This time last year…
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?
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.
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.
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.
by Elle Draper
Elle, along with Alan, is the owner of Spain Buddy and the busy web design business – Gandy-Draper. Born a “Norverner”, she then spent most of her life “Dann Saff” before moving to Spain in 2006. Elle’s loves are Alan, the internet, their three bouncing dogs, good food, and dry white wine – although not necessarily in that order.