Where do I go from here….?

terraces 001 Here being a hamlet in the hills behind Castellon de la Plana in Spain, a place well off the tourist route and likely to remain so as its airport, built at a cost of some 150 million Euros of public money and declared open in 2011 has yet to see a commercial ‘plane touch down on its runway.
Just as well in some ways as in 2012 the runway was declared too narrow for any hypothetical ‘plane to turn round.

So I didn’t get here by ‘plane.

Nor by train. I had wanted to, but perusal of what French railways laughingly call online timetables meant that all roads, or tracks, led to Paris.
You want to go cross country and pick up the Paris Barcelona service at some intermediate point?
Or pick up the service from Montpellier to the south of Spain?
Forget it.
The gloomy minds of the SNCF nerds responsible for the online timetables can only provide you with main line services or local ones. Very local ones.
And when you’ve spent three hours on a guessing game as to which very local timetable is the neighbour of the last very local timetable you consulted you find that even if you were to succeed in combining them in an infernal sausage link you inevitably end up in Narbonne at some unearthly hour with the prospect of sleeping on the station until the departure of the morning express for Spain.
Bring back the Thomas Cook European railway timetable…its disappearance another blow for civilisation as we knew it.

So, I booked a Eurolines coach for a seventeen hour journey to Castellon.
After the last encounter with Eurolines, notable for standing in a wind tunnel outside Lille station at five o’clock on a winter morning you would think I would have learned my lesson…but I persuaded myself that
A. Despite the violent overnight thunderstorms it was now summer.
B. There were no changes of coach to be made.
C. It was over one hundred Euros cheaper than taking the train.

Arriving at Poitiers from my one horse dorp on the bus which has replaced the train in rural areas I found that the station area resembled a Cecil B. de Mille crowd scene: the overnight storms had brought down trees which in their turn had brought down power lines and blocked the tracks.
Nothing had stirred since the early morning.

Thank goodness for Eurolines.

I had a seat to myself as far as Toulouse but the next eleven hours were spent with limited legroom, the journey broken up by the usual loo stops – the last of these being, by unlucky chance, only forty kilometres from my destination.
I staggered off the coach at Castellon and headed for the hotel across the road.
An inexpensive room with wifi and, bliss, a full size bath. I soaked there for ages before going to bed and sleeping for six straight hours.
I am not as young as I was.

And then to the house.
The gentleman holding the keys had come into town to collect me – the only bus being late in the afternoon – and we drove out through the remains of a once booming ceramic tile industry…derelict sites lying back from the road….into a countryside of scrub, olives and almonds the road rising and turning before dropping down into a broad valley surrounded by mountains.

A couple of villages, stony tracks leading off the road itself, pig farms, silos poking above the trees like cold war missiles, then turning off on a track between trees and fields of tomatoes…not staked, but sprawling over the golden ground…and with a final heave up the slope we are there.

spain 005 At the house I first saw in photographs over a year ago and last saw in the flesh in winter.

Our pied a terre in Europe…..

We’re out of France!


55 thoughts on “Where do I go from here….?”

  1. Honestly, I do suggest you try the Central African Republic or something. But have I missed something? Why are you going to Spain?
    That airport – such a shocker. And so sad really what is happening in Spain. I look forward to your further adventures, though.

    1. CAR…diamonds there, I believe, but not being a French president I doubt I’d be getting my hands on any.
      My husband would have moved to Spain when leaving the U.K. but his mother was still alive and that was in the pre Ryanair days so he had to stay within driving distance. He was a student in Spain, spent a lot of time there as a young man and it a favourite holiday destination for the Belgians….so we can have the get togethers that we used to have in France, coming over for a couple of months a year.

  2. I must say you’ve got an eye for lovely houses. And the Spanish govt (no matter which persuasion) will certainly give you plenty of writing material. Plus, of course, learning Valencian…

    1. I’ll never know Spain the way I knew France…I’ll only be visiting as opposed to living there…but as for Valencian! Who knew the Spanish spoke French! Or is that Aragonese? Whatever it is they speak locally it sounds very French…

      1. It’s not politically correct to say so, but all the languages you’ll encounter on that coast are basically variants of Catalan, which in turn is a kind of “Sprench”. If you can speak Spanish and/or French you’ll understand most of it, and in my experience the locals are far more tolerant of foreigners speaking Spanish than they are of the Spanish speaking Spanish. But what you’ll probably get is everyone wanting to practice their English (rolls eyes).

  3. Being the super sleuth that I am, I have a feeling that you’ve at last sold the house in France (hence your reference to Notaires in a previous post) and you are using the funds to buy a bolt home in Spain.
    Doesn’t sound like a bad plan at all. EU winter in Costa Rica and EU summer in Spain?
    I like the house. It looks like a new build? Which has probably been empty for years given the Spanish economy. Make sure you check out Broadband. There’s always satellite fast broadband – expensive but pretty good apparently.
    Best of luck to you both!

    1. All hail the super sleuth, right on the ball…except I haven’t sold, but exchanged – a permanent exchange, all signed and sealed and costing an arm and a leg in fees.
      Not to speak of the incomprehension verging on panic in the local Spanish land registry at the idea of a Costa Rican company buying property in their quiet valley.
      Nor to speak of the local French notaires throwing up their hands in disbelief that such a thing could be possible. If I can read the tax codes why can’t they….?
      We want a pied a terre in Europe…but not in France.
      Spain will catch up, I suspect, in tax raising activities, but the difference in tax due on a similar square metrage is quite significent – in the hundreds, not the tens of Euros – and will take some years to be reduced to equality.

      The house is a hybrid. An old farmhouse and an adjoining ruin which have been amalgamated and given arches, balconies and a pool…there is work that needs doing, but not anything discouraging.

      Local internet is what I am using at the moment…not a great bandwidth but fine for basic e mails and searches. It is run by a village committee and costs 3 euros a month. However, as it isn’t up to downloading Test Match Special we shall not be here in the cricket season…

      Thank you for your kind wishes…most appreciated.

      1. Sorry to make a pest of myself all over your post and comments, but Iberbanda is the company you need if cable broadband doesn’t reach your village: one of the few (not to say the only) efficient and friendly internet services available in Spain, specifically for remote villages (aerial connection).

        1. I tried replying to your last one but the 3 euros thingy couldn’t cope.
          I wanted to say that on seeing an odds and end shop called ‘un poc de tot’ I had no difficulty in understanding its raison d’etre.
          The town hall have told me to get Iberbanda…and if we are going to be there for any length of time…or let out the house.. then we’ll do so.
          Be wary…I may be on your back for advice on all sorts of things….after France I know no shame.

    1. Ah! On the approach road, yes…but we will eventually have to alter the levels to allow cars to come right up to the entrance…still, not top of the priorities just at the moment ….

  4. No, we’re not leaving Costa Rica…the health service is too good!
    This is a pied a terre, to neet up with the Belgian family for a couple of months a year. Direct flight to Madrid, so much easier for my husband, and good rail connections.

    1. Friko, I don’t know where your comment went. It was there when i replied and has now disappeared…I suppose that’s what you get when you pay 3 euros a month for the internet…

  5. Oh congratulations on achieveing the exchange ๐Ÿ™‚ and I can’t think of a nicer place than Spain during the almond blossom season.

    1. Thank you! There were moments I thought it would never happen….but I’m very glad it did. Your encouragement was very much appreciated.
      A vast economy in outgoings, despite the work I want to do to the house, and the prospect of the pleasure Leo will have in returning to Spain for a short while each year.

    1. We exchanged….we found a website International Property Exchange, took a punt and had all sorts of offers from Ireland to Tahiti. but this one hit the bell.
      If you were still thinking of an escape from France it might be an option…I’ll pass you the name of the notaire who acted for us.

  6. It looks great, and what a relief it must be to have the French bit of the equation sorted. The combination of living spaces sounds perfect for you and Leo. I look forward to seeing and hearing more about the bolt hole as well as the Costa Rican adventures…..and hopefully still some retrospectives on living in France. I hope the efforts involved in all of this haven’t been too exhausting, take care. Jx

    1. I still have friends in France and am and will be interested in what goes on there, but I must admit to breathing a sigh of relief to be out from under the tax regime there.
      I’ll never get to know Spain in the same way….but there’s plenty to keep me interested, starting with the history.
      I am just recovering from the journey which is just as well as I have to install the wine in a cool larder after its journey down here which means sorting it as I go.

  7. Success! So glad the exchange went as planned and congratulations on making French notaires deal with something new. ๐Ÿ™‚ Your new European bolt-hole looks gorgeous already, but with enough to do to keep you occupied. With both you and Annie there, I may have to get round to visiting Spain at last. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Should you come to Spain there is a house waiting for you…whether we are here or not.
      I am very relieved that it is all over as you may well imagine, and am now trying to sort the household goods and the wine while trying to remember where the light switches are…..

  8. We’d heard of this outrageous airport, Helen – or at least I HOPE it’s the same one!!
    I’m delighted to think that you are somewhere here in Spain – if not exactly accessible (to anyone, it would appear) but nice to know we’re in the same country! Bienvenido.
    Hope you’ll share a few more photos of what looks to be a jolly nice villa. We holiday’d once at Alcossebre – not too far away from you, I think. We found some great unspoilt little beaches too. Axxx

    1. I tried to reply before but the three euro thingy seems to have eaten it.

      I will put up some more pics, but for the moment suffice it to say that elderly neighbours have been kind enough to give me veg from their garden for supper and that the village shops are outnumbered by the bars by a good few lengths.

  9. It sounds like you are on quite the adventure! I had never heard of doing a property exchange before you mentioned it in your comments. What a great idea, and it sounds like it was the perfect solution for you. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your new home!

    1. We were thinking we would never sell the house in France…we had people interested, in safe jobs and needing only small mortgages but in each case the banks turned them down – meanwhile ‘freezing’ the house while they made their decision…months not weeks.
      Then we wondered if there was any way of exchanging houses…some (British) agents in France offer this service…and found the International Property Swap website run by some very nice people.

      We had lots of offers, from Ireland, the U.K., Panama…even Tahiti….but this was the one which took our fancy as my husband had loved Spain as a young man and this was off the beaten track, away from the golf resorts.
      It hasn’t been without its moments….and there’s a lot to do to get the place up to scratch…but we now have a place to meet up with the family without them having to cross the Atlantic.

  10. I thought that I had commented on this post a while back but maybe WordPress had other idea! Anyway all the questions I was going to ask I see have been answered along the line now so I will just keep quiet and see if this arrives! Have a great weekend Diane

    1. There have been other problems with Worpress ..I answered Friko’s comment while it was vsible…and then it disappeared.

      I am now in Brussels – work done there, and enjoying being spoilt by Leo’s family! Sheer bliss!

  11. Ah jings Helen. How wonderful. How genuinely utterly wonderful. I am so pleased for you. For you both. You know how I love Spain. And the area you have chosen – I know and love it!
    My brother had a couple of flats in Vinaros (not so very far away).
    I wish you the very best and the good health to enjoy your new European home. x

    1. I tried replying before….but with no success it seems.
      My husband knew Spain well as a young man…and my father fought there in his early middle age, so we have history there!
      We’ll never live there full time, but we intend to visit a great deal…and should you care to visit the area again the house is always there….

      1. Ah! Dear Helen! You have no idea how much your words made me smile! My brother lost his flats – swallowed in a painful and messy divorce settlement. So we lost the easy link to the area.
        I am fascinated to hear that your Father fought in Spain…the Civil War? I’ve tried to read as much as possible about the War. In fact just finished reading ‘Ghosts of Spain’ by Giles Tremlett – an excellent read.
        Hope all well. Y x

        1. I love the name! I can remember my father referring to someone as a glaiket sumph…..
          Yes, the civil war as opposed to the (in)famous Celtic match when the embassy was besieged by small men wearing green scarves whose going home money had mysteriously evaporated in bars….
          Just taking mother over on a tour of inspection.
          There will be bull running in the village while she is there….the bulls had best watch out…

    1. The arse is currently fully engaged in unpacking boxes of books and crockery and keeping mother and bulls separated as it is fiesta time in the village.

      But next year the arse will be shifting itself….

    1. Thank you! It has not been all plain sailing by any means – but well worth it to get away from the French tax regime. No doubt Spain will be trying to up its game in that respect soon, but there’s a long way to go before they match French inventiveness in extracting ukkers from pockets.

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