Macmillan Coffee morning, which turned into more of a Sangria morning, followed the next evening by a lovely event sampling Tapas made at home by the locals, and sold from stalls set around the village square, with the proceeds going to the village charity.

There were hundreds of people sitting out in the warm, late September evening, and children played together long into the night, all under the watchful eye of the collective grown-ups.

I didn’t see ONE of the kids glued to an iPad or iPhone. They were playing football, riding bikes and scooters. The younger girls were laughing together, and having girly gossips, and all were popping back to Mum and Dad at regular intervals for a drink. They were engaging with their friends and families.

And even on this darkest of nights, in a far off  land, not one of the children was abducted, nor broke a limb despite playing out till midnight, and they all survived being without their technology!

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To continue my quest for perfect timing, I purposely didn’t want my 3 large boxes to arrive until I had moved into the apartment and got a bit more organised.

I knew from past experienced that once collected, it would only take a couple of days for them to turn up.  But although the online booking system was happy to take my details and money to collect 1 box for Spain, 3 of them was clearly, 2 boxes too many,  and it took many frustrating attempts to get a ‘your items will be collected on’’ confirmation.

Even then I had to rely on the lovely Roz and Jenny to oversee things, and hope from afar that our usual dreadlocked UPS driver, wouldn’t gate crash a wedding when he collected them.

Thankfully, in the end, about 3 ‘working days’ later, they all arrived safe, but a little battered at the local Mailpoint office in the village and all that remained was for Sandra and myself to drive down in her little Fiesta and collect them.

Now it’s one thing for a young, fit and hunky UPS man to load 3 very heavy boxes into his truck in Essex, but it’s quite another for a couple of 60 something females ( one of whom makes Warwick Davies look reasonably tall ) who are both happy to be complete strangers to the gym, to manoeuvre 30kg or so of assorted knickers, books, pots and pans and fairy lights into a very small car in Spain.

Not to mention short but potentially hazardous steep flight of stairs leading up to my front door.

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I can tell you we were literally GASPING for alcohol after such an exhausting experience,… and I took the heavy end.

So now with what remained of my worldly goods haphazardly stacked in the hall way, the only thing missing was the dog.

One of the other questions I was asked over and over when people got to hear that I was off to Spain was, ‘what are you going to do with Buddy’’.

I was tempted to reply that I was intending to A) sell him on eBay too, as it was my go – to destination to offload unwanted items. B) Tie him to the gates of the nearest RSPCA gate with his blanket and a ‘please look after me’ note pinned on it, or C) for the shock value, dispatch him to doggy heaven.

Seriously, are people genuinely that bloody daft even to ask the question.  Curiously the same people seemed quite amazed by my eventual truthful answer, as they didn’t even know, that the option of getting Buddy to Spain by professional pet courier, even existed.

In my absence, as I was already in Spain, Buddy was carefully loaded onto the pet coach by his much loved pet- sitter, Maria, and she handed over my boy into the capable hands of Steve and Sharon from Transpet, who (along with several other 4 legged furry friends), would be driving Buddy from the UK to Spain.   www.trans-pet.com/

This is a journey Buddy has done with them before and having thoroughly researched all potential Pet Couriers some 5 years ago when I first bought him into the UK, I know they are the mutt’s nuts of their profession.

Buddy arrives at his destination either in the UK, or Spain with absolutely no signs of stress or any ill effect from the journey.   IMG_0951

Unlike some other couriers, the Trans-Pet vehicle has its own sleeping area for Steve and Sharon, and they never leave the animals unattended.  Whereas I recall another pet courier telling me that the dogs are left locked in their van overnight in a secure Hotel car park because, I quote ‘the driver needs his sleep as it’s a long journey’.

And so a few days ago my bouncy boy arrived at my door in Spain, full of beans as usual, and he was just a little bit pleased to see me!

He promptly ‘christened’ the garden, gave the place the once sniff over, and within 5 minutes had found his special look out spot and was dozing in the sun.

Now, after 8 WIFI less days, if only we could get the internet restored, as easily as I’ve accomplished these other far more difficult jobs, life would be perfect.

But then, this IS Spain!

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THE SPANISH ADVENTURE BEGINS!

As everyone who knows me will tell you, although my head has been in Essex for the past few years, my heart has always been firmly in Spain – and not always in a romantic kind of way – far from it.

Having spent 10 or so years there, on and off, I know that not only do I love the country, I love the way of life and the fact that ( trust me on this ) no matter what anyone tells you, it is so much cheaper to live there than in the UK.  And the warmth, the blue sky, the light, the air, all just make you feel so much better somehow. Maybe it’s an age thing. Who knows. Who cares!

And so with all this in mind, for Jane Walters, aged 62 ¾, it is time for another adventure

I won’t lie to you, leaving some things behind is a bit of a wrench. My lovely girls, my gorgeous boys, missing them all goes without saying.

But I also loved my job at what must be one of the most stunning wedding venues in Essex, and all that goes with it.  What’s not to like!

I will miss my bright and breezy colleague Jenny, who tired me out every Monday morning, with her tales of how manic her weekend had been, whilst we ate our respective lunches. Her weekends, and her lunches were always so much more interesting than mine.  I loved our chats and we had so many laughs, collusions and secrets that were never secrets in the first place!

I couldn’t have wished for a nicer lady to spend my office hours with. IMG_0751

Then there is the lovely Paul who gave the best hugs ever. I spent many hours chatting with him about the highs and lows of wedding venue life. Paul’s major rants were only surpassed by his major schmoozing, which accounted for most brides falling in love with him on their wedding day.

Oh the irony……..oh those hugs!

And last but not least, I will miss Roz, who has no bloody idea how truly gorgeous she is. Stunningly pretty, a drop dead gorgeous figure and a smile that can light up a room, she deserves the absolute best of everything, but is oblivious to how fabulous she actually is. If you are lucky enough to be in her life, make sure you cherish her girls and boys …..Or else!

But everything has a shelf life and after 2 years of doing weddingy things, several ‘coincidences’ meant I found myself with the option of a 6 month rental on a lovely 2 bed apartment in Spain, and a little part time job into the bargain.  How could I refuse?

And so after selling up half my life, and packing up the other half into 3 massive cardboard boxes, here I am in Spain – again. But this time it’s just me and my dog Buddy, no excess man baggage.

So fuelled mainly by Rioja, let the adventure begin.

When the initial seeds were sown about the move to Spain it seemed ages away. But as 12 weeks dwindled to 6, I realised I had 2 years’ worth of ‘stuff’ to offload.

Two sofas, a fridge, a cooker, washing machine, not to mention my beloved Laura Ashley bedstead. Storage costs are notoriously expensive, so it all had to be rehomed.

I was amazed at the same question I heard over and over, ‘but what about your furniture, what will you do with it?’ – err – sell it of course.

My response probably seemed quite flippant, but as my lovely duck egg blue leather sofas and my cream wrought iron bedstead were both eBay purchases in the first place. If I should ever find myself incurably homesick, and need either of them again, I’ll find just as good, if not better on Ebay or Gumtree.  It’s just everyday ‘stuff’, I wasn’t emotionally attached to any of it.

And so the sell off began.

One lovely chap bought both my sofas, he’d just got a new flat and not a single thing to put in it. Other purchasers rocked up on a daily basis after successful bids on auction sites, and making me offers that I couldn’t refuse. I helped load a cooker into a car that was far too small for the load, and tied a fridge on a roof rack.

Another lady drove off with a chest of drawers hanging dangerously out of the back of her car, and she was hemmed in all ways round by the 6 drawers that accompanied it.

I kissed goodbye to books and clothes at a car boot sale and reduced the contents of my 2 bedroom rented cottage down to fit into 3 cardboard boxes that would be sent by courier to Spain.  IMG_0768

Next came the car; a timely parting as after 8 years of half-hearted TLC it was beginning to complain, and money would need to be spent in the not too distant future.

But with a full years MOT and good marketing on my part, its happy new owner drove it off into the sunset (rain actually) the day before I left. Perfect timing.

It’s a very strange but oddly liberating experience not having a set of keys, to absolutely anything, in your bag   No car keys, no house keys.

After a bit of a rowdy flight from Stansted to Murcia my friend Sandra was at the arrivals gate to meet me and on cue had a large jug of her special Sangria brewing, and after a short pit stop at her place, within 36 hours of arriving in Spain I was in residence in Mi Casa.

Everything so far had gone without a hitch but there’s always something that bites you on the bum or in my case, there was nothing to put on my bum.  On closer inspection of the contents of my small carry on suitcase, I realised that I had arrived in Spain knicker less.

Yes every single pair of big pants, small pants and lucky pants, were sealed inside the aforementioned 3 cardboard boxes back in Essex.

Well as we all know, you can take the girl out of Essex, but you can’t take Essex out of the girl and in the absence of a Marks and Sparks, in such an emergency, there was only one place to go.   IMG_0880

PRIMARNI

Off we trundled the next day to a shopping mall at La Zenia, and a few branded paper carrier bags later, the knicker emergency was over, and drawers were restocked.

Apart from the 3 infamous cardboard boxes, the only other thing that was missing was Buddy ~ but he was on his way!