Sunday, June 30, 2013

Back to Bigastro

First off let me share my photos with you at

Now let me tell you about Palma airport.

We were taken to the airport by taxi. As we arrived there was a long queue of cars waiting to either go into the car park or be returned to car hire depots. Luckily we were going to departures and so avoided the wait. The driver dropped us off by the Air Berlin check-in. At the front were the terminals to print out boarding cards but since we had already checked in via SMS we joined the queue for bag drop off only to be told that we needed boarding cards. The young lady who spoke no English pointed towards a massive queue that would have taken us the best part of an hour or more to get through.

We knew that could not be right. Fortunately, there was an Air Berlin rep by the terminals who helped us print out our boarding passes so we could join the short queue. Even still it took a good twenty minutes or more to check in our cases.

The last time we were at Palma, the airport was small. Now it is huge and packed with people – utter chaos. It is also a long walk to the gates so plenty of time is required to ensure you do not miss your plane. Goodness knows how someone like my father, who had to be carefully directed at Murcia airport would get on. He’d probably have missed two planes before he got to the right gate. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The waiting game

Laura, Dave, Molly and Jemma left at 7:45 leaving Pam and I to finish off. Our taxi is due at 12am so we have a bit of time to kill whilst the cleaners prepare for the next lot of clients.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the rest of our family for making the holiday so very special for us. We hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.

It might be wrong but I do have to make special mention of Molly. She was delightful company keeping us both entertained and on our toes. In just a few short weeks, we will enjoy her company again when Jemma and Laura bring her to see us in Bigastro. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Last day

Like all good holidays, this one seems to have lasted forever. Yesterday we visited Formentor at the top of the island. The girls took the boat from Pollenca whilst Dave and I drove there.

The scenery at the top of the island is just breathtaking. The road winds up the mountainside before dropping back to sea level. Part way there is a place to stop and take photos of the steep cliffs, the coves and the sea far below.

Now though it is time to pack the cases ready for the flight home tomorrow. For Dave, Laura. Molly and Jemma it is a journey to Manchester. For Pam and I it is a short hop to Alicante.

By tomorrow evening, the holiday that we spent months looking forward to will just be a memory and the photos/video stored in our cameras. Our first family holiday for over 20 years though will not be forgotten and no doubt, we will be recalling special moments from it over the next twelve months or longer.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


An absolute must when you visit Mallorca is a day in Palma. Yesterday was scheduled to be a day on the beach but with clouds looming in the sky that seemed like a poor choice. In fact, for the first time since we arrived, there was nobody on the sun beds by 11:00am.

It seemed everyone had the same idea as us and so car park after car park was full with a queue of cars waiting to go in. Car park no 4, just off the main shopping street of Palma was half empty. Clearly, nobody wanted to walk except us.

The highlight of the day was the magnificent cathedral that Pam and I had visited 43 years before on our honeymoon. The only difference was that this time we had to pay to go in and the exit was through a shop. It seems that even the church has to find means to raise money these days.

The best view of the cathedral is from the Guiness bar where they charge a premium price for drinks. It was probably the most expensive photo I have ever taken of a church.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thanks to Mark

My son in law, Dave sat next to a guy called Mark at Old Trafford for years. It turns out that Mark knows Mallorca like the back of his hand and had visited Pollenca many times.

He recommended that we visited Soller for an ice cream and Colonia de St Pere for a fish restaurant, both of  which we have done. Soller was well worth the drive over the mountains and C.S.P was everything that Mark said it would be.

Our itinerary for the next week includes a boat trip to Formentor, a day out in Palma and a trip to Cala San Vincente.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

If paradise was half as nice!

Mallorca is just as beautiful as we recall and Puerta Pollenca the perfect family resort. The villa might not have been cheap but it is well worth it - like home from home on steroids.

Molly is both keeping us on our toes and amused in equal measures - such a treasure.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Our first holiday

Some would say that Pam and I are on permanent holiday now that we are retired and living in Spain. That is true but even still, after nearly nine years of living here, we felt the need for a proper holiday by the sea in either a hotel or a villa.

The first time we flew with the girls was to Puerta Pollenca on the beautiful island of Mallorca. On that occasion we stayed at the Hotel Romantica. Now we are returning to Pollenca but this time we have a luxury 5 bedroom villa overlooking the beach to share with our two daughters, our son-ion-law and of course Molly. The villa accommodates parties of up to ten so should be ample.

The rest of the family set off this morning from Manchester by plane and should arrive there by mid morning. Pam and I fly this afternoon from Alicante to be met by Dave at Palma airport in the car they have hired. Then we have two weeks together, just like old times.

Although the villa has wi-fi, I am only taking my iPad so don’t expect many updates to this blog. Apart from the lack of technology, we will be too busy enjoying ourselves to write blog entries!

Prime location

The new Tourist Information Centre was opened in Torrevieja yesterday morning.

The location is the old Miramar restaurant overlooking the inner harbour and the sea. The offices have therefore been modelled to make the best of the view and incorporate new technologies to give visitors the best possible experience.

The only people missing from yesterday's ceremony were the members of the opposition parties in Torrevieja who apparently were not invited. 

Coffee morning

In aid of AFECÁNCER - Asociación de familiares y enfermos de cáncer de Torrevieja y Vega Baja.

(Assocation of cancer patients and their families in Torrevieja and Vega Baja).

You are warmly invited to a


June 18th at 11am.

Calle Alemania 31, Villas Andreas, Bigastro.

Please come along and if you have any donations of cakes, biscuits, bric a brac, raffle prizes etc. they will be much appreciated.

We look forward to seeing you.

Beryl, Joan and Sheila

Friday, June 14, 2013

A good cause

Debbie Waller, who lives on our estate, tells me that she will be having her head shaved in aid of Breakthrough breast cancer.

The event will take place on Friday, 26th July at La Terraza bar (Darren and Hazel’s bar opposite the medical centre) in the evening.

If you would like to sponsor this brave lady either email her at or call into La Terraza for a sponsorship form.

Should we worry?

The two earthquakes yesterday reminded us of the seismic risk that we face living in the Vega Baja.

The Vega Baja is situated at the eastern end of the Cadiz-Alicante fault.  Seismic activity occurs in a broad swath of hundreds of kilometres that runs EW direction between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates. It is the approach of both plates that generates the earthquakes.

Untitled-1 Torrevieja area and its surroundings are especially noted for microseismicity - low intensity shakes that mostly fail to be felt by the population. They are also mostly shallow earthquakes occurring within 20 kilometres of the surface.

The map on the left shows the quakes that have been observed in the last 10 days. Note that the strongest quakes occur south of the area in North Africa and west of the area in the Atlantic Ocean

However, we must not forget the 1829 earthquake that destroyed several villages of the Vega Baja, including Torrevieja, Guardamar and Almoradí. The Government has urged these municipalities to draw up a special plan against seismic risk.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two in one day


A second earthquake in one day is definitely one in fact two too many.

The second one happened at 3:25pm and was of the magnitude 3.2. Since the epicentre was shallow it was more noticeable. Certainly, we heard and fest it here in Bigastro.

Why your dog should be vaccinated

Most dog owners are very responsible for their pets but unfortunately there are some who let the side down.

One such owner in Castile-La-Mancha kept a pit bull-cross which was brought in from Morocco and may well have had doctored veterinary records.

The dog bit three children, aged two, six and twelve as well as a 17 year old boy. The dog was immediately destroyed after confirming that it had rabies. All the victims were given rabies injections apart from the two year old who was apparently bitten in the face. The owner has been arrested on several counts of criminal negligence and all dogs and cats in the area have been given compulsory vaccinations.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to keep a dangerous dog especially if there was any possibility of the  animal coming into contact with children. There have been numerous instances of these dogs attacking children and babies, in some cases with fatal results.

There are plenty of “safe” breeds to choose from so why go for one that could pose a danger? I understand that walking a dog like a poodle does not enhance your credibility with your mates. So I reckon it just a macho thing –look at me with my dangerous dog - come near and he’ll take your leg off.

Shaky, shaky, wakey, wakey

Untitled-1 There was an earthquake this morning at 5.18 am in the Vega Baja. The quake of 2.7 magnitude lasted just over two seconds and was centred southeast of Rojales

The quake would have been felt over 15 kilometres  away, in places like Torrevieja, Guardamar del Segura and the Orihuela Costa.

This was just one of dozens of earthquakes that occur annually in this region - an area of significant seismic activity.

Something woke me up early this morning, perhaps it was that. It didn’t move Pamela though who was still snoring!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Well worth it

20130610_vacunacion Nobody wants to see their pet suffer from rabies. Even more to the point, nobody wants to risk their children or themselves being bitten by a rabid animal. That is why, Bigastro regularly offers anti-rabies injections for dogs.

On Friday, between 5pm and 9pm and on Saturday between 10am and 2pm you can take your dog to the old police station on Calle Mayor to have an injection.

That’s just rubbish

For years we paid 50 euros via our water bill  for waste collection at Villas Andrea. We were told that the price was decided by dividing the cost of the service by the number of houses. With a change in council, the price was dropped to 35 euros, the same amount that the rest of the town pays. However, that could all change again.

It seems that the Vega Baja now has a Zonal Plan for waste collection and the company awarded the contract is the Joint Venture Cespa-Ortiz. In effect, the 27 councils that make up Waste Consortium XVII Zone will all pay the same fee which, for most, involves a sharp increase over previous arrangements. I imagine that the concept of negotiating a plan for all 27 municipalities was to reduce costs by applying greater bargaining power to the company involved. Clearly, that has not worked.

The increase will vary according to municipality. For example, Callosa de Segura currently pays 15 euros per ton for its rubbish collection. The new contract means they could be paying 49 euros per ton plus 8.63 euros to transport the rubbish to a new site at Cox. For other municipalities the increase will be lower but nether the less, all will end up paying more than at present.

To make matters worse, it is not yet certain that Cox has permission to construct a rubbish tip.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Caliche again

20130610_calicheAs in the last few years, the Commission for Fiestas has organised a “caliche” competition for this year.

It all kicks off on the 22nd June at 11am with the final taking place on the 15th August. This year there will be an assortment of prizes including a first prize of two hams and a trophy.

What is caliche?

Look it up in your dictionary and you will find it is a kind of stone. That does not really help does it? You actually need to search locally because it is a game quite specific to this region of Spain.

Caliche is a game rather like skittles in Britain.

‘Rather’ as in very loosely indeed. It is played in a flat area that is 35m long and 6m wide. A wooden baton (called the caliche), 20cm long and 3cm diameter is placed 7m from the end of the field. A 2cm disk (moneda) is placed on top of the baton. The end of the field is blocked off with a stout table or similar, turned on its side to stop the moneo disks which you throw at the baton. The moneo are weighty metal disks of 8cm diameter (could be square, too) about 2mm thick.

The objective of the game is to throw the moneo at the caliche  to knock the moneda off the caliche and make the moneda and moneo end up as close as possible to each other.

The game is usually played with two teams of two. Each game has 8 throws, 4 per team and 2 per player. For a throw to be considered valid, the moneda must end up closer to the moneo than the caliche. If the moneo ends up nearer the caliche than the moneda, the throw was invalid and is called a ‘ganga’.

A ganga throw can also be considered valid (made into a ganga válida) in the following way. You can throw another moneo down the field with a view to getting that one to land closer to the moneda than the caliche, or throwing another moneo in order to move the caliche so that the moneo you threw initially is now closer to the moneda than the caliche. If the player manages to achieve one of these ‘validation moves’, the throw is said to be arrimar or arrestar.

If, after throwing the second moneo after a ganga throw, you still don’t have a valid throw, there is one last option to validate your throw. The caliche and moneda get put back in their place in the centre line of the field and 7m from the end board. Once set up, the team that throws first has up to 4 opportunities to overturn the caliche and make a ganga. If so, the team that throws second will have to make a ganga válida to gain a point.

The teams take turns to play first. Typically a match comprises 12 or 20 rounds (manos). A point is gained by each the team winning the mano.

Crikey – that is more involved than I first thought and a lot more complicated than skittles.  Sounds like this will be a hard fought competition with a lot of shouting and gesticulating going on. I am thinking this could be a good photo opportunity – there are bound to be some real characters taking part and watching.

Monday, June 10, 2013


It seems like there is a bit of an exodus of Brits from Villas Andrea. Throughout the time we have been here there has been a steady trickle of people who, for whatever reason,  have left. Most have gone back to merry England, a handful to other parts of Spain and France. Over the last few years though, the trickle has become a flood.

I am sure there are many reasons why people want to leave for family, for health or just plain homesick for the way of life they left behind.

We hope that they take back fond memories of the people they met, the friends they made in Bigastro and their lives in the sun.Those of us who are staying would like to extend a warm welcome to our new neighbours, many of whom are Spanish. I think you will find us a friendly crowd on the whole.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

A big thumbs up

To the Alzheimer’s Association in Bigastro for organising a brilliant Feria Sevillana today.

The horse show was first class, the dancers were excellent and the tapas was unbelievably good. At 1 euro per portion and 1 euro for a drink, it was no surprise they were running out fast.

See my photos from the day here.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Much appreciated


The year after we arrived, Pam and I joined the Spanish for Foreigner’s class which, at that time, was taught by Ana.

The town hall no longer has the money to pay a teacher and so we have a volunteer (an ex teacher called Antonio) who teaches us for four hours per week.

Whilst we were in the UK, the town hall organised a presentation of diplomas and an end of course buffet. One of our classmates collected the diplomas for us along with these beautifully wrapped presents.They are, of course, books in Spanish for us to read. 

When we first started learning Spanish we would have needed a dictionary for almost every word. Now we can understand most of the book without recourse to the dictionary – that is progress!

First of all many thanks to Antonio for teaching us and to the Town Hall for the kind gifts – they are much appreciated. Our next course starts in September – we will be there!  

Friday, June 07, 2013

AVE at last

At last we have a date for the start of the high speed train from Alicante to Madrid. The first train will run on June 17th with the first date for passengers set to to the 18th.

The train will take 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete the journey and will cost 64.9 euros at full price. However, tickets between the 18th and 25th will cost 32.45 euros or 25 euros if bought online.

Although the line passes through Orihuela, the train will not stop there. It will stop at Albacete, Villena and Cuenca.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Controversy over the civil war in Spain still continues.

Thirty five thousand volunteers from 53 countries formed the International Brigades. Their aim was to fight the fascist forces of General Francisco Franco and other such forces in Italy and Germany. Even though the civil war in Spain was lost, the world woke up to the horrors that fascism posed.

Two years ago, a monument to the members of the International Brigade was erected in the gardens of the Complutense University in Madrid. There was strong opposition from the right wing and the monument was daubed with graffiti. Complaints against it were made on political grounds but they failed.

Now, the far right have found that the monument, which stands not far from the huge victory arch built during Franco’s dictatorship,  contravenes planning laws and so a court has ordered it to be pulled down.  

The lawyer, Miguel García, who lead the case said,  "there is nothing to celebrate, and especially not in a public space devoted to education."  "The international brigades were created and managed by Stalin, the most genocidal leader in history."

The truth is that the extremes of politics, both left and right wing, have a lot to answer for.

Just to remind you

20130605_sevOn Sunday 9th June, the Alzheimer's Association in Bigastro have organised a Sevillana Fair to take place in the park.

Expect to see horses, flamenco dancing, pony rides and plenty of tapas to enjoy.

The fun starts at 9am (ish!) Having missed the wonderful celebrations for Corpus Christi, I will be there with my camera.  

Advance warning

200605_purisima Just to let you know that work will commence on Calle Purisima Monday 10th June.

The notice on the Bigastro web site mentions asphalt – does that mean they are going to cover those expensive but bumpy granite cobbles or are we talking about further along the street?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Home again

We arrived home safely yesterday evening leaving Birmingham in sunshine. Apart from the day we arrived, the whole weekend was blessed with glorious weather.

Now the task of working on the photographs for Mat and Jade starts. I had promised them about 300 and so far I have whittled the number down to 380 with quite a few duplicates for the groups. That will allow them to choose, which version of the photos they prefer.

One thing we have noticed, Corpus Christi was very special this year. From the photos we have seen, it looks like the town really pushed the boat out to come up with something befitting the occasion. I only wish I could have been there but then you can’t be in two places at once.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Can you believe this weather?

Yesterday we went to meet Mat and Jade at the church where they are getting married. It gave us a good chance to look around and find some locations for photographs there.

Then we went to the place where the reception will be held.

Mat and Jade are a very easy couple to work with, they both have very natural smiles and their love for each other shone through once they warmed up to the idea.

We tried  out a variety of poses, some of which I had seen other photographers use. The ones that I tried to copy in fact worked out to be the least successful.

The brilliant sunshine might be good for everyone else, but of course it poses problems for me. Unlike most, I will be constantly looking for light shade.