We made it. In the middle of a global pandemic and in our 8th and 7th decades respectively, Nigel, the whippets and I have moved house and are now settling in to life in Spain.
It’s very different, for a start Mr. Amazon delivery man can’t find us, nor can Mr. Spanish Postman, oh no, what a disaster! But we will cope.
We left home on 15th August after an emotional (on my part at least) au revoir to half the family. It was Hattie, our granddaughter’s 8th birthday. We were already banned again from meeting in the house due to local Covid restrictions so we had a gathering in the front garden where presents were given and bubbles blown! Soon after they left we packed our final bits and pieces and were off. We didn’t go far the first day as we didn’t leave till 2pm. We would have called at Leamington to see Richard and Aoife but as they were in France we couldn’t!
The next day we didn’t need an early start as the tunnel was booked for late afternoon, so after a smooth drive down to Folkestone with enough time to walk the dogs on the beach we still managed to board an earlier crossing than we had booked.
Onwards through France we travelled, the weather becoming hotter and hotter. We tried to be tourists, stopping at Chenonceaux Chateau in the Loire Valley but it was so busy and hot we decided not to stay. Dogs were not allowed in, only ones that could be carried!! And it was too hot to leave them in the motorhome. Before we left home I had bought them cool coats, which are soaked in cold water and then velcroed around their backs. These proved to be very useful and help prevent heatstroke on the way down!
Our next stop was Perigueux in the Dordogne where we were able to have a stroll into the old town in the late afternoon but masks were obligatory and having not brought mine, I went back to the camper with the dogs and Nigel had the audacity to whats app me a photo of the ice cream he had just bought!! Cruel. We motored on the next day, stocked up with salad (too hot to cook) and beer and headed up into the Pyrenees where thankfully it was a few degrees cooler. Up early the next morning we went even higher to a car park at the top of a pass to walk to the Cirque de Gavarnie. However it seems the world and his wife had had the same idea and the car park was rammed when we arrived. Not only that but dogs were banned even on lead as it was a national park. Humph! So down we went again and then found a lovely overnight spot on the way up to the Col d’Aubisque over which Le Tour 2020 was to ride the following Sunday. That night we had a respite from the heat and actually got under our duvets for the first time since the UK.
Another touristy day was a ride on “The highest train in Europe”. We didn’t take any pics on the cable car or the train, too busy hanging onto dogs and belongings! But you can get the idea here!
We had booked tickets the day before and this was Ditto’s first experience of a cable car, he was not impressed!! The lift takes 15 minutes to where the little train departs from. The train ride was also a bit of an ordeal for them both, they were not comfortable and neither were we as it was so constricted with seats being very close together and really only just room for our legs, never mind two whippets and two back packs! Ditto kept trying to get off but thankfully we got a slightly bigger compartment at the front of a carriage on the way down. with a little more leg room. At the top there was a walk up to a couple of lakes, we were walking through cloud on the way with just rare glimpses of magnificent scenery but this lifted as we sat by the lake for a breather and a drink before heading down to catch the train back. We had a pleasant meal in a restaurant at the bottom of the cable car, dogs were well behaved and just sat under the table hoovering up chips after their terrifying ordeal of cable cars and trains.
The following day we headed over the col du Pourtalet and into Spain, first stop the Castillo de Loarre. As it was very hot again, we visited the castle singly in turns so that one of us could remain in the motorhome with windows and rooflights open to keep the dogs more comfortable. Down through Spain we motored, calling at Teruel where we bought an Indian rug for our new home, Albarracin and then to a campsite just a few minutes drive from our new home for a few nights. From here we were able to visit the solicitor for an update and arrange to buy a second hand car a few days later before signing at the notary for our house on 1st September.
And here we are!! Our boxes arrived the following day with everything completely intact and then the unpacking began. Not quite a fortnight later we are almost unpacked and getting more organised each day. The inside of the house is not tidy enough for showing off yet so internal photos will follow at a later date.
Some of you may be wondering why/how we came to be here as I realize we have not really broached this subject. There we were, quite happily boating in the summer months and motorhoming in the winter with brief periods at home in Bolton to catch up with family and friends in between. Well, one swear word sums it all up really, BREXIT! We could not have continued with our preferred lifestyle after December 2020 because of the 90 day limit on travel in Europe for UK citizens. Nigel has been hankering after a property in Portugal or Spain for years and each winter we have spent time looking at properties but none quite had the “Ahhhhh” factor. And I could not be convinced I would be happy cutting ties with my Bolton base and those opportunities to see the family. Until that is we walked into Los Albañiles. It has a real remote country feel but is only half an hour from Murcia airport from where there are regular cheap flights to and from Manchester for the Bolton family and Birmingham for the Leamingtonites. Also not far for me to go to hop on a plane for a few days grandchildren and sons fix. Discussion with the family and much soul searching convinced me that it was the right decision, we’d have to give up boating too but settling down here seemed perfect compensation. A lovely home, big enough for all the family to visit at once if that were ever to happen and us being able to enjoy the winter sunshine for hopefully many years to come. So we made our decision, our offer was accepted, deposit paid, end of August completion date decided upon and we rushed home to get organised and put our house and boat on the market.
Then wham, a global pandemic threw a rather large spanner in the works. But we kept positive, had a massive sort out, kept the Bolton recycling centre and charity shops in business for years to come no doubt, got on first name terms with our local Hermes driver who came almost daily to pick up the mountain of “stuff” that Nigel sold on ebay, managed with the help of friends to sell our beloved cruiser Meander in Belgium without too much hassle and pack up our belongings. That horrible part, because although it was cathartic getting rid of so much, it was also difficult and incredibly stressful, is now becoming a distant memory and we are focussing on the future. Until the Covid situation changes of course, we don’t know how frequent and/or affordable flights between Murcia and the UK will be from now on. That is out of our hands and there is no point in getting hung up about it.
And so, here we are at Los Albañiles, breakfasting in the sunshine after a dog walk in the campo, enjoying a dip in the pool every afternoon and eating our first ever fresh figs which are so delicious. Dogs seem very settled, there are plenty of shady corners for them to find but funnily enough if we leave the motorhome door open, we sometimes find they have gone in there of their own accord even though two weeks ago they couldn’t wait to get out of it! And that’s another thing, it’s great to have it here outside our back door, ready to take off for a few days whenever we feel like it without it offending anyone. We need to re-register it here, that’s on the very long “to do” list. Masks are mandatory everywhere outside the home here in Spain, we are being extremely cautious and intend to do everything we can to keep fit and well.
Keep well everyone, I need to know we’re going to have lots of visitors when you all feel confident to get on a plane and come and see us!