Panjas, in southwestern … πŸŒ

Panjas, in southwestern France is a possible housesit opportunity with Richard and Lyndsay. Not too far from the Spanish border should we need to pop back to Spain. They live on 4 acres with their 4 dogs .. an acre each I guess… nestled among the Armagnac vines and sunflowers in the rolling hills of the Gers. The Pyrenees rise up in the distance and the coast is only 90 minutes away. Lyndsay runs a fascinating business called Neo-Walk making acrylic walking sticks in all sorts of colours. We catch up with them on Skype and they promise to settle on some dates and let us know.

In a few weeks time we are due to be in Le Peyrail, just 10 minutes from St Foy La Grande to housesit for Jo-anne. The house is in the Gironde countryside surrounded by the famous Bordeaux vines. This is an interesting assignment looking after 4 dogs, 2 cats, 2 horses, fish, a bird and a pig! Although we have exchanged messages and confirmed the housesit we still haven’t spoken and tied down dates so Sarah and I are keen to catch up with Jo. But we are like ships in the night and just can’t seem to engage. Jo is an Artist and I guess becomes engrossed in her work, however we need to sort this out soon.

Dave fires up his BBQ for the first time this season and it is just warm enough to eat outside. Keith and Eileen come down to join us. The evening closes in and we pull the drapes around the marquee as the cool air starts to bite. The weather has been good since we arrived, but it is still cool in the shade even during the day.

Monday

We have vouchers again for breakfast at Scallops. I go for my walk and time it to meet Sarah, who comes straight from the gym and Dave & Fi who drive down from home.

The fruit and vegetables in the supermarkets here are not that impressive. Certainly, Wolloworths and Coles in Sydney put on a much better display … but the difference in price is significant. We hear of the Javea Municipal Market that is open during the week in the old convent where the nuns lived and worked. After breakfast we drive up to the Old Town. Navigating the laneways up through Calle del Gual to Plaza Baix we arrive at the Town Hall. Outside is a beautiful cross made of Red Anthiriums. Throughout the town crosses are made from flowers as on offering to Joses Nazareno during the fiesta week.

One more plaza up and we arrive at the market. It is quiet and not much going on. There are some interesting foods on display, but it isn’t as bustling as we expected and the fresh fruit and vegetables not much better than the supermarkets. We guess this is basically the Old Town convenience store. There is a much activity around the bar though. Should we be surprised? The outcome is that we will need to do a weekly shop at the Thursday market in the Old Town. We were here last year for that and it is truly amazing.

We catch up with Victoria at Golden Leaves International to present the completed forms for the health insurance. They have to be submitted and reviewed so it means waiting for about a week! Its then off to Playa del Arenal beach for a coffee at Nostro. The weather is good and the traffic is starting to build. We are on the cusp of the new season and it is starting to get noticeably busier. The biggest clue is the difficulty in trying to find somewhere to park. When we eventually do find a spot I remember to look for the visibility vests and triangle in the back of the car. I didn’t think we had them and thought we may need to go to the Chinese Bazaar as they are a statutory requirement to have in your vehicle. Surprisingly the red first aid satchel that I open reveals the brightly coloured vests, plus a neatly folded triangle.

Tuesday is a catch up day and apart from the quiz …which we won this week… at the Bull & Bear and packing ready for tomorrow, the day passes uneventfully.

Until next time 🌏

We arrange to … πŸŒ

We arranged to meet with Steve & Helen (S&H) on Saturday morning. We are housesitting for them during the first 2 weeks of May at their home in Ambolo. It is just a 10 minute drive from Dave & Fi, almost the length of the Ctra. Del Cabo De La Nao, turning off before reaching the “Head” and the Mediterranean. We hadn’t been up there before and were surprised by the traffic coming down the hill. I thought it was quite rural, but in fact the opposite and well populated. When we reached the top of Ambolo it was easy to see why. The views were sensational.

Because the houses are built into the side of the hill it reminded me very much of Wellington in New Zealand. The houses are difficult to see from the roadside, usually just a wall and a large gate as the roof level does not rise up over the wall height and you walk down to the villa. In this case a car port full of stuff from bikes to building materials. Thats fine. S&H warned us that they are in the process of renovating and part of that is building a swimming pool that is basically being latched on to the side of the house, but on the lower level of the property.

We are greeted by the 2 black Labrador’s, Mini and Barkley, a couple of softies! Sadly, Becca, the Boxer-Cross was put to rest only the day before. She was getting on in years and not well. We could tell that Helen was holding up as best she could, but obviously very distressed. Over coffee we had a good catch up and learned about Helens charity work. Steve is an avid golfer and very interested in Change Management. I’ll tell you more when we move in this week, but for now … the house is lovely, very cozy. There is still a lot of work to do, but their ideas and artistic touches are fantastic. The view from the balcony across to Playa La Grandella is just amazing. On the other side of the peninsular is the beach reached via the Calle de Richard Wagner … there is also a nudist beach there. Unfortunately to reach the main beach by road you have to double back on yourself and it takes 25 minutes although it is directly opposite the house. Hopefully when we do our discovery we can find a secret path down the cliff.

In October we are Housesitting for Trinity in Comares, Andalucia. We touched base via email and she has loaded the Welcome Guide for us to view online so all good there.

In the evening we went to the Bull running in the Javea old town. It is part of the Fiesta in honour of Jesus Nazareno. The Pl.del Convent and Ronda de Colon are lined with cages for spectators to safely watch the bulls. You can stand in the cage or climb on top through an internal ladder. Children on the top are eating nuts and the shells fall though the gaps in the make-shift flooring onto our heads.

There is an atmosphere of anticipation and the crowds grow. Many people are loitering outside the cage in the Square and I wonder if this is so dangerous after all, or are they going to sacrifice themselves? A cracker fires up and 5 hefty bulls charge through the Square. It is a small circuit and they return quickly. People, mostly young guns with 3 brain cells torment the bulls as they approach or pass. This goes on for some time and we quickly get bored. Apparantly this is the warm up … to what we don’t know, but an English speaking lady advises that they will now let the bulls into the square one by one. She is correct. A healthy activated bull enters the square and charges around. It is contuinually tormented by the young men and it is at this stage that we start to loose interest. The idea is to torment the bull so much that it becomes frustrated and angry, charging faster and harder all the while endangering itself. Its naughty to think it, but you want the poor beast to stick one of its horns where the light doesn’t shine and perhaps teach the young gun a lesson. But we are in Spain and in this part of the country this is what they do. We are guests, but there is a growing distaste for this among the Spaniards themselves hence many of the Bull Rings are now historical buildings or as in Barcelona, turned into shopping malls.

We retire from the scene and let Sarah have her first experience of Scallops, probably the best value meals in Javea. The waiters seem a bit miserable tonight. Hard to get a smile. Perhaps the chef is giving them a hard time?

At about 2:00am an alarm goes off. It seems to be coming from a suitcase in the indoor balcony that is used for storage. I fumble for the mini torch on the bedside cabinet and investigate. It is loud, but not a siren, although it does seem to be coming from the alarm box that is located on the external corner of the house. I go downstairs and the alarm can hardly be heard so I’m guessing Dave and Fi haven’t been woken. I look at the electric box and something has definitely been tripped, but the alarm panel doesn’t register any message. Rather than make things worse I decide to arouse the Glanville’s, but just as I approach their bedroom door it flies open and Dave appears in his dressing gown. He still didn’t hear the alarm, just couldn’t sleep and so got up. It is the usual problem with the electrics, fortunately this time the alarm sound is a loud warning beep rather than the ear pearcing alarm. Back to bed!

Until next time 🌏

I was kneeling … πŸŒ

I was kneeling down to tie my trainers when I glanced at Sarah’s now abandoned walking stick. It was folded and placed behind a bag on the floor. Sarah had carried it in her bag for the whole journey from Sydney to Valencia passing through various x-ray and scanning devices. The bizarre thing is that folded it looks very much like a gun as the photo will testify. I imagined under a scanner the outline would make it appear even more so and would certainly require some scrutiny and further questioning?! But no, not one single query or look in her bag. I just don’t get it. I can only guess the expert eye saw something innocent. Maybe I watch too many movies. Its just that my experience is that these guys on the baggage screener are usually a bit officious to say the least. I would imagine them pouncing on the “Stick Gun”. Funny World!

Victoria from Golden Leaves International followed up by phone and spoke to Sarah about the health insurance. She was very polite and formal. Mrs Williams this and Mrs Williams that etc. Later in the day I had to contact CBA in Australia and was reminded just how different things are there. I spoke to a guy and it was Dave this and Dave that.

Now that we have the CX5 I updated the car details for our ferry crossing from Cherbourg to Poole. I may have mentioned that I “borrowed” the details from a Range Rover I had my eye on at Euromart Cars. Good news is that the CX5 dimensions are smaller and to my surprise received a 65 Euro refund.

Did some DIY at “Casa Glanville” today. I had returned from my morning walk to find a huge plastic sheet laid out along the the east wall. It looked a bit like Fi was about to cut someone’s throat and wanted to minimise blood splatters on the path. Perhaps I should tread carefully! Fortunately Fi had set out with gusto to paint the wall over the gated archway. Ladders, paint and a roller appeared. The wall had obviously been prepared some days ago, but without trying to interfere asked if it needed a base coat. Apparently the white paint that Dave & Fi bought is okay to apply without a base as the walls are non-porous.

I’m no expert when it comes to DIY as those who know me well will confirm, but as I made an in-depth study of the surface of the wall, my Sherlock Holmes attributes detected some, in fact many, small holes and cracks. I sort of mentioned them to Fi and she then remembered that Dave had also purchased some filler when they got the paint. … Dave by the way was sick in bed while this was all going on … Long and short Fi painted another wall while I plugged the holes and and smoothed over the cracks.

I then turned my attention to the roof canopy of the Marquee next to the pool. A few days earlier a large feathered friend flew over and made several large deposits on the canvass. We were sitting in the Marquee at the time and it was a thumping sound. Soap and hot water wouldn’t budge the inevitable stains. Not even Sarah’s squeezed lemon and salt paste that I left for 48 hours. So the lesson is, if a bird shits on your tent, act fast!

The day finished with an ANZAC BBQ at Keith & Eileen’s. Some new faces, assorted stories and plenty of laughs.

Until next time 🌏

A big day … πŸŒ

A big day today. Sarah has arrived in Madrid and has a few hours in the airport lounge before her flight to Valencia. I receive a message from her. She can’t get WhatsApp on the airport wifi. Neither could I when I was there. The free airport wifi is not that good. Go into browser though and a free sign-up option does the trick.

Flights are on time so Fi and I set out for Valencia airport. After a little wait Sarah appears from the gate and now our adventure in Spain can begin.

We go to the Bull & Bear in the evening for the weekly quiz, much in the hope to keep Sarah awake. This week there are 3 more teams and it is louder than ever. It means the evening extends out, but it may have helped Sarah stay awake and adjust to Spanish time.

Wednesday

We borrow Dave & Fi’s car and go to Bankinter. Its too difficult, perhaps not possible to add my name to the bank account so I am an additional signatory instead. Afterwards we meet with our legal advisor Emma for a catchup and some advice. She is great … telling us what we need to hear in about 2 minutes and validates our strategy. Emma also has a contact for health insurance that we should speak to.

Next on the list is a Spanish SIM card and number for Sarah. Off to Blu in the Port Town and a young English lady is training a young Spanish guy on how to set up Sarahs account. We add it to mine so it is a fairly straightforward transaction.

Sarah is still on her training diet so we go to Consum for a few essentials – Colemans English Mustard and Cava!

Another big day … we collect the car from Valgauto Motor in Denia. I sign several documents, Inma takes a copy of my insurance and off she goes to get the car. Sarah is really pleased with my choice and she drives back home to Javea. A major tick on the list. There is only a slight drizzle although heavier rain was forecast so all is well.

Thursday

On my walk this morning I have another thought. Dangerous I know. Unlike the UK or Australia stepping onto a Zebra crossing is not a sign that all cars in both directions come to an immediate halt to let you cross. I can be almost 3 steps into the crossing and a car wiil pass from the far side. What does Google tell me? Well, the Black and White Zebra crossing is pretty much as you would expect and vehicles should stop and let you cross. The other colours are actually Blue & White and Red & White, some painted on road humps. In fact these coloured Zebra markings are not crossings at all, but act as warnings to vehicles in order to “calm” traffic in busy areas such as schools or high street areas.

I return from my walk, Sarah from the gym and we decide to have breakfast outside. Dave and Fi are at Spanish lessons in the Old Town. This week the house next door has been bustling with activity with workmen coming and going, hovering around the property working on the garden and the pool. The reason is that the owners are taking residence and it looks like they arrived yesterday for the season. I overhear London accents and more activity than usual. This morning the newly arrived neighbour is busying in the garden talking to her minions when I see her come through the bushes to the dividing wall. She is just taller than the fence and we are the other side of the length of the pool. All I can see is a small white face with a blonde bob wearing sunglasses. She shouts Hola, waving, and I, not knowing her from a bar of soap, reply Hola, how are you? Sarah turns and says Hola. A few pleasantries are exchanged and she says we must catch up walking away. Betty … her name … has no idea that we are not Dave and Fi! We chuckle coz I am so naughty teasing people. I tell Dave when he returns from his lesson that he has just invited the neighbours and all their family around for dinner next week.

First stop today is Golden Leaves International to get a quote for the health insurance. Victoria talks us through an option with Salus and it looks pretty good. I ask her how long she has been in Spain. 15 years … and she doesn’t speak Spanish. I am amazed, but I suspect she means she doesn’t speak it often. She moved to Benidorm from the UK and never needed to speak it there and of course in her work speaks only with expats. It is interesting that you can get a key job without the native language.

We do a bit of shopping, first at Aldi and then at Consum. Comparing prices is a bit of fun and also very interesting. One of the features of living in Spain is the lower cost of living. Groceries are basically at least half the price of Australia where Woolworths and Coles have the monolpoly with Aldi putting on pressure. There are some things that we can’t get of course, but don’t miss and plenty of things that are new. French cheese is ridiculously cheaper than Oz as you would expect. Meat is equally less expensive and as I have mentioned before, basic table wine is the same price as water in Oz.

At Consum we invest in a big shopping bag as all the supermarkets charge for carrier bags. Most local people have their own so we join the gang. We unpack the shopping at home and I think it’s a good idea to leave the bag in the car so we don’t forget it next time. I also take my freebie Sunshade. While I’m sitting in the car I play with the TomTom as someone has left it in Dutch … and I soon realise that it is actually “Double Dutch” and that it is the perfect little job for the technical brains of the family and throw this task over the fence to Sarah.

When Dave and I were at Javea Auto Sales Roy mentioned that the Spaniards don’t clean up their cars for sale. Houses are fairly much the same. They are for living in as cars are a means to get from A to B. So although Valgauto Motor kindly washed the car before delivery, they didn’t do anything else. I thought I would check for the compulsory high visibility vests and triangles. Opening the rear door the carpet was quite dirty and when I lifted the luggage floor to check … well it was bad. Old supermarket receipts and crap with enough grass and dirt to grow potato’s. Funny, because when we collected the car it gleamed like a diamond, they just didn’t do that little bit extra.

Until next time 🌏

I’m following Sarahs … πŸŒ

I’m following Sarahs flights so send her a “Welcome to Hong Kong” message on WhatsApp.

I then catchup with some paperwork this morning as I’m starting to gather lots of stuff. Sarah calls on WhatsApp and we chat for a while. She wants me to make contact with Steve and Helen who we are housesitting for in Javea next week. I do so and after a few exchanges throughout the day we land on a 6:00pm catchup on Thursday at their house for a glass of wine.

After that I go for my walk and I’m out for a large part of the day as I wander into the Old Town and down to the Port. It’s good to see the shops open. The supermarkets are all closed on a Sunday … even McDonalds so it was very quiet yesterday.

I decided to walk past Sparta Gym in Calle Rennes and try the door again. Its actually open, probably for air conditioning. I pop in and get some details for Sarah. I turn left into Calle de Niza and then back onto my route along the Ctra. Cabo La Nao-Pla. I spot a Tourist Information office and go into enquire about gyms. The guy produces a map and marks 3 with a cross quite close to each other. He then scrubs them out and moves the crosses a block down. They are all in the Old Town of Javea. Interestingly he doesn’t mention Sparta which is just round the corner!

There is a new Aldi store in Javea which looks a bit flash so I cross the road and have a look. Seems Aldi is Aldi. Not much different here to the multitude of other supermarkets in Spain. Its also quiet. Sarah sends a WhatsApp asking if she should get some Champagne or Cava in duty free? We both love bubbles so out of interest I check out the prices. 3 Euros for a bottle of Cava!

In the Old Town I refer to my map with the pen markings on it. I soon realise that this type of map has a disproportionate scale and only shows major roads. Locations are an estimate. I turn the map round one way, then another. Establish where the Police Station is and head that way. I know where it is not because I have been a guest, but because it is opposite the Car Park. I turn in a circle to get my bearings, but it isn’t helping. I take a right, a left and another right. No good. So I resort to technology and my iphone.

My Maps App tells me that I am on Calle del Barranquet and the only gym …Gimnasio Planeta Fitness Club… is on Calle Azorin. I head that way. I glance down each road as I cross, just in case I spot a sign for a gym. But nothing. I turn into Calle Azorin, walk a little way and nearly go straight past the gym. Hardly any signage. I ask Mr Muscles if he speaks english, a little he says, but probably better than your Spanish. A comedian! No leaflets to cart away here just a 5 second information dump. I subject it to memory. Eek!

I walk up the hill towards the Old Town. It becomes steeper and steeper. At the top is a T-Junction and I glance right and recognise my normal route. This road changes names along its journey. It changes from Calle de Cervantes to Av. del Rey Juan Carlos. As I approach the Port it transforms into Av. del Puerto and eventually as I reach the shore, Av. de Lepanto. I think I have been on my feet for about 3 hours so stop at the corner of Av. Marina Espanola. I often pass La Esquina, but this time stop for a small beer and a Salmon/Brie tapas.

I receive an email from Inma at Valgauto Motor advising that she is now waiting for the provisional documentation for the car from Traffic as without it I can’t collect the car. I understand that. She missed the point, I simply wanted a communication to confirm that she had received the funds. They have.

I have got into the habit of giving a thumbs up when cars stop for me at crossings and waiters enquire if all is good. The thumbs up has multiple translations depending on the situation. I can do the double thumbs up to reinforce my thanks. All of a sudden out of the blue I have a real sense of accute paranoia. It occurred to me after my t-shirt incident that it may mean something different here in Spain and I may be telling people to tuck their head in their arse. I Google again and to my relief it means the same goodwill that I commonly use it for. You have to careful. In Greece and the Middle East it does signify “Up Yours”!

Until next time 🌏

We return to … πŸŒ

We return to Scallops on Sunday to redeem our free breakfast voucher. Its a lovely morning so we sit in the Rose garden. Again the food is good and plenty for me. I add an orange juice for 0.75 cents. I look at the menu. If I had paid for breakfast it would have cost me 2.95 Euros and baked beans and toast would be added.

Dave decides to mop the floors. I do some writing and head out for a walk. I am in no hurry today so make it more of a stroll, soaking up the suns rays. An approaching car toots its horn. Don’t know why. I put on my t-shirt as I enter the Port and today walk up to the red beacon on the south side of the Port, near the fishing boats across from the marina. As I leave the Port I take off my t-shirt and walk the road beach side. As I cross the bridge approaching El Arenal Beach another car horn toots. I look up and the driver is tugging his shirt. The passenger window is down and his wife shouts something as they drive past. Why? Then it occurs to me is there something in the fact I am not wearing a top? I am always concerned about that and make every best endeavour to put my t-shirt on in town. I sit down and do a Google search.

I discover that in 2011 Barcelona introduced a law to stop people coming off the beach in swimming costumes and walking through the city centre. It has extended to Malaga and Palma de Mallorca with on the spot fines around 200 Euros and more in some places. Like many laws in Spain they are regional, interpreted differently and often unknown. If the laws are not particularly well policed then locals who normally have a jaundiced and biased point of view will make their feelings known … hence the tooting horns. Now I know. When in Spain …πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ.

Fi is making dinner and opens a can of Heinz baked beans. There is not one single bean in the can, only sauce.

Sarah has checked-in at the airport for the first leg of her flight.

Until next time 🌏

Friday and car … πŸŒ

Friday and car insurance is the focus today. Dave and Fi (D&F) recommend that I go to Jennifer Cunningham Insurances in the old town. They specialise in expat services, all speak English because they are all from the UK and they are also an agent for private health insurance. We will need to have a health plan in place as part of the Residencia.

I talk to Debbie first about health insurance. The quote is higher than I want. D&F are only paying just over 1000 Euros a year and this is triple that. I come away with a glossy brochure.

We cross the road to their other office that deals with car insurance. Dave and I start sit down and start talking to a lady along with her trainee. 2 minutes later she passes us over to Pamela who deals with the car insurance, but had been on the phone. I am my usual quick witted self, but my comments seem to bi-pass Pam. She isn’t too sure whether I am joking or not. Sarah is always warning me about this. They don’t understand. I guess she is right.

Pam asks if Dave will be on the insurance? And then it hits me. Although the three of us, Dave, Fi and I start out each day, it is Dave that comes with me to talk to everyone while Fi parks the car and wanders around the shops. Dave has been like my wing man. We are a good partnership. I tend to be big picture glossing over the technical stuff while he is a detail person, asking critical questions. We have been going from place to place as a team. But, oh but, I realise when Pam asks that question that she thinks we are more than a team … partners in fact! Bugger. They think we are couple of old queens. And then it strikes me that the best laugh is when we laugh at ourselves. I have been doing a lot of that lately.

So I quickly put Pam straight (if you know what I mean) and we continue with answering all the questions that include mentioning my WIFE, Sarah, several times. All done I get the quote. In Spain the car is insured, not the person and with fully comprehensive it includes roadside recovery. As predicted it is much lower than the garage quote. We go for a coffee and return to seal the deal.

Behind Pam is a sign that says Jenny Cunningham. I ask if she actually exists and discover that she does indeed and at 77 years of age is still going strong. She came over to Spain from the UK in the 1990’s, but shortly after her husband passed away. She started the business and incorporated it. For some bizarre and unknown reason the business was incorporated as Jenny Cunningham. Jennifer hates to be called Jenny, but never changed the business name. All the branding and logos though are Jennifer Cunningham.

We return home and I do a search and make online enquiries on health insurance. They are nowhere near as competitive as what D&F are paying. Even the same company they use, Sanitas, with the same product is giving me a price more than twice what they are paying.

I go for my walk. On the return leg coming back from the Port, just as I get to El Arenal Beach, the phone rings. I take the call and its a guy with a Scottish accent calling from Barcelona. He works for Cigna. One of the companies I made went online to research for health insurance. I walk the length of the beach while he tries to sell me a product that is about 1000% more expensive than I want to pay. It is mainly because it is global coverage, not just Spain. The same old trick. We can get your monthly payment closer to your budget. Yep I’m sure … but in the process cut down so much of the benefit that I’m left paying 300 Euros per month for a health benefit resembling something akin to a band aid and aspirin.

I get home and TransferWise advise that the money for the car should now be with Valgauto Motor. I haven’t heard from them, but it is late Friday afternoon.

D&F confess to a mistake. They are paying 1000 Euros for health insurance, but that is every 6 months. Aghhhh! Head, Wall, Bang!

Saturday

Saturday is full of promise. We are off to the Spectacular Spring Homes & Gardens Lifestyle Show at the Villa Gadea Hotel in Altea, just north of Benidorm. We are in the car only 10 minutes having reached Benitatxell when Daves phone rings and he asks Fi, who is driving, to pull over. The house alarm has gone off, they think due to a power cut. Fi doesn’t seem happy. Dave was meant to sort this out. He hasn’t. During my week here this has happened a few times. It is an issue between the electrics and the alarm. The power often trips setting it off. But the actual cause of the fault is unknown. Fi has been keeping on to Dave about getting Steve, who installed the alarm to come and fix it. But he hasn’t. Dave, who is in the back of the car, is trying to communicate with the security company and meanwhile Fi is making every best endeavour to remain calm. I sink into the passenger seat. Clearly the security man does not speak perfect English and Dave is attempting to establish if the alarm is actually ringing. I hear him make a ring, ring noise. Fi at the same time is relaying the correct Spanish phrases that Dave can use to establish this fact, but he is consumed by his imitations of an alarm bell and is now going beep, beep. I start to curl up in a ball and hope that I may slowly fade away.

But no. I am still here and the car is promptly turned around and we head back to the house to turn off the alarm. The frustrating thing is that even with the alarm not set a power cut triggers an alarm at the security base as it may indicate tampering.

I attempt to change the subject. I sympathise with them both. I have been there too, many a time. We men have a circuit in our brains that is deliberately designed to enrage the woman in our lives. ... It sets off an alarm... We are asked to perform a simple task and it hits a blind spot. Rather than just do it, we dance around it in the hope it will disappear. Sometimes it does, but only temporarily and when it comes back it is 5 times the size and problem. Its almost as though we men deliberately want to feel the pain of the scolding as though it is some spiritual rite. Or is it that we offer ourselves up to the goddesses in our life because they need to release the pent-up emotion on our poor male souls so that they can clear their own energy. Whatever … we men just make a dogs balls of it sometimes and thats that!

I take the opportunity as Fi is driving to write to Inma at Valgauto Motor and advise that they should have the money in their account and that I have opted for another insurance provider. I don’t hear back from her. Although the transfer notification is going directly to her, it may be that she doesn’t work on Saturday. looks like I’ll have too wait until Monday.

And so we hurtle down the Autopista del Mediterraneo towards Altea. The car pings … petrol is running low. It seems that it is observed, but not dealt with at this time. Finally we arrive at the venue. It is free to enter and there must be 50 or so exhibitors ranging from garden furniture to financial services, including a psychic. He must have been foretold a worthy outcome here today, but he doesn’t seem very busy.

We wonder in and are soon armed with various leaflets and a plastic bag to put them in courtesy of a local private hospital. I stop at a stand that sells insurance, PoliFani, …no this is not a female parrot… They also sell health insurance, but the girl, Sophie, doesn’t seem keen to give much away. I have a business card and a leaflet with warnings about Brexit. She writes some figures on the leaflet, but I don’t know what they include. I promise to call.

I move on and surprisingly recognise a familiar face. It is the English Rose from the Car Outlet garage where I test drove the Vitara. They have a stand here. I confess that I have purchased a car elsewhere and her colleague asks if they gave me a sunshade for the car? No. You can have one of ours if you let me take a picture of you with it. I allow him this rare honour … smile … and take the shimmering silver object. The English Rose asks if I would like to enter their competition to win a holiday? Yes. I enter my details whilst holding bags, phone and sunshade. Name, email etc. What car do I have, model etc. The small form also asks “Age” and I write down my age. It is not often I write that down particularly as it seems such a high number … then realise they want the age of the car! Based on my age they may have thought I was driving a car that you start by cranking the engine up at the front. Embarrassed, I cross out my age and replace it with the age of the car I have just purchased. I bid farewell to the English Rose and her colleague and quickly move on.

As I move through the exhibition I collect more leaflets. They attach to me like Velcro. Hands reach out, faces gleaming, bodies jostling. I enter another room, collecting an Ikea catalogue on the way and am accosted by a lady in a bright pink polo shirt and fake tan. The other 3 ladies on her team are wearing the same. I think they are selling gym memberships when in fact they are from Avalon selling funeral insurance. I tell her I am more interested in investing in living rather than dieing. I move on but can’t get the pink shirts and fake tans out of my mind. They are like flamingos fluttering around a defenceless prey … I hear their wicked hum in the distance … you will die some day, come with us now, ha, ha, he hee!

I am distracted. I register with another health insurance company, Ibex, for a quote. They will call me and hand me yet another bag. On the side it says “Relax, we’ve got you covered“. But I am not relaxed. Armed with 2 bags, brochures, the sunshade under my arm and my bumbag I am delicately holding my iphone so as not to drop it. I am in Spain but there is a constant drone of north England accents. they have taken over. I want to get outside and sort all this stuff out and take stock of where Dave and Fi are. I squeeze past some people and as I manoeuvre away a female arm stretches out and hands me a white card with pink writing on it and a small bright pink bubblegum sachet. Trying not to drop anything I hold the card and bubblegum in front of me awkwardly as I wave it around. I head for the door and outside where they are displaying outdoor furniture and find a wall to put everything down and have a sort.

I look at the card and it is from “The Sexual Health Adviser”. I immediately look at the bubblegum and realise to my horror that it isn’t gum. In fact it is a condom in a bright pink wrapper. I don’t know whether to be embarrassed at that or the fact it has “Regular” on it. Is that the only size she had, or did she size me up. I settle on that fact that like shoes sizing is different in Spain and that Regular is Spanish for extra large!

I think it’s time to go.

We find a cafe on the Calle San Pedro opposite the beach for a coffee and sandwich. I attempt to order the sandwich filling, but only order tomato and onion. The waitress is looking at me in anticipation … the main ingredient … oh, cheese!

On the way back the car beeps, once, twice, maybe three times. The car is dieing of thirst and Fi is getting worried. Off the motorway, just outside Benissa we stop at Masoil. I pay attention to what Dave is doing. I take note that Sin Plomo is unleaded. Diesel is marked diesel, but there is also Gasoleo “A”. This is a cheaper lower quality diesel for older engines. I volunteer to pay as D&F have been running me around all week plus collecting me from the airport. I wait in the shop for Dave to finish, but the dials keep going round and round. I wonder if he has accidentally placed the nozzle in an open car window. Clearly the size of the petrol tank is disproportionate to the size of the car. If we have an accident we will explode like a nuclear bomb. Eventually the dials grind to a halt and I pay, proud that I am now a small shareholder in Masoil!

Tonight is Fiesta night and the bulls are set free to run around the main church square in the old town. It is part of the Jesus of Nazarene celebration. This is very exciting and so we plan to leave at 8:00pm have a bite to eat and see the bulls run in Javea.

We arrive and all is quiet. A quick walk around the town and apart from children playing not much else is going on. Clearly no bulls tonight. The cafes and restaurants are just about to open. Lights are coming on and the alleyways are looking very pretty. Only one small tapas bar is bustling. Many Europeans still eat at normal times, but the Spanish don’t surface until after 10:00 pm. The restaurant we are going to is dark and there is a sign on the board. We try the door. Locked. We peer through the window. All of a sudden the door swings open and we are told they are closed tonight for personal reasons … with many apologies.

We walk on and stop at Mi Lola in the Carrer Major. Fi is not hungry. Her strategy, because we were due to see the bulls and possibly eat much later, was to eat that afternoon. And so she succumbed to biscuits and some chilli she found in the fridge. So Dave and I decided to choose 2 tapas each and Fi could share. Dave also ordered some bread and aioli and then the duck confit! Basically it all arrived and it was a veritable feast. Fi nibbled around the edges while Dave and I gorged ourselves. We almost ate it all and it was sensational, but honestly, yes, a bit too much!

A Spanglish conversation with the waiter revealed that it is Fiesta week, but the bulls are running on Thursday.

Until next time 🌏

Another beautiful sunny … πŸŒ

Another beautiful sunny day in La Marina Alta. First stop Javea Auto Sales to view the Nissan. We meet Mickey the dog who must be a distant cousin of Flo Newton in Bournemouth. We also meet one of the owners, Roy who is a Brit through and through. An interesting guy who is one of the organisers of the Maroc Challenge, a gruelling 4×4 event in the desert. During the last week of March this year it was held in Erfoud, Morocco near the Algerian border. Anyway, I am here to view a Nissan and while Dave and I trawl all over the vehicle, Roy is relaying old war stories about his Maroc Challenge adventures to Fi.

We go for a test ride and its not bad for the price, but I have reservations. I need to now do a check with the Mazda in Denia.

We arrive at Valgauto Motor in Denia. The Mazda is parked just in front of the showroom and I know instinctively that this is the one. Inma is the sales person, a lovely lady with just enough English to get us through this. I ask for a test drive by pretending to hold a steering wheel and then rock my hands to and thro. I want her to drive because the roads are busy and I have not driven a left hand drive before yesterday when I drove the Vitara on the wrong side of the road despite a big white arrow painted on the tarmac! She thinks its odd … probably that I am odd … she has obviously summed me up quickly and joined the rest of the world that thinks I’m odd. She also is a little uncomfortable. Clearly Inma is not used to doing a demo as the driver … a new experience.

It’s a nice ride and even as a passenger you can tell there is no strain in the engine when you put the foot down.

We go for a coffee so that I can think it over, but it only takes 3 seconds as I have made up my mind. Returning to the garage I tell Inma that I would like to buy a car. She is happy with her driving now.

We strike a deal. The deal is they give me the car, I give them the money. No discounts. NIE, Padron, Passport and Driving licence info is exchanged. I leave a deposit. The paperwork is raised and thats it. All I need to do is pay and insure the car. Inma will get a couple of quotes, but I sense they will be at the top end. The car cannot be registered in my name until they receive the funds. At that point they send off the paperwork to a public servant in Alicante. Normally this can take about 3 days. Its touch and go whether I will have the car in time to collect Sarah from the airport. Dave & Fi are plan B.

I now have to get home to organise the transfer from our Australian bank to Valgauto. I have previously researched money transfer agents, but I go through the process again and TransferWise seem to be one of the best rates with a 1-2 day guarantee. I have to transfer the money to them, but I can’t. A message on my iPad tells me that the total amount is over my daily limit … bugger … bugger …bugger! I call the 24×7 hotline. It is so hot I can’t get through. I wait impatiently. Put the phone down and try again … a few times. The same bland recorded message about how important my call is … Yeah I’m sure. So much for help. Frustrated I go for a long walk and contemplate the meaning of life and my first world problem.

On my return I try again and this time just sit it out, waiting for some sort of life to materialise from the phone … my iPad actually as I Skyped the landline. After just over 18 minutes the phone rings and a female voice … a real person .. starts talking to me. I can’t remember her name but the CBA girl is really helpful, really helpful. I change the limit and then transfer the funds to TransferWise.

At this stage the money is in the cloud somewhere. Its neither in my bank account or the TransferWise account. Eek! I download the App to monitor the transaction. Funds are on their journey and it could take up to 2 days.

Thursday

On Thursday I set out for my walk a little later to see if I can pay the Water Bill that Marja kindly gave to me. I first go to Bankinter. The cashier is conversing in German with the lady in front of me. She then switches to English for me. Bankinter is not on the list, but she kindly points me in the direction of CaixaBank. The Cashier at CaixaBank takes the bill and begins to process it, but notices that it expired on Tuesday. The reason being that interest accrues by a few cents each day. When the lady in the Senija Town hall printed the bill on Monday it was only valid until Tuesday. Now I have to go to Benissa Town Hall to pay! I’ll wait until Sarah is here next week and we can sort it out together.

Sarah asked me to pop by the gym she used last July when we were over. I remember where it is and make my way. The windows are blacked out and there are workmen around. No clear signs on the door. I can hear a treadmill, but can’t open the door. Perhaps I need to go to the gym more. No one comes to the rescue. I don’t think it is a keycard entry. Something else for Sarah next week. Perhaps she is strong enough to break the door off its hinges to get in. Perhaps she will just stare it into submission. I move on. I know … it was a feeble attempt!

I continue my walk up to the Port and back down through Javea. I’m a bit hungry and thirsty so after a search of the alleyways I stop at a cafe in the Avenida de Paris. I am the only person there and it is a beautiful sunny day so I sit outside with a Bocadillo and un doble. Its nice here and so I look at the menu again to remember the name. La Romantica Bistro. Typical … very romantic by myself!

I return to “Casa Glanville”. Fi is doing “Arty” stuff. A lizard mosaic on a concrete ball. Dave is in the garden looking serious. I run upstairs, dump my things and go down and ask Dave if he wants any help. So for the rest of the afternoon, in the blazing heat, we heave stones from one side of the house to the other. Rake out the ground and lay down weed matting.

Almost 24 hours after sending the money for the car to TransferWise I get an email that they have received the funds. Thank God!

In the evening we go to Scallops of Javea on Av. Tamarits for dinner. We are meeting Mark and Sharron who live further up the hill, in fact 25 mins if you walk. They are walking to the restaurant which will probably take them about 45 minutes. Fi knows Sharron from her Glasgow days and has kept in touch. They have been in Valencia for one year and recently moved to Javea. Like me they like to walk and Mark will go off for hours on end. We recognise a car in the car park. As we enter people are leaving clutching wine bottles. As predicted by the car we saw Keith and Eileen are also here with a friend who is visiting them from Australia. Mark and Sharron arrive and we pull tables together so now there are 8 of us.

So here is the deal at Scallops of Javea. There is a menu for single plate meals. There are also 3 other options for a 3 course meal all with multiple choice Starter, Main and Dessert. The prices are either 9.95, 10.95 or 11.95 Euros. It includes a bottle of wine each … thats right … a bottle of wine each and a breakfast voucher consisting of: English back bacon, sausage, fried egg, grilled tomato and hash brown. Yes .. its is simply unbelievable value. So … I started with a large beer, had the egg mayonnaise for a starter … a plentiful size … followed by cod and chips with mushy peas … a huge piece of fish … rounded off by ice cream with Baileys. For this price you may expect something small and greasy … the food was excellent. Okay, the wine may not be the best. I ordered a Rosado and the first glass caught the back of my throat like Listerine mouth wash, but you get used to it! Just out of interest I Googled the wine and you can buy a case of 12 for 10.76 Euros! If you can’t manage to eat and drink everything you can take the wine bottles with you and like one lady I noticed, take the food home in a “doggy bag”. They wrap it all up carefully in foil and containers for you. If anyone left anything it was because it was all too much as portions were over generous. It’s not fine dinning. But who cares. Tonight we sat inside, but the place is huge and during the warmer months there is a beautiful rose garden. What can I say … We carved up the bill and with a tip it was 15 Euros each. Damned good value! Bizarrely, scallops are not on the menu!

Until next time 🌏

A good nights … πŸŒ

A good nights sleep and on Monday I intend to start as I mean to go on with an early morning walk. It is raining so I abandon the idea. I don’t mind walking in the rain, actually I like it. However, I’m not keen on starting out in the rain.

After breakfast Dave and Fi (D&F) drive me to Senija. I am meeting Leo and Marja (L&M) at 10:00am. They are the couple from Belgium who are renting our house in Senija and will be for the next couple of years, hence the reason Sarah and I are embarking on a housesitting adventure across Europe. Its been about 10 months since I was here and the route starts to come back to me slowly as we navigate from Javea through the small towns of Benitatxell and Teulada. Once we enter Benissa it is possible to look across the valley and see the village of Senija, identified clearly by the church tower. This marks our home as it is only several metres from the Church of Santa Caterina.

At the front door the blind is up and I am about to knock when I notice a small plastic shape with a button positioned at head height on the concrete frame. I reach out my hand to press it when the door swings open with a greeting from Marja. After the small talk there is a barrage of information and things I should do. I don’t quite understand it all, just trying to string some sense into the words that L&M between them are spraying despite the fact their English happens to be quite good.

Sarah and I had been emailing them and the main reason for meeting L&M was that they had offered to help me with obtaining an “Atest” from the local Ayuntamiento … Town Hall. None of us know what L&M mean by this and I’m guessing that the translation from Spanish to French and then English has been distorted. But they are keen to help and so I go along to find out. The waterfall of information continues. Registrations, taxes, cars and mobile phones. Then a water bill is waved in front of me. Apparently this is outstanding from when we purchased the house and so we must go to Benissa to pay it at one of the nominated Banks. My head is spinning. My eyes glaze over and I look at Dave and Fi like a bruised dog. They abandon me and I am left with L&M who now lead me around the corner to the Town Hall. The air is cool here in Senija, particularly in the shade. I am with people I know, but feel alone.

Apart from the occasional exchange in English between L&M and myself, I sit there while Marja carries on a conversation in Spanish with the lady behind the desk. Spanish seems to be a language that you speak in several sentences with only one breath. It goes on and on and on. I sit there like a dummy as all these words fly around me. I ask a few questions, I get a few answers. I produce my NIE and passport. More paper shuffling and photocopying. Eventually something is printed and I am presented with a ‘Certificado de Empadronamiento”. The “Padron” is a local certificate that you receive when you register at the Town Hall. I will need it for buying a car etc as proof of address in Spain and it is the foundation document for a string of other things such as obtaining a driving licence etc. My registration also helps the town. The more people the more funds they receive. I hope they are grateful!

Marja advises that there is another document that I will receive … to be honest I’m not quite sure what it is .. hopefully not another Bill. No. Apparently it is something that the Mayor must sign, but he is at school. He must be very young. Then I realise that he is probably a teacher. Marja says it is not urgent so she will collect it when I need it. Because I don’t know what it is I don’t know when I will need it. I guess it can wait until August!

Things calm down, we agree there is no need to go to Benissa as I will sort out the water bill. L&M drop me off in Benissa. They have parked their car on the outskirts of Senija as the streets are too narrow for cars. Dave and Fi are waiting outside the Iceland supermarket. L&M are travelling so Sarah and I will see them again in August when we are back from France and the UK.

Next stop is in the old port town of Javea to sort out a Spanish SIM card for my mobile phone. The 3 main shops are in a row in Av. de Lepanto. The girl in the Orange store speaks English and gives me a quote. We go into Vodafone. It is clinical, like an old bank and there is a queue so we go next door to Blu. They are a local company just operating in Javea.

There is no one in the shop. Then I see a figure in the window area arranging a display. I ask if she speaks English and clearly she does because she is English. Arrived in Spain at the age of 15 and has been here for 15 years. She thinks her Spanish is better than her English and is starting to forget some English words. Very helpful and a better deal than Orange. 30 minutes or so later I have a new Spanish mobile number!

For months I have been monitoring several car sales websites in the javea and Denia region. One of those was EuromartCars and I had made a few enquiries with the owner, Martin.

And so it was that after sorting the phone we stopped on the Carretera Cabo La Nao to view some cars. The website is quite well presented. It is easy to navigate, professionally designed and the cars are presented with great photos. All taken on gleaming white pebble with the Mediteranean in the background. The cars looked great. The “Car Lot”, however was a big disappointment. Basically a patch of gravel with a small mysterious hut. It was interesting to see the cars in the flesh, but it was a major disappointment. They were not, or should I say, nowhere as good as the pictures. It was oversell, under deliver. The particular car I was interested in looked almost brand new in the photo, but tired and worn on closer inspection. I guess I set myself up for disappointment and succeeded.

Fi’s phone rings and Eileen is asking what we are up to. We are now on our way to see Keith and Eileen (K&E) who we will housesit for during August while they are in Florida and Canada. The main reason is their Poodle-Cross, Rosie, needs looking after while they are away. They live just around the corner from D&F. In fact from my bedroom window I can clearly see their house. They have been there just over a year and have done a lot of work on the house which is now looking lovely. They have done a great job.

At 6pm I am waiting for Nick, a housesit host based in Andalusia to call. He doesn’t. Thats because he didn’t read the email from Sarah. Later in the week he texts, but it is too late because we have been offered a housesit in France from mid May through to when we travel to the UK in June.

Tuesday

Another big day ahead as I continue the search for a car in Denia. We park on the Ctra. de Nord Denia and immediately I recognise the garages that I have been viewing online for the past several months. I even recognise some of the vehicles like the bright yellow Hummer at Quality Cars. They are all here, Moll, Global Cars, Auto Denia and the list goes on …. We walk up one side and down the other. I expected more at Moll, but these are the guys who are not good at maintaining their Website. There is the impression of a lot of stock online, but next to nothing at the garage. We talk to a few of the sales staff at the garages. There is no hard sell here. In fact not much sell at all, which is refreshing. I have a short list of 2, but I there is a car I want to see in Ondara, just off the motorway so on the route. Dave and I think we are heading for the same garage, but we are not. We arrive at the shopping centre, drive up the car park ramp to an empty space. Dave’s car dealer has packed up and moved to other premises. Unusually they were using the top floor of the car park as their show room!

We Google my garage and find they are in El Verger, just 6 minutes away. We arrive at a small workshop. The Car Outlet sign is clear, but just a service shop and a few cars for sale along the side of the road. We enquire. The main car sales are back where we just came from. Apparently you can’t miss the flags next to Aldi … but we did. Back we go and realise why we missed the tissue size flags. The car I want to see is a Suzuki and it is a pretty turquoise colour. I had already made an enquiry and received a perfect English response from Natalie. We meet Natalie who is an English rose, speaks beautifully, is stick thin like a model and looks like a model. She seems out of place selling cars from a car lot in a small Spanish town. The Vitara is the new version, not unlike the Range Rover Evoque, but the sleek style, a sexy car, not quite big enough for all of Sarahs shoes.

We take a break for lunch and over coffee decide that the Mazda at Valgauto Motor tops the list. It is however siesta time and they will probably be closed until 4:30 pm so decide to return tomorrow having chewed on it overnight.

Time for a walk to meditate and clear my head. I have planned my walks and take a slightly extended version of the short route Sarah and I did last year. If I don’t do the short version at 7:00am then I do a new long walk at midday to take advantage of the Sun. So on returning home I set out from El Tossalet and head for El Arenal Beach which is lined with restaurants. Crossing the bridge over the inlet I walk the Av. del Mediterraneo along the shore to the edge of the Old Port town, swing a left and basically begin the return along the Ctra. Cabo La Nao-Pla towards Ctra. del Portitxol and home.

I do a final online review of cars and come across a Nissan Navara at Javea Auto Sales. I have seen this before, a bit left field, but thought I would send it to Sarah for her thoughts. Surprisingly its not a no so before I go back to Denia tomorrow I plan to call in on the way to have a look at it.

Tuesday night is Quiz Nite at the Bull and Bear in Benitatxell. K&E pick us up and we go in their car. There are 4 teams tonight. Entry is 2 Euros. Sausage and chips 3 Euros … for about the same price a large beer. Its loud and funny with many a joke and teasing of the quiz master. Questions are interpreted in several ways and often misunderstood. Everyone is right. The noise gets louder. The Quiz master Steve often having to repeat questions and questions are interpreted in a variety of ways causing even more confusion. Eileen is secretly feeding someone’s dog chips and spaghetti. The young team on the table next to us are desperately trying to hear our answers. Their answer to every question is Iron Maiden. As we mark the papers there is pain as we hear the obvious answers, now that we know them.

Exhausted we retreat to charge our batteries for another day.

Until next time 🌏

It doesn’t seem … πŸŒ

It doesn’t seem possible. The day has come. I’m off to Spain today!

I sort a few things, add my toilet bag to my case and pack up my mobile office. My Optus mobile transferred from contract to pre-pay as from today. Yesterday I bought Konka mobile phones for myself and Sarah. The object, in the short term, is to keep our existing Australian numbers on these phones. They tell me all I have to do is go online and recharge. It is just an hour before I have to leave. It doesn’t work. I do a test call and the phone tells me to recharge by following the prompts. I do so, patiently. I reach the end of the process and the automated voice advises that I cannot complete the transaction. I am not happy. I am stressed and angry. Its not how I wanted to feel on leaving Australia. Optus let me down once again. I do not like this monster of a company. I do not like how it ignores requests. I do not like how it acts fraudulently by providing thoughtless product advice.

But time is running out. I have to call an Uber and leave for the airport.

I arrive at the Cathy Pacific desk and check-in. The bags are checked-in all the way through to Valencia. I say a silent prayer and make my way to the lounge via immigration and a drug swab test.

On the plane the service and food was good although the staff seem to disappear for ages and I felt I had to ask for everything. I guess the thing is that each crew will be different. For example they only had juice on the tray when boarding on the Syd/HK leg, but did have champagne on the HK/Mad leg. It was no bother as I simply asked for bubbles and it was fine, but I did have to ask for refills. A first world problem.

Hong Kong landing cards are distributed. the queue at immigration looks long, but moves quickly … until I am near the front and it mysteriously grinds to a slow process. I pass through and don’t need to collect luggage so head for the hotel where I have a day room booked.

The Regal Airport Hotel is only about a 3 minute walk from the customs exit. It has the same feel as Sydney when you come out so basically turn left and look for the purplish coloured signs. It is wise to grab some water and snacks before you get there as the mini-fridge may be empty … I learned the hard way.

As you enter the hotel foyer you bare left to reception. There is a cafe on your left and on the right a small patisserie. Some nice looking cakes there.

If you are hungry then plan to eat at the hotel. There is a reasonable mixture of restaurants or the cafe/pub where you can get a burger etc. I indulged in a Long Island Iced Tea at the China Coast Bar & Grill and settled for the complimentary nuts as my dinner. Another LIIT was forced upon me to wash them down.

Fed, rested and freshly showered I returned “airside”, but over estimated the time I would need to wander the shops. Don’t allow too much time for shops. There are plenty but the usual high end and then souvenir types. So 2 hours too early I go to Gate 48 which is at the far end of the concourse. My feet in the new shoes are sore and so are my ears as I spend the remainder of my time in Hong Kong listening to 2 South Africans talking about steel cables and the double lung transplant of a spouse.

The flight is not as comfortable on the trip to Madrid, partly due to my ticket, although I have been given a better seat than I had originally selected. One crew member is particularly rushed as if she needs to get through her tasks to do something else. She is also borderline aggressive, like she doesn’t really want to be there. On arrival at Madrid Terminal 4S (this is a satellite building) I follow the coloured H,J,K signs to Terminal 4. They are grouped together and easy to follow. I go through Immigration to officially enter Spain on my UK passport. I did not need a landing card which I suspected as they did not distribute them on the plane. After a series of escalators I ended up at the light rail. Its one stop and takes about 3-4 minutes. It seemed a long time.

I take a few coins from my pocket and remove my belt, then have my bag and stuff scanned. There is no sign to say that you need to remove phones and laptops etc … but you do. How do I know … Guess!

I hunt down the Iberia Lounge by first following the VIP Lounge signs. There is plenty of time. About 50 minutes from departure I look at the Board and it flags a delay of 20 minutes. I allow for this and carry on working at my iPad. After some time and … bloody hell … they reverted back to the original time and I should be going.

I guess the gates change from time to time, but for me the flight left from Gate K93 in section K which is at the very end of the concourse. They have timings at various stages starting with an 8 minute countdown for K and I raced with burning feet through the airport. The Gate is on the same level as the Lounge with good signage, but I then got stuck finding directions for gates 60 through to 98. I may have missed a sign and my heart started to race. Then in the distance I see higher numbers. Basically you just keep going and all of a sudden the numbers go up.

The staff scan the ticket and then may put either a red or orange label on your bag. The red, which is what I got says β€œAceptacion Limitada”. The other label is orange and I guess this means oversize.

At Gate 93 I go down the short escalator to the sliding doors and a corridor. The queue is long, backed up to the foot of the escalator and people have to shuffle closer as more passengers come down the moving stair. I thought we were getting a bus, but in fact the airplane was right outside. But we wait for what felt like an eternity. At last we start to board. Ground crew were near the steps, I think identifying the orange labels. These bags were taken and loaded onto the aircraft. When you arrive in Valencia you come down the aircraft steps and collect your bag again before going through to the carousel.

A cramped regional flight, but short. Luckily through some clerical error by the Flight Centre I was in Business Class, such as it is. I tell Sarah to make sure she goes Business Class. It seems crazy to end such a long journey on this little flight and be uncomfortable, especially when she needs to be careful with her leg.

We land in Valencia and taxi to the Gate. All of a sudden a black guy comes charging down the plane while we are still moving and sits in the only spare seat right at the front. The bloody idiot wants to use the toilet … obviously to empty his head! Just when we stand to exit the plane he now needs to go all the way back to get his bag from the overhead.

At the carousel I stand in silence watching the unmoving belt and wonder if God heard my prayer back in Sydney. Did my luggage in fact travel with me? Is it in Pakistan or perhaps abandoned in some dark corner of a hanger? I stare at the belt and it refuses to be moved. All of a sudden it springs to life and gains the attention of passengers. Bags of all shapes and sizes come and go while others go round and round. To my relief a bright red suitcase appears and moments later the smaller bag. Thank you God!

Dave and Fi are waiting for me. A car ride of just over an hour to Javea, La Marina Alta region of the northern Costa Blanca. I can’t believe I am here, but I am. I am here in Spain. But I am not home. When Sarah arrives in 10 days time … then I will be home!

Until next time 🌏