Thursday, 29 October 2015

Renovation project - Going back to France

Renovation project - Going back to France

I wake up feeling quite deflated about our house buying experience in Spain and as John settles to watch the Manchester United football match on his own, I decide to have a quick look at houses in France again, I’m not sure why maybe I just want to make sure we are doing the right thing, we love Spain and we want to stay here, but if we can't find a house it will be impossible.

I have a quick look at Brittany and see some fantastic farmhouses, but we have already done Brittany and the rain is still firmly at the front of my mind, especially as we have been enjoying the constant sun.

I switch the search and go for the entire of France and on the first page of Greenacres see an amazing house with a wonderful history.

It is a village house with so much character and the price is peanuts, it certainly has the wow factor (even though it is in a terrible state) I show John and he thinks it has the same wow factor.

I google the area and it is in the far north east of France, it is only 2 hour from Basel in Switzerland.

I e-mail the agent and wait for a reply.

We sit and talk about the options, our hearts are in Spain but being realistic our head are back in France.

I can wait no more and ring the agent, we have a chat and I e-mail some questions, he replies straight away. We talk some more and decide we have to go and have a look.

Plans are put in place and we work out that at the price of the house we can keep the rental in Spain and buy the house in France (if it is as good as we hope) we will be able to live in France and travel to Spain for 4 weeks at a time.

Could life be any better? Renovate in France again but knowing we will be back to Spain for 4 weeks at a time.

We book a viewing and work out the time frame it is the 8th August and we have friends coming to visit on the 20th.

So we book a viewing for the 12th and spend the rest of the evening booking in hotels on the way.

The journey will take 3 days there, stay for 2 nights and 3 days back, perfect.

Our only problem is that we had arranged to help friends tomorrow with some furniture assembly so send them a quick message to say sorry but we are heading to near Switzerland so can't make it, their immediate response was, surely you knew you would be driving to Switzerland?

Well actually, until an hour ago, no we didn't!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Expats or economic migrants

Expats or economic migrants

This is a slightly different post, it is my fist post on the Telegraph website (English newspaper) and you can find the link here,

It is not intended to offend anybody but simply an alternative view, whilst I have been reflecting on the humanitarian crisis happening in Europe in 2015

Expat or economic migrant

There has been so much on the media recently about the migrant crisis and this has got me thinking about our situation.

Obviously we are not migrants we are ex pats, we are nothing like those people who come to other countries with nothing and want everything.

We can never be compared

Or can we?

What does the term ex pat actually mean other than a nice way of saying that we have left our home country to move to another, The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).

But this is how most of us refer to ourselves, its nice, its friendly, sort of middle class (as most of us are) and it gives us a commonality.

But what about economic migrants, this is not as nice or friendly sounding, yet this means, a person who travels from one country or area to another in order to improve their standard of living.

Are we not economic migrants?

Personally we had a nice life in the UK but it was hard work, when we moved to France we had a much better standard of living, better health care, cheaper housing, the sort of life we could not have in the UK.

But again we are still better than those people we see on the TV

Or are we?

We moved to France to buy a cheap property, which we did, the property was a derelict eyesore in a pretty village, we renovated and the town was happy, we sold it and we were happy.

We made the effort to speak the language and learn the customs of the area we moved too, we contributed to the economy and bought (almost) everything we ever used in France, some things we already had and some things we missed too much from the UK.

But not everybody that makes this move, does it this way.

So many people move to another country and just seek out other ex pats (economic migrants) they stick together and do not learn the language, make no effort to integrate and buy everything from their own country and ship it over, many complain abut the ‘French’ and the bad way of doing things here, how they should be more like the UK.

No they shouldn’t, they are French and you are in France!

So many people do as we did and buy a cheap house to renovate and then sell it out of the price range of the local population or buy a village house and use it as a holiday home for a couple of weeks a year and then complain that the village shop has closed, it will close if people no longer live in the village!

How do the people in France (or any other country) really feel about us? we buy the cheap houses, we take jobs from the locals, we still talk English, we build our own small communities, we turn small villages in to ghost towns with our holiday homes, we continue to bring all we need from our own county, even food!

But as I said we are nothing like the migrants on the TV, who will try to bring their own customs and ways of life to their new country, we are ex pats!

And we can always go home if we don’t like it.

Obviously this does not refer to all expats

The humanitarian crisis has really upset me, watching babies, families and children being washed up on the beaches and arriving with no food or warmth, I have set up a funding page to assist, the link is here,

If you feel able please donate, any amount, even 1 UK pound, 1 dollar or 1 euro will make a difference or share the  post on facebook and twitter so other people can see it

Thank you normal service will be resumed tomorrow

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Renovation project - some big decisions are needed

Renovation project - some big decisions are needed

We have been in Spain for a couple of months now and we are loving every minute of it.

The family have been to visit as have friends, the food is wonderful, the sun has not stopped shining though at times we have just spent afternoons in the villa with the air con on!

But we are not having much luck on the house hunting front, we have arranged to view a few but on the morning of the viewing, we are informed the house we wanted is no longer available but there is this one (just happens to be over double the price!)

We are seriously thinking that Spain is not the place to be to do what we want too.

The area we have chosen, does not seem to have been hit by the recession in the same way and a house requiring work is not much different in price to one that is completely finished.

Another issue is the licenses and permits, it is much more difficult in spain when it comes to the paper work. I never thought I would miss the French bureaucracy, but it seems so efficient compared to Spain!

It is time to make some big decisions.

We love Spain and this is where we want to be, but if we are not able to buy and work here, what will we do?

At this point I start to have a look at houses in France again, maybe Spain is the long term dream and France is the practical solution?

Maybe we can stay in Spain for part of the year and stay in France for the remainder?

But reality has to take charge, in France we are in the health system, we can work, I can speak the language (though English is not a problem in Spain) but I want to be part of the country I move to, I do not want to be part of little Britain in another country.

So we can think seriously about it whilst we are lay on our sun lounges enjoying the food and the weather and all that Spain has to offer.

The next few weeks will be the decider, hopefully we will find a property here, but who knows?

I am not sure if this is exciting or terrifying........

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Renovation project - We have found our Spanish home

Renovation project - We have found our Spanish home

Well we have finally arrived at our destination we are staying in a small rental property in Torrevieja for 2 weeks to arrange to view the properties. There were so many available when we were looking so hopefully we just pick one and go.

But in Spain things seem to be slightly different we contact a number of agents only to find out many of the properties that we liked are not available!

So why are they still advertised?

We have 2 weeks to find somewhere to live and to be honest panic did start to kick in.

We go to view 2 and they are not what we want we want a garden and a pool as we are hoping the kids and families will visit often, these 2 on paper have everything we need but the gardens are full of plants and covered in gravel the plants probably wouldn't have been too bad as I would’ve killed them pretty quickly, not through choice but because I am a useless gardener, but the idea of sharp cactus is not appealing, I struggle to understand why people wanting to rent out there properties would have hard to maintain gardens and dangerous plants.

We do have an amazing time in our little rental and we are only 100 metres from the beach and walking distance to the bars and restaurants, I really want somewhere near here.

An agent gets back to us and says they have a property that isn't yet on the books it only emptied a couple of days ago, we arrange to visit and meet the agent there.

I do not need to see inside, this is the property for us, the garden is covered in astro turf so I can't kill it, and there is a fantastic pool,, we agree straight away.

We have found our new home, well for the next 6 months anyway, by which point we will have bought somewhere and had time to make it livable we are dong the renovation in comfort this time!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Ex pats wanted for TV show

Ex pats wanted for TV show

I have received a request from a TV company looking for ex pats.

Would you like to have a TV show about you?

If so have a look at the details below and contact Joe directly.

Good luck and let me now how it goes in the comments below

My name is Joe Pinzone and I'm casting an international travel show about expats moving abroad. We'd love to film in France and wanted to know if you could help us find expats who have moved there within the last 15 months or have been there for 3-4 years, but recently moved into a new home. The show documents their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. The contributors on the show would also receive monetary compensation if they are filmed. If you'd like more information, please email me at 

Looking forward to hearing from you. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Renovation project - You are never too old to follow your dreams

Renovation project - You are never too old to follow your dreams

We arrive in Denia and try to find our hotel, we know which road it is on, but this does not make it any easier as there is no pattern to the number of the houses, we give up and head in to the town centre and find the tourist information office. They direct us to the hotel (it is only a small hotel)

We arrive and the room is cosy enough, it is a small family run hotel and the woman on duty does not have a great deal of spoken English,, this is when it hits me we are really going to have to learn another language!!!!!

The room is cosy enough, but it is the outside that attracted me to this place it is beautiful with so much greenery and flowers hanging everywhere.

We go for a walk and grab something to eat over looking the beach, this is what we came for, the tapas is fantastic and the view is even better!

We take our first steps by the Med and it is all we remember, soft golden sand and clear blue water, we feel like we have come home!

Denia, Costa Blanca, Spain

Denia, Costa Blanca, Spain

That evening we have dinner at our hotel and the restaurant is beautiful and the food is delicious, so much fresh fish and sea food, the tapas selection is everything we wanted.

Denia, Costa Blanca, SpainDenia, Costa Blanca, Spain

Denia, Costa Blanca, SpainDenia, Costa Blanca, Spain

We sit back with a glass of wine and realise we are 2 of the luckiest people alive, we thank our lucky stars for all the opportunities we have been given and realise you are never too old to chase the life you want.

You just have to have the conviction to go for it (and the ability to leave all your material belongings behind!)

That night we go to bed still happy in the knowledge we have done it!

Denia, Costa Blanca, Spain
Good morning :)

Driving to the Costa Blanca, Spain avoiding toll roads

Driving to the Costa Blanca, Spain avoiding toll roads

We leave cellars and within 10 minutes we are passing some of the most beautiful scenery we have seen so far on this trip, we also pass a gorge that looks very similar to the one we had tried to find yesterday, we can't get in to it but we can pull up nearby to take photographs.

We have chosen not to use the toll roads (not because we are Scrooges) but because you get to see so much more when you are on the smaller roads. You drive round mountains and through villages you would never get to see if you were on a main motorway.

I would so recommend driving this way, toll roads may be quicker and more convenient but you miss so much,, by driving this way you never know what you will see, we had never expected to find stunning lakes in the middle of mountain ranges!

The villages you drive through are also the traditional Spanish villages that you hope to visit but miss if you are on the tourist routes.

There is a cost associated with toll roads, but personally I feel the cost is so much higher than just the financial aspect, the missed experiences and views have no monetry values, but when else do you get to drive on open mountain roads and just stop the car to get out and take a selfie with this background?

This is one of the best drives we have ever been on and we are heading to the Costa Blanca, so this makes it even more exciting.

The only advice I can give is be careful in the mountains and enjoy the scenery, driving is so much nicer if you avoid the toll roads

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Renovation project - Cellers Spain and Mont Rebei Gorge

Renovation project - Cellers Spain and Mont Rebei Gorge

We get the directions for Mont St Rebi and start to follow them, we both think this can’t be right, we are going along a mountain track, there are no barriers at the side, with very steep drops, it is also a 2 way road and we pray that nothing comes the other way. We are almost half way there when we stop and seriously consider how much we want to visit this place the track is full of pot holes and not safe and our car is heavily loaded.

We give up and see if we can find it another way.

We drive through a couple of towns and get on to real roads again and then we have passed it, I can see the ravine where I think it is but we cannot find it any where (even thought there are plenty of signs pointing to it!)

we get directions and still don't find it, then just as we give up we see the smallest sign with an arrow, this is becoming something akin to the search for the holy grail.

We turn and follow the sign and discover we are on another mountain track, but this time we continue, we will get to this bloody attraction if it kills us (and at this point there is a good chance it will either kill us or at the very least the suspension of the car!)

We get to the end of the track and there is a sign to the car park, I get out and have a look, but it is far too steep for our loaded car, at this point we give up, we can also hear the rumbles of thunder and the idea of driving round the mountain in a storm is not appealing, we do get to take some photos of the beginning of the gorge and you can see just how beautiful it will be.

Here is a link to the actual gorge and if you ever make it let me know

Back to the hotel and we change for dinner, again we have a super sized aperitif (I am not sure how many of these I will be able to take, the size of my gin and tonic is unbelievable)

Dinner is magnificent and I would highly recommend the half board at this hotel, we have never been half board before and to be honest I had no idea I had booked half board here, but I am not complaining.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Renovation project - Driving across the Pyrenees

Renovation project - Driving across the Pyrenees

We leave Andorra and head for Spain, we are staying in a place called Cellers, Spain as I really want to visit Mont St Rrebi.

We drive out of Andorra and make sure we fill the car with diesel, it is so cheap here, actually most things are in Andorra, and if you come in summer there are amazing bargains to be had in the hotels.

We head to the border crossing and John freaks as I go to take a photo, apparently this is not on!

We are pulled to one side and asked to open our boot, we are praying they don't want to search us, as we are currently carrying all of our belongings in the car and to unpack would take hours, however the border officer notices this and just asks if we have any alcohol or tobacco, we don't so we are waved on.

The drive is a lot more down hill this way but we pass through some tunnels in the mountains that are 2 or 3 kilometres long.

The drive to Spain is fantastic, we really can't recommend driving through the Pyrenees enough we have done it so many times and each time have taken a different route, and each time we have never been disappointed by the views.

This time we have taken a video of the drive, if you click on the link you will be able to experience out drive, but do try t for yourself as the video really does not do justice to the majestic mountain range

DRIVING THROUGH THE PYRENEES this is the link to click on for the video

We arrive in Cellars early in the afternoon and have a lunch in the café next to the hotel, we sit by the pool over looking the lake, and eel our first spots of rain, what is going on, we are in Spain it should not even be pretending to rain!!!!!

There is one heavy shower then it is is dry almost as quickly as it rained.

Time to book in and then go exploring.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Renovation project - Andorra

Renovation project - Andorra

Driving from Bordeaux to Andorra is an amazing road trip, the scenery changes constantly and it is so exciting when you see the border checkpoint, we have really said goodbye to France.

The drive goes higher and higher and the roads are very windy, even though they are not small, I couldn't resist taking a photo of the sat nav, It looks like a child has gone mad with the purple felt tip after being on such long straight roads.

It is still raining as we go over the Pyrenees and I somehow feel we are to blame for the bad weather, it has rained at some point every day since we left Huelgoat in Brittany.

We have visited Andorra before and the main thing you notice is the mountains and the feeling of being enclosed, they are all around you, the mountain roads wind up and down and the highest point is well over 2000 metres.

We have plans to visit the main town again, but decide to book into the hotel first, the sat nav couldn't find it, but we put in a road that is nearby and once close, search for hotels, it finds it straight away and we follow the directions to what looks like a very shut hotel, no need to panic I have the reservation on my phone, as we pull in it is definitely shut, bugger what do we do now, we have already paid, and the road we have just gone on is a dead end, we reverse out, no easy task onto a mountain road and then notice just past where we pulled in is the hotel (we pulled in to the wrong drive)

The hotel is amazing and the view is spectacular. As I booked the hotel, on the special request bit I had asked to have the room on the website picture, and we get it, it is beautiful and as we look out of the patio doors we see a wild deer in the grounds below, can this place get any better.

Our plans to go out are dropped immediately, we have one night here and we are going to enjoy it, unfortunately we do not have our swimming costumes to take advantage of the spa, but this just means we will come back again.

As evening approaches we look out and see a restaurant not far away but as we work out how long it would take to walk there and back we decide to stay and eat at the hotel, we are so glad we did the food was amazing.

Before dinner we have an apperitif in the bar, it is the largest gin and tonic I have ever seen!

The food and drinks were fabulous and we head back to the room for one of the most comfortable nights sleep we have had in a long time.

Breakfast is just as good with a table overlooking the mountainside but it is time to move on, another day another country.

I have just realised we have not said very much about Andorra, it is definitely worth a visit for a couple of nights, in winter it is a ski resort and in summer you can find some really good hotel deals, as we had visited before, this time we just relaxed and didn't explore at all (I know not much of a blog post but hopefully the photos will be worthwhile)