Friday, April 29, 2016

Blog Catch Up......

I havn't blogged for a couple of weeks, so I thought I would do a quick catch up.

We recently had some visitors from Macclesfield stay with us for 5 days.
 Kathy is one of Elaine's old school friends.  It's the second time they have visited us since we have been living in Mojacar ...


When we inherited the villa it was fully furnished - some of the furniture is good some of it is not so good!  A couple of the not-so-good pieces were the two sofas in the lounge ... they had woodworm!!

So we went shopping to a furniture store quite local and bought a couple of nice new reclining sofas. The store offers free delivery up to a 100km radius, plus they take the old ones away.

They were delivered on time and assembled by the two friendly chaps from the store ...  

We dined out a few times with our friends from Macclesfield ...

One of the highlights were paellas at a local beach bar 'Aku Aku'.
Yep they were good ...

We have had some fantastic weather the last couple of weeks with very clear skies.  I thought this shot turned out quite well ... I took it about midnight on maximum zoom and no tripod!  I do love the little Lumix cameras ...

As I said we have had some lovely clear days and the view from the villa is never boring ... 

This is our favourite spot to chill, out on the deck in the shade,  We could lay up on the roof but you would be a wrinkled prune in abut 15 mins, so we much prefer the shade with a breeze ...


I filled up at the local servo the other day.  They have an attendant fill the car with fuel, who showed me how to hang the filler off of a little catch on the filler flap!  We  have had the little Citroen nearly four years and I never realised that it had that feature!   Exciting stuff eh! 



And here are the sofas, not the prettiest trendy furniture around but oh-so- comfortable ...

Guaranteed to nod off within 10 mins of sitting down ...


Other Stuff

The motorhome is still in hospital having the gearbox leak fixed.  There is a new modified connector part which, when fitted, should stop the leak reoccurring.  It's only a small job but the part is coming in from Mercedes Benz Germany so there is a bit of a hold up.  Hopefully it will be ready tomorrow then we can head off on a road trip next week.  

We are also planning to head north back to the UK in early July.  According to the locals July and August are the worst two months down here ... extreme heat, as in the 40s, accompanied by thousands of tourists which isn't our idea of fun.  We had 40 degree days in Oz and they are bloody awful.

We will take a leisurely cruise through France before arriving in the UK late July or early August, of course all of this depends on Elaine's health at the time. 

We really hoped to got to the Fairport Convention Cropredy concert again in August but looking at the website it said absolutely no refunds under any circumstances.  As it was going to cost about £280 / $560AUD in tickets and a three day camping pass I thought it was too much of a risk.

Howevwer, I wrote them a letter explaining Elaine's illness and that we may have to drop out at short notice.  The reply started off with the 'so sorry to hear about your wife's illness' ...  and then went on to say ... 'no problem at all, we will give you a full refund right up to the day of the concert if needs be'.  They also sent me a 'comfort package' that gives us parking for the motorhome in a field tight next to the main arena!   What a lovely surprise - as they say it pays to ask.


Another reason for heading back to the UK is that my niece has once again qualified for the show jumping championships at Stoneleigh.  We thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of years, as it's also a great family catch up occasion ...



On the subject of Elaine's illness, she has been going through a bad stretch lately but thanks to the local GP is starting to feel a bit better.

She also had another day in hospital this week having more ascitic fluid drained off.  Once again the staff were fantastic, especially the lovely translator girl that accompanies us at the hospital and helps her through the day.

It's not cheap but so much easier than going back to the UK to be treated, plus afterwards she can relax in our comfy home to recuperate.
Almeria Mediterraneo Hospital

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cheap Drugs Are Good, OK!

One of my fears about travelling to Europe was what was going to happen when I run out of my UK prescription blood pressure and cholesterol drugs.

My friendly UK Dr had given me five months supply when we left plus I got some more when we went back in February, but the supply was getting low.

I can't believe how easy it all was.  We went down to the local pharmacy and showed him the drugs I was taking, no probs he said and sold them to me with no prescription required!

The Amlodipine, which is a calcium channel blocker, cost 1.25 Euro (0.98pence or $1.46AUD) for a month's supply and the Irbersarten, which is an angiotensin II receptor antagonist, cost 13.95 Euro (£11.00 or $21.00AUD)  for a month's supply.   I still have heaps of statins left and won't need them for at least a year so I don't know the cost of them but I suspect they will be cheap as well.

Elaine is now on all sorts of drugs to control pain, but once again the cost is minimal.


Whist we are on a medical subject .... Elaine has been having a severe pain in her leg, which she was worried was a DVT so we spoke to the lovely Oncologist in Almeria who told her to go and see a local GP to get it checked.  We did this yesterday and what a lovely doctor we saw!  We were in there for over an hour.  He took a full history and did an ultrasound and he  diagnosed phlebitis, for which he prescribed various drugs and ointments.  It cost us just 45 Euros for that consult.  However, if it is no better by Monday, he gave us a letter to take to the local emergency hospital, where they will have to treat her.  Hopefully she will be better by then, if not it will be our first visit to a public hospital in Spain.  I have health insurance, but because Elaine has cancer she cannot get any health insurance.  If we do have to go to the local hospital she will use her European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which is available free from the NHS back in the UK.


The motorhome also has to go into hospital soon as it has developed a leak from the automatic transmission.  It is a a very small leak and appears to be coming from the electric wiring harness going into the gearbox ...


Through the local Mojacar forum I was recommended to go to a garage run by a German chap that happens to be a specialist on Mercedes, so whilst there I am going to get him to give her a full service and change the shock absorber boots that have split. The shock absorber boots is a big job as the front suspension has to be dismantled.  As the chap said if you were staying in Spain you wouldn't worry about it but back in England on the wet and salty roads it is best to change them to prevent damage to the suspension struts.

No 2 is the boot, which is a cheap part but a pain to change.  Never mind she is still our second home so we must look after her ...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Last Of The Winter Boaters Returns To England

Sue and Andy (NB Festina Lente) returned to their boat moored at Stone on Wednesday.
They are the last of the winter boaters that wintered here in Mojacar; the good news is that they will be back in November for 5 months ... they have already booked their accommodation.

Before they left Sue cooked up a curry feast at their lovely unit ...

After the curry we all wore silly masks.....why???

Cos we can!

Ey up lad ..

Freddie made an appearance ...

Our final final farewell took place on Tuesday night we were joined by some local Canadians, two are living here permanently (plus their visiting son) and three were escaping the Canadian winter ...

Farewell dear friends, we will see you again soon xxxx


Other Happenings

The dogs were going mad barking at a strange noise the other morning.  On investigation a bird had become stuck in a drain so I had to remove a piece of the mozzie screen to get at the drain!  I then took the drain apart and freed the little bird ...

The new chihuahua doggies are settling in well and are enjoying their strolls along the prom ...

We decided to go on a mini road trip yesterday just up the coast.  Our first stop was in Vera where you can moor right on the beach, so that was our brunch stop ...

Next stop was La Carolina, which is one, if not our favourite, motorhome stop in Spain ...

It is such a fabulous area ...

There were quite a few motorhomes here but for some reason they all moor very close together!  We prefer the 'Nigel-no-friends' parking.  If a place looks a bit dodgy we park closer to other vans, but this spot is super safe ...

They they all are.... 

And there we are ...


Today got up to 27 degrees.  Sammie dug a hole to keep cool, so I helped him by covering him in damp sand ...

He was soon asleep ...

The little dogs loved being out in the motorhome and exploring; all their life they have been kept on a balcony!! 

Sammie still buried! 

We are back home now, getting ready for more guests who arrive tomorrow for three days, then another couple arrive on Monday for five days.

Hotel California Mojacar is in full swing!

Friday, April 8, 2016

We Made The Front Page!!

Well I never, the photo I took of the cruise ship last week made the front page of the local paper.




Wednesday, April 6, 2016

More Visitors And Some Good News.

 We have visitors (Ken and Pam) at the moment, which is always nice, they have a hire car so they take off and check out the sights whilst we have been staying around the villa, still unpacking boxes from their four year storage, its taking ages as we unpack and check out each item.

 The photo albums are the worst as we have heaps of them and you cant help checking them all out.

We did take our visitors to the market at Villaricos on Sunday, its a great market especially for fresh fruit and veggies, most of the produce is 1 euro a kilo!

It also has a fantastic herb and spice stall.

Pam has been Elaine's friend since they worked together in Saudi back in the early 90s, when I met Elaine back in 1994 they were flatting together in Sydney.

They are visiting us from their lovely cottage in the Scottish Highlands.

It is also Kens 60th birthday so we will go to a nice restaurant tonight to celebrate it.

They leave tomorrow then my brother and his Mrs are paying us a visit next week immediately followed by more friends from Macclesfield....Welcome to the hotel California Mojacar.

Unfortunately Pam and Kens visit has been  soured by very crappy weather, its rained for two days and has been so cold we had the heating on at night, however normal weather and sunshine will resume tomorrow.

This was last night, raining with a glimmer of hope in the sighting of a rainbow.

Today's walk with the dogs and it was a grey one. 

We had some really good news when we went to see Elaine's oncologist on Monday, the Ca125 ovarian cancer marker had dropped from 21,000 to 12,000, so the oral chemo is working, he has now increased the dose to hopefully keep the horrible disease at bay.

Further to my last couple of posts.......It was bought to my attention that The Blue Sea Villas website states that they have a blanket no pet policy this is not  entirely  correct, if you email the owner Wendy she will always find you dog friendly accommodation, as she has already for a few of our friends.

Car hire in Spain......out of the  four visitors we have had who have hired a car, three have been ripped off, BE WARNED!!












Sunday, April 3, 2016

Car Hire In Spain....Dont Get Ripped Off!!

managed to work out how to post the article about how not to get ripped off hiring a car in Spain.

It is written by a chap that comes to Mojacar numerous times a year but would apply to anywhere in Spain...

Paul 



Car Hire Tips
Here are some tips I have picked up when renting cars on line in Spain.
These are mainly for renting via the large on-line companies – in the interests of balance there are other companies that come highly recommended on the Mojacar Forums (Al Andalus and Costa Coches get consistently high ratings). I have never used either of these so I cannot comment personally but those have used them do rate their services.

Websites
The two main ones I use are www.doyouspain.com and www.carjet.com
To be clear these are both comparison type websites that act as a search engine for most of the major rental companies at all the main airports – they dont have any cars themselves.
I have found that these give consistently cheaper rates compared to going direct to the rental companies

Finding the right car
When searching for cars there are a number of things to consider.
a)      Car size – generally the bigger the car the more expensive it will be – if you need more than 5 seats then it gets very expensive. If there’s only 2 of you then even the smallest cars are perfectly fine and they will all handle the motorways etc no problem. If you need 4 or 5 seats then also consider something like a Berlingo/Partner van type – these tend to be cheaper than say a Ford Focus because they’re not as well known and therefore not as popular – but they are great for carrying passengers and luggage – ok might not be as sporty or attractive as a normal 4 door saloon but you’re renting it for 2 weeks, not buying it for life and could save you a whole lot of money.

b)      On airport or off airport. I have used both and I have to say off-airport can be a bit of a pain. On-airport cars are parked across the road from the terminals in the main car park, usually no more than a 5 minute walk and you pick up and return the car to the same place. Off-airport involves getting a minibus to a location away from the airport to pick up the car (and again when you return it) – involves carting luggage around, delays and also you have to find the return location again when taking it back. Doyouspain have a search option to include/exclude off-airport rental companies.

c)       Hire companies – again I can only speak from personal experience … I have used most of the main rental companies several times without any problems. The only one I avoid is Goldcar. These are probably the most popular rental company (certainly one of the biggest). They always seem to have huge queues when collecting the car but the reason I avoid them is that they have twice told me the car is only insured third party only and I was liable for all damage to the rental car in the event of an accident (which I wasn’t liable for). Doyouspain allow you to select and deselect which rental companies to use so you can easily exclude them.

d)      Dates and Times – You are charged for each 24 hour period so make sure that the time you drop the car off at is slightly before the time you pick it up at (if possible) to avoid an extra days charge – this normally works out that way anyway if you are getting the same flight home as you arrived on.

e)      Keep checking – Car rental prices fluctuate all the time. Often the prices go down so its worth checking regularly to see if they have. You can cancel and get a full refund right up to the day before your rental begins so you could save money if the price has dropped

Fuel
Often baffling but generally you have to accept that you will be overcharged for fuel and factor this into the rental price.
There are three main fuel options
a)      Full / Full – Pick the car up full and return it with a full tank. Even if doing this you will usually be charged a “service charge” of about 25 Euros on top of the actual fuel cost
b)      Full / Empty – Pick the car up and return it empty – the advantage is that you don’t have to stop near the airport to refuel but the disadvantage is that its virtually impossible to take it back empty so any fuel left in the car is lost (as you won’t normally get any refund for it)
c)       Full/Full with doyouspain – there is now an option on the doyouspain website to search for the full/full option – using this option does mean that if you take the car back full then you do get a full refund and no there are no service charge costs

Insurance
CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) is the usual level of cover offered by default.
This is the equivalent of fully comprehensive insurance so in the event of an accident then all third party damage and damage to the rental car are covered, EXCEPT you are liable for the excess amount.
Certain things however are exempt and these will be spelled out on the agreement – typically these are wheels, tyres, glass (windscreen etc).
The rental companies will offer you additional insurance to cover all these exemptions and to reduce your excess to zero – they will try very hard to sell you this as that’s where they make their money. DO NOT buy this, its horrendously expensive, often more expensive than the price of the rental.
Doyouspain will also offer to sell you this for about half of what the rental companies will charge – again I would advise against it as still not good value.
I protect against these exemptions and excesses by taking out an annual insurance policy precisely for this – it covers all excesses etc and is a valid for a whole year, unlimited number of rentals.
There are several internet companies offering this, I use www.carehireexcess.com – an annual unlimited use policy for Europe costs £37.99.
The only caveat on this is that I’ve not had to make a claim yet so I can’t vouch for that side of their business
NOTE: If you have your own insurance they will normally block out up to 1000 Euros on your credit card to cover any excess when you collect the car – this is only a block though, the money is not actually taken out.

Collecting your Car
The rental companies will obviously want to try and upsell as much as they can so this is where you need to be confident, know what you’ve bought and don’t be pressured into things you don’t need.
I always greet the agent with a cheery smile and try to make my first words in Spanish – even if its just an “Hola, Buenas Dias/Tardes/Noches” etc. They’ll often ask if you’ve rented a car before – always say yes you have (even if you haven’t) and if you haven’t used this rental company before just say you have rented with other companies before but not used their company.
Be prepared – there are only four things that you need – have them all ready to show (again shows them you know what you’re doing). You need passport, driving licence, rental voucher and credit card. Hand over the rental voucher and put the others on the counter straight away as soon as its your turn to be served.
If you’ve purchased your own insurance for the excesses (see section above) then as soon as they first ask about insurance say politely but confidently and firmly – “no thanks I’ve already got my own insurance to cover everything” – that normally stops that conversation straight away. If they persist it’s a case of “no thanks, I know what I’m covered for and I’m happy that I’ve got what I need”
That done its time to collect the car – this bit is REALLY IMPORTANT !!
If there are any scratches or dents to the car then the agent should have already marked these on the rental agreement (there’s a plan of the car layout on it) – you absolutely MUST inspect the car closely and if there are any marks or dents not shown then go back to the agent (or one of their staff in the car park) and get them to amend it. Whats on that diagram is what will be checked against when the car is returned. If its dark then its not always easy but move the car to where there is as much light as possible and then check it.
I also take pictures of the car when I pick it up (from all four sides), especially if damage has already been marked on the sheet.
Collection can take some time so another tip (might not be for everyone, especially if you aren’t familiar with the airport) is that I have all the documents reqd for the rental and go straight to the rental desk to sort out the paperwork whilst my partner collects the bags etc, just saves a bit of time

Returning your Car
Again similar rules for when collecting the car – be confident, greet in Spanish etc. You won’t need any documents to hand over but its useful to have the rental agreement with you – especially if scratches or dents were shown on it.
Firstly make sure you completely empty the car – I know its obvious but … check the boot, all the door pockets, glovebox and the one everyone forgets .. the CD player !
When you drop the car off at the returns section of the car park there will either be a staff member waiting there to check it or if not then you go to the office and someone will come along.
When they are checking the car make sure you take pictures of it from all sides whilst they are watching you do it – this shows them you know what you’re doing. Do not feel embarrassed about doing this, its for your protection. If they ask why you’re doing that (unlikely but they may) then say you’ve been stung by other companies before.
Get a verbal agreement first that there is no damage and then most importantly get them to either give you a final invoice confirming no further payment due, or if that’s not available then write on the rental agreement “No damage, full refund due” and ask them to stamp it.



Saturday, April 2, 2016

Information for Future and Current MCC (Mojacar Canal Club) Members!

I thought I would do a information blog for those boaters and non-boaters who fancy a break from the bleak UK winter next year, or later this year.

Firstly, a bit about Mojacar itself ...  it has the most perfect winter climate with virtually no rain, warm in the day but can get quite cold at night.  It is very quiet but there are still enough bars and restaurants to keep you busy!  There are no fun parks, amusements arcades and no high rises so if you want Benidorm, Mojacar isn't the place for you. 

Mojacar is a very Spanish looking place with all the white-washed buildings but about 50% of the inhabitants are from the UK.  If you want the real Spain and Spanish culture, however, it is a short drive away.


Regarding accommodation ... I can highly recommend Blue Sea Villas, who are located right on the beach in the area where we all reside, so if there are any problems they are right there.  The office is run by Wendy, a very nice lady from Macclesfield!  I went in and had a chat with her the other day and mentioned that we may have a lot more narrowboaters coming down next winter.  She is very happy to answer any of your queries re dog friendly apartments etc.  She suggested that you check out their website and and drop her a line if you see a place that you fancy.  Price-wise you are looking at about 425-450 Euros per month for a two bedroom apartment.  It may also be possible to negotiate a deal, especially if you are staying a few months.

Wendy also mentioned that a lot more properties come onto the market September onwards, so don't despair if you don't see anything you fancy straight away.

If you see an apartment that you are interested in we are more than happy to go and check it out for you, to see what it looks like in the flesh!  We did that for this year's MCC members and I think they were all happy.

Whilst I am happy to check out properties I will not get involved with any price negotiations etc.
I have absolutely no financial involvement with Blue Seas Villas, they are just a well run organisation with a lot of rental properties in Mojacar.   Mention my name if you do email her then she will know what area to find you an apartment in.

Check out Blue Sea Villas here.


As for getting here ... Almeria is the closest airport being just over one hour's drive away.  The only problem being that in the winter there is not a lot of choice regarding airlines.   This last winter it was Monarch from Manchester and Easy Jet from Gatwick.  Of course this may change if the demand is there. 

Alicante is about two and a half hours drive away and is served by most UK airports.

You can get very good deals on long term hire cars, but be warned Spanish car hire firms are notorious for ripping off the punters.  The car hire is so cheap they try to make money elsewhere on exorbitant insurance, fuel rip offs and damage to cars that doesn't exist ... once you are back in the UK they debit your card and you will have to fight to get the money back.  

A very kind chap on the Facebook Mojacar Forum, Dave Griffiths, has created an informative document on car hire in Spain and he is happy for us to share it with others.  If you would like a copy of it please email me (see the email link in the side bar) and I will send it to you.


Obviously if you have a car it makes sense to drive.   You can drive on most UK insurances for anywhere between 90 days to 365 days in Europe.  It is always going to be cheaper from Dover to Calais, but if you don't fancy the drive then you can get a ferry from Portsmouth to Spain.  From Northern Spain to Mojacar its about a eleven hour drive.

Whichever way you choose to drive it's a piece of cake.  The roads are superb and uncrowded, there is no need to plan stops as there are loads of hotels along the route through France and Spain, nearly all being dog friendly.  They are generally around the 40-50 Euros a night all up.  Of course this isn't 5 star accommodation, it's just a place to have a sleep and get going again in the morning!

If you do choose to go the Portsmouth-Santander or Bilbao route and are bringing dogs. you will have to book up a long way ahead as the dog friendly cabins sell out very quickly.

For ferries to Spain, click here.

If you are driving through France the toll roads are brilliant, but you don't get to see the lovely towns and villages along the route

 The Channel  tunnel is a good option if you are bringing dogs as you can stay in the car with them.  On the cross channel ferry the dogs have to stay in the car and you cannot stay in the car with them.


As regards Currency ... I use and recommend a currency card.  You apply for the card in the UK you top it up online and away you go.  You are not charged any transaction or management fees and the rate is always better than you will get at a bank, post office or Travelex etc.  

The only charge is 1.50 euro if you use a ATM and you can withdraw up to 300 euros a day.  Basically it's a Mastercard so it can be used in 99,9% of all shops restaurants etc.  There is only one very small draw back and that is if there isn't someone there to put the card through the machine (like an automatic toll or some of the self serve patrol stations in France) it may get declined.  It didn't happen to us much but it can happen, so have a back up card just in case.  If it's a shop, restaurant or ATM it is 100% OK.

This is the card I use ... we have been using it for two years now.  It is so simple, click here.


This is the beach area that the present MCC reside in.   We hope to see many more new members next year ...