Welcome everyone Sandra in Spain - FlamencoI’m Sandra Piddock, and I’m a freelance writer, dividing my time between Spain and the UK. I’ll write about anything that interests and/or challenges me, and I like to focus on the lighter side of life whenever possible.. Read more
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Around Algorfa

Algorfa is my home. It’s a lovely pueblo, with lots going on. This page is all about what’s happening around Algorfa, and the surrounding areas such as Benijofar, Benejuzar, Almoradi, Quesada and Rojales. Let me know if you need something publicising, and I’ll do what I can.

Macmillan Cancer Support Coffee Morning at Bar La Vista, La Finca

Pretty much everyone has been touched by cancer, either personally or through a loved one, and while big advancements have been made in research and treatment options, it still claims far too many lives. So when there’s a chance to raise funds to continue the battle against this silent but deadly killer, people often turn out in force to help, and that’s what happened when Bar La Vista hosted The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning at La Finca Commercial Centre, Algorfa, on Friday 25th September.

The fund raiser was the idea of Lynda Woodward, who lost her father to cancer recently. Back in the UK, the Macmillan Nurses made his last weeks more comfortable, and provided much-needed support for the family. Lynda was so thankful for the help she received, she wanted to do something to help the charity, and the members of the Algorfa Ladies Group rallied around to help.

The result was a fantastic social occasion that ran from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm, and was well subscribed throughout. Lots of cakes were supplied – so many that they never ran out, and kept everyone happy for the full four hours. Whether the ladies were quite so happy when they stepped on the scales the next day is another matter though. It’s quite possible that the clothing bargains they picked up from Carina of Glamour Glamour may have been a tad tight on Saturday! However, the shoes and accessories from Shoe Amor should have fitted okay, and  since both businesses donated to the event from their takings, that meant more money for the coffers.

Sally and the team from La Vista also donated a proportion of the takings on the day to the fund, and the 25 prizes on offer in the raffle were all donated by local businesses. The star prize – and the one everybody wanted – was a spa day with lunch at the luxurious 5 star La Finca Spa and Resort. This was generously donated by Nick, of Welcome Estates, Algorfa. Welcome Estates will soon be opening an office at the La Finca Commercial Centre, and Nick and his team have done a lot to promote Algorfa, so it was great to have him along.

Other prizes included meals, drinks, beauty treatments, shopping vouchers and clothing, as well as biscuits and chocolates – more woes for the waistline there, ladies!

Life in Spain is all about having fun, and everyone who rocked up to the Coffee Morning certainly managed that. Sally and the staff provided food and drink aplenty, and more than €1,600 was raised for Macmillan Cancer Support. If you didn’t make it, but you’d still like to donate to the fund, pop into Bar La Vista with your donation, and enjoy a drink and a chat with Mick and Sally while you’re there.

Lynda and the Algorfa Ladies Group would like to thank the following sponsors, who helped to make the day so successful:

Welcome Estates –  Algorfa

Baybrooks – La Finca

Bar La Vista – La Finca

Jones Tevi & Strommen – La Finca

Tapas y Mas – La Finca

Sapphire Properties – Quesada

Spanglish Bar – Dona Pepa

Tony Firth Auctions – Los Montesinos

Bar Cascada – La Finca

Bar El Toro – Quesada

Slagerij Deli  and Butchers – La Finca

Christine at Bliss – La Finca

Naomi at Bliss – La Finca

Butterflies Salon – Algorfa

Ross at Studio Six – Montebello

Spanish Ink.com

Pinky at Spa Beauty and Personal Care

Rendezvous Bar – Torrevieja

If you’d like to make new friends and get more involved in Algorfa’s social life, why not come along to the next meeting of the Algorfa Ladies Group? The group meets at Bar La Vista on the first Wednesday of each month at 2.00 pm, and organises lunches, trips and various activities.


Sunzone Properties.com – Relocation Fairy Samantha Biddles will make sure your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare!

Samantha Biddles - AKA the Relocation Fairy!

Samantha Biddles – AKA the Relocation Fairy!

These days, there are still plenty of property bargains to be had in Spain, although prices are creeping up at long last. That said, there’s a bit of a feeding frenzy going on, as estate agents try to offload stuff from their portfolios, and eager buyers look to snap up the bargains. And that’s creating problems. Instead of looking at the bigger picture, buyers are looking for the best bargain, without stopping to think if their bargain home is where they really want to be. It’s okay picking up a 3 bedroomed, fully furnished town house on a gated community with a pool for €75,000 (Around £53,000 in early July 2015), but it’s not such a bargain if it costs you €400 a month to commute to work or do the school run, because there is no public transport available.

And what about if you have children with special educational needs, or need to register for employment? What happens then? Unless you’re very lucky, not a lot, because estate agents are qualified to sell property, not to guide you through the intricate and often scary process of starting a new life in a new country. Yes, there are relocation experts and property finders who can provide this service, but they don’t come cheap. When we bought our garden apartment on La Finca in Algorfa, we paid around €800 for the agent to guide us through the process and deal with everything in Spain while we sold up and packed up in England, but not everyone can afford to pay that. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Relocation Fairy to sort out everything from checking on public transport, through sorting out the Spanish wills and anticipating problems in the future? And wouldn’t it be even better if the services of said Relocation Fairy came free of charge?

Well, now they do, and this is no fairy story, although it should have a happy ending for everyone concerned. Samantha Biddles of Algorfa has just launched Sunzone Properties.com, and she is that Relocation Fairy, although she doesn’t have a magic wand – just 16 years of experience of life in Spain, both as a fully integrated immigrant – never call her an expat, if you value your life – local councillor and regional co-ordinator for European residents. Since Samantha, her husband Lee and their three young children became the first English family to settle in Algorfa on Spain’s Costa Blanca, she’s seen a lot of changes, at local, regional and national level, and she knows how hard it can be to settle in a new country and find the right way to slice through that famous Spanish red tape. As Samantha says:

‘When you buy a property abroad, it’s not like buying double glazing. You don’t just hand over the money and get on with it, it’s a life-changing event. You’re not just moving to another country, you’re choosing a different culture, and another way of life. And you need the right guidance so you get it right first time, rather than making an expensive mistake. That’s where I come in.’

In her 12 years in local politics – 8 as a councillor – Samantha has picked up the pieces many a time when someone has ended up with a property that wasn’t suitable for their needs. Sometimes, they got carried away with the moment and bought the dream, which soon turned into a nightmare. Other times, they just hadn’t thought about the future. Samantha mentions her brother as a case in point. As a young, single man who wanted to be near the beach and the night life, he bought a property in La Zenia, Orihuela Costa. However, before it was completed and ready to move into, he was married with a young child, so his property needs were very different. 10 years on, he still has the property, but it’s rented out because he can’t sell it, and he’s now living with his family in Algorfa, which is more family oriented, and has a good local school.

Then there’s the couple in their 40s, who buy a finca in the mountains with a view to taking early retirement. That’s fine while they’re both fit and healthy, but what if he dies, and she’s left alone and isolated in her 70s, in a huge house? How quickly can she expect to sell the property and move into something more suitable, or maybe return to the support of her family? These are the questions very few people ask themselves, but Samantha’s new venture takes an imaginary crystal ball and looks into the future of your new life in Spain, as well as putting everything in place so you can enjoy the here and now. Only then will she search her portfolio of recommended properties to match each client with the right fit for their circumstances.

Inspection visits are available at just £49 per person, including flights, hotel and transport. You’re probably wondering where the catch is by now, but there isn’t one. Samantha works in tandem with her husband Lee, an estate agent established for 15 years in Torrevieja. He’s one of very few local agents to have ridden the storm of Le Crisis, because he’s always prided himself on offering efficient, honest service and value for money. Samantha personally inspects properties before approving them for her clients, and the emphasis is on pairing the client with the right property in the right location, not making the sale. Why are they prepared to go to such trouble? Let Samantha have the last word on this.

16 years ago, we made our home in this wonderful, hospitable country, and we want everyone to discover just how great life in Spain can be if you make the right preparations and ask the all-important questions. Anyone can enjoy a wonderful quality of life here, and that’s what we’re hoping to help them achieve with Sunzone Properties.

Maybe you should contact the Relocation Fairy and explain your Spanish property needs. You have nothing to lose, and a great new life in Spain to gain! Oh, and Samantha, if you want to use the Relocation Fairy handle as a trademark, I’m up for negotiations!

The Park of Nations – A little bit of country in the heart of town

Yesterday I took my friend Glenys into Torrevieja for the day. The plan was to walk along the seafront  and out along the boardwalk before enjoying a drink in the beautiful surroundings of the Casino, but it was very windy out there, and it wasn’t down to the chickpea and potato stew we’d had for supper the night before. So, what to do for two ladies in town? Normally it would be shopping, but Glenys has bought so many new clothes she thinks she might need a private jet to get her home, so she didn’t want to be tempted. Then I thought about the Park of Nations. I haven’t been there in ages, because they don’t allow dogs, and I thought – correctly – that it would be more sheltered down there than on the seafront.

If you’ve never visited the Park of Nations, maybe it’s time you did. It’s a huge green space, right in the heart of Torrevieja, between the CV90 and the N332.  The park is dedicated to the nations of Europe, and if you think the shape of the gardens and the lake is a bit unusual, that’s because they are laid out in the shape of the map of Europe. The flags of all the nations fly over the huge 6,000 square metre lake which is the centrepiece of the park.

On the lake you’ll find geese, ducks and other water fowl. They’re not shy either – they’ll get up close and personal, and even pose for photos. If you’re really lucky, you may even see turtles basking on the rocks or swimming languidly in the clear waters of the lake.

The fact that chickens, peacocks, geese and ducks stroll freely around the park is the reason for the dog ban, although being Spain, it was openly flaunted by a senora with two Yorkshire Terriers. Still, at least she picked up their downloads, which is something to be grateful for.

There’s a fairly new children’s playground, donated by the local Rotary Club, and at one end of the park there is a beautiful section of topiary. As you stroll through the park, you’d never guess you were between Torrevieja’s two main arterial roads. It’s a real oasis of calm in the middle of the bustling town.

Look out for various exhibitions and events through the year, but in any case, take a stroll around this beautiful park some time soon when you’re in Torrevieja. If nothing else, you’ll get some great pictures.

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A morning in Almoradi

We’re lucky to live in Algorfa for  lots of reasons. One of them is the range of markets right on our doorstep. There’s Zoco on Sundays, Benijofar on Tuesdays, San Miguel and Algorfa on Wednesdays, and Almoradi on Saturdays. It’s been a while since we visited Almoradi, with its huge market that winds through the streets, so we headed there with our friend Glenys on Saturday.

Needless to say, we bought lots of fruit and vegetables. At 80 cents a kilo, Almoradi has the nicest – and cheapest – sweet potatoes (boniatos) I have seen anywhere. And we picked up some lovely orange and yellow peppers for €1 a kilo. I was making a ratatouille for Saturday evening, so they provided extra colour, sweetness and texture to the dish.

The biggest attraction in Almoradi though is the church plaza with its amazing ‘doughnut’ trees. At one time, the huge ficus trees were just left to grow as they wanted, and they formed a canopy over the plaza, but around 15 years ago, the local council decided to tidy them up and trimmed them into the intriguing shapes you see now.

Some of the trees have street lamps going up through the centre, giving them a rather eerie appearance at night, and if you look up through the centre of a tree, your imagination is likely to take you on a very weird journey. The view has been colourfully described as ‘alien tentacles reaching towards a white hole in space,’ and indeed, on first view, the trees do look as if they come from another world. In the evening, the birds roost in the trees, and you can hear them singing during the day  as well, even over the hustle and bustle of the Saturday market.

The church dedicated to San Andres Apostol is a magnificent building, although the rococo style of decoration may be too ‘over the top’ for some tastes. The church will celebrate its 500th anniversary in 2015, so look out for special events in the San Andres Fiesta in November. The great earthquake of 1829 totally flattened Almoradi, and it had to be rebuilt, but there has been a church on the site for half a millennium.

On the way out of Almoradi, we called in at the new Mercadona on the Poligono for essential weekend supplies – mainly cava and bread. We really enjoyed our morning in Almoradi, and it’s so close to Algorfa too. We were home within 10 minutes.

If you don’t know Almoradi, maybe it’s time to get acquainted. A word of warning though – if you go on market day, look out for the mujeres with their shopping trolleys. The streets are narrow, and it’s difficult to keep out of the way.

Restaurant review – Nan Kin Garden, Benimar, Benijofar

We love Spanish food, but sometimes you fancy a change when you eat out, and Chinese food is also high on our taste radar. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve had friends over from England, and for their last night here, we decided to meet up with some other friends at the Nan Kin Garden in Benimar. We’ve never been there, but our friends Bev and Alex often pop there when it’s too much trouble to cook, and they wouldn’t be doing that if it wasn’t a decent place to eat.

Appearances can be deceptive, because Nan Kin Garden looks expensive, with its beautifully laundered white linen, comfortable chairs and tasteful interior decoration. I knew it couldn’t possibly be though – Alex is a Scotsman, so expensive isn’t in his vocabulary in either English or Spanish. The friendly waitress welcomed us with small glasses of sangria, and left us to peruse the menu while she fetched our included wines.

I was glad we had experienced hands to guide us, because the Menu Del Dia – which is actually available all day – is a little complicated to work out at first. Here’s a quick tutorial if you’ve never been there:

The 36 main courses are listed, with prices alongside. There are all the usual suspects – curried chicken and beef, duck in various sauces, king prawns in several variations – as well as a range of combination dishes. The price alongside the dish is the inclusive price for the whole meal, including starter, ice cream or coffee and half a bottle of wine. It ranges from around €4.95 for basic chicken dishes to €7.80 for the more elaborate duck and king prawn offerings.

Starters offer a choice of spring roll, Chinese Salad or Peking Soup, and the main course comes with noodles, fried rice or boiled rice. And of course, there’s the obligatory prawn crackers.

I opted for the spring roll starter. It was the biggest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some pretty big ones I can tell you. (For the avoidance of doubt, we are still talking spring rolls here – this is a family friendly blog!) It was served with a delicious sweet and sour sauce, and it was hot and crispy – just how a spring roll should be.

For the main course, I went for the beef and vegetable curry, while Tony chose the crispy sweet and sour chicken. I liked that that most of the food was either placed on a food warmer, or served in individual cast iron pots on wooden skillets. We like to take our time over our food, and there were 6 of us chatting away, so we could do so safe in the knowledge that the food wouldn’t go cold. And when the rice and noodles  came out, they were piping hot too. That’s another plus point, because if rice isn’t fully reheated, it can cause problems in the internal plumbing department.

The servings were huge – we shared, which was convenient since the dishes were all in the centre of the table – but there was easily enough food for another person, or even two. After the ice cream and coffee, we were offered a choice of schnapps to finish with. Peach and apple was the consensus of choice, and not only did our waitress pour generous measures for everyone, she left the bottles on the table for us, so a couple of the party weren’t quite so steady on their feet going out as they were coming in. Good job there’s plenty of parking close by!

When the bill arrived, I checked it and double checked, because I was sure there was a mistake somewhere. If you’ve been paying attention to the words and pictures, you’ll have noted that 3 of our party splashed out and ordered a king prawn main dish, we had 3 bottles of wine, and also a couple of alcohol free beers for Tony – who has done Dry January with honours – and a 500ml bottle of sparkling water for the drivers to make very weak spritzers. So you can see why I thought the €46 total bill couldn’t possibly be right – but it was! For the mathematically challenged, that’s just €7.66 per person. And no washing up to do either.

If you like Chinese food, you’ll love Restaurante Nan Kin Garden. Oh, and there’s a loyalty scheme too. Get your ticket stamped each visit for future reductions on their already competitive prices. The last meal Bev and Alex had there cost them less than €3 with their €10 loyalty discount!

While Nan Kin Garden has plenty of covers, booking is advisable for large parties or at weekends. On a cold Thursday night in January, it was almost full, so just imagine what it will be like in the summer season! Nan Kin Garden is in the Benimar commercial centre, opposite Studz Bar, next to the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant. It’s open 7 days a week, including red days. Reserve your table on 966 712 952.

Sunday 11 January 2015 – the day the earth moved for me!

Algorfa, calm and tranquil in the shelter of Mount Escotera. However, the town has seen several earthquakes in recent years

Algorfa, calm and tranquil in the shelter of Mount Escotera. However, the town has seen several earthquakes in recent years

Just after 7.00 am on Sunday, I felt the earth move for the first time in quite a while. Sorry to disappoint my more salacious readers, but Tony hadn’t been at the little blue pills again – he’s saving those for his birthday. But I digress. What sounded like a big truck went rumbling past, and woke Paddy. However, it can’t have been a truck, because our friends on the other side of La Finca heard it at the same time. Nor was it the intruder Paddy obviously thought it was as he raced around the doors. The ‘big truck’ was an earthquake at 3.2 on the Richter scale, which wasn’t enough to cause damage to the apartment or its contents but was strong enough to rattle the patio doors and the front door.

The epicentre of the earthquake was in Los Montesinos, about 5 kilometers away, and there was another, milder tremor a few minutes later.According to the Euro-Mediterranean Seismology Centre, it covered an area of 15 kilometres. So, why did Sunday’s earthquake happen? Because the southern Iberian peninsula is on a fault line between two tectonic plates – the Eurasian and the African plates. The areas most at risk of earthquakes include Almeria and Murcia, both of which are close neighbours of Alicante province, where Algorfa is located. There’s more information in this article.

There have been several earthquakes in Algorfa since we moved here in 2008. There were minor terremotos (earthquakes in Spanish) in early March and late May, registering 3.3 and 2.9 respectively. The one that caused most reaction and disruption, in August of that year, happened around half an hour after midnight. Because there were warnings of more severe seismic activity to come, the people in Algorfa were evacuated into the village square. If an earthquake hits, you’re safer in the open air than in a building that might fold in on you like a pack of cards, unless the building has been constructed with the possibility of earthquakes in mind. That does happen these days, but a number of properties in the centre of Algorfa are older and more basic. The August 2008 earthquake was 3.4 magnitude, and there were a number of aftershocks. Again, the epicentre was Los Montesinos.

In February 2012, there was a 3.0 magnitude earthquake in the area, and in June 2013 there was a 2.7 quake centred in the Rojales region. June 2014 saw a 1.3 quake, which would not normally be felt. However, people in Villamartin were wakened by it. But what do all these numbers mean in terms of feeling the earth move and damage to structures and possessions? Well, the ones we feel in Algorfa count as minor earthquakes, according to this summary. That means it’s noticeable, but rarely causes damage, though there may be some rattling of indoor objects. Not so bad then, although it can be scary, especially if you’re woken in the middle of the night.

The worst earthquake in Spain in recent memory is the one that happened in Lorca, Murcia in May 2011. It was a relatively mild 5.1 magnitude, but 9 people died, and there was extensive damage. The timing was crucial – it was a little before 7 pm when people were making there way home –  and investigations since suggest that groundwater extraction over a prolonged period may have triggered the incident.

However, Spain’s worst earthquake in the last 600 years was in 1829 in Torrevieja. More than 400 people died – 192 in Almoradi alone – and 3000 properties across the region were damaged or destroyed. The quake registered around 6.6 –  6.9 at its most violent – and the effects were felt across the region, with Almoradi, Benejuzar, Rafal, Formentera, Rojales, Torrevieja, La Mata, Orihuela and Guardamar de Segura being pretty much razed to the ground.

Seismologists say Spain is due for another major earthquake, the last severe one being on Christmas Day 1884 at Arenas Del Ray, Andalusia, when 800 people died in the 6.5 incident. They tend to happen around every 70 – 80 years, so we’re overdue. That’s a comforting thought, isn’t it?

Restaurant review: La Cosecha, Benijofar

We have several favourite restaurants, both Spanish and international, but we’re always up for trying new ones. While I was in the UK, Tony went to La Cosecha (the name means ‘harvest’) with friends. It’s an English-owned restaurant on the Algorfa-Benijofar road, about 4 kms from Algorfa. The cuisine is Mediterranean with a few English favourites thrown in for good measure, and La Cosecha earned Brownie Points from Tony because they serve an excellent prawn cocktail and lamb’s liver.

I don’t do offal, but usually if Tony says a restaurant is good, I’ll like it too, so just before Christmas we headed there with friends. The first thing I noticed was the warm welcome we got from the staff. That makes a big difference, because it sets you at ease immediately. The main part of the restaurant is a conservatory, and that was light and airy, offering lovely views over the campo, and although the chairs were the normal hard Spanish chairs that make your bum numb by the time la sombremesa is over, the restaurant had thoughtfully provided cushions for padding. All good so far.

The lunchtime Menu del Dia is €12.95 including half a bottle of wine, and that’s what we opted for. There’s an excellent selection – a choice of 7 starters and 8 main courses every day. Prawn cocktail and melon features every day, along with the soup of the day. Other starters include chicken liver pate, meatballs and spaghetti, ratatouille and mussels. I opted for the mussels in marinara cream sauce.

As we waited for our starters, we were served with fresh bread and salad. I called it a Kitchen Sink Salad, because there was everything bar the kitchen sink in there, and it was dressed in a home made vinaigrette – lovely! If there’s a tiny criticism, it woud be the absence of ali oli – you kind of get used to that around here.

The starters arrived, and my mussels were cooked to perfection, with a delicious sauce. The starters are very generous, and well presented too. After the salad, and the mussels, I was already rather full, so I was glad I’d ordered fish for my second course. Actually, the fish was oven baked turbot in tarragon butter, and it’s unusual to find such expensive fish on MDD, so that was another plus point. Liver is available ever day, along with a roast of the day, fish, and a vegetarian choice. Other options included Beef Bourguignon, chicken in Cajun spices and pork loin steak.

My turbot was served with Duchesse potatoes, but I could have had horseradish infused mash or home made chips if I’d wanted to. Each main course is accompanied by a generous selection of vegetables – carrots, broccoli and cabbage on this occasion.Everything was cooked to perfection –  there was too much, but that’s a plus for most people.

I didn’t think I could manage a dessert after all that, but when the board came with 10 – yes 10 – dessert choices, I spotted Bailey’s cheesecake in there. Well, it would have been rude not to – especially as the desserts were all home made. Again, it was all well presented, and generous servings too. And there was apple crumble and custard – that’s a daily feature too, and Tony loved it.

La Cosecha is a bit more expensive on MDD than most, but the value for money is excellent, the service is top notch and the ambience is delightful. And there are some nice little touches, like bringing out a bowl with 4 different types of sugar for the coffee, rather than the usual sachets. We’ve been back again for a New Year lunch, and we’ve booked for an evening meal for Tony’s birthday later in January. At weekends, there is entertainment, and the Menu del Noche is just €14.95. I’ll report back on that one. Booking is advisable, because even midweek La Cosecha gets very busy. Phone 966 194 018 to book your table.



Bar Restaurante Algorfa – not so much a hotel,more a hub of the community

What is known locally as the Algorfa Hotel has had something of a chequered history, with problems with licences which have made it difficult for anyone to make a go of it. However, since Kata and her family took over the running of the place  around three years ago, it’s become a real hub of the community, with a number of social events, as well as serving some great Hungarian food at excellent prices.

A while ago, I chatted to Kata about what Bar Restaurante Algorfa has to offer by way of relaxation. As I said before, the building is actually a hotel, with the bedrooms arranged around the perimeter of the stunning Garden Room, and now all the licences and permissions are in place to offer accommodation in the rooms that border the beautiful Garden Room.Room prices start at €65 per night for bed and breakfast for 2 people. Ask Kata about any special offers they may have.

There’s plenty going on for everyone, whether locals or visitors. There’s a Quiz Night on Tuesdays, and if you’re a Wild West afficionado, why not join the Pistoleros (Cowboys) on the first Tuesday of each month? There’s even a Buffs Lodge which meets on Sunday mornings.  If you’re football crazy, you can catch all the Premier League action on the big screen in the Garden Room.

And of course there are regular entertainment nights – mainly at weekends during the autumn and winter. However, there have been some spectacular flamenco nights during the summer season, as well as themed party nights and appearances by the very talented singer and drag artist Stevie Spit, so look out for those again in 2016.

So, Kata and her family are doing everything they can to entertain and educate the people of Algorfa, but their main focus is in providing good food and reasonably priced drinks for everyone. The Menu Del Dia is excellent value at just €8.50 for 3 courses and a drink. The day I visited, there was goulash soup, aubergine dip, chicken with peaches and grilled pork with eggs on offer.

If you haven’t already discovered Bar Restaurante Algorfa, why not enjoy the views over the Sierra de Callosa while you sip a drink on their sun terrace? You’ll be surprised how much is on offer at this friendly establishment.

To book a table, or to find out more about the social activities and entertainment at Bar Restaurante Algorfa, phone 966 729 707


Eyebrow threading anyone?

I’m off to England to meet my new grandson Harrison in a few days, and I thought I’d better smarten myself up a bit for the trip. After all, I don’t want to traumatise the poor boy – I want his first meeting with Nanny Sandra to be a happy one.

One problem I’m noticing as I get older is that my eyebrows are getting thicker, and while they’re not exactly Dennis Healeys, they are a bit unruly and sticky-outy. (Is that a word? It is now!) And another thing is, although I have hardly a grey hair on my head – which is pretty impressive for 62, I think – they seem to come in grey under the brow line, and they really don’t contribute to the glamorous granny image I want to present to the world.

I’m not good with eyebrow plucking. For one thing, I can’t stand pain – even a little bit. For another, it takes forever, and it makes my skin all red and angry. So I decided to go and get my eyebrows dealt with at Bliss La Finca Hair and Beauty Salon. A while back, I had my eyebrows waxed at one of Bliss’ regular open days, and although it stung a bit, it was all over in no time, so I thought I’d do it again. However, when I arrived for my treatment, the technician Jo suggested threading might be better for me, as the hairs were fine, and some of them were quite short. Jo has been in Spain for 18 months now, and lives at Playa Flamenca.

Now, I’ve seen pictures of threading, and it looked a bit like Mediaeval torture to me, but Jo looked like a friendly girl, so I put my life in her hands. Threading is an ancient hair removal technique which originated in the East, but is now becoming more popular in Europe and America. Basically, the technician lassos the unwanted hair with cotton thread, pulling it along the brow socket in a twisting motion, and the hair is pulled right out of the follicle.

It sounded painful, but Jo assured me it would take no more than 5 minutes, so I reckoned I could be a brave girl for that long. I asked Jo if she would take a Before and After photo, because as I was a Threading Virgin, I intended to blog about the experience. I got better than I bargained, for because Vicky, my hairdresser, offered to take photos of the whole procedure. So, I settled down on the couch and prepared to suffer for my art.

Jo asked me to take some deep breaths and relax – easier said than done when you’re about to undergo something totally alien, but I did my best. Then she asked me to stretch the skin on my brows while she worked. How to describe the sensation? Well, it certainly wasn’t painful, for which I was extremely grateful. It was a strange feeling, like a scraping on the skin, which made a sound a bit like ripping material. If you’ve ever made dusters out of old tea towels or your husband’s ancient y-fronts, you’ll know what I mean.

Within two or three minutes, the whole procedure was over and done with, and I must say I was very pleased with the results. My eyebrows were well defined, with no stragglers at all, and nothing to frighten tiny babies. It cost just €5, and it should last around 6 weeks, so I call that a real bargain.

If you want to try threading – which is also good for any facial hair removal – Jo is at Bliss every Friday. Drop in to make an appointment – it’s on the lower level of the Commercial Centre, just along from Bar La Vista. Or call 966 729 436. Bliss also do a full range of hair and beauty treatments, including facials, manicures, pedicures, waxing and various massages.


El Zoco Market

One of the great things about living in Spain is that you can shop at a market every day of the week if you want to. And in Algorfa, we have two, right on our doorstep. There’s the small street market in the heart of the pueblo on Wednesdays, and there’s the much larger El Zoco Sunday market, which is situated just off the Torrevieja Norte exit of the AP7, on the San Miguel – Algorfa road.

If you’re wondering about the name, a zoco is an Arabian market, of souk, and there were a lot of them in Spain before the Reconquest by the Christians. That sounds exotic, doesn’t it, and there are some exotic purchases to be made at El Zoco. Think herbs and spices, incense burners, various sorts of honey, exotic orchids and majestic aloe vera plants.

And there’s the ordinary stuff like socks and underwear, clothes, toys, kitchen ware, leather goods and shoes. And don’t forget the wide range of fruit and vegetables, produced by small  independent growers without the aid of chemical pesticides. So you’re getting organic produce without the mark up.

One tip to bear in mind is it’s best not to eat before you go to El Zoco, or any other market in Spain for that matter. The produce stall holders are so proud of their wares they insist on you sampling them – and we’re not talking small samples either. All the produce stalls will have large chunks of melon, orange, grapefruit, grapes, peaches, and all manner of stuff for you to try. And the cheese and ham stalls will also be offering tasters t00.

When we first went to the market, we made the mistake of eating breakfast, so we didn’t have room for the tasty morsels on offer. Some of the stall holders take it as a personal affront if you don’t sample their wares, so in the interests of preserving amicable Anglo-Spanish relations, we never eat before heading for the market these days.

You can get some great bargains at El Zoco. Last week I went with my friend, Venessa, and she bought a lovely pair of knee length boots for €15, a huge bunch of gladioli for €6, along with fruit and vegetables at silly prices. I bought two unusual, made in Spain presents for my soon to be born grandson, some sheepsking mittens for just €3 in readiness for my trip to the UK, fruit and veg and a pollo asado (roast chicken) for lunch. At just €5 for a chicken large enough to feed the 3 of us – Paddy lovels pollo asado too – it would be rude not to!

What I love about Spanish markets is that you can buy stuff you’d never see on English markets. There’s a bodega where you can stock up on wine, port and other alcoholic delights, and there’s a huge stall devoted to different sorts of honey. You can even buy pets, although I’m not really comfortable with that idea, given the huge problem with abandoned dogs and cats here. And the produce stall holders don’t mind if you pick over their fruit and vegetables to get the tastiest morsels. In fact, it’s pretty much compulsory here – they give you a funny look if you ask them to choose for you.

I buy most of my clothes and shoes from the markets, and it’s rare that I pay more than €10 for either. In fact, one of my favourite dresses, which always draws compliments, cost me just €3 from Rojales market, It was a long, multi print cotton dress which I picked up at the end of my first summer in Spain, when they were clearing stocks ready for the winter fashions.

Never pay the asking price – except on the fruit and vegetables and food stalls. I managed to get a Euro knocked off each of my purchases for the new grandson, and I always ask for discounts if I buy two of the same items. For example, I bought two unusual wine accessory sets as Christmas presents, and saved €3 by buying two together. When I added up the savings I’d made by haggling, I’d saved €8 on prices which were already ‘muy barato’ (very cheap). ‘They can only say no, so have a go’ is my motto on the markets.

It goes without  saying you should always keep an eye on your cash and cards at the markets or any crowded places. My strategy is to keep a load of coins in my pockets, so I don’t need to keep pulling out my purse. And I have a special ‘market bag’ which is deep, with thick straps that can’t be slashed through, and press stud fastenings at the top. Make life difficult for the pickpockets, and they’ll leave you alone and look for easier targets.

When you’ve shopped till you dropped at El Zoco, there are plenty of places where you can make a pit stop for refreshments. If you’re hungry, you can feast on and English breakfast, German bratwurst, Spanish paella, Norweigian fish, and pretty much anything else that takes your fancy. If you haven’t already sampled the delights and soaked in the atmosphere of El Zoco Market, maybe you should put it on your list of things to do around Algorfa,