Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Trip

Now that we own our house in Spain, we have to make it livable. With the home planner we bought most of the furniture and with the electric shop we bought most of the equipment. But that does not make a house livable. You need more things for the kitchen (cutlery, pans, …), paintings for on the walls, a special lamp we wanted to bring there, accessories for the finishing touch and a lot more small things.

Since we first planned to go by plane, we could not take too much with us. We knew we had to pay more for the overweight and odd-sized luggage, but still you can't bring everything from home. We would only bring the most necessary things and buy the rest in Spain.

But then things changed and the air company made us decide to go by car. This meant that we could bring much more things from home. When we encountered a good bargain, be bought it for Spain. Soon our room-with-things-for-Spain started to fill up, since we would go by car and have plenty of space.

Exactly how much space you have with a Toyota Prius, you find out when trying to fit everything in the back of the car. The day before we left, I packed the car. And then you find out that the car is actually smaller than you think... Put one moving-box and two small cases in the car and the you've used most of the room. But after a few hours fitting, moving, shifting, squeezing, moving again, squeezing again, taking things out and trying again, it actually all fitted! We had to use the back seats as well, but at least I still could see through my rear mirror.

Saturday morning we left for Spain. All goes well, until you get to Paris. No matter what day you get there, what time of day you get there, how you plan to go around Paris, you will always end up in some traffic jam. It took us a bit more than an hour and a lot of route changes from the navigation system 'because of traffic conditions' to get passed Paris. So it actually was not too bad after all. On the French toll ways, you set the cruise-control to the speed limit (or a bit more) and sit out the ride. Around six o'clock we decided that it was enough for one day and find a hotel. For the French, six o'clock is still a bit before dinner time. We found a hotel next to the highway which had its own restaurant and a fenced parking place. We made 870 kilometers the first day. Not bad, but we had 1180 kilometers more to go.

Sunday morning, we got up early and continued our trip. When we came to Millau, we made a short stop to look at the bridge they made. Spanning 2.5 kilometers, it is really a great piece of engineering!

A Toyota Prius is a very nice, relaxed car to drive. When on the highways with the cruise-control on, it practically drives itself. But in a mountainous area, like southern France, it takes some extra handling.

A few hours later we crossed the border with Spain. So we were in the right country, but still on the wrong side of it, since now were in the north of Spain and we have to go to the south. Due to the financial crisis in Spain, the government recently decided to reduce the speed limit from 120 km/h to 110 km/h. So we had to set the cruise-control a notch down and enjoy the Spanish landscape. We crossed locations where we spend holidays in the past. If was funny to drive there with your own car, when usually you go by plane and rent a car.

Things went so well in Spain that we decided to continue driving to a small town close to our new house and take a hotel there. We arrived around half passed eight. For the Spanish, half passed eight is far before dinner time :-) We stayed in the same hotel when we were arranging things in January and we decided to go to one of the restaurants we've been. Not sure why, but people always seem to remember us. So did the waiter of the restaurant... he even remembered what table we had ;-)

So we actually did the remaining 1180 kilometers in one day and that went quite well. We would get the keys around noon on Monday, but we still didn't know whether we would have water and electricity and thus could already live in our new house.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


We have always had a thing with Spain. We love the nature, the people, the food, the wine... When we go on holiday to Spain, we rent a car and drive from place to place. Discover new places, find new places to hike (we love to hike, especially in a mountainous area). We're not the kind of people that go to one place one the beach and do nothing. We just can't do nothing. It's not in our nature.

One of our dreams is to have our own house in Spain. We want it to go to for ourselves, but if possible rent it out when we are not using it. So the last years when we went on holiday to Spain, we also looked at locations where it was nice to have a house. In 2010, we decided to really go for it and look for a house in Spain. The offer is seriously overwhelming! So after some thoughts we came up wit some conditions. The house should be not too far from the beach, there should be plenty of nature (to hike!) in the neighborhood, there should be plenty of culture (picturesque villages and old cities) in the neighborhood. Not to far from an international airport. Affordable would help too!

We ended up with an area including Costa Blanca and Costa Cálida, so basically from Denia to Cartagena. Then we looked at brokers and split the area in three: Costa Blanca North, Costa Blanca South and Costa Cálida. We contacted three brokers and looked at the houses they offered. We then made arrangements with them so they could show us the properties. We picked a week in the beginning of December and visited almost 25 houses in three days. There were beautiful houses, less beautiful houses, cheap houses, expensive houses, houses with a magnificent view, houses with no view at all, houses in a suburb area, houses next to restaurants, houses with fixed prices, houses where there was room to bargain.

But one of the last houses was looked at, hit us... In a suburb area of a small town. Close to an inner sea called Mar Menor, so not far from beaches. Lovely nature in the south. Close to old Cartagena, not far from Murcia. Within an hour from an international airport. And, also important, affordable. The name of the place? San Cayetano!

We had to go back home and the broker would keep the house off the market for us for a few days. But we did not need that much time, we already knew we wanted that house. And so a large chain of actions started.

Lots and lots of paperwork going back and forth between us and the broker. Since we could not go to Spain every time a document had to be signed, we gave a Power Of Attorney to a solicitor in Spain. To do so, we back to Spain in January of 2011. They say that things in Spain need their time and things don't go that fast. Well, the broker took us to a bank to open a bank account, we went to the foreign police in Cartagena to apply for a NIE number (a kind of social number, without which you can't do much), visited a notary public to activate the Power Of Attorney and went back to the bank to get electronic access for our bank account. All of that was arranged before lunch! So things can go fast in Spain.

But we had more to do in the few days we were in Spain. We went to a home planner to pick furniture, outside furniture, linen ware, lights and accessories. We went to a local electric shop to pick kitchen equipment, air conditioning and a nice TV. Those were a busy (and expensive) few days in Spain. Oh, and on our way back home we enjoyed a day extra at the airport because of a strike of the air controllers. Shit happens...

Then a lot more paperwork going back and forth between us, the broker, the solicitor and the bank that would provide the mortgage. Finally, on April 1st (no joke!) we got 'completion', meaning we now own the house. That was a bit later than planned. We need to own the house, before we can apply for water and electricity. That usually takes about two weeks and we already planned our next trip to Spain. It would be a close call whether or not we would have water and/or electricity when we arrived.

Talking about that next trip... we planned to go by plane and just pay extra for the extra stuff we wanted to bring. But then the air company decided to act a bit strange and decided to change one of our flights in an odd way. So we decided not to go by plane, but to drive. It would take longer, but we could bring more stuff and do things at our own pace and time. Being just over 2000km, with some 800km per day it should be doable in two-and-a-half day