Thursday, November 04, 2004


The window company are unable to supply their double glazed units until early next year. We have also decided that we will have to research and then install a heating system. Which may impinge on their work, as our favoured option is under floor heating of some description.

Unable to continue with any substantial work we decide to lock up the house for winter. We will go back to England and pick up where we left off in the springtime.

Plywood boarding has been used to secure the windows and doors. 19mm thick sheets have been fitted to external and internal window and door frames. This should prevent a re-occurrence of the burglary. The wooden boards block out the warming effect of the sun and the house becomes colder by the hour. Inside in the now permanent darkness it is a depressing existence.

The shine is beginning to fade on our new place in the sun.

Monday, October 25, 2004

October 2004

The house is now painted and has had stone 'piedra' applied to the lower walls in keeping with the local tradition. Piedra is a type of stone facing which is decorative and also prevents the paintwork being discoloured through water splashes.

Quotes for the application of
the required material ranged from 19 euros to 65 euros per square meter.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

A revelation.

Arrived late evening with guests. The house has been painted and the transformation is quite dramatic, with the repairs to the structure and the stonework completed this means that for the first time the Villa looks like it is a substantial building.

Inside the plasterwork and coving in the lounge and dinning room are excellent. The persianna blinds are down but the windows have been left open to allow the plaster to dry. The whole house is covered in a thick layer of plaster dust. We sweep away the dust before opening the kitchen door to reveal our new state of the art kitchen; only to find that nothing has happend since September there in the kitchen are the boxes of tiles but no fittings or cabinets.

We make up the beds and after a quick wash and brush up drive into Figueres to grab a fast food meal.

On our return to the house we decide to call it a night and begin the clean up in the morning. But something is nagging. In the pantry the bottled beer reserved for occaisions like this is missing, there are a only couple of empty bottles lying around. We will have to wait for our drink, but the hot and dusty working conditions endured by the workers mean that we would not have begrudged the builders a cold drink and understand why they may of helped themselves.

Something else is missing too; the widescreen television our only luxury is also gone!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Ah Sí Señor


Señor M. is certain that the sequence of work for the kitchen element should be,

  • removal of the old cabinets
  • removal of the old tiles
  • retile the walls and floor
  • construction and fitting of the cabinets
  • install new double glazed units for windows and doors
  • complete tiling around window and door apertures
  • install granite worktops
  • fit appliances
  • re-hang internal kitchen door
  • stand back and admire his work

When we query this he is at pains to assure us that he must start work immediately if all is to go to his plan. He begins work before the ink is dry on the cheque for the deposit on the work. And within the week he has reduced the kitchen to rubble.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Any colour you want as long as it's...

The painter arrived with some samples for us to choose from, he was recommended by the owners of the specialist paint store we had visited in Figueres. The proprietors had often employed him to work on their own home. His work they said was good, he was also very clean in his methods and although not the cheapest, asked fair prices for his work

He painted coloured swatches on the wall and then asked us for our opinion.

Sample 4 was not practical because of the soil that would be carried on the wind from ploughed fields on the farms around about us.

Sample 3 was a little too orange.

Sample 2 was not available in the anti cracking specification he had advised.

Sample 1 this years black, was available in the anti crack formula and also toned with the
various shades contained in the stone work.

And the winner is Sample 1.

The only complication is that he can not paint the window and door frames until the double glazing has been fitted. He will either return after the fitting of the windows or he will give us a discount of 250 euros if I paint the frames. So thats another job on my list!

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Wake me up when it's all over!

September has arrived and Spain is back at work.

7am and the first of the three teams of builders are on site they will work on the roof, exterior wall repairs and the cornice which is crumbling.

8am and the kitchen supply company are here too.

8.30 The plasterer 'paletta' or ‘yesoista’ delivers his materials and negotiates his space on the site.

10am The Window manufacturer arrives with another 'paletta' who will remove the current windows and install the steel frame that will hold the aluminium frames in place once work begins, they need more measurements.

Every two minutes I have to speak to one or another of the firms involved about supplies and potential problems. No sooner do those conversations start then a telephone call from one of the companies involved is called for; I am handed a series of mobile telephones and I take part in three way dialogues; my Spanish is being pushed to breaking point.

1pm Thank god for their siesta! Everybody leaves the site.

3.30pm The work resumes with a vengeance.

4pm The next piece in the jigsaw falls into place, the 'palettas' responsible for fixing the 'piedra' to the lower part of the external walls arrive. They will work till 9pm or 10pm as necessitated by their work.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Taking stock

Well the house is now ours. It is time for us to begin work on it but where shall we begin, and what is reasonable timescale for us?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Office

This room was set up as a fully functional office with telephone and internet connections. We also asked the owner about the telephone; because this was an essential item and we knew people in some areas had waited a long time for 'telephonica' to provide a line. We were shown the connection to the telephone line and two telephones both functioning. Well at least that was straight forward.

Monday, July 12, 2004

The original kitchen

This is the original kitchen, the units were long past their sell by date. The taps and some cupboard doors were broken. The old fashioned tiles made the room dark and un-inviting and the whole room was pretty squalid.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The lounge

This house is eighteen years old yet the walls were unplastered the chimney unfinished. The heater powered by bottled gas is the only form of heating in the house.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Utility room

The tiling was more gaudy than Gaudi!

Monday, June 14, 2004

The Hallway

In the hallway as in the rest of the house, the walls were decorated with the owners own art work; unfortunately his enthusiasm for paint did not extend to the walls. He painted some areas of a room and not others, to make matters worse he mixed shades of a particular colour in small batches and was unable to match paint on different areas of the same wall.

To the left of the picture is a telephone

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

First impressions

Click on the photographs to enlarge them!

The buildings scale can be seen here in this view from the second entrance. To make use of this entrance with it's flatter access road; would mean putting in a road across the garden to the garage which is situated on the far side of the building. The car is parked at the garage entrance.

The horses were not included unfortunately, the large stallion in the left foreground was particularly friendly and followed me around the garden. He nuzzled be continually as I attempted to take my photographs of the property.

The front entrance to the Villa is uninviting. The large scale of the building is emphasized by the steps leading to the front door. Steps constructed in concrete but roughly rendered give a poor impression.

This is the first view of the house as you approach from the main road. There is a second entrance across the land on the south side of the house.

What we thought of as a new house when viewed it on the internet is obviously in need of updating. And in many areas the house needs to 'finished'.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Urban plot

This land surrounding the house is urban which means construction subject to planning regulations should be possible. The land to the right of this area is the finca which is non urbanisable and can only be used for farming.

This unmade road is the main access to the house, although we were told by the house owner it is a private road it is in fact owned by the local authority.

The yellow coloured building is a storage facility owned by a door manufacturer who is based in the village. That storage building was built by the owner of this house, and he operated it as a bread bakery. Eight years ago the property was divided and sold by a bank who had forclosed his mortgage.

The concrete slab inside the wall is the top of the old septic tank 'fos-septica' although the house is now connected to the village water and sewerage systems.

Outside the fence is the shared private road; it is shared by the owner of the house, the factory storage, the partialy constructed house and an adjoining farmer.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Unfinished Villa in Ordis

This Villa had been constructed 17 years earlier but remained unfinished. The facade had crumbling cornice, was unpainted and the lower half was roughly rendered.

When we spoke to builders and agents they told us that the rendered area should be finished with a stone facing material, applied in an irregular pattern, the stone material is called 'Piedra' ; from the Latin for Peter - 'and on this rock I shall build...'

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The deep south

Almond plantations in full bloom against the bluest of skies in Almeria had looked very seductive. Though the practicalities of living in an isolated finca with only a few 2nd home owners providing occasional company soon redressed the balance.

Murcia was a lovely city and well worth a visit; we will probably enjoy a weekend or two there in the future. From Murcia we drove down to Cartejena and the surrounding villages.

Murcia's fertile plains were tempting but the lack of rainfall was a concern the garden was high on our list of requisites. Building regulations dictated that to build our own villa of 200m2, we required a plot in excess of 20,000m2. Plots of that size also had the effect of pushing us further into the countryside and away from village amenities. Requiring a car journey for every visit to the local village. Housing developments without local people lacked the sense of real community.

Throughout our travels we were becoming aware, through media reports, that access to water was of major concern to the peoples of Spain. Fierce disputes over water rights were common between various regional powers, even though everywhere we looked new golf courses were being developed.

Coastal areas often seemed to be over developed. A hive of activity in the busy summer months but deserted and forlorn in the winter time.

The increasingly arid south was loosing out in our estimation to the greener north country.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Ideal world

Our journey around Spain; as we looked for suitable properties for our new life began in earnest in the spring of 2004. Researching the internet and the published media helped us to narrow our search, although in the process of house hunting we would cover many thousands of kilometres. Various agents plied us with their property listings and we were invited, and did attend several exhibitions of Spanish real estate.

The principal area of our search was the eastern coast of Spain from Almeria in the south to Girona in the north. Although we liked the villages of Andalucía we were concerned that it may not be seasonal enough. Carol in particular did not want to spend her life in beach wear

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Farewell to Tenerife

Parting with the apartment was the right thing to do, we both realised that without selling we could not fund our next venture. Easter was the final holiday in our former home and we had wall to wall sunshine throughout the two weeks. We took the new owners to the administrator for the complex and to the bank to set up their account and direct debits. The notary had been booked and everything ran like clockwork.

On the transaction day the purchasers arrived with their cheques in hand. Suddenly the realisation that we had reached the end of an era struck us both. Carol looked visibly shaken and she was uncertain of going through with the process. We had however made a deal.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Tortosa and River Ebro

Tortosa from Roquetes the 'Parador' is on the hill to the right of the picture.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Spain or bust

The beginging of a great adventure.

After studying the photographs I had taken, we decided to return to Spain as soon as we were able to, and in air of excitement, in late February we travelled there together.

A cheap flight into Alicante allowed us to look at other areas we were considering

along the Costa Blanca and the inland villages of that coast. Out of season the coastal resorts looked desolate with too few people around in winter. And perhaps they would have far too many people in the summer months, we kept reminding ourselves that we were looking for a home not a holiday resort.

We headed further north to Tortosa.

The city of Tortosa has a relaxed air about it and has good shopping facilities too. Gerhard the agent said he and his Cuban born wife loved the city and seldom if ever had to leave it to purchase anything they wanted. Carol soon felt comfortable with these surroundings and felt it would be a good place to settle down.

Roquetes on the opposite bank of the river Ebro, was home to the English Mansion.

The drive to the house through the back streets of Roquetes was a bad move on the agents part, the effect of which was to cool Carol’s enthusiasm. He should have gone directly across the east bridge from Tortosa and into the area of the villa.

The unfinished road leading from the village towards the house was going to be finished in asphalt and would be completed by May. Now though, driving slowly across the uneven road surface made the journey seem longer than it undoubtedly was.

Viewing the property we concentrated on areas that needed reform or replacement. Carol had doubts but was willing to have a go. The vendor would not reduce his asking price and other agents we knew had valued the property at a higher price.

Despite negotiating a deal, we felt that we had to walk away from the venture after ‘not’ sleeping on the matter.

Carol had considered that the rural setting was too isolated for her to be comfortable if left alone in the house. And so we decided to continue our search and look further south again before flying home from Alicante. The disappointment of the earlier viewing had dampened our spirits and it seemed like we were back to the drawing board.

Sunday, January 04, 2004


Described as ‘The English Mansion’ this house seemed to be the one we were looking for, it was set in 72,000 m2 of established Orange grove. Rock embankments formed the garden boundaries giving a wilder aspect to the fertile plains of fruit orchards down below.

Just 6kms outside the city walls, the property was self contained and connected to all the essential services. The villa offered several possibilities, for business. The fruit tree planting could be extended to give a useful income. A second small store-house could be converted into accommodation for use by paying guests. This is also good bird watching country and has excellent fishing both based on and around the river Ebro.

The house was in obvious need of a lot of modernization but had the potential for business that was one of our considerations. It was worthy of a second look.

Friday, January 02, 2004

House hunting in the sun.

Deciding to buy a home is one of the biggest and most stressful events in most peoples lives, buying abroad amplifies the problems of the process. In 1990 when we announced that was what we were going to do, our friends and families were more than a little alarmed. Spain was considered volatile just fifteen years after Franco’s death; ‘what about the risk of war?’ they asked.

In later years those same alarmists thought that, our earlier ‘brave decision’ had been a wise one; and one that they wished they had themselves emulated. Price rises over those years meant a bigger capital outlay for anyone entering the market today, and this put those same people off once more. It did not though stop them following the many re-location programmes shown on television or scouring the newspaper for the elusive bargain property.

We had 14 enjoyable years as owners of an apartment in Los Cristianos, Tenerife. The property consisted of one bedroom, bathroom, lounge with American style kitchen and large sun lit terraces. At 55m2 it was a good size for a beach holiday. The visualisation of that apartment size was a valuable measure that we held against the descriptions of other properties we encountered on our search.

Situated only a short stroll from the shore-line and a similar distance from the village centre; the apartment had been recently renovated and was in first class condition, but it was too certainly too small for anything other than a vacation home. Selling a ground floor poolside apartment close to the beach and the village was not going to be a problem.

Over the years we had made a lot of friends on the Island, amongst both the residents and frequent tourists. Now though we were looking for something more substantial.

We had often discussed the possibility of moving to the Spanish peninsular and making it our permanent home. Property on the mainland seemed better value when compared to those on the Canary Isles.

When, we were finally in a position to seriously consider the possibility of such a move, we began to draw up a list of our requirements in a building. Some were classified as essentials such as, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a formal dinning area and lounge, off road car parking. Whilst others were merely desirable a pool for example.

We were careful not to become too rigid in our demands, and reflected on the change to an outdoor life style; from the more familiar northern European lifestyle of our home in the U.K.

Financial considerations included having enough money to live on in retirement without cutting back on the quality of life we were used to. A budget was agreed between us and the search for a property began in earnest.

Tenerife was familiar and comfortable to us and we began to look for a villa there. Agents showed us a variety of luxury villas, rustic fincas and building plots. A particular plot in the town of Granadillar looked promising. The plot was within the village boundary with outline permission for the construction of a house of 200 m2; it came with good land of over one acre and the bonus of views towards both the sea and mountains. The original casa was tiny but had a tap and a toilet. Carol decided that was all I needed and that I could live in here whilst project managing the build.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for me, the land owner changed her mind and rejected our offer, withdrawing the property from sale.

The finished properties we saw, at least those which satisfied our requirements, were beyond our initial budget. The mainland was now a major consideration.

At the same time we wondered if the shorter flight time to the Spanish peninsular, more flights, cheaper fares allowing us to travel backwards and forwards between the two countries; might ease the strain of re-locating. The accessibility of European cities might also make for a more culturally enriched experience.

We were certain though that we should sell the apartment and posted a notice in the reception area. Within ten minutes a queue had formed at the garden gate. The sale was agreed at the asking price and the transaction scheduled for Easter. There were a number of other interested people who tried to gazump the purchaser, but we felt bound to honour the deal. Onlookers to the sale process advised that we should have invited bids for the apartment; perhaps we are not hard headed enough for the property market.