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New Life

A NEW LIFE IN BENIDORM

by SARAH ANDO - 2016

Sarah Ando

I had been on holiday to Benidorm about 15 times before I moved.

I luckily had a job in Spain before I moved. I spotted an advert on Facebook on the Wednesday, applied and had a Facetime interview the next day. Friday I got an email to say I had got the job and could start immediately. Luckily a colleague in my new work place was renting out a studio so I had a place to live straight away.

I packed up Saturday and Sunday. Said my goodbyes. Left Liverpool 3am to be at Manchester 5am. Flight 7am. 2 cases with my whole life in them. And set off for a new life in Benidorm

It was the hottest September day in years – 38 degrees. Couldn’t believe the heat. Landed and got a transfer to Benidorm where my new boss was waiting. Took me to start to work straight away. (Not in Benidorm). When we had finished the colleague took me to the supermarket and the studio. All fine and started to unpack. Luckily I lived near a bar where I could get food too.

I have now lived here nearly 6 months.

Issues - I had left my car at home so I had to rely on lifts, taxis, bus or walk. My phone was on contract in England so I was still paying for that. I have had to transfer money home for both as on contract. So end all contracts before coming.

I Started finding cockroaches (dead) in studio (ground floor) . I was told it’s the country and the climate. I had never been bit while on holiday here but now I was getting covered in bites. (tried all kinds) My first few weeks shopping consisted of buying sprays, lotions, powders, plug ins etc.

It took a few weeks to sort a Spanish bank account- they charge you for the card. The manager came into my workplace to open it, that would never happen in England.

It took me 6 weeks to get an appointment for NIE. Went with owner of my work.

The euro converted to pound you get hardly anything for it.

Spanish people don’t eat until 10/10.30 of a night so be prepared for that if you live next to them or work with them etc. They also talk loudly. Be prepared for that if living next door.

When you live here you need to remember you are not on holiday and control your money and drinking.

The winter was much harder than expected- several storms, rain for 4 days non stop, very cold. No heating, fires or carpets.

Positives -  I am lucky I work 9-5 Monday to Friday but most jobs here are for evening and weekend work. I eat out most of the time because it’s cheaper for me. I have met some very friendly and kind people who also live here and we are like family now.

I have been learning Spanish. I walk a lot more than I would at home. The weather is great most of the time. I have a view of the sea- bliss.

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You will find more stories of their experience of a New life in Benidorm from our members here and like us on Facebook

New Life Living in Benidorm

Living in Benidorm.  A New Life - Short stories by our Members

More in-depth stories of living in Benidorm in this section of our website -  A NEW LIFE

STORIES FROM BENIDORM SERIOUSLY GROUP MEMBERS 

Harry Van Vynck - 5th April 2019

One year ago today  I come home from work in London after sitting in traffic best part of day and said to my partner do you want to move to Spain and luckily she said yes.

Six weeks later 21st of may we arrived in Spain with what ever we could fit in motor, spent 3 nights in a hotel whilst we found an apartment, got ourselves a job in an office.

Harry Van Vynck Living in Benidorm

We then decided to start up on our own and get all our papers and docs in hand we both have green cards and are legal paying into the system and working for ourselves.

Biggest learning curve for me was to forget what you earn in UK in Spain 3 euros to 7 euros is about going rate once you get your head around you earn less but you didn't need as much then I don't care what anyone says if you are prepared to work you can earn money in Spain.

I often see posts on here (Facebook Group) asking whether moving to Spain is easy or hard and can you earn money ect,

I know living day to day is not everyone's cup of tea but for me I wish I had done it sooner,
will I be out here 5 years 10 years who knows but one thing I do know if I decide to leave Spain I haven't lost anything

VICKY THOMPSON -

I moved here 15 years ago with my parents and 2 younger brothers as my father retired and it was at the time cheaper way of life and the exchange rate was fantastic.

What I miss is animals birds etc in fields the green not concrete city also British shops clothes shops. It´s not all fun in the sun I can't honestly tell you the last time I was on the beach as I don't have time working or with my baby. Everyone thinks you move to Spain and become a millionaire over night and living in a villa with a pool it's really not like that everyone has to work here unless there retired and got some money behind them, but being here is more of a relaxed way of living having a meal in your garden or balcony/ terrace rather than indoors in the UK because it's raining. food and drink are cheaper here in Spain also even a meal out.

CLAIRE HARPER

Claire Harper

I moved half an hour away from Benidorm in 2007. I rented an apartment, had 3 jobs and then I got married in 2009 and never thought I would look back. I loved it at first but I eventually found the winters extremely difficult and ended up depressed with not much work as a DJ in the winter. I found myself at home alone most days whilst my husband was at work and I missed things about the UK that I had never thought about before. The marriage broke down and I moved back to the UK in 2011, it was the best move I have made. My family still have a home in Benitachell which I visit often but I would never move back now. I have some amazing memories of living in Spain and made some very good friends who I still get to see when I visit. This is just my personal experience, it works out for some people and not for others.

LISA McGUINESS -

Lisa

I got sick of the UK, was stressed by my job so came here on holiday and never went back, that was 15 years ago.

I'm a karaoke dj, I work 6 nights a week and have an 8 year old who has to be taken to school etc. It's a hard slog for some of us but there's no way I'd go back...

STEVE HALL -

Steve Hall

I had just sold a business and had a 3 year non activity clause. This meant I could not work in the UK for three years. Spanish sun appealed for a while, then I started a small business which became a big business. By the time I sold that, I was settled here.

I would have no hesitation in going back. There is much in England's Green and Pleasant Land that I love even after 15 years.

Have I lived the dream? Yes

Would I have come, if I had known xy and z? No

Regrets? No. (Well, I have had a few but then again too few to mention!)

Would I go back home? Spain is "home" but , as I say, I would have no problems waking up in the UK to earn my Daily Bread

DARREN SMITHOnly thing I miss is decent bread, I moved here October 2016, run a bar and drag dj on my nights off, so work 6 nights a week, whereas in the U.K. I only used to work two lol , wouldn't change it for the world though, I open the curtains to 9 X out of 10 to beautiful sunshine, and a 5 min walk to the beach.

SUSAN KEEPING -

I have lived here for 3 years love it, we have small private pension and income from our house which we rent out in the UK.

My husband is legally employed as a part time delivery driver.

We have our family come to stay as much as possible we don't go back to the UK and wouldn't ever want to live there again moving to Spain was the best for us.

SIAN-LOUISE FRANKLIN -

Sian Living in Benidorm

I moved over 2 years ago as a Thomson rep. Was only supposed to be here for 6 months. Met my boyfriend here 2 months into my stay. Stayed for him, now 2 years on were expecting a little girl in July and excited to raise a child here!

I miss English bread, Lurpak and Yorkshire puddings. Oh and KFC, the one here use a different coating so not as good! Carpets and soft grass with no bugs in.

But for the life I have now, it's a small compromise!

SCOTT BLAIRThe weather prompted me to move. Quit working and kinda retired as it was interfering with my life too much. Apart from family, I miss friends and The Rangers.

TERRI GREENER - I Came over 15 years ago for a week. In that time bought a bar found somewhere to rent went home sold the house and moved back within 6 weeks.

Most people thought we were mad leaving jobs behind but we looked on it as an adventure and we were not young and stupid (54 and 59)

Have had a wonderful time here unfortunately my husband passed away last year so now I am here on my own but would not consider going back to England

KARL REVILLI played guitar there for 12 years (12 winters). Loved every minute. Used to come back to the UK for the summer season and couldn't wait for the end of September to be back on The Costa Blanca.

I still have a Spanish bank account which gave me my Nif/Nie number to apply for residencia. Given a choice, I'd be back tomorrow but I now have two young kids 3 and 5 who are settled in the nursery and primary schools.

I'm seriously considering retiring there so the kids can enjoy all the plus's that I did. And trust me, there are more plus's than minus's....

CELIA AND GARY WALKER -

Celia Living in Benidorm

For 20 years we had been holidaying in Benidorm 2-3 times a year - we've seen so many acts - watched the changing line up of some of the tribute groups and never had a bad holiday.
We always talked about moving to Spain - when we retired....

Then our Mum and Dad moved over along with brother and sister in-law - more reason to visit!
When Dad got ill and subsequently died here, the Spanish health system was fantastic - more reasons to love Spain! When we realised that the pension changes meant that we could afford a deposit for a house in Spain, we booked 15 viewing appointments - what an eye opener!
Note to estate agents - MAKE AN EFFORT!!!

We found a place - a little 2 bedroom bungalow in LA Nucia - 5 km from Benidorm - perfect holiday home....
Then we made the biggest decision of our lives.... let's not have a holiday home.... let's move to Spain
So we did - and 1 year on....no regrets - have had lots of fun adapting to our new life - officialdom here is ... entertaining​ let's say but, if you're thinking about moving here - just do it.......

Emma DivitoMoved here 2 years ago with my partner and our dog. We live just outside of Benidorm. We came with just a suitcase each. No job and nowhere to live. We both found full time contracted work within 3 weeks and somewhere to live within a week! I think we were very lucky! My advice would be to just do it! If it doesn’t work out, you go back, but at least you can say you tried! Good luck!

More stories in this section of our website -  A NEW LIFE

THE JOURNEY

by Derek Blevins 13th January 2017

It is exactly seven years to the day, from I arrived in Benidorm and made this great place my home.

A great time to reflect on what was the most horrendous journey of my life.  I set of from Northern Ireland on 10th January 2010, expecting a journey that would take about 2 days to complete, it took a little more due to a few oversights on my part.

My journey really starts a few months before setting off from Spain.  I had reliably been informed that you can’t keep a British registered car in Spain for longer than 6 months.  With this bit of information I decided the best option was to buy a car in Northern Ireland which would be cheap enough to scrap in Spain but good enough to make the journey to get me to Spain.  After several trips to the local car auctions and buying a few cheap cars, driving them for a few days and deciding they where no go and putting them back in to the auction to try again, I eventually settle for an old BMW.  It had a few problems like it tended to jump out of first gear and the heater didn´t actually work.  But my journey was long so not much use for first gear, and I was going to Spain so I wouldn´t need a heater.  I decided this was the one that would make it to Spain.

Early on the morning I packed my PA system into the boot and filled the passenger seat to capacity and half of the back seat as well.  I was clever;  the driver’s seat could fully recline for sleeping breaks.  Off I set, at 1pm, leaving behind a temperature of minus 10 to live under sunnier skies.  Just one hour later I was at Larne and boarding the boat for Scotland.  This was going to be easy.  I was already sitting back relaxing, life was good.

Driving off the boat at Sranraer, I headed down the beautiful Scottish coastline heading for the M6.  I had been in England many times so nothing much to see there I thought, get to France as quickly as possible.  Constant driving with only occasional coffee breaks and I was at the channel tunnel late that evening.  I think from memory I caught the 11pm train, and although a little freaked sitting in a cabin in my car and knowing the sea was over the top of me, that part of the journey had all gone to plan.  On arriving in France it was late and feeling tired I decided to rest up for the night.  Thank God I had packed a quilt, the temperature was still negative and the journey had been cold all the way through England, but with the quilt I was able to get a little sleep in a lay-by and prepare for the exciting part of the journey next morning.  I woke and set off at first light on the morning of the 11th.  Having to scrape the frost off the windows before I left, the temperature hadn´t risen much yet, but sure what the hell, Spain was only just over the border in the south.  I’d get warmed up then.  I had been reliably informed to set my Sat Nav to avoid Toll roads.  Apparently I would save myself about 300 quid in tolls and only add at most about 2 hours to my journey.  The roads run almost parallel anyway with the toll roads and are just as good I was told.  So far the information seemed accurate.

I was on motorways admiring the scenery and wondering why French fields don´t have hedges.  Anyway I could see for miles so who cares.  Then it all went pear shaped.  The back of the car started to sway from side to side.  I thought, so much for the cheap car, the back axel must have gone.  I managed to pull the car onto the side of the road, and stepped out to inspect the damage.  On setting foot on the road my foot decided it would prefer to be in the air and my ass hit the road seconds later.  With horror I realised I had been driving at about 70 miles per hour down an ice rink.  It seems I was the only one who realised it, as the cars where passing at typical motorway speeds while I was struggling to even stand up again.  I actually though I am going to slip and fall in front of one of these cars.  Getting back into the car, I decided the best option was to continue my journey at about 20 miles per hour.  Off I set again with cars flying past me at frightening speeds.  They must have been thinking I was a right idiot driving at that speed, but they would have realised the reason about 2 miles further up the road.

Suddenly there was a queue of traffic which appeared to go on for miles.   I m not sure if an accident had caused the initial tailback, I could not see anything ahead other than cars for what seemed like miles.  At first I had a great sense of relief.  I was no longer the only coward on the road driving at 20 miles per hour.  Then it struck me.  How far does this actually go and how long am I going to be here.  With speed now reduced to 10 miles per hour, Spain suddenly seemed like a very long way away.  Furthermore, with no heater and the windows down to avoid the condensation on the windscreen, at ceased every opportunity the traffic stopped to jump out and scrape a little more ice off the windscreen.  Taking great care no to land on my ass each time.  This part of my journey lasted for 200 miles.  Apart from a short break for a bite to eat I was sitting in the one position for about 10 hours.  My back was breaking, my ass was still sore and I was freezing.

At around 10 that evening I decided to give up and call it a day.  Spain would have to wait.  I found a service station where it was possible to get a shower to help warm me up; a decent hot meal and I needed my quilt again.  Somehow I managed to sleep in the same seat I had sat on for 10 hours.  Exhaustion won.

Next morning it seemed a little brighter and the traffic seemed to be moving a little faster now.  I had been driving all day yesterday down though France.  I didn´t really know where I was but I was following a Sat Nav so at least I wasn´t lost.  Spain could not be that much further.   Wrong again.  20 miles per hour for 10 hours is only 200 miles.  200 miles does not even make a start when you driving through France.  That country is much bigger than it looks on the map.  I wasn´t even halfway down there yet.  Thank God I had decided to move to Spain.  I already hated France.  Constant driving, stopping only for coffee breaks and to occasionally scrape the windshield clear (the temperature was still below freezing), I continued driving, and driving and driving.  How big is this bloody country?  Eventually I reached a point where I could see mountains  ahead.  It was already dark, but I was determined to make it to Benidorm that night, (Well I didn´t know I was nowhere near it yet, did I?).

I followed my trusted Sat Nav up into the mountains.  Again there was a sense of pleasure as I got higher and higher in to the mountains and could see the breathtaking scenery even in the dark due to the bright moonlight and the beautiful snow.  What added all the more was the fact that no other cars seemed to be taking this route.  They were all French I presumed and no reason to go to Spain.  I was content although still freezing.  I had my thick coat, hat, scarf and gloves and the quilt thrown over my legs, I would be fine.  There was an unnerving little bit of road where the wheels started to spin slightly going up a hill, and I realised the roads are a little slippery up here again.  Better to slow down a bit.  Then it struck me.  There was no one up here because it wasn´t safe.  There are no road barriers.  The drops on either side of the road are about 100 feet.  It’s frosty and I am up here on my own.  I thought I should turn back, this is crazy.  I looked around and realised the road was far too narrow to risk a three point turn.  I had no choice but to go forward. Ok I thought in that case I am going to stop for the night and carry on in daylight.

But where could I stop.  There was no place to pull in and I had no idea when a lorry or large vehicle might come around the corner and I would be parked in the middle of the road.  Furthermore I realised the temperature was dropping drastically and that to attempt to sleep up there and risk the car not starting next morning, was second only to suicide.  I would almost certainly freeze to death, and by the look of things there might not be another vehicle up here before April.   I had to go on.  Now I am travelling at about 5 miles per hour in a constant upwards direction.  The scenery by now was terrifying.  I suddenly struck me.  I may never see Spain.

I continued my journey all through the night.  I remember at one point thinking, I am actually driving down now more often that I drive up.  Hopefully I am past half way.  This journey took me the entire night.  As dawn was breaking I suddenly came across life again for the first time in the entire Journey over the Pyrenees.  I realised I had reached the Spanish border.  The Spanish Patrol looked at me in shock as I approached them.  I didn´t understand the language but it was probably, “where the hell did he come from” in Spanish.  I think they give me a fool’s pardon to let me pass as I just sat and smiled at them all no matter how aggressive they tried to look.  I was so pleased to see them.

I arrived in Spain on the early hours of the 13th Morning.  It was still snowing.  I was still freezing, but I was happy again.  This seemed like a normal road at last.  I found another service station where I could have a breakfast and stopped to have yet another sleep in the same position I had sat in for almost 3 days now.  My ass was really sore by now.

I’m not sure what time it was when I awoke, but I checked the map on the sat nav.  That didn´t look too bad.  I’m sure I would be in Benidorm within about 6 hours.  Almost there.  I´m not sure if it was because the sat nav was still avoiding toll roads or if it was because I hit something I shouldn’t have when I checked the map.  But almost as soon as I set off the sat nav directed my off the main road and I found myself driving along the coast in the north of Spain, looking at yet more beautiful scenery.  Again, at first I thought, how nice.  The road is going to take me into Benidorm by the coast.  What a nice finish to my journey.  Wrong again.

That coast goes on and on and on for miles.  Have you ever looked at a map and noticed just how many towns there are in Spain called Beni...something.    I never had, so when I come across the first town Beniwhateveritwas, I thought oh I must be getting near Benidorm.  Then I went through Benianother and Benievenmore.  On up past Beniyetagain and Beniwtf.  Next stop Beniallthetime, then Beninotyet, Benimustbeclose, Benistillmileto go and Benithisisajoke.  It took me about 11 hours to drive that dam coast.

At 11pm on the night of the 13th of January I arrived in Benidorm.  I stopped outside Marianos for a bite to eat and walked in to find my good friend from home Gareth Fulton and a good friend whom I had just met while on Holiday in Benidorm just a few months earlier Albi Senior, sitting enjoying the cuisine that only tasted nice out of Marianos once the clock approaches the midnight hour.  I was so relived to be there.  I sat and enjoyed a meal and the craic as we say in Northern Ireland.

Then as everyone got up to head home I suddenly realised.  I had no home to go to.  Hamed, a waiter in Marrianos at the time was kind enough to offer me a room for the night at his house.  Exceptionally generous since he had never met me before and he himself wouldn´t even be there, he was working.  But I was forced to decline.  Everything I owned in the world was in the car.  I wasn´t about to abandon it at the time of night in a town which I had been lead to believe was full of muggers and pea men.  I faced another night in that god awful seat.  Next morning I found an apartment and was able to move the contents of the car to a safe place and spend most of the day in a decent bed.  I was in Benidorm to stay.  But one thing was for sure.

If I ever decided to visit home.  I was flying.

This is now home.....

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Ashley Price Benidorm

Ashley Price Benidorm - 19th Sep 2008 - 2018

10 Years Ago Today (19th September 2018), I left Birmingham Airport to come to Benidorm. No Job, No place to live and £80 in my pocket. I was 18 and Sharon Price´s (Ashleys Mum) last words were “You’ll be back in two weeks”.

I found accommodation living on a balcony and the Liverpool Arms Bar gave me a job propping (giving leaflets out)!

A few months later David Aranguren gives me a start as an entertainer which included a free apartment and that was me with a job and somewhere to live! (thanks mate).

4 years later I meet Jaclyn Price, my beautiful wife who made my life here in Spain complete.  Although we knew of each other previously it was the bright lights of The Square in Beachcomber at 5am where we hit it off! We got married, took holidays around the world, purchased our 1st house and then along comes our amazing daughter Sofía, by far my greatest and proudest achievement.

They say good things come to those who wait...they do not...great things come to those who go out and find them! Take every opportunity and do not care for what anyone else says or thinks, do what’s right for you and yours.

Life can be hard work wherever you are and whatever you do, but hard work pays off and can give you a quality of life you never thought you could possibly have. Well it as me!

10 years with Med Playa, 6 years on the radio, & 6 months with The Flood~Take That...
It’s not going too bad

Happy 10 Year Anniversary Benidorm
It has been all my pleasure.

3rd November 2018, Update

After 10 years of managing entertainment here in Benidorm for Med Playa (Flamingo Oasis,Riudor,Rio Park) Myself, Jaclyn & Sofia are proud to announce that we are the new owners of...The Corner Bar, Benidorm.

We are excited to be taking over an already successful business in a part of Benidorm we love. Jaclyn has worked in the bar for 3 years so already knows the ins and outs and I’ll soon be here every day by her side.  The bar has a great reputation in the area and we have kept on the former long term staff and suppliers to ensure that the same quality food,drink & service continues.


For us as a family this is a huge challenge and as always here in Benidorm, we know we will be supported.
We look forward to welcoming all our friends, old & new to...The Corner Bar Benidorm.


(I will still be on Radio 1 Benidorm & onstage nightly with The Flood-Take That)
See you soon guys...

Ashley is a long time member and a regular contributor to our Facebook Group

CHARLIE BROWN

My move to Espana in 48 hours! The trials and tribulations…..

 

After spending over four years working at sea, I knew normality was calling and it was time to settle down – whatever that was!

One evening after working from my home in Nottingham (26th May 2016), I settled on the sofa and watched a documentary about Benidorm. I had visited Benidorm once as a child and we had a horrific experience…so much so, my mother wanted to fly home the next day. I had always associated Benidorm with cheap novelty gifts, hen & stag parties galore and all you can eat Chinese buffets washed down with gallons of larger for a pittance.

Shortly after the programme I phoned my dad and told him I wanted to move to Benidorm, Spain. He nearly choked on his coffee.

I found a fantastic group on Facebook called Benidorm-Seriously who gave me some valuable advice. I truly believe without their continuous guidance and support my spur of the moment idea would become nothing more than a dream.

The following day (27th May 2016), I phoned my manager and explained my intentions and requested a few days off to suss out the local area. Within 24 hours of watching a sixty minute programme on a town I had never visited, a one way flight to Alicante was booked  from East Midlands. I was lucky and found an apartment I loved on-line so arranged a viewing for the following day.

28th May 2016, armed with my worldly possessions – two suitcases weighing just over 50KG, I flew to Alicante. I landed at 10.00am and jumped in a taxi to the Melia hotel where I was staying ready for my 1.00 pm viewing with the estate agent. I rushed into the hotel room and grabbed a shower.

I left the agents contact details in my case and nipped onto my balcony to have a quick cigarette before meeting her in reception. I closed the balcony door behind me only to realise there wasn’t a handle on the outside! It was absolutely scorching (28 degrees plus) and I was stranded on the 18th floor of a  huge hotel. I did my up-most to shout to attract attention but to no avail. I didn’t have any water and started to feel claustrophobic. I managed to contact a friend in Ireland who phoned the hotels reception and explained the situation.

After a long sixty minute wait I was finally released but subsequently had missed my appointment with the estate agent! On the condition it was still available, I did manage to secure a viewing for the following day.

That evening I wondered into town for the Benidorm-Seriously meet. Remember, I had only spoken to these people on the internet and didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous, anxious and even considered giving it a miss but I was greeted and welcomed with open arms. A great night was had by all!

 

The following day I went to visit the apartment I had spotted on-line. It was brand new, furnished beautifully with a superb view of Benidorm’s skyline and Levante beach. I knew this was the one but decided to play it cool in-front of the agent and told her I’d sleep on it.

Rent prices in Benidorm, like any other popular town or city, vary incredibly. You can rent a room for £10 a day or live in a modern duplex penthouse complete with your own plunge pool for £120 a day. Whilst my soon to be new pad wasn’t a duplex it certainly wasn’t cheap – nearly double the price to other apartments close by. Being naive and slightly immature my budget was much higher than what I could realistically afford. I was still in cruise ship mode, expecting Meriam to appear and ensure I was fed and watered.

Estate Agents in Spain can be unpredictable and I would advise anybody looking at renting or buying to enter any agreement with caution.

Do your homework on the agent first…do they have an office? Can the previous tenants vouch for them? Will they issue a contract before you part with any money? Always, always, always get a receipt as most of these deals are done by cash.

Most agents will charge a new tenant two months deposit (equivalent to two months rent), one month commission (which they keep) and then your first months rent. You very rarely receive your deposit back in Spain as the agency automatically keeps half to pay the landlords commission.

With this in mind, I proposed one months deposit, one month commission and four months upfront and a discount of £50 a month. Eventually after a stressful four hours of negotiation via Google translator they agreed on the condition I paid all of the cash the following day. I agreed and skipped back to my hotel to enjoy a celebratory beer. I whipped out my TSB debit card to pay and it declined! I had already told TSB I was in Spain and last time I’d checked there was over 5K so panic set in and I raced to my hotel room….

…..after spending over thirty minutes frantically trying to login into my internet banking (but failing miserably) I decided to phone their UK call centre. An hour dragged whilst I was passed from one department to another. My dream of collecting the keys tomorrow and living in Spain were rapidly fading.

To make matters worse I had forgotten my telephone banking password! Despite being able to give them certain information only I would know, the fraud department said: “We can’t take the chance, you need to fly back to the UK and present your passport at your local branch”.

After devouring half a packet of cigarettes and a quick G&T I decided to post a Charlie rant on their Facebook page and to my amazement it was shared by a few hundred people.

Miraculously, my debit card was working the following morning. Powers of social media

Albeit stressful, the following week was a great insight to Spanish life. I opened up my first Spanish bank account and took out health insurance with Sabadell – they offer a special account for ‘non residents.’ I arranged for fiber optic internet to be installed with Movistar which I found very expensive – £80 a month if you want a decent connection!

SKY/English TV was another box ticked although it’s not actually SKY but an ex-pat who connects a box to your TV and bills you £35 a month for the privilege.

Finally, a lovely Spanish lady helped me arrange my NIE number at the local police station. I did try and do this on my own but the language barrier made it near impossible. She charged me £100 for her time.

After a stressful but productive week I decided to venture out in Benidorms Old Town. This part of Benidorm boasts quaint narrow cobbled streets with an abundance of alfresco eateries, small local bars and designer shops. There isn’t a motorised buggy in site.

It takes twenty minutes to walk from new Benidorm to the old town but this gentle stroll can be done along the sea front. It’s like visiting two completely different countries.

The old town is renowned for it’s gay friendly bars, outrageous drag queens and is home to one of Europe’s largest gay pride festivals every September.

Unfortunately my evening didn’t end well. I was in a bar and after quite a few sherries I was approached by a young couple who initially seemed very pleasant.

As I had run out of cigarettes they offered to escort me to the nearest tobacconist…big mistake! They led me up a side street and took £200 out of my pocket, waved it in-front of me, kissed me on the cheek and slowly walked off.

I froze.

Adrenaline, anger and sheer frustration at myself for being so naive and trusting. A police car drove by and I explained what had happened but the officers just shrugged their shoulders and drove off! Ever since the incident, I very rarely venture into the old town on my own.

Apart from being mugged in the old town my other fear is cockroaches! I wrote this on Benidorm Seriously (a Facebook group dedicated to helping people in Benidorm and the surrounding area with over 38,000 members!).

"Can anybody tell me about insects here? Are any dangerous that I should look out for?
I’m currently locked in my bedroom after seeing something scuttle along the kitchen floor.
Don’t laugh but I had a full blown panic attack but fortunately my inhaler was in my room.
I’m going to have to ask the agent to come out tomorrow and do a deep clean. It happened halfway through my meal so I didn’t even get to eat properly. I probably shouldn’t of left the food out but I had no choice! Never been so scared. I have a serious phobia of spiders/insects – don’t know why. Dad calls me a wimp but I just go into complete melt down. I didn’t have my glasses on so it could be a scorpion or anything. I think it’s under the sofa now and no I haven’t had a drink. Just going to have to wee in a bottle and wait for the agent to come tomorrow."

My friend Lindsay helped me throughout the evening via Facetime. I would put the call on video mode and hold my phone out the bedroom door to see if she could spot anything scuttling around. After a restless sleep and being tormented on Facebook by my chums, my landlord came the following day and apprehended the naughty insect.

I spent the next few months enjoying and embracing all aspects of Spanish life. Benidorm really is the best of both worlds…the concrete jungle is home to some fabulous tribute acts, comedians and variety shows – on par to a 4* cruise ship.

I particularly enjoy the tribute shows. The old town is home to some gorgeous restaurants where seafood and fresh steak is served on tap.

Bizarrely, it’s impossible to get a Chinese delivery! Despite there being numerous Chinese restaurants, none of them offer a delivery service. My new favourite is Sushi – yup even in Benidorm!

Subconsciously, I was making friends very quickly who now have become my  Spanish family. Granted, I’m quite happy to pull up a pew and talk to anybody but I was overwhelmed with how close the ex-pat community is. I’ve somehow managed to bag myself over eight adopted mums & dads as well as big sisters and brothers.

I’ve been very lucky to have lots of friends come and visit over the year. I somehow managed to persuade my 75 year old Gran who is used to 5* World Cruises on Cunard to visit for a week in August. Gran had an absolute blast, dancing to the Beatles until the early hours and lounging by the pool with her book during the day.

All in all 2016 was a great year for me. I left my life at sea, secured a job I love, moved countries, made some amazing new friends and toured Japan in September with work, HOWEVER, there was something missing. Whilst I enjoy my own company and unwinding in the evening with some naff TV I was starting to get lonely in the apartment by myself.

When I was born 23 years ago, my parents had a dog called ‘Charlie’ who sadly passed away on the same day I arrived. Unsure what to call their new son, Mum & Dad decided on ‘Charlie’……in theory, I was named after a dead dog.

In Spain hundreds of dogs are born each day with a high percentage ending up at dog rescue homes or even worse, abandoned. I’ve seen several stray dogs over the year which breaks my heart. I noticed on a Facebook page that ten puppies had just been born and were in need of a new home ASAP. Another rash decision on my behalf (you can see what’s coming)….

Snoopy has given me a purpose and new lease of life. I adopted him when he was just six weeks old. Three months later he’s turned into a mischievous but love-able rouge. A true babe magnet, I love him dearly. He’s still got a lot to learn but we enjoy afternoons on the beach or chasing next door’s cat – shush! He has become very attached to me but it’s important he keeps mixing with other people.

Last month it became apparent that my apartment wasn’t practical or suitable for both of us. Snoopy needs a bit of outdoor space and I was craving a bath. I was sat in a bar having lunch when I spotted a plush pad in Torre Lugano, a modern complex slightly further away from the hustle and bustle of the main town. The rent was £150 cheaper a month and with two large bedrooms & bathrooms, impressive balcony with spectacular views and a spacious lounge – it really was a no brainer! You guessed it…without even viewing the property I emailed the agent and offered to pay a deposit straight away to secure the property.

A few weeks later, I’m sat on my new balcony now with Snoopy by my side. Despite the torrential rain we’ve had to endure this week, I’m happy and content with how my Spanish dream has panned out.

Charlie’s Top Tips….

  • I was already employed by a company in the UK before moving to Spain so had a secure & regular income. Without the job security I doubt I would have ever made the move. If you’re prepared to work long hours for little pay – you’ll be fine – but don’t leave your job in the UK expecting the same wage!
  • Always barter with the agents – their commission is negotiable – they would rather take a percentage than none at all!
  • Be as sociable and outgoing as you possibly can. Without my Benidorm family, I don’t think I would of made it. Get friendly with your locals. Remember, you need to find them – they won’t find you.
  • It’s hard but you must remember you’re here to live and work. Unfortunately, it isn’t one big party. It’s taken me a while to adapt and appreciate that – I would say I’m just about settled and look forward to my nights out at the weekend – you actually enjoy them more!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the read.  A special thank you to Benidorm Seriously – Tracy, Derek & Hazel you deserve an OBE.

UPDATE - 24th JULY 2017

I've just spent twenty months in Benidorm. An exceptionally diverse and charismatic town hidden between the hustle and bustle of Costa Blanca.

A town that welcomes all nationalities, genders, beliefs and principals. A town that welcomes old and new generations. A town that is renowned for it's warm and friendly community, natives and expats alike. A town that serves some of the best food in Europe (Old Town) and is home to exceptional nightlife, regardless of your preferences.

In April 2016I had a misconstrued perception of Benidorm and surrounding areas. My family referred to the town as 'Blackpool in the sun' and I vividly remember friends commenting on Benidorm as 'Benefits in the Sun.'

How very sad, shallow and wrong they were.

Granted, Benidorm, for some reason, has an awful sterotype and stigma it really doesn't deserve.

Ignorance can be very dangerous and normally those who choose to comment, haven't even visited for a day.

....C'mon...the Old Town is simply stunning!

Without delving into too many details, I am thankful and grateful of my time in Spain.

I arrived on my tod yet somehow left with an abundance of friends I call for life.

I have always suffered with depression, drink and anxiety. Unfortunately it's a trait that has haunted our family for a while but Benidorm gave me a sense of 'being' and highlighted what family and friends are all about.

Over the past few months, the above took it's toll and I completely lost it. My apartment, friends, Snoopy (my dog) and even my job. I made mistakes, lost/gained friends and my Spanish dream somehow spiraled out of control.

All of the above could have been prevented. We all know drink is a massive depressant and it's near in-possible to work when you don't even want to make a cup of tea.

In eighteen months, I've learnt so much about myself. I've had to live, pay rent, pay bills, seek medical help independently (even though Rose pushed me along), manage money (still work in progress, I may add) and stand on my own two feet.

I did it the hard way by moving to a foreign country that I hadn't visited before.

I'm writing this now in (not so sunny) Ireland before my flight back to London tomorrow.

Benidorm, I will be back. Not sure when, but I'll be back.

 

EDITORS NOTE:  He is back!!

 

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