Here in Algorfa, spring has definitely sprung, and it’s nothing to do with the date, or the clocks ‘springing forward’ an hour. It’s the bursting out of blossom everywhere that confirms that the long, cold winter is giving way to the balmy days of spring.
It does get cold here in Algorfa, although at least we haven’t had any snow this year. Last year, on 18 January, the Torrevieja area experienced the first snowfall almost in living memory. The last time snow fell on Algorfa was way back in 1927, so everyone – including Yours Truly – was out there taking photos and videos for posterity.
On 11 March, we headed off in the motor home to a rally, and when we returned home 5 days later, our garden was a riot of colour. There was beautiful pink blossom on the nectarine tree Tony had grown from a stone, and our orange tree – which had yielded the last of its fruit just a few days before we left – was bursting with blossom. It looks like we’re in for another bumper crop later in the year.
Paddy loves to run in the orange grove at the bottom of our road, and there, the fragrance of orange blossom is heady and intense. I now know what mind-blowing truly means. On top of all this, the jasmine which climbs lazily from our garden to the terrace is in full bloom, and again, the fragrance is overpowering, especially at night.
The jasmine plant was a moving in present from Glenys and her husband John 10 years ago, and we’re so pleased that she is staying with us and can experience her everlasting gift in all its glory. Every autumn Tony cuts it back ruthlessly, and every spring it rewards us with even more beautiful blossoms. He’s taken a couple of cuttings, which have also flourished, so we now have a wall hanging of fragrant white flowers cascading from the terrace ceiling down into the garden.
One of the few things I miss about life in the UK is the spring flowers – the daffodils, crocuses and primroses, springing up in the hedgerows, or flourishing in carefully tended gardens. Granted, we have several varieties of daffodil growing in the garden thanks to Tony, but it’s not quite the same.
That said, spring in Algorfa has its own special beauty, and it’s wonderful to step out onto the terrace in the morning. We can smell the orange blossom and jasmine as we enjoy our freshly squeezed orange juice, made with oranges from the very trees that are now assailing our senses with the fragrance of their blossom. And we know that this wonderful aroma promises a bountiful harvest in the autumn.
Walking up to the Red Chilli for lunch last week, it was breathtaking to see the beautiful splashes of yellow on the many mimosa shrubs on the new road from Algorfa to La Finca. So we have our own beautiful yellow spring flowers right here. I’ve seen mimosa in Devon and Cornwall, but not in such profusion, since it’s happier in hot climates.
Blossom time in Algorfa is truly magical. Try walking instead of driving, so you can see and smell the flowers in all their glory. And take a camera with you, to remind yourself how wonderful spring in Algorfa can be.
If you’re a regular reader and you’re sick of hearing me say this, I apologise, but it’s true, so I’ll say it again. I am so lucky to live in Algorfa. I’d never even heard of the place until we were shown the home we bought back in 2007, yet now I can’t think of any place in the world I’d rather be. Well, sailing the Carribbean with George Clooney might come close, but even then I’d rather he made the trip to Algorfa, just in case the Carribbean was a let down.
It was brought home to me yet again when I took Paddy for his customary jaunt in the orange groves. As I walked sedately after my mad mongrel, the smell of orange blossom filled my head.Judging from the quantity, the bees are going to feast royally this year.
Mount Escotera was looking sharp and clear too, with a few clouds assembling over the peak. I love this time of year, when ‘My’ mountain isn’t obscured by a heat haze, and you see different colours depending on the direction you approach from. I have literally hundreds, if not thousands, of photos of the mountain, and every one is different. I never tire of the view, which is just as well, since we can see it from our garden and terrace.
When Paddy had exhausted himself chasing rabbits, we headed back for home at a much slower pace than on the outward journey. Just as we climbed the incline above the groves, I spotted something in the middle of the road. It looked suspiciously like a snake, and indeed it was, so I approached it with caution. Incredibly, in the 9 years we’ve called Algorfa home, I’ve never seen a snake locally, although most of the neighbours have. This one was around a metre long – or 3′ 3″ in English money, and I had no idea if it was venomous or not, so I kept a sensible distance. Luckily Paddy had spotted a lizard enjoying the last of the sun under a nearby bush, so I was able to get a couple of decent photos without worrying about either or both of us becoming snake target practice.
I’m not brilliant at identifying snakes, so I posted the pics on Facebook, and it was identified as a Ladder Snake, which is apparently harmless and also a protected species. It’s native to Spain, Portugal and parts of France and Italy and it gets its name from the markings on its back, which look like the rungs of a ladder. Apparently they grow to around 160 cm, so the one we saw was probably a teenager in snake terms. Good job Paddy was so fascinated with the lizard, because protected species or not, there might have been one less of them if he’d spotted it.
I love the fact that a simple walk with Paddy can bring me so close to Nature at its best, and yield such great photo opportunities and material for the blog. So I’ll say it once more – I am so lucky to be in Algorfa in spring. Okay, I’m missing the hedgerow flowers and green fields, but my adopted home has its own brand of spring beauty. And I bet George Clooney would agree with me!
When we came to Spain on our bargain £25 property inspection trip in July 2007, we were very nervous about parting with our hard-earned cash, because at the time, the furore about the Land Grab Laws and corruption on the Costas was at its height. We really wanted to live in Spain, but we didn’t want to wake up one morning with the bulldozers at the door, or find ourselves landed with a beautiful but unsellable property because the right planning permissions were never obtained. We discussed this with the property agent who was assigned to us for our visit, and she suggested that maybe we should consider buying on an urbanisation, as it was less likely that we would face problems in the future.
After living here for twelve years, the first piece of advice I’d offer to anyone thinking of moving into a property on an urbanisation is ‘Don’t do it!’ We love our ground floor garden apartment, and we have some lovely neighbours – although most of them ony use their properties as holiday homes – but we wish we hadn’t been so nervous when we bought our home in the sun.
The big disadvantage of urbanisation life is that you’re cut off from real local life. Most urbanisations are full of expats from all over Europe, but you don’t find many Spanish people living on them – or at least you don’t in our area. If you want to learn Spanish and integrate with the locals, buy in the village. It will probably be cheaper, you’ll be nearer to the shops and services, and you’ll be living like the locals.
Another major drawback of life on an urbanisation is the way the Communities of Owners are administered. Under the Horizontal Law, urbanisations are divided into smaller groups of properties known as Communities. Our community on La Finca consists of 57 properties, and basically all the owners have a say in how things are run, and how the community budget is spent. That’s a great system if all the owners are interested, but of course, it doesn’t work that way in practice. So major decisions which affect every owner can be taken by a vociferous minority.
I’ll have a lot more to say about life on an urbanisation, but I really wish we’d have known all about the downsides before we signed on the dotted line. Don’t get me wrong – I love our life in Spain. I’d love it even more though if we were down in Algorfa, living amongst the locals.