September 2013 Archive

Eating Out in the Moraira area

People are always asking for my restaurant recommendations, and that’s very difficult advice to give since there are so many options available. To my mind, it all depends on the purpose of the restaurant visit. Is it merely to satisfy hunger without changing into posh garb. or is it a business lunch. Perhaps it’s to relax with friends and chat while eating good food in a pleasant atmosphere Equally, if the visit is to celebrate some special occasion, then that will be a factor in the restaurant decision too. You’ll want somewhere with a buzz.

Relaxing with friends and/or celebrating are surely the most pleasant eating occasions, so here are some location suggestions (naturally they are high on my favourites list too)

Ca Pepe

The restaurant is located in Calle Haya, just outside of the main Moraira town, but that provides the bonus of easy parking, even in high season. Ca Pepe is family owned and run, and their success is due to the strategy of using seasonal local produce, and to the care they take to ensure the high standards they set are met by all staff. Just look at the referrals they are able to present on their website. The menu del dia here is priced at 16.95 euros and includes a ½ bottle of wine

D’Gust

The position of the restaurant is ideal – in the corner of Plaza La Sort, in Moraira town. You can eat outside, or at one of the elegant internal dining tables. Either way, the food is presented in an artistic manner that makes the mouth water. The menu del dia is priced at 15 euros and on my last visit, the starter of salmon and the sea bass main course were superb.

El Caserio

This is on the main road out of Moraira, towards Teulada/Benitachell. The style of cuisine is best described as International/Spanish, but whatever the label that most accurately fits, everything is presented in a stylish fashion that adds to the pleasure of the meal. An evening set menu is offered at 21.50 euros, but that provides you with a choice of starter, main course and dessert, and they surprise you with a couple of extra tidbits during the meal. If I say more there’ll be no surprises for you, so no more clues. A whole host of a la carte options are available too, but whatever you choose we’re certain you’ll be licking your lips all the way through the evening.

La Masena

This is a beautifully converted, but still rustic, finca – on the outskirts of Javea. It’s actually on the Carretera Benitachell (the road running towards Javea from Benitachell). It’s open every day, except Tuesday, from 12.30 to 1600 hours and from 19.30 to 2300 hours. You can eat inside the stylish air conditioned dining room, with its beams and chandeliers, or you may decide to dine "al fresco” on the relaxing outside terrace. There is no doubt that this is a venue to celebrate a special occasion, and the house specialities endorse this view; Carpaccio of pear confit with shavings of foie gras; marinated quail salad with mango; scallops "au gratin” and suckling pig with oranges and fried bananas – these will give you some idea about the gorgeous food they serve. The a la carte menu is not cheap, but if you go for the menu del dia at lunchtime, the cost is 17 euros per head, and there is no reduction in quality. Indeed, I visited today and chicken cordon bleu and beef stroganoff were menu del dia possibilities and both were divine

Options

Again, this is a town centre location. The restaurant has a host of highly complimentary  reviews on the Internet, comments confirmed by my own experience. There is no menu del dia on offer, but  you can choose 2 courses from a set menu for 20 euros and for an extra 5 euros you can enjoy an additional course

Rodolfo

This is a genuine Italian restaurant, and although it’s a Moraira town centre location there’s a large free car park to the rear. All food is cooked and prepared under the supervision/instruction of the half Italian/German owner, Rodolfo. The pasta in particular is made to order and tastes fabulous – not surprising since he is a Member of the Federation of Italian Professional Chefs. He says his aim each day is to treat customers to the delights of Italian cuisine, with the subtle combination of flavours, colours and aromas. There is no doubt he succeeds.

Vall de Cavall

Located just off the Teulada road outside of Gata de Gorgos – food aside, the setting of the dining area is wonderful. You look across open countyside and dine beneath the gaze of the elephant shaped mountain called Montgo. The menu del dia will cost 17.50 euros per person and all the tasty courses will be beautifully presented, by friendly and enthusiastic staff.

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Posted by on Monday 30th September 2013

What to do during retirement in Spain

Like me, you probably hurtled along motorways in the years prior to retirement, trying to reach appointments with important clients. Allowance had been made for high levels of traffic, but just one accident resulted in miles and miles of stationery vehicles – yours and mine included.

It was little wonder then, that the prospect of retirement brought doubts into my mind. Would retirement in the UK or in Spain be satisfying after decades of stomach churning, adrenaline pumping rushes from one important appointment or meeting to another.

I’m writing to tell you that retirement in Spain will be, or at least can be, as busy as you want it to be. My diary is as full as it’s always been, but the big difference now is that, if I’m late or decide not to go, there’ll be no angry client on the phone or final warning letter in the post. I go because I’m interested in the activities I attend..

To anyone about to retire to the Moraira area of Costa Blanca, I recommend that you join an organisation called U3A. It’s not concerned with particular age groups. Rather it addresses itself to people whose full time employment is at an end or nearing it, or perhaps those where parental responsibility is no longer full time. Such people, and I’m one of them, still want to experience new things but these days, the emphasis is on leisure and recreational pursuits, rather than achieving academic or employment successes.

The cost of joining U3A is a modest 10 euros per person for one whole year, and some 1400 people think that the membership is worthwhile. Of course, that membership is an important source of new friendships for the newly retired. It’s open to people of all nationalities, and rightly so, but all business is conducted in English.

One of the most amusing facts about team GB’s success in the London Olympics was that the vast majority of our medals were gained in "sitting down sports” – cycling; rowing; sailing.  Not to be outdone, U3A has lots of sitting down activities too. These include backgammon; bridge; canasta; chess; cribbage; flower arranging (OK, I know this one does involve a little leaning forward and stem cutting, but it’s mainly sitting down); fortune telling (though the tarot cards have to be dealt and the crystal ball polished); dining out; jigsaw puzzle solving - actually, there are too many to list.

For those with death wish/extreme sport tendencies, U3A has arranged regular badminton; fishing; gardening; bowls; healthy walking; pilates; petanque; table tennis and yoga sessions, and again these are just examples. The list is even more exhaustive (no pun intended). Then, if you have an interest not already covered, you’ll be encouraged (but not railroaded) to start and run a new group. 

Another organisation that’s worthy of a retiree’s attention is the Teula Moraira Lions Club. With some 1.3 million members worldwide, it’s active in some 44000 communities globally. The Lions Club is a group of male and female volunteers who give time freely to humanitarian causes in and around its local community.

The Lions Club in Teulada-Moraira started it’s fund raising activities in 1994 and in the first year raised 845 pesetas. Since then, the figure has swelled to over 150000 euros. Most important, as an organisation of volunteers, every penny or cent raised by Lions Club International goes directly to charity. For example, they sponsor a food voucher scheme – administered by Social Services at Teulada/Moraira Town Hall. All admin costs are met by members. If you’d like to know how you can get involved with these activities in Moraira on retirement – take a look at their website, where contact details are shown.

Although Mark Twain wittily described it as ”a good walk spoiled” – as I’m writing about things to do during retirement in Spain – the game of golf has to be mentioned and included in the list.

Assuming, as in my case, a high level of fitness and athleticism has long ago departed your body – then the 2 x 9 hole courses near to Moraira will be of interest. For me, on a hot summers day, as long as my drives are reasonably straight, that is – 9 holes is just about the right length before oxygen, several nurses and possibly a matron, are desperately needed.

Club de Golf Ifach

Designed by Javier Arana, the club was opened in 1974. He made the course short but tricky, with narrow fairways and cunningly placed bunkers. The 6 par 3s and 3 par 4s require you to use a full range of clubs and to hone your short game skills. Even if you’re playing badly, it’s hard to spoil the good walk since the views of Ifach rock are stunning.

Club de Golf de Javea

Here’s another course where Mark Twain would have been hard pressed to make his "good walk spoiled” claim stick. The course is flanked by palm, pine and orange trees. It’s sheltered by Cape San Antonio allowing a near perfect all year round micro climate, and your shots are overseen by Montgo, a 750m high mountain shaped like the head and trunk of an elephant. Again, although the course is not long, the 1981 designer, Francisco Moreno, made it challenging – with 34 bunkers – very appropriate, since the sand of the coast is only a few kilometers away. Although it’s only 9 holes long, you can go round twice – most of the back 9 (as it were) having alternative tees. Then the greens have subtle slopes making them difficult to fathom.

It’s good to see that the management of the course insists that golfers dress and behave like golfers, and not like beach bums. The place has some style.

It needs to be stated that if you get in your car with your clubs in the boot, there are other nice courses to visit. There’s Club de Golf La Sella Denia, designed by Jose Maria Olazabal, and a little further north you’ll find the Sevy Ballesteros creation – Club de Golf Oliva Nova. Go in the other direction, and there are courses at Altea, Benidorm, Calpe and many around Alicante. Further south they can be found at Elche, Santa Pola, Guardamar, Orihuela, Murcia and Torrevieja.

Choosing exactly where to get your good walk spoiled is difficult but there is more information here. Golf

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Posted by on Friday 27th September 2013

Markets in Costa Blanca North

There are markets to visit daily along the Costa Blanca North. They usually start trading around 9-10am and wind down around 2pm. Although people may tell you that stall holders will not barter, I can categorically state that if you offer a price that you think is fair, and it provides him with a profit, it’s likely to be accepted. If both the seller and the purchaser can walk away smiling, then a deal will be struck.

The goods available to you are myriad, from clothing, sunglasses, hats and shoes, to towels and bed linen, not forgetting ceramic pots, dishes and ornaments. Of course fresh fruit and vegetables are there in abundance too, along with spices and dried fruits.

It’s true to say, that prices are substantially cheaper away from tourist hotspots, so it’s worth a visit to some of the less well known locations. To help you plan your market schedule, here are the locations for each day.

·      Mon – DENIA (next to Mercadona supermarket)

·      Tue – ALTEA (at the top of the town)

·      Wed – TEULADA (Calle Alicante)

·      Wed – BENIDORM (Near Pueblo Hotel in Levante Beach area)

·      Thu – JAVEA (In the Old Town)

·      Fri – MORAIRA (just off Carretera Moraira Calpe, in town centre)

·      Fri – GATA DE GORGOS (this is a typical Spanish food market)

·      Sat – BENISSA (near to "Cathedral of the Marina”)

·      Sat – CALPE (Avenida del Norte)

·      Sun – PEDREGUER (known as "rastro” market, it’s located on the industrial estate. Here you’ll find second hand goods too – handy if you’re trying to furnish somewhere within a tight budget)

·      Sun – JESUS POBRE (In the town, just off the main road through it. I confess this is my favourite, though it’s quite small.  There are few tourists and mainly Spanish people frequent it. In the summer it’s held in the early evening. In the autumn/winter, it switches to morning)

It’s true to say that every town in the area is likely to host a market during the week. Here are a few more for you to keep in mind – Parcent and Callosa (Monday); La Nucia (Sunday and Monday); Pego and Lliber (Sunday); Polop and Benitachell (Wednesday); Benidoleig (Thursday); Villajoyosa (Thursday and Sunday too); Alfaz del Pi and Finestrat (Friday) and Jalon (Saturday)

There will most likely be coffee available and churros stalls, selling freshly made Spanish doughnuts. Most stall holders will invite you to taste their fruit before you buy, so you’ll need to complete several laps of the market, at a trot, to compensate for all this intake.

Undoubtedly, everyone will enjoy the buzz and bustle of any of these markets and it will surely make a pleasant change from the beach, but just one word of caution is needed, however. Crowds, in any country are a magnet for light fingered people keen to relieve you of money and valuables. Be sure to make the day a rotten and unsuccessful one for them.  If you know anyone visiting the Northern Costa Blanca feel free to send them a link to this article.

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Posted by on Tuesday 24th September 2013

Getting from Alicante Airport to your Villa

Most people seem to hire a car for collection at the airport, and that makes sense if you need transport during your stay. On the other hand, lots of people have holiday homes on the Costa Blanca North, and may well have a vehicle awaiting them at that holiday home. For those people, car hire is not a sensible option.

Then, for people like me, who hate the hassle of the car hire desk queue and the drive on unfamiliar roads in an unfamiliar car, having been awake since the crack of dawn – the following option may appeal.

There is an organisation called Beni Connect, It’s a Benidorm based and family run operation, and is fully licenced and insured. It provides a shuttle service from the airport with drop offs at Calpe, Benissa, Moraira, Benitachell and Javea. The prices are 18 euros, 22, 22, 22 and 25 euros respectively.

If there’s a large family to get to Costa Blanca North, then this published service may not be cost effective. In their fleet, though, they have vehicles with 14 to 54 seats, so there’s nothing to lose by getting a price from them. However, for individual travelers and couples, the normal service is surely worth consideration, especially when you take into account the toll charges on the motorway and fuel costs when driving.

How safe is your money when you’ve pre-booked and pre-paid? Well, the organisation is part of the well respected Autocares Grupo Benidorm. It’s been operating since 2005, and in that year, with just 3 vehicles and 4 employees, moved almost 48000 people from the airport to drop off points on Costa Blanca North. Then, by the end of 2009, nearly 182000 passengers were safely collected and delivered. Look at some of the passenger reviews on their website, and you’ll realise they’ve grown because their customers have rated their value for money service very highly.

Today the team is 25 strong, operating 15 vehicles. These are not the blueprints for a cowboy outfit!

You can reach them by telephone on 0034 965 850 790 (9am to 7pm)

or by email at reservas@beniconnect.com

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Posted by on Tuesday 17th September 2013

Driving In Spain

There seems to be a perception that driving rules and attitudes to driving in Spain are much more lax than the UK. If you own a property in Spain and live here or are a regular visitor – and are an owner or regular car user here – then it’s important that you realise that this is not the case.

Just as in the UK, the police here have regular purges on speeding, so it’s important, as you drive around, that you pay attention to the speed signs. This guide will hopefully help too –

·      Autopista (motorway eg AP7 or E90, often toll roads) – max speed 120kph or 73mph

·      Autovia (dual carriageway, eg A8) – limits vary from 80 to 110kph

·      Carretera National (highways with road prefixes of C or CN) – speeds are as signed

If you are stopped for speeding, it’s likely that the police officer will also check to make sure you are carrying all that is legally required. This is –

·      Two red EU warning triangles

·      Enough florescent jackets for the number of seats in the car.

·      A spare pair, if you wear corrective glasses

·      Current driving licence – a certified copy is acceptable

·      ITV paperwork – a certified copy is acceptable

·      Vehicle log book – a certified copy is acceptable

 

Though not a legal requirement, it’s suggested that you also carry your road tax payment receipt and car insurance policy with receipt.

Additionally the police could well take note of other legal requirements –

·    There must be nothing on rear seats (passengers apart). The logic is that shopping could roll off and cause the driver to lose control of the car.

·    All windows must be clean.

·    The number plates must be visible and not mud splattered.

·    The driver must not be using a mobile phone.

·    The driver must not be using headphones or earphones.

·    All occupants must be wearing seat belts

·    Children, up to 12 years must be in the rear of the vehicle

·    Babies up to 9 months old (weighing up to 10 kilos) must be in a carrycot across the back seat, secured with car safety belts or other approved safety attachments

·    The driver must be a minimum of 18 years of age

·    The driver’s footwear must be substantial – barefeet, flip flops, and sandals are not acceptable

·    As elsewhere, drinking while under the influence of alcohol is taboo, and government statistics tell us that between 30% and 50% of all Spanish deaths in road traffic accidents are caused by alcohol excesses. In Spain the legal limit is 0.5g/l blood or 0.25mg/l breath.

In Spain, traffic lights (semaforas) are more often than not situated at your stop line for the junction. So you can see them changing when you are first in the queue, there are smaller lights on the support post. An amber flashing light means you are approaching a hazard, such as a crossing. You can pass through this light with caution, if it seems to be clear to do so.

Laws for pedestrian crossings were not, until recently, as strict as those in the UK, where a driver is always at fault, if a person is hit on the crossing. Now in Spain, you must step onto the crossing, and show the palm of your hand to any approaching vehicles. Unlike previously, drivers have to stop or run the risk of earning unwelcome penalty points on their licence. Drivers should be wary of British tourists who step out into the road having looked Right and not Left.

The final piece of advice is try not be smart. A Guardia Officer stopped me and said "Papers”. I replied "Scissors, and that beats papers”.  I should be home by Christmas.

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Posted by on Thursday 5th September 2013

Get yourself a Spanish Will

"In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. Those wise and somewhat sad words were uttered by Benjamin Franklin in 1789, and of course, nothing has changed in the meantime.

So, the firm recommendation is to get yourself a Spanish Will prepared, if you own a Spanish property and/or have assets in Spain. It will not override any Will you have organized in the UK or Ireland. It will simply allow your beneficiaries to deal with your Spanish Estate and assets speedily and this is important. In Spanish Law, they have 6 months from the date of death to pay IHT (Spanish Inheritance Tax). It is most unusual for the English probate to be dealt with in time to allow this deadline to be met – and this will result in the accrual of tax surcharges and interest.

As already revealed, you can include your Spanish property and assets on your UK or Irish will and leave it at that. However, after death, before the inheritance procedure can begin, an official translator, the Foreign Office, and lawyers will have to become involved – but that takes time and will cost money. It seems to be prudent to arrange a Spanish Will in the first place.

While in Spain, there are strict rules about who can and cannot inherit, but they do not apply to you. As a UK or Irish national, you can choose who you want the inheritor/s to be.

In theory it is possible for you to make your own Spanish Will. It would need to be translated into Spanish by a qualified translator, and be presented to a Notary Office for signature for the document to become legal. Another downside is that although the Notary will be able to advise on legal matters – they are not qualified to talk about inheritance tax or the pitfalls and advisability of the inheritance arrangements you are proposing. Consequently, it seems sensible to arrange for a Spanish Will and have it professionally prepared. As property advisor's based in Moraira, we obviously come across these needs on a regular basis as it's all part of the buying process and related services, therefore are able to suggest some local lawyers that can help if required.

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Posted by on Monday 2nd September 2013