There comes a time in many people’s lives when lifestyle options need to be reviewed. This can be for any number of reasons including work, health, family, or simply to escape the everyday hustle and bustle.
For many years, I have had the desire to move away from my native country of the United Kingdom and explore new horizons. In fact, I nearly started a new life in France way back in 2004, but this failed to materialise as I was unable to sell my home at the time. Nevertheless, my aspirations for a move to France didn’t diminish and until 2012, my mind was focused on the Lot Valley area in the south west of the country. This part of France offers dramatic scenery, ancient history and warm summers but the downside is that the winter months can be almost as cold as parts of the UK.
With a longing for a warmer climate, my sights began to wander further south and for the last few years, Spain became the number one choice. There was still the problem of having to sell a property before being in a position to purchase another as I’m not one of the nouveau riche who can afford a second home! After a spell of ill health and diminishing work, I eventually found a buyer for my house in the UK and in the autumn of 2014 began an in-depth search for a property in sunny Spain. Prior to this, I had already decided upon the region of Andalusia in the south of the country. This was mainly because of the climate with its mild winters and hot summers. The autonomous region is the second largest in the whole of Spain and also the most populated. Historically, there has been high unemployment as the region relies heavily upon agriculture and tourism for inoome, but recently there has been growth in the industry and services sectors. Andalusia is divided into eight provinces, namely Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville. Many cultural and Spanish customs originate in the region, and much of its architecture is influenced by the Moors.
After a couple of house-hunting trips to Spain, I finally decided upon a property which was within my budget. It is well reported that property prices throughout Spain reached an all-time low during 2013-14, especially in rural areas, so arguably it was a good time to buy. The reality, however, is that for a half-decent property, one has to fork out a fair amount of money and properties with pools command an average €30.000 premium. Whilst many will see a pool as very desirable, most are only used for about four months of the year. They are expensive to maintain and keep clean, especially with the amount of dust blown in the strong winds, and households with pools face water bills of double those without. Having spoken to people who have pools, many express their regrets and wish they were not encumbered.
No doubt readers will guess which option I selected. Being cost conscious and a non-swimmer, I decided to seek a property without a pool but this restricts the number of properties available. I also stipulated an average sized plot as too much ground would require maintenance. Even so, plots are generally far larger than the average UK property and houses are built to keep the heat out rather than in! This means that they can be very cold in the winter months as neither central heating nor insulation are common installations and floors are traditionally all tiled. After extensive searching, I finally decided upon a villa-type property with some mountain views yet convenient for shops and easy motorway access.
In mid January 2015, I finally left the UK to embark upon a 1500 mile [2400 km] drive to my chosen province of Almería. Things didn’t exactly go to plan as I was unable to move into the house immediately and also had to wait for my possessions to be transported from the UK. Finally I moved into my new home on 28 January and have most rooms straight and tidy, hence the chance to sit down and write this overdue blog! There will be plenty of maintenance to undertake in the future, especially redecoration, but overall the place is now clean and habitable. The priority is to integrate into the community that comprises a large number of expats from the UK and Belgium, as well as local people. Also, one has to come to terms with excessive Spanish bureaucracy and the time taken for things to get done. It’s all part of the Spanish lifestyle though which simply adds to the charm of living here. In time, there will be plenty of places to explore, both locally and further afield, and it is hoped that some of these will be featured on these pages. Meanwhile the featured photos show the landscape in February although I should mention that, overall, the winter here has been the coldest for at least four years with snow on the highest mountain peaks. Talk about bad timing on my part!