Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ikea Seville

We travelled from Martos to Ikea in Seville to look at their range of kitchens. I set the sat. nav. for the district in Seville that Ikea is situated and off we went. The journey lasted around two hours but the sat. nav. landed us at a dockyard beside the river. Angela got out of the car to put rubbish in a bin and stood on a dead rat, which put her right off Seville. We eventually asked a local taxi driver who pointed us in the right direction. We finally got on to the right motorway but the traffic in Seville is a nightmare. The last five miles took us an hour to travel and the slip road to Ikea was closed, so we had to travel on, turn back and eventually reach our destination.

Seville's Ikea is the busiest shop I have ever been in, there must have been thousands of people there. We were going to have lunch there but the queues virtually stretched out of the restaurant.
We had went on a Friday at 2:00pm, maybe this is a busy time?

The stock and prices in Ikea seem similar to the prices in the U.K. some things cheaper, some dearer. Next door to Ikea is an excellent large shopping mall where we also got a bite to eat.

Seville seems to be lovely city but I was put off by the horrendous traffic we encountered.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Renovation Work

When we first bought our house we were put in touch with an English builder for a quote on some demolition work and replacing all of the windows. We were given a quote of 15500 euros to replace all the windows (17). It was explained that although the windows were aluminium (wood is very expensive in southern Spain), the wood grain effect that we had chosen for the windows was fairly expensive.

We gave the quote a great deal of thought (5 minutes) and were put in touch with a local Spanish builder by our Estate Agent. They quoted us 8000 euros for the same windows, same colour etc. Our estate agent (Greer Associates) did all the donkey work for us - arranging visits from the builder, translating documents and running back and forward between Alcala La Real and Martos, all for no charge. We cannot praise them highly enough. In fact we offered to pay them a fee for all their work and were declined.

We got another quote for a new water heater, demolishing and removing an outside toilet and shower room and also removing three internal walls - 2500 euros.

The work should be starting soon as the builder will have to get planning permission from the local council (included in the price).

This will eventually be our living room. The arch is being made wider and higher and I will be laying new tiles on the floor. Although the tiles look o.k. in the picture, there are some missing and some cracked. The recess on the right is a french window leading onto a small balcony.

This room is one of four on our top floor, each will be a bedroom once I have tiled, plastered and painted the beams.

Could anyone give me advice on removing whitewash o
r paint from beams or is it better to paint over?


Martos is the name of the town where we bought our house. The house was originally a large dwelling, which was then used as a girls school before being turned back into a house. We have a fair bit of work to do before we move in permanently but are looking forward to it. The major work of replacing the windows is about to get underway and when this is finished I will stay for a few months to complete tiling and painting.

We liked the area because it wasn't commercialised and was off the tourist track, in fact we were the first British buyers. The town is reasonably close to an airport and a large city and is not too far from the coast. Martos has all the facilities we want, from supermarkets, a swimming pool and a good variety of shops, bars and restaurants.

We had to adjust our eating habits as most of the restaurants and some bars don't open until after 8:00pm, although some cafe bars are open all day.
We find it very relaxing sitting at a table outside, eating and drinking and watching the world go by.

Listening to the mating call of the young Spaniards will take some getting used to, namely driving slowly along the street, playing crap music loudly and sounding there horns at anything in a skirt.

We were in Martos in early September and watched a religious ceremony going past our house. It was interesting to watch and listen to. Thirty men carrying a religious statue through the streets with a band playing, following the band were literally thousands of locals all carrying lit candles. The men carrying the statue danced in time to the music while carrying it. They danced for a few yards, placed the statue on the grounds and then disappeared into houses for refreshments. This was repeated numerous times just on our street. Angela and I really enjoyed the ceremony and it took an hour just to go past our house.
Anybody have any ideas what the ceremony was. I think it was the second Sunday in September.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Alcala La Real

This is the first town we visited in the Jaen Province. This is where the estate agents we bought our house from have their office. It is a really nice place with lots of shops, bars and cafes and there is a nice park in the heart of the town. It is also fairly flat and is easy for walking. There is a very large hill on which sits Castle la Mota, which dominates the landscape as you approach the town from the north. We haven't been up there yet as I don't fancy the walk, perhaps when it is cooler.
is only a 30 - 40 minute drive from Granada and has a fairly large contingent of British people living in and around the area.
The estate agent we bought our house from is owned by Chris and Vanessa, who were married during the summer. We were invited and had a really nice time.

Angela snapped this picture of me outside the town hall just before the wedding. I'm posing in front of several farmers on horseback who had stopped for a drink at a cafe. Angela's uncle thought I was the mayor when he saw the picture but he had had a few whisky's at the time so was a bit confused.


We were in Spain in early September on business to finalise the style of new windows we were having fitted. Once we had got that out of the way we decided to see a bit of the countryside around our town. We went to Cazorla, which took us about 40 minutes to drive to from our house. I have satellite navigation, which is a godsend as we would have spent a fortune in petrol without it, even with it we still take wrong turnings, especially one way streets.

Cazorla town is in a beautiful setting, situated directly below huge mountains that tower over the town. The town itself is set on a steep slope and if you visit, park as near to the town centre as possible. We parked at the top of the town, which was great for walking down, going back up was a nightmare. The houses even have handrails set into them to assist you up - I needed an escalator, being an asthma sufferer I didn't appreciate the hills.

We had something to eat and drink at a cafe in the town square and enjoyed our visit to Cazorla. The streets are narrow and lined with pots of geraniums and the walls are covered in Jasmine and Bougainvillea. Very picturesque.

The picture on the right is Angela posing in one of the plaza's in Cazorla. She liked this town even though the shops were shut for siesta when we got there. The temperature that day was 38C, very hot, especially when you have to climb the hill to get back to the car.

Alhambra de Granada

Angela, her aunt Maggie and I visited the Alhambra in February. It's 10 euros entry but well worth it. We spent four hours and were amazed at how it could be built by hand, without the aid of modern machinery. It was fascinating to see the irrigation system that supplies all the pools and fountain. The water is channelled from streams and springs through pipes and ditches and even runs through ducts in the handrails of stairs. We didn't really see it at it's best as it was winter and there were no flowers in the garden beds or leaves on the trees but it was still a worthwhile venture. It was worth the entrance fee for the views alone. Standing on top of the tower and looking over Granada city is amazing but scary, I'm dodgy with heights and my knees were trembling when I looked down.

We thought we had seen everything at the Alhambra but bought a DVD to watch when we got home. When we watched it we discovered we had somehow missed out a great deal of the place, so will have to go back again, but only when it's warmer.

Even Angela enjoyed it and she doesn't really like historical buildings or places- she classes the pyramids as a pile of old bricks. Give her shops and department stores any day.

If you do visit go early in the day, especially in summer. We went in February and it wasn't really too busy but it was difficult to park the car. The bars and cafes just outside the entrance to the Alhambra are a bit expensive so it's better to go into Granada to eat or have a coffee.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


The lovely custom of tapas began with bar and cafe owners placing a slice of bread on top of drinking glasses to stop insects falling in, this practice slowly evolved and you can now get a miniature meal on a side plate with a drink.

The food, which varies from bar to bar can consist of simple foods such as nuts and crisps or olives to more elaborate dishes such as slices of bread topped with Jamon, prawns, chicken, roast pork and cheese and ocasionally warm dishes of roast pork or chicken.

Tapas are very rarely served in the bars along the coast, and if they are are they are usually charged to your bill. You have to move inland to sample real tapas and they are free with every drink.

If we are going to a restaurant for a meal we avoid the tapas bars as we quickly lose our appetite after a few drinks.