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Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Car buying

Well, yesterday saw the completion of our car buying journey in Spain. It’s not been difficult, but it has been long-winded and tiring.

We started looking around about this time last year, as we’d got fed up with the tricks that car hire companies were up to with their insurance costs. Over the years it has become more and more stressful to hire a car in Spain as any little scratch ‘could’ lead to you losing your deposit – one time we had to leave €1300! Our research had told us that second hand cars in Spain were not cheap and so we did some cursory looking around and came away to consider finances.

IMG_8967Sharon rooted around the internet and came up with a number of sites to visit when we got here and we checked out some of the main dealer showrooms. We kept coming back to MalagaCar.com (car sales) as all the write-ups were good and the prices comparatively reasonable. We’d met Miguel when we visited last year and he remembered us as we talked with him this time. What I liked about MalagaCar.com was that there was no pressure, none.

No pressure to buy, no pressure to look at this/or that and only answers given, to question asked. The cars and the service sold itself.

Our price-restricted choice came down to a Corsa or a Punto. Our research didn’t look good for the Punto and neither did our test drive. So that left us with a 2014 Corsa or a 2013 Corsa (@ €1,000 less). We test drove both and opted for the older version purely on price. Here, at MalagaCar.com the price includes registering the car with authorities, 2 years ITV (MOT), 1 year guarantee, VAT, and a free 12-month service. It had its ITV yesterday.

It’s been tiring because we’ve had to visit the showroom quite a few times for this and that (probably because our hire car had to be back on a particular day – so they couldn’t keep the car until fully ready). I went back yesterday for it to go for the ITV, but suspect that this would normally be done before collection.

We bought fully comprehensive insurance with Liberty Seguros yesterday. The company have an office in Los Boliches and we had it recommended to us, as the service was good and English was spoken. Sammy explained everything to us in detail and we ended up buying fully comprehensive cover, with €150 excess – with breakdown cover included.

Sorted.

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It’s now early February and I’m nearing the end of my sixty fifth birthday celebrations. After the UK celebrations, I decided I would spend two months in Spain. That time is almost up.

It’s been a fabulous stay, with friends popping in from time to time and a break (a big break) from the UK winter weather.

Following the celebrations at home, we set off on 12th December to stay in the Premier Inn at Heald Green, close to Manchester Airport. We arrived here in Torreblanca on the 13th https://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/winter-201617/ and spent the Christmas and New Year period on our own, mainly just Sharon and me. Early on, she took me for a great day out in Malaga, on a food tour https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/malaga-food-tour/ . See also: http://devourmalagafoodtours.com/

We also went for lots of walks. For example: up and down the hill lots of times; to and from Fuengirola, Los Boliches or Torreblanca (quite often!). We also caught the train to Torremolinos and walked back to Benalmadena a couple of times.

I’ve written elsewhere about our walks up and around the hills behind the apartment for exploration. See:

fullsizerender-3Michelle came up from Gibraltar one day before Christmas and we took her up to Mijas before deciding it was too cold up there and coming back down to Los Boliches and eating in Mason Salvador. She came up to see us again early in the New Year and we took her for a day out in Malaga. As in all the subsequent visits (with JT, DT and Tony, as well as with Martin and Lin), we visited the marina, the castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro) and the city itself, sampling some of the places Sharon and I had enjoyed on the food tour.

Sharon had to return to the UK for a couple of weeks on 12th January and while she was away, friends came over and stayed with me.

3-amigosJohn (JT) came out to visit first and we went more or less straight down to Gibraltar to see Michelle (his daughter) and we spent the day there with friends and shopping. Michelle cooked a delightful Pork Fillet Wellington for dinner – splendid.  John’s brother David (DT) came out on the Sunday to stay in 916 and Tony (TT) flew in on the Tuesday; so, there was quite a crossover of friends whilst Sharon was back in the UK. We ‘did’ Malaga again and walked up to Mijas (twice, once with JT and Dt and again then, with TT – we also walked back – which nearly broke me J )

Most evenings we ate out, but one rainy evening, the weather was so bad that we decided to come straight back and ‘eat in’. This was probably the best meal of their stay; we had all sorts of food, DT cooked steak, I cooked Tortilla and we emptied our fridges of other cold foods and salads (and beer).

three-amigos

Sharon arrived back the same day that Lin and Martin arrived to stay with us for a week. During that week, we had trips to Mijas, to Malaga and to Gibraltar where Michelle, again did us proud. She drove us onto The Rock and gave us a magnificent tour, showing us viewing points and time to see the marching re-enactment of the ceremony of the keys. http://www.visitgibraltar.gi/event/re-enactment-association-saturday-march/187. We had a late lunch in La Linea before setting off back before it was too dark.

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So that’s it. All visitors arrived home safely and we depart on Sunday.  Back again soon.

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As I said in a previous post, this is my birthday month.

Sharon’s ‘surprise’ gift to me was a Food, wine and history walking tour of Malaga (seeing as we’re down here for Christmas anyway). It was a surprise inasmuch as I only knew that on a particular day we had to catch a particular train from Torreblanca, to be able to present ourselves in the Plaza de la Constitución at 10:30am prompt.  31467462750_82c0fe75d0_n

We were met by Susanne, our guide and were joined by Mike from Manchester.

So just the three of us on the tour – which made it so much better than it might have been with lots more people. Sharon had booked with a company called Devour Spain – they also do tours of Madrid, Seville and Barcelona.

The trip starts with a short history of Malaga’s varying population from the ancient Phoenicians through Romans, Moors and the current Christian occupation. This was then used to pin the different dishes and tastes we went through during our 3½ – 4-hour tour.

We started with (slightly late for me) breakfast at Café Central, just on the corner of the square.

coffee-cupWe were told about the owner’s history and how he came to serve 10 (ten!) different sizes and styles of coffee. We had Pitufo con tomate and churros with our coffee. I had largo. All the coffees come in cups or glasses marked with a percentage – to show that you have been served exactly what you ordered.

Following breakfast we took a stroll to Malaga’s main market: Mercado de Atarazanas where we visited two stalls for extended tastings and more history. Our first tasting stop was the Cristóbal Rios olive stall (stand 241-248).  We tasted three types of olive (but I cannot remember their names – sorry), all varying in strength and taste, along with fried  marcona almonds and locally dried moscatel raisins. These were all delicious.

31692870832_58f8bae100

Our next stop was at El Niño, still inside the market (stand 187-189). Here we were given a taste of sweet Malaga muscatel wine and a plate of cold cutsJ  There was a tasty, hard goats cheese, Iberian ham, Serrano ham, chorizo and salchichón. It was great to actually have both hams on the same plate, so I could see and taste the difference – and THERE IS a difference! Serrano ham is a much milder flavour and has much less fat than the prized Iberian product. Iberian ham is much fattier, tastier and deeper in flavour – as it should be given the way the pigs are bred. Often known as pata negra, these hams can be seen as different from serrano simply by having black feet. The two sausages were ok, but tend to be much nicer  when cooked.

market_platter

Having had our fill of market produce we took a fairly good stroll to the other side of town to Mainake, a specialist wine merchant. Here we tasted three local Andalusian wines that were unusually dry (rather than the more normal sweet Malaga wines). One white was to Sharon’s taste but too Retsina-ish for me, and then two very young red wines which were, once again, not to my taste.

Lunch was taken at Mesón Mariano in the city centre. We were presented with an amuse bouche of sorts, which was then followed by four entirely different tapas and a single sweet. The restaurant specialises in artichoke dishes and so we started with an artichoke dish: Alcachofas en salsa (it actually had a different name, but looked like this), then we had Boquerones simply coated in seasoned flour and fried. Boquerones are a small white anchovy local to Malaga. Someone from Malaga might be known as a Boquerón.

We then had a tuna dish that was delicious, but what it was called and what the sauce was made of is now beyond me as I was too engrossed with the previous two dishes. Our final tapa was a plate of Albondigas in a local almond sauce.  I like the sauce, but the meatballs were too big and the texture too doughy for my taste.  Our postres (dessert) was a local speciality: Leche frito. This is condensed milk that is friend and topped with a nougat (turrón) ice cream. That was DIFFERENT.

That was it – our tour was over, but it had been a delight. Excellently led by Susanne.

We stayed over in Malaga and had breakfast once again at Café Central. This time we were able to order our own food and coffee (and agua del grifo – tap water J)

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I was sixty-five this month.

To celebrate a lifetime of learning and working, I invited six of my closest chums to join Sharon and me for dinner at The Watermill in Slaithwaite. John R, I met during my first week at secondary school (I met his wife Sandy, when they married). John T, I met when playing rugby and after my family had moved from Sheepridge to Deighton. I met Carol later in life when we all met up again a few years later. Tony and I met in mid-life, when we attended teacher training college. We followed that up by working together in a catering business/franchise, which is when I met Gill, his wife.  We have all done all sorts of things, together and apart.  We had a great meal, followed by dessert at home (Sharon had made cake and Carol had made us tub of her bombe 🙂 ).

img_7450Prior to this, we held open house on the Saturday before my birthday.  Almost forty friends from various parts of my life (and life line) came along to this and we all had a great time chatting and reminiscing.

I had decided to provide a selection of Spanish dishes, tapas size, with beer and cava brought back from Spain in October. Sharon decorated the house in a pseudo Spanish style with a big flag, an inflatable beer island, an inflatable cactus and lots of streamers.

I prepared:

  • EMPANADILLAs, made from potatoes, swede, cheese and onion (baked not fried).
  • I sliced some Spanish Sheep (oveja) cheese. We’d probably call it MANCHEGO.
  • I cooked TORTILLA. Each filled with six eggs, potato and onion. 12 portions each.
  • PATATAS BRAVAS – roast potatoes with spicy tomato sauce.
  • ALBONDIGAS – mixed pork and beef meatballs in a tomato sauce.
  • I also made my version of the Spanish SALAD RUSSE with lots of potato and vegetables (and a little tuna in some).
  • and .. Sharon made a wonderful BEETROOT HUMOUS

I had also made my own focaccia bread to go with all this. As it didn’t turn out quite right, I toasted small pieces of this in the oven – which made it perfect. People pretty much helped themselves while I sliced the main act, SERRANO HAM, off the bone as required.  Thank you for this Aldi!

Emma and family had not been able to make the open house as it was Amy’s birthday, but they came around the following week for a meal. I invited my mum and dad to this too as I wouldn’t see them for the best part of two months afterwards.

So, I’ve had a great birthday month. I’m in Spain now and will receive my birthday gift from Sharon on Tuesday when she takes me on a surprise ‘something’ in Malaga. I’m looking forward to that.

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The Australians set off home again today. I will drive them to the airport shortly.

This will be my seventh trip to Manchester Airport in just over a month – I’ll be there again tomorrow too!

My brother Andrew and his partner Debbie have been with us since June 1st. They came direct from Perth via Dubai and were met with rain. They have endured a month of rain, always noting that back home the temperature is still in the 20’s despite it being winter over there.

They accompanied me on my trip to Glasgow at the beginning of the month and whilst I worked [this is what I did] they visited Luss on Loch Lomond. They visited York and Bridlington one weekend with my other bother Peter and his wife Linda. They liked York (even in the rain) but thought that Brid was dire! Seventeen fish and chip shops on one road apparently! I wouldn’t know, it’s years since I went to Brid.

They also spent a great deal of time with our parents, staying with them occasionally, driving them around sometimes and organising family get-togethers.

But the most memorable part of their stay, for me, was our trip to Spain. [I’m not sure I will ever complete that particular journal]. We were only there for five days but what a five days. We had sunshine, sea, sand, views, trips out to Gibraltar and Ronda – all in all a jolly good time.

It will be sad to see them go, Australia is such a long way away and getting to see them depends on Sharon’s ability to get away from the straightjacket that dictates academic holidays. But we have enjoyed having them with us and look forward to seeing them again – whenever.

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Sharon and I have just returned from a short break in Spain. We were accompanied by my brother Andrew and his partner Debbie. We stayed in a small apartment about a mile inland from the Torreblanca coast, a little east of Fuengirola.

What a difference the three hour flight from Manchester to Malaga made!

Since they arrived from Australia, where they live, Andrew and Debbie have had to suffer one of the coldest, wettest springs we have experienced in the UK, so getting off the plane in Malaga to a pleasant 30°C was a real pleasure for them as well as for us.

We’d hired our car from Car Hire 3000, but the actual providers were Centauro who are based some way from the airport, so that necessitated a minibus ride to their depot. Everything went smoothly, so I’ve no complaint with their efficiency but I have to warn anyone who reads this about the fuel scam everyone over here seems to pull. Although we’d paid for everything else in the UK, we still had to pay for a full tank of petrol – €93! Now, that’s top price for fuel, and there’s no option to choose where you fill up, they do it before you pick up the car. I also doubted that the tank was really ‘full’. There’s also an ‘Excess Cover’ insurance to pay (optional), which is not part of the collision waiver (etc.) insurance you pay in the UK. My friend uses Malaga Car Hire when he comes here and they have a ‘full to full’ policy, which means you can refill at the best price you find (which for my friend will probably be Gibraltar @ 96p litre, with a small top up here in Torreblanca, which is only 15 miles from the airport).

We arrived at the apartment in good time to unpack and have a cup of tea before braving ‘the front’ to find a supermarket. The roads around here are narrow and winding, and there is something of a mañana feel to the local driving!We stocked up on basics and then came back to dump the car.

We walked back down to the seafront later for a walk and to find some food. We had had The Royal India restaurant recommended, so as we had no real preference that night, we ate there. It was dire! It seems to be one of those Indian restaurants where they use one base sauce for every dish. My Rogan Josh had very little meat in it and tasted like a red lamb korma – it was SO sweet (which a Rogan Josh shouldn’t be). Debbie’s ‘butter chicken’ and Andrews ‘madras’ seemed to come from the same pot with just a little flavour change en route (and no more meat than I had).

No one was impressed!

The walk back to the apartment was warm and pleasant enough, despite the steepness of the climb. That was day one.

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