An Ex-pat Monthly Experience of Moving to Gandia, Spain - Part 21

22nd January 2024
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2024 - A New Start!

2024 - A New Start! ...

So here we are then. It’s 2024 and the start of a brand-new year untouched and untainted. Where were you last year end? Where will you go this year end? What will you do in between? You have a whole year opening in front of you. So, will it be repeat last year? Or will you create the difference, make that plan a reality, actually go, and do it? Will you look back on this year as the year that you changed everything, or will you look back on another year that you didn’t make it happen? And what is ‘it?’ If it’s a move to the somewhat sunnier climes of Spain, stick with us dear reader. We might just help sway your decision!

We made that decision and made it happen around two and a half years ago now. We sold up, moved out and set our stall out in Gandia on the Northern Costas about an hour south of Valencia. I guess that you could say that we’re kinda settled now. We feel comfortable in our surroundings, our casa, our locale. We are aware of the hassles. Nowhere is free of bureaucracy and petty government created frustrations and downright obstructions. But the climate, the people, the history, the everything else that is Spain, more than makes up for it. And for those of you who are just joining us in these ‘letters from Spain;’ first of all, Welcome to you and we really hope that you find these missives a combination of useful and entertaining.

So, first of all, getting about. Probably one of the first things you will notice driving around is the sign reading ‘Cami.’ You could describe them as what used, in years gone by in the UK, to be referred to as ‘B’ roads. Although perhaps a ‘C’ road would be more accurate as they can be anything from a narrow-metalled surface to a rough gravel (or worse – Ed) connection between other larger roads or settlements. Fascinating for exploring, not great for covering distance and often not for the faint hearted! We have one not far from here that literally takes you up and over a local mountain. Fabulous views and great fun if you are a bit of a petrol head and have some horsepower under the bonnet, but seriously disconcerting if you are not a confident driver.

When you do need to travel any distance, the motorways are first class. They build them quickly, repair them efficiently and clear the occasional accident with surprising efficiency. The Spanish do not tolerate hold ups very well! So, the essence of travel is, keep ‘em moving!

Here, in Gandia, we can take the train to Valencia, which is about an hour away by car or train, for the princely sum of one euro twenty cents (approximately £1.10p). Add in the generally low cost of car parking (often free) and it would appear that the Spanish apply a very different view to get people spending their money in the shops and restaurants than in the UK. That is to say, make it cheap for people to travel to and spend time in town and they will spend more whilst they are there. How refreshing! Guess what? It seems to work! The trains run mostly full or close to. People do spend all day in town and the shops and restaurants all seem to do well. Much fewer closures on the High Street and a more relaxed yet vibrant feel. Really handy because Valencia has so much to offer. We never tire of visiting.

One of the stranger things that we have learned this past year is how seasons are treated differently. Those of you who are regular readers of ours will recall that we sold our boat and invested the money in a second-hand motorhome, or as they call them here, an Autocaravan. You would think that the peak season for these Wendy-houses on wheels would be the summer. Dear reader, you would be wrong. Whether storage of or camp sites for the use of, it is the winter period where you struggle to find a place to park. Our local secure storage where Monty is kept between travels is lightly used for most of the year, however over the Christmas period in particular it is packed, like standing room only! English and German number plates proliferate. A kind of impromptu mobile community suddenly appears with much partying and frolics, then come the end of January, just as magically disappears.

The Autocaravan is a very common sight in Spain and you are legally allowed to park almost anywhere, providing that you can fit into the width of a car demarcation and you do not put out awnings or furniture or in any other shape or form ‘set up camp.’ So you will see them parked up an a wide variety of settings. Just last week we travelled down to Alicante with friends who are also Motor homeowners, to attend an exhibition of The Terracotta Army. We parked up alongside a collection of other ‘RVs’ at the edge of town, with an uninterrupted view from our window, of a little beach just twenty metres away and slept to the sound of the water lapping on to the beach. How much would that cost in an AirB&B? Cost to us? Nothing. It’s called wild camping. No facilities. Just you and the facilities that you bring with you fitted to your RV.

But then you have the plethora of official camp sites scattered across mainland Europe, ranging from simple and basic to high quality, complex sites with everything from Wi-Fi to Restaurants and shops to doggy parks and heated swimming pools. Suddenly you can see the attraction of these vehicles that seem to be growing in number exponentially.

Of course, owning an Autocaravan is another learning curve that takes a little perseverance to master to gain full benefit. Most people, like us, will purchase a pre-owned vehicle because of the huge financial outlay required for a new unit. Rarely will a vehicle come with an instruction book, and it is amazing how much you have to learn. The driving angle is easy (from my point of view). Our unit tips the scales at just under the regulation three point five tonnes and is a shade less than seven metres long and two and a half metres wide. Getting used to ‘over-shooting’ junctions and tighter bends and turning tightly into the new direction to avoid clouting the back corner of the bus, quickly becomes instinctive, as does the extra allowance required for sharing the road with a truck approaching in the opposite direction (they won’t move over one inch!). The viewing position is great, being higher up than a car, and the seats are built to be comfortable over long distances. I personally prefer it to driving our car! Yes, you learn to look at parking surfaces (they sink easily into soft ground), when you cannot ‘hook-up’ to site electrics, you only have twelve-volt electrics (unless you install a separate inverter system to give you limited mains power) and you do have the unenviable task of emptying the ‘cassette’ (pee/poo receptacle) from the bathroom on a regular basis. This is actually not a big deal after you have done it a couple of times.

But when your awning is erected and your chairs and table set out and you sit looking at the view with a glass of chilled wine in your hand (they all have ‘fridges and freezers nowadays) and the sun slowly sets over the sea, you have a comfortable bed to retire in and a bathroom to brush your teeth, the world seems a nice place to be. Even nicer when it’s the blue Mediterranean and the warm Spanish sun that is laid out in front of you.

A very Happy and Healthy New Year to one and all!

See ya next time!

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