Jan 202011

Early January marked the arrival of Peter and Sally, along with their good friend Margaret, who had made a booking several months before to stay with us in our self-catering apartment. They flew in to Valencia and hired a car at the airport, arriving by about midday – which meant they had had a very early start in the UK. When commenting that they obviously had no trouble finding us, since they made the trip from the airport so quickly, it emerged they knew the whole area really well, as they used to own a holiday property in Xeraco, the next town north along the coast from Gandia. So this was something of a trip down memory lane for them, visiting all the places that they knew and loved when they were regular visitors to the area.

They had booked our self-catering apartment as they thought that a self-catering holiday would be the best option for them and give them the greatest level of independence, but they often chose to dine with us in the main part of the house in the evenings. Each evening they would tell us of the trips they had made that day, comparing the area with how they remembered it when they last came – 15 years ago! They saw many changes, but also had to agree that Gandía had developed into a truly vibrant town, and one which had so much more to offer than in the past.

They made excursions both north and south along the Costa Blanca, as well as inland to Xeraco with its famous castle, and picturesque Guadalest – also with a castle and quaint winding streets and tourist shops. Other places of interest for them along the Costa Blanca included Calpe, Denia and Benidorm, as well as Cullera, Tavernes, and the famous monastery at Simat just a very short drive from here.

They found it intriguing and gratifying to revisit all their old places again, and were pleased to see that the area had evolved so nicely and managed to retain its charm and character. Far from being put off and wishing they had not gone back to revisit happy memories, they felt it had been a very worthwhile experience, and after a week’s stay in the apartment their only feeling was that maybe they would return for another visit, and the next time in warmer weather. The winter sunshine had certainly favoured them with lovely weather during their stay, but they felt it would be a good idea to be able to take advantage of our swimming pool and gardens more on their next trip. We certainly look forward to seeing them again, and hope they find their next trip as worthwhile as this one.

Relevant information for  Self Catering Holidays Spain

Costa Blanca Holidays

Jan 092011

Train Travel in Spain
Many British travellers will dread the thought of train travel, based mainly on their experiences at the mercy of British Rail and its various successors. Cancelled trains, delayed services, overcrowding and general decay of the infrastructure make rail travel in the UK an experience not to be relished. Certainly, some improvements have been made in rolling stock, but even so if you do happen to get on a punctual and comfortable train, the chances are that you will still feel you have paid a high price for the privilege.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I embarked on my first long distance train journey in Spain, namely from Valencia to Barcelona. However, I had used my local train on many occasions to reach Valencia City, and had always been impressed with the reliability and relative comfort of this short-distance service, so was prepared to embark on this longer trip with an open mind.

The first thing to do of course for any trip is to buy the ticket. Being well accustomed to purchasing air tickets on-line, I decided to try and see if this was possible with the Spanish national rail company – Renfe. Visiting their website at www.renfe.com was excellent. You can choose your language if you don’t feel confident at negotiating the site in Spanish, put in your travel dates, your starting point and destination, and hit “enter”. The entire choice of trains for the route in question on your days of travel there and (if applicable) back appear, together with the fares on offer for each train. These will vary according to the time of day, speed of the train, class of seat and availability still left on each train – much the same principle as when purchasing a budget airline ticket. Special offers are highlighted with symbols to draw your attention to them. If you are booking 2 or 3 weeks in advance, it is possible, for example, to travel from Valencia to Barcelona for as little as €17. Once you have selected your preferred option, you enter your debit or credit card details (no extra charge for using them, either!), click to continue, and the purchase is complete. You can then either print your tickets at home (which is probably the simplest option), or obtain them at a railway ticket machine by entering your unique booking reference number.

Having now used trains to both Barcelona and Madrid (the latter using the new high-speed “AVE” service), I can only say that it is a totally different, and much more civilised, experience compared to rail travel in Great Britain. You present your ticket at the entrance to the platform, put your luggage on the X-ray scanner machine, and board the train. The coaches are clearly numbered, so you simply find your coach, and then your reserved seat according to the number that is printed on your ticket. All ticket purchases incorporate a reserved seat, so there is no overcrowding, everyone has their own seat, and never have I seen anyone have to stand for any part of their journey!

I decided to travel “Turista” class (2nd class), so was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did I have a reserved seat, (which was extremely comfortable with plenty of leg-room), but I was also presented with complimentary headphones so that I could either listen to the soundtrack of the film that was being shown, or listen to the choice of music channels available in the armrest of my seat. This is standard practice in Renfe long-distance trains, although of course there is no feature film in the high-speed train due to lack of time – only a documentary!

The cafeteria service is adequate, although not over-impressive, with a choice of sandwiches, drinks and hot snacks. However, the prices are by no means excessive, and certainly you don’t leave with the feeling that you have been ripped off, simply because they have a captive market on their trains.

My experience of the stations themselves is also favourable, with information desks clearly signposted, plenty of refreshment areas, and arrival and departure information clearly displayed. The only slightly confusing aspect of the information boards in the larger stations is that the local, medium distance and long distance trains appear on separate boards from each other, so a moment of panic can occur when looking for your platform for a departing train, and your train is not listed – just move to the appropriate board for your type of train! One thing that did draw my attention when scanning all the information boards at Barcelona Sants station for my connection, was that with all the trains listed – and from Barcelona you can get to virtually any part of the country – none was posted as cancelled or delayed! I was only looking for the platform for a local train out to the airport, but in doing so looked at all the departures from the station – and they all seemed to be running to schedule!!

Spain has an extensive rail network, and one which has seen considerable investment in the last ten years or so. All major cities are well connected, and the high-speed trains are a further and on-going improvement to an already advanced service that makes rail travel an experience that should be considered as a convenient and cost-effective means of getting around the country.
It is true that Spain has extensive internal airline connections, using not only Iberia and its regional subsidiaries but also other carriers as well. However, although it is sometimes possible to find bargain fares on these airlines, when you bear in mind the check-in times, security procedures and travel times from city centres to the airports, it often works out quicker to go by train instead. Certainly with the on-line ticket purchase done a little time in advance, you will find a very reasonable train fare, which will get you to your destination in comfort, on time, and to the centre of the city, rather than being faced with a further journey to and from the airports.

Altogether a very civilised method of travel in Spain!

Jan 092011

Jeanne and Philippe arrived on Friday evening, driving down the E15 Autopista del Mediterráneo (otherwise known as the A7 motorway!), along with their lovely dog – a Labrador/Newfoundland cross puppy named Baloo. They had driven from their home near Grenoble in France, and were on the way to Andalucía for a well earned break from the organic farm that they run. As well as being in a convenient location for a stop-over, they had been looking for a place that they felt would be pet-friendly and where they could spend the night without having to worry that their dog might not be welcome.
They arrived about 6.00pm and could not believe how warm it felt here compared to Grenoble, where it has been as low as -17°c at night recently! They decided to spend some time having a drink in the garden before dinner, so that the dogs could get acquainted with each other, and soon the animals were all happily wandering around together. Jeanne and Philippe had been looking for pet-friendly accommodation to break their journey, and they certainly felt they had found what they were looking for!

During dinner, Baloo happily sat upstairs on the terrace with two of our dogs and behaved like a true gentleman, and afterwards had something to eat downstairs with them as well. The cats treated him with caution at first, but then realised that he could be ignored, as he was far more interested in being friends with our dogs than in intimidating the cats at all!
Baloo slept in his owners’ room for the night, and then enjoyed a run and play in the garden with our dogs in the morning at breakfast time. When it came time to leave, he clearly did not want to get in the car at all, obviously thinking he had found his very own pet-friendly hotel that would suit him just fine for the rest of their holiday! After a bit of persuasion, however, he jumped up into the back of the car, and settled down for the rest of the drive to their final destination – about 4 hours away. It was great to have guests who were so easy to get along with, and who had a pet that was so well-behaved (especially for a young dog). They will possibly call in to see us again on the way home, and if they do so, it will be a pleasure to see them all again.

Jan 012011


Wishing all our customers, past, present and future, a very prosperous and Blessed 2011.

We thank you all for the support of the past year and look forward to another wonderful summer holiday season in 2011.

Nigel & Mark

Costa Blanca Casa Rural 2011