Last visit for the year - October 2006

This was to be the last of the five trips to Costa Esuri we had planned for 2006. This time we flew from Manchester to Faro. After the hassle of the flight from Stansted to Seville in August, it was a relief to have a leisurely train journey to the Airport. The connection from Sheffield is very good; the train goes direct from Sheffield straight into Manchester Airport. As we had a mid afternoon flight, we caught the train mid morning, and enjoyed the scenery of the trip across the Pennines. After a midday meal at the Airport, we found the security restrictions still quite strict, so ended up queuing for approx 45 minutes to get into the departure lounge. The flight was uneventful, but when we arrived at Faro, it was a bit of a disappointment to find the rain bouncing off the tarmac.


Once in the terminal building, we sought out the car hire company. This was to be the first time we had used this particular company (Drive4fun), and we were most impressed by their efficiency. When we had completed the paperwork, rather than trudging out with the cases in the rain, to the usual Car Park 4 to collect the vehicle, the Rep told us to wait in the dry by the main entrance, and he brought the vehicle around to the door for us! We will use this company again.


As we would not be arriving at the Apartment until about 8pm, we called into the Service Station on the E1, as it is possible to purchase basic items like bread and milk there; useful if it is too late to get to one of the Ayamonte supermarkets. We are also finding that we are taking less and less with us as luggage, so when we arrive, there is little unpacking to do, it really is now getting to be a home from home. After a refreshing cup of tea, it was like we had never been away!


Saturday was always going to be a busy day, as we had arranged to meet two different sets of friends who were leaving on the following day. First of all, it was down to Eroski in Ayamonte, to stock up with food & drink for the week. Fortunately, the banks in Spain are open on Saturday mornings, so we managed to call in to Bank Santander, and BBVA, to get some of the ‘business’ part of the visit out of the way.


Whilst we were in town, I decided to try a tip I had picked up from one of the posts on the British Ex-Pats Forum. Each time we have returned from Spain, the mobile phone bill has been a bit of a shock. I had read on the Ex-Pats Forum that it was relatively easy to buy a ‘pay as you go’ SIM card from one of the mobile phone shops. The suggestion was to take an old phone (as most of us have one or more of these lying around these days), to use and leave in Spain, on a local tariff, which would be much cheaper than the normal international rate. The other tip I had picked up was to make sure that the phone was ‘unlocked’. Apparently, most phones are tied or locked to one network, and won’t work with a PAYG SIM, unless it is unlocked. This difficult sounding process turned out to be quite easy, as it can be done over the Internet or via some software downloadable from the net. I took the chickens way out, and had a friend do the latter for me.  Anyway, I visited the Vodafone shop in Ayamonte, and using a combination of pidgin Spanish and hand signals managed to purchase the said SIM card for about €30, which gave me this amount of credit on the phone. Even with a Spanish card, it is possible to change the language on the phone from Spanish to English, so I could still follow the instructions when necessary (i.e. for texting).


On the way back to Costa Esuri, we called in to the Gypsy Market held every Saturday on the open space by the Bus Station. Because of the heavy rain that had fallen walking to and from the clay car-park to the market was a bit fraught, and I ended up with masses of the red clay stuck to my shoes, which took most of the week to get off. I will know where not to park in the future.


About a year or so ago, I had been playing golf with another member at my golf club in Sheffield, extolling the virtues of the new Apartment  we had just bought in Spain, when to our mutual surprise, we discovered that we had both bought on Costa Esuri at about the same time. Mike & Bryony had bought across the way from us on the Pueblo Andaluz development. During the ‘off-plan’ phase, we had kept each other up to date with progress, but this was the first time our visits to the Apartments had crossed over. We had arranged to meet at their Apartment mid Saturday afternoon, and Mike had given me directions to his Bloque and Portal. Whilst I had remembered the Bloque, I forgot the Portal. No problem I thought, we had predicted this may happen, so we had each others mobile phone numbers, and I rang Mike’s number, only to find that the answer phone responded! What to do now? Well I wasn’t going to give up and go home, so I walked into the middle of their Bloque by the pool, and shouted at the top of my voice “MIKE”.  Suddenly, a head pops out from one of the balconies, and the low-tech solution proves effective! It’s a good job the place is still relatively empty, I don’t know if I would have had the nerve, or the success, if all the Apartments were occupied. Anyway, we then spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with our friends.


Prior to our visit to Costa Esuri, we had swapped e-mails with Adrian & Miranda from the Ex Pats Forum. They are waiting for their place on Rago 1 to be completed, and wanted to get an idea of the finished article, so we had invited them to visit our place, and see what we had done. They were due to fly back to the UK on the Sunday, so again, we had to cram this visit in to the Saturday. They arrived with a most welcome bottle of wine, and we had an enjoyable hour showing them around our place (and drinking the wine), before we all headed of to Gary and Val’s Apartment in Bloque 5. We had met with Gary and Val during our last trip out in June, and had really enjoyed their company. They had also swapped e-mails with Adrian & Miranda, so it seemed sensible for us all to end up at one of the Apartments. During this trip, Gary &Val and their son Dan had been joined by their parents, Ken, Audrey and Brian. The evening developed into a most enjoyable social event, with not a little alcohol being consumed!


Sunday was spent with a visit to Villa Real on the Portuguese side of the border, and a most enjoyable lunch at the Yacht Club. This place had been recommended to me by a friend who had visited Monte Gordo earlier in the year, and each time we have visited, it has not been a disappointment. After the excesses of the previous evening, a quiet night at home, reading and recovering was called for.


Through another one of the forums about Costa Esuri (, I had previously arranged to play a round of golf with one of the contributors at Neuvo Portil. However, he had rang the previous evening to say he couldn’t make it, so Carole had offered to stand in, and play the course with me. We drove out the course early morning, but when we got there, decided that the weather for the day didn’t look up to it, so decided to do some shopping , and catch up on some of the small jobs that were still required in the Apartment. We headed off to Leroy Merlin, and from there onto Carrefour at Carteya, to pick up the bits required. Carole had never really liked the original rug we had bought at one of our previous visits to Ikea, so we ended up buying another.


When the air conditioning had been fitted to above the false ceiling in the shower room, a ‘missing’ light had suddenly appeared , just jutting out from the ceiling tiles, on a bare wire. I had wondered how I was going to attach a light fitting to the false ceiling, and eventually decided that it would be better to fit a light to the top of one of the walls, where it could be fitted securely. I bought some wire to extend the light to one of the walls, but eventually found this was unnecessary, there was enough free play in the existing wiring to stretch to the wall. I would have preferred to position the light on the ‘corridor’ wall, but was worried that I would drill through a water pipe whilst fixing it, as the shut off valves for the water are positioned on this wall. Eventually, I settled for wall next to the sink, and this seemed to work out fine.


In the evening, we headed off for a few drinks at the Sugar Reef in Isla Canella with Gary & Val’s extended family, but not before we had spent a half hour trying to re-fit one of the back seats in the People Carrier Gary had hired. It was supposed to be one of those 'easy' to remove seats to make more luggage space. It may have been easy to remove, but it was hell's own job to get it back in ! I think the girls enjoyed watching all the men try different things to get it back in, it was like something from 'Right said Fred'!


During our visit to Isla Canella the previous year, we had spent a day visiting some friends of Carole’s who were holidaying at Villamoura. Carole, Sue and Pam had spent a leisurely day around town, whilst Phil, Andy and I played golf at the Millennium Course. As they were out there again during this week, we had invited them to join us for the day. We dropped Carole, Sue & Pam off in Villa Real, and then Andy, Phil Gary and I headed off to Castro Marim for a day’s golf. We had hoped the weather was going to be kind to us, and indeed it was until the last few holes, when we got caught in a few sharp showers. However by then, Gary and I had won the match (mainly due to Gary – he is a bandit!), so at least we had that consolation. In the evening, Carole and I headed into Ayamonte, for a very pleasant meal at Juan Macias restaurant, just opposite the Paseo de la Ribera.


Carole had decreed that we should visit one of the pottery shops we had previously visited out near Monte Gordo, as a new vase was required, so we headed back to Portugal around Wednesday Lunchtime. You reach this place by taking the second Motorway exit after crossing the bridge, as thought going to the Quinta De Cima Golf Course, turn right at the T junction, across the roundabout, and it is a bit father along on the left. As we crossed the roundabout, I saw a Police Jeep on the far side, but thought nothing off it. On leaving the shop (with the vase!) we started to head back to Villa Real for lunch, but as we reached the roundabout, we were waived into the side by the Police. Fortunately, I had remembered to keep my Driving License and Passport with me on this day (something I hadn’t always done before, but will make sure I do in future). The Policeman asked to see these documents, and then asked for the documents about the car. After scrabbling about in the glove compartment, we were able to pass these on to him. He explained that it appeared that car did not have a Tax Disc on display, and headed off to the jeep to fill in some forms. After a few minute he returned, and explained in broken English that as the fault was with the Car Hire Company, he would not issue us with a ticket, or ‘arrest the car!’ but gave us the ticket to pass back to the hire company when we returned it. Apparently, in these cases, the Police have the power to impound the car! I have to say he was most polite and helpful (we have no Portuguese), and explained that we wouldn’t even be required to sign for the ticket (as we couldn’t translate what we were signing for). The whole thing took about fifteen minutes, and then we were allowed on our way. When we did eventually return the hire car, the Rep told us that the Tax Disc was ‘in the post’, and the Police should have realised this, as it was a new car. Anyway, I am sure they eventually sorted it between themselves. We carried on to Villa Real, and had a pleasant lunch in the square.


Villa Real offer free wireless access in the square, so I was able to connect up my PDA, and collect and respond to my e-mails, whilst enjoying a leisurely lunch. Definitely the way to work, if you have to. I have used this wireless connection on a couple of trips now. It seems to work fine in Villa Real when I choose 'Algarvedigital' as the service, my PDA or Laptop just logs in straight away. However, when at Faro Airport (and also at Villa Real), I have been given the option of logging in to 'PT Wireless'. This option tells me I need a free User Name & Password, but I have yet to find anywhere to collect one ! Asking at the Aipport, I was told to get one from the Newsagents, but when I asked there, they didn't know what I was talking about. Has anyone else an experience of this I wonder ?


A few more chores followed on Thursday morning. I then had a drive around the Costa Esuri development (where you are not supposed to go!).  I had taken a ‘Fadesa’ umbrella we keep in the Apartment with me, given to us by someone who shall remain anonymous to protect their identity (you know who you are!). I don’t know if this gave the impression that I worked for the Company, but certainly no-one challenged me as I wandered around! The sheer size of Costa Esuri still enthralls me; it goes back much further than it first appears. There are some stunning views over the Guardiana from the back end of the development.


I also had a walk through Golf 1, and was pleasantly surprised at how well the fairways have come on. The condition of the fairways now is better than some other courses I have played in Spain, but I hope the course is not opened too soon. Personally, I would prefer to see the opening put back to Spring 2007. Maybe with Fadesa's track record on hitting dates this will happen ! I then took some photos of the developing Commercial Centre, and more of these photos can be seen in my Picture Gallery. I called into the shed, to get some information on expected dates for completion, and was given the following:


Golf 1 is due to open Nov/Dec 2006 with a temporary Clubhouse
The new Golf Clubhouse should be ready for Summer 2007
The Commercial Centre is expected to be completed by end 2007, but not populated until Easter 2008
The new course management for the golf course is and they were due to finalise the deal with Fadesa first week of November 2006.
Hotel 1 is likely to be completed by Summer 2008, with a full size football pitch, and Real Club Deportivo de la Coruna (who are sponsored by Fadesa) will use it as a base for summer training.


Earlier in the week, we had experienced some very high winds. One of the jobs we decided to do on this trip was to put up something to separate our Terrace from that of our neighbours. We certainly don’t want to appear stand-offish, but just felt that the lack of privacy between the Terraces of adjoining properties needed attention. We have yet to meet our neighbour, our paths haven’t crossed whenever we have been out at CE, but we did meet and chat to one of her tenants during one visit. He indicated that our neighbour felt the same as we did, and was wondering who would erect something first. In the event, we decided to put up some of the wicker type fencing that can be bought from places like Leroy Merlin. As the height of this fencing (approx 5 ft.) is quite a bit higher than the railings, I attached a couple of batons to each side wall, so the fencing could be attached to this, as well as the railing. I attached the fencing with both plastic ties, and wire ties (lots of them!), so I hope it will stand up to the high winds we have already experienced at CE. I guess I will find out when we next visit.


Friday was another day I had set aside for golf. Again, through the Ex-Pats forum, I had found someone else looking to meet up for a game, so had arranged to meet Olivia and her husband Mike at BellaVista Golf Club. Carole has decided that she hasn’t yet reached the stage in her playing career where she is comfortable playing with new partners, so we were to make up a threesome. I had not played at BellaVista before, and didn’t know the exact location of the course. Although I new roughly were it was, being a gadget freak, I had taken my SatNav Attachment to my PDA to Spain with me. I entered in the name of the club, and set off to follow its directions. When it told me I had arrived, I was by a petrol station with no sign of any fairway! So much for the technology.  I used my pidgin Spanish in the petrol station to explain I was looking for BellaVista Golf Club, and a very kind lady delivering some goods to the station suggested I followed her van, and she would lead me to the Golf Club. This I did, but when she waved goodbye when I was in the middle of a housing estate, I was none the wiser! Fortunately, I had Olivia’s mobile number with me, and called her. Mike was able to direct me from the few landmarks I recognized to the clubhouse, and I was only about fifteen minutes late. We had a most enjoyable round of golf. Mike and Olivia had played there before, and told me it was one of their favourite courses in the area. Apparently, you can buy a set of vouchers for about 10 games at well below the normal cost per round, and they don’t all have to be used in the one visit, they are good for several months. They very kindly let me buy one of their vouchers to keep the cost of my game down.


I enjoyed BellaVista, but we both thought that if an English course was as wet at it was on the day we played, it would probably have been closed. I look forward to playing there again, when the course condition is better. I offered Mike and Olivia a drink at the nineteenth hole, but when I came to pay, realised that in the rush to find the golf course, I had forgotten to collect some Euros from the bank!. I was left with the embarrassment of having to ask Mike to chip in for his beer! Olivia, I promise the next time, the drinks are on me.


Carole and I had arranged to have a meal at Islantilla with Gray & Val’s family on the Thursday Evening. I had played golf at Islantilla before, but had only seen the golf course, and the hotel, and lots of Apartments that seemed to go on for miles. However, Gary & Val had owned a place on Islantilla, before they bought at CE, so they were able to take us straight to the shops and bars of the main commercial center, where we had a very enjoyable evening. It was very encouraging to see how nice this center is, and I hope it is something of an indication of how CE will be when our own commercial centre is built.



Saturday was a lazy day around the Apartment, just chilling out and reading most of the time.  In the evening, we went down to La Bretagne at Isla Canella. We had been here before for the last meal of our holiday, and is one of the restaurants we most enjoy. On the way back to CE, we popped in to see Gary & Val and their family to say goodbye (for once they were leaving before us, it always seemed they arrived earlier and left later, all the other times we had met up). Dan and his Grandparents were playing one of these building block games, where you have to remove blocks without making the whole thing collapse. We joined in, a game we had not played before, and had another couple of enjoyable hours (and not a few drinks) before it was time to leave.


As we had a late flight back to the UK on the Sunday evening, and we both hate waiting around for the time to come, Carole and I had decided that we would have a round of golf on Sunday Morning. We set off for Isla Canela, and had a most enjoyable 18 holes, followed by a very pleasant lunch in the clubhouse. When we got back to the Apartment, I was taking a shower in the en-suite bathroom ( I had been re-sealing the enclosure in the shower room the day before, and wanted to give it time to set), when I noticed what appeared to be a slight discolouration on the bath floor. On closer examination, it appears that a couple of cracks or holes have developed in the base of the bath! I thought we had got all of the snagging points in the Apartment out of the way, but it was fortunate that this came to light now, as our first year of occupation would be completed before we next planned to visit CE in February 2007. Anyway, we called into the shed on the way to the Airport to report this problem, but it was closed. I have since called Fadesa to report the problem, and hope they fix it before our next visit. I can’t see how it can be fixed without replacing the bath, so we are left a little worried about how much disruption this is going to cause. We will just have to wait and see.


An uneventful flight back to Manchester and a train journey back across the Pennines saw us arrive back to a wet and cold Sheffield about 11pm on the Sunday night. This was our last planned visit to CE for this year; the next planned trip was to be half term in February 2007. However since our return, I have managed to book a boy's golfing weekend for myself and four pals in January, when were selling off some very cheap flight.


This is probably the last blog I will do about the Apartment in Spain. I only really started it as an extension of some of the postings I was doing on the Ex-Pats forum, to share our experiences in the hope that they would be useful to others also buying a place on CE. I was not going to bother after the first couple of trips, but Carole encouraged me to keep going, as she says it will be interesting for us to look back on these notes in years to come. Most of this ‘chapter’ however is more about our own personal holiday, than things we have done with the Apartment, only natural I suppose, as by and large, the Apartment is now finished, although there is still some way to go on the CE development itself. I will keep taking photos, and publishing them here, and on the forum, each time we visit, as hopefully it will be interesting to see the ‘time-delay pictures’ development of the Golf Course, Hotels, and Commercial Centers.


One of the great things we have experienced about Costa Esuri is the sense of community that already has, and continues to develop, mainly through the Ex-Pats, and other Forums about the development. We have met and made some very good friends through this, and we hope and expect this to continue. We will continue to get out to CE in the school holidays whenever we can (we are still restricted to these times, even though our children are now adults, as Carole works at the local school). So, if you are out at CE during these times, drop me an e-mail via the website, if you fancy getting together, quaffing a few beers, and swapping stories and experiences of life in Spain.