With Brexit on the horizon, what’s the mood among homeowners in Spain? Our roving Editor-at-Large Richard Way, a homeowner on the Costa Brava himself, was on the front line last week and found that the joys of life in Spain are unaffected.
The flight out to the Costa Brava for our annual Spring break had an edginess to it this year – we took off not knowing if we’d still be EU citizens the day we were flying back to the UK. Before our departure I’d taken the precaution of getting an international driving permit from my local Post Office. I’ve had run-ins with car hire firms over documentation in the past and with a no-deal Brexit on April 12th still a looming possibility, I wanted to be prepared for any awkward demands from the attendant at the Goldcar desk at Barcelona Airport. With three young children in tow and for the small price of the permit (£5.50), it wasn’t a risk worth taking.
As it turned out, Brexit was delayed and we had a very smooth journey out to our Spanish home, starting with a reasonably punctual easyJet service. There was no queue for the car either and the very pleasant attendant seemed utterly disinterested in the fact I was British, let alone the Brexit situation. Rather refreshingly, he didn’t even attempt to upsell me any additional insurance, car upgrades, additional driver cover or SatNav hire…! And the cost of my hire for five days? A very satisfactory £21.86, booked as usual through HolidayAutos.com.
Still on car rental, a necessity for many second homeowners, I keep the cost down by buying my own policy that covers my excess liability for the whole year. It’s far cheaper than opting for the hire firm’s own additional insurance each time you get a car. I buy mine through Insurance4CarHire.com, it’s underwritten by AIG and costs around £40 a year! And crucially it works – after an accident last summer, which thankfully was not in any way my fault, I was repaid all the damage excess that the hire firm deducted from my deposit.
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Joys of spring
The peaks of the Pyrenees, visible from our resort on the Bay of Roses, still have plenty of snow on them in April – the views are dreamy. Meanwhile the temperatures down on the coast are starting to creep up during the daytime. The Easter break is when many bars, restaurants and other touristy businesses come alive again after their winter shut-down, ready for a wave of visitors mainly from Barcelona and the Catalonia interior.
Walking along the promenade and around the old town, you can feel a sense of anticipation before the busy summer months ahead. It’s a time when the council will be finishing off any bits of infrastructure improvements, or builders trying to get ahead before they down tools for the summer months.
Homeowners like me will be organising their property for the summer, seeing to any outstanding bits of DIY. I’ve just had a new aluminium front gate fitted and a shower fitting repaired. During my stay I found time to whizz round the garden with the mower and strimmer, blitz a load of weeds on the patio and replace the skimmer net for the pool. We picked up a handy tip from our electrician too – bay leaves deter ants, which are a perennial irritant in our kitchen. I’ll let you know if it works. Meanwhile, I was behind on my annual road tax for the scooter (around £8 p.a.), so a quick trip to the town hall sorted that.
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Calçots and Dalí
A treat for foodies in Catalonia around this time of year are calçots. A cross between a small leek and green onion, they have been harvested in Catalonia for centuries and the locals have a delicious, if messy, way of eating them. I’ve not seen this dish anywhere else in Spain, or any other country. Grilled or barbecued, the blackened outer skin is peeled away, enabling you to eat the soft, fleshy layers beneath, ideally after being dipped in ‘salvitxada’, an almond and tomato-based sauce. Order them in a restaurant and you get a disposable bib and glove, to keep mess to a minimum, which may well be what tempted my 12-year-old daughter to try them for the first time this year!
Not for the first time, we squeezed in a trip to the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres, built and designed by the great surrealist artist himself. Born in the town, Dalí spent much of his life at his seafront home in Port Lligat, next to picturesque Cadaqués 45 minutes from Figueres. Not far away, his castle in Púbol, dedicated to his wife Gala, completes what is known as the Dalinian Triangle. For us, the museum’s appeal lies in the absurdity of its contents – even kids enjoy the bizarreness of it all. It’s actually quite fun helping them get their heads around melting clocks or spoon-shaped tongues, far more so than trying to explain the Brexit situation… Dalí’s museum, nonsensical for all the right reasons, will be still be there next year – hopefully the Brexit situation, farcical for all the wrong reasons, won’t be…