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 Elle Draper

This time last year…

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Exactly a year ago today, Alan and I moved to Almeria after leaving Lanzarote. It wasn’t the best of journeys (read more about it here and here) but we were both very excited about starting our new life in Mainland Spain. So… after that year… what have we learned? How is Almeria different to Lanzarote?

Playas del Papagayo

Our old “back garden”, one of the beaches at Papagayo

We spent a number of very happy years in Playa Blanca, down in the south of Lanzarote, and our move is by no means a reflection on the Island at all. We still have many friends there – and of course many many clients who have all chosen to remain with us. We are lucky, that in our industry, we can operate from wherever we like in the world. All we need is an internet connection – which our new place of course has.

We left because quite simply, we wanted a larger land mass to bimble about on. Grabbing a holiday together was difficult for us in Lanzarote, predominantly because we have 3 large dogs. We won’t put them in kennels, and wouldn’t ask someone to put up with them for too long. This means that we have to take them with us. We enjoyed very happy times at a pet friendly cottage in El Golfo, but we wanted to be able to throw the beasties into the car and drive a bit further. Where we live now means we can do just that. If we wanted to, we could easily reach anywhere in Spain, France, Germany, Italy… and beyond. Hell – we could even get to Asia if we wanted.

Alan was keen to move before I was – and one of his reasons was “seasons”. Lanzarote (and indeed, the other Canaries) enjoy very even temperatures all year round… and “cold” had been committed to long term memories. It took Alan some considerable time to convince me that having a cold winter would be a good idea… but convince me he did.

Our new view in Almería

Our new view in Almería

The move has been extremely positive for us – I get to “tick my snobby boxes” by living in a beautiful little cortijo (farmhouse) in the hills of Almería, surrounded by almond trees, orange and lemon groves, olives, pomegranates and figs… and Alan gets a larger area in which to work on his photography. He gets his seasons (and I get the log burner). We’ve made some terrific new friends, and we now get to live in a really rural part of Spain. Our neighbours are all Spanish, and always friendly – only yesterday Francisco dropped round a bag of homegrown tomatoes… tamoatoes that taste far better than anything you’d get in your local supermarket, even if they are more mishapen than Brussels would like. Day to day living is much cheaper here than Lanzarote was, and our views are spectacular… but there are some things that I (we) really miss too.

Of course we miss our Lanzarote friends; they aren’t “just up the road” any more. Rarely a weekend passed without us having great friends round for good food and gallons of cheap wine. Getting to and from Lanzarote isn’t easy from where we are now. Thank goodness for the internet, so that we can all keep in touch. But a biggie (certainly for me) has been missing great restaurants and bars. The eateries close to us now are geared towards a humbler palate – it’s more about hearty “shepherd fayre”, rather than catering to tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I love rabbit, steak, and yes even pig’s cheeks – but I’ve really been craving stunning tornados rossini or succulent pan-seared scallops from La Bocaina,  the juiciest duck livers from the Japanese restaurant in the 5 star Princesa Yaiza hotel washed down with a bottle ot three of Stratvs wine (local to Lanzarote), a mountain of puntillas drizzled with lemon juice and accompanied with papas arrugadas con mojo from La Taberna, giggles and karaoke cringes at Wax Bar, or wine and laughter with the girls at the gorgeous Marina Rubicon. Of course, we can drive an hour or so to find most of these things – but then we can’t have a bottle or two of wine with our meal as there is a drive home. In Playa Blanca, all of this was in walking distance. Oddly, we don’t miss the beaches. Of course they are stunning… but you tend to take them for granted when they are on your doorstep.

Me weaselling a bottle of Bermejo at the marina

Me weaselling a bottle of Bermejo at the marina

Lanzarote was fantastic – it was like a 6 year holiday. We lived in a beautiful tourist resort, with all the goodies that it encompasses. We made some amazing friends (of many different nationalities) and I can’t wait to visit again in the Spring. Playa Blanca has a stunning marina, a beautiful promenade, some fantastic restaurants, plenty of 5 star hotels… and other areas of the Island are simply breathtaking. Puerto del Carmen’s Old Town and its fabulous fish restaurants, Costa Teguise’s gorgeous Punta del Jabillo beach, “Tracey Island” at the top of Timanfaya, and of course the fantastic hiking anywhere from north to south. But for us it wasn’t  quite “real Spain”. It was like living in a bubble. A very beautiful, exciting, sunny bubble.

We now live in the middle of nowhere, with no shop for more than 8km, and no bar for 4km. We get blistering heat in the summer, torrential rain in the autumn, and bitter cold in the winter.  Our neighbours are close to unintelligible (the Andaluz accent is, for us, like a Cornish person trying to understand a Glaswegian), and certainly all the other side of 60. The nearest town is a bit of a dump (although very functional) and there are some seriously dodgy characters about (mostly Brits). Dogs (not ours) bark all through the night at nothing, and there are some seriously scary critters about such as snakes, big spiders, and “flying teeth”. When the rambla floods we’re stranded, and when the electricity goes off we’re also left without water. The mobile phone signal is beyond dire, and we can’t “just nip out” to erm… anywhere! We bloody love it! Now if we could just move our friends here… and relocate La Bocaina… life would be almost perfect.

30 Responses to This time last year…

  1. Phil Ballard September 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Sounds quite a lot like here, Elle; the humble restaurants, the dogs (not ours either!) barking all night at nothing and the wood burner against the winter cold. (You can keep the latter, I’ll take Lanzarote’s climate, thanks). As for the scary critters, there are many times when all three of us (Sue, Alan & I) hear something outside in the dark, look at each other, then deliberately carry on with what we were doing without a single word … :O

  2. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 10, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Ha ha! I love the “deliberately carry on” mention. I’ll admit ot being a bit jumpy when we first came… but I don’t worry now.
    I loved Lanzarote weather – but I don’t miss the blimmin dust that came with it too!
    Thanks for leaving a comment. I’ve been loving your blog posts by the way! http://www.hiddenspain.info for anyone else who fancies a read.
    Elle xx

  3. Penny Sadler (@PennySadler) September 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Elle, I think you’re both quite mad, and I’d love to visit some day. :)

  4. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 10, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Yes, we are both more than a bit erm… insane.
    You’d be very welcome Penny!
    Elle x

  5. Keith Wareing September 10, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Has it really been a year? I love Alan’s pictures of life out there and it really does look stunning, I live in hope of one day getting out to see you all but until that day, you keep writing and I’ll keep reading. XX

  6. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 10, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I know love – it’s flown by hasn’t it? Mind you… so have the 7 years since we left the UK too (Sept 24th 2006). Can you believe it eh?
    You and Lolly would always be welcome here Keith – you know that!!!! xxxxxxxxxx

  7. Stephen September 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Great update, thanks guys!

  8. Lorna September 10, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Oh the similarities haha! Great blog post Elle, and I hope you will enjoy many more years of happiness in your rural idyll :-) xx

  9. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Thansk Lorna! Yes, we’ve got to kow a lot more Campo dwellers since moving here. Long may it continue xxxx

  10. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 10, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks love! Hope we get you here some day xxx

  11. wanderingeducators September 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    What a beautiful place! And i love the seasons, too, so can understand….

  12. Yolanda Solo September 10, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    That made me chuckle, having done it the other way round, after 8 years in the sticks, 4 dogs, 13 cats and a donkey running around, I am quite ready to get a bit closer to town. I could never be a city dweller again, but a little closer to civilisation would be nice so we don´t have to drive everywhere.

  13. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Yes it’s very pretty here… especially in the springtime. x

  14. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 10, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    I do wish we had a little shop nearby… just with bread and milk perhaps. But apart from that, we love where we are xxx

  15. mickibarefootnomad September 11, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Oh my gosh – what on earth are “flying teeth”? I’m a bit scared to ask…

    I do agree with you on the Andaluz accent – we Spent a couple of months in Spain last winter, and had the hardest time (with our Mexican Spanish) trying to communicate.

  16. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 11, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    “Flying Teeth” are awful things. They are flying gnashers. Their bodies are about 1mm long (if that) and they have white wings abut 2mm long. They can get through the holes in mosquito screens (which we have on all our windows) and they are relentless. Thye suck blood… and come in large numbers. Vile things!

    I always thought I’d get on better with Mexican Spanish… it’s more like Canarian than modern day Mainland Spanish. It’s “old Spanish” as a couple of our Spanish pals say.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Micki. xxx

  17. Melissa September 12, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Sounds pretty great to me… but flying teeth? I met some of those in Venice last summer… No thanks!

  18. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 12, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Blimmin awful eh?!
    Worst thing is when you breathe in and one shoots up your nostril – happened last night! ;)
    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Melissa. I enjoyed your Brooklyn article this morning.
    Elle x

  19. Dale September 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I love the thought that you move all that way only to be surrounds be Cornish folk and Glaswegians all walking their dogs together ruining the setting :P Sorry, the thought of it just made me chuckle.

    I’m really glad to read about your journey though and it stands as a great example that anyone’s dream of making a similar change of location is possible, no matter what curious things come across their way.

  20. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Ha ha – yeah, the differences between some Spanish dialects are as wide as Cornish is to Glaswegians. We’ll get there though.

    Absolutely right – anyone can make the move… they just need to get on with it. So many people call us “brave”. We’re not… we’re just a little more spontaneous I guess.

    Thanks for commenting oh Mighty Bearded One. Hope your week gets better for you.

    Elle x

  21. Terry at Overnight New York September 13, 2013 at 1:24 am

    I love that you happily traded in a six-year vacation with perfect weather and glorious sands for violent seasons in the middle of nowhere amidst dodgy folk (some of the time). Sounds terrific — and fun and full of surprises — and like an excellent reason to travel.

  22. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 13, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Hi Terry. Yeah, Playa Blanca was gorgeous… but it was time for a new adventure. Just can’t believe how fast the time has flown!!!
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Elle x

  23. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas September 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Good for you! Moving house is never fun, and even moving within Spain has to be an adventure.

  24. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    The physical journey wasn’t nice for sure Cat… but the figurative “journey” is always worth it.
    Thanks for popping by! xxx

  25. Travelogged September 13, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    I didn’t know Lanzarote had even temps through out the year? I assumed it was extremely hot in the summer like Sicily?

  26. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 14, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Yes… very even temperatures. The islands are much lower in latitude than the Mediterranean places… and are actually pretty close to the Northwest coast of Africa. Much nearer there than Spain anyway. They are sometimes collectively known as the Islands Of Eternal Spring. Many Mainland Spanish head to the islands to escape the blistering summer heat. Of course you do get some really hot days, especially when the Calima (dust storms… but not quite as horrific as it sounds) and the Sorocco (hot winds) both from the Sahara hit. It’s like standing in front of a “space heater” then… but generally the temperatures are very comfortable. The islands don’t have such defined seasons as elsewhere in Europe, and that is what appeals to so many (but which bored Alan).
    Lowest temperature we experienced whilst living there was 9 degrees Celsius… and I believe (but could be wrong) that 7 was the lowest on record for Lanzarote. Never snow or ice there. Mind you, Tenerife’s high mountain, Montaña Teide is snow capped for part of the year.
    Thanks for leaving a comment!
    Elle x

  27. Gabi (The Nomadic Family) September 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    What a beautiful place? Really want to go there myself.

  28. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Hi Gabi – yes it is lovely here!
    Thanks for popping by. xx

  29. Mary @ Green Global Travel September 16, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Our dog is a big concern when we travel as well. Thankfully, we have a happy place for him to stay when we travel a few weeks at a time. I’m glad to hear that you found a spot where you and the three dogs can be happy- even if it is a bit isolated.

  30. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper September 16, 2013 at 9:39 am

    They are like our children, aren’t they Mary? I have to say that all 3 of them were angels as we travelled, and they enjoyed the undiluted time with their “Mum and Dad”.
    They seem to prefer it here too. Right now they are racing up and down the stairs in excitement because Alan is heading out and they are hoping to go too (they’re not, they’re staying here with me).
    Thanks for popping in and leaving a comment x

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