THE STORKS ARE BACK

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For the past two weeks already the storks are making themselves at home and comfortable in their nests around here. In La Palma de Condado the pair on top of the church were busy repairing the storm damage by adjusting and adding twigs to their nest.

 

Any days we have no guests we use to explore our area. We still know very little about the town of Huelva and its beaches. So one Sunday we drove to Punta Umbria, which is another summer escape for town people with hotels, villas, apartments and restaurants. It also has a sports boat harbour. In the winter of course it’s quiet and not many places are open but there will always be people at the weekends and fiesta days to enjoy the sand, sea and stunning views.

 

The other good news is that WE NOW HAVE A GENERATOR IN PLACE. There is no solar system in place, as far as i know and have researched, that has not got a back-up system in place. Most dwellings are connected to the net, if they are not, they have a generator. Ours took a while to arrive because it will run automatically once the solar battery bank reaches a low level. It is such a relief and it got us already over one week of rain and the period of shortest day length. For the past three weeks we have spent about €30 on diesel to recharge our batteries. Which is essential for pumping water for showers and toilets, wash machine and generally all appliances and lights.

 

 

The Private Health Saga

There are two health systems in Spain; the public one, where 95% of the population are looked after, everybody that is employed here, and the private system, where you voluntarily pay a health insurer, that’s us. We are unfortunately not eligible for the public system because we arrived here after 2012, when eligibility changed and excludes immigrants, which are not employed. Even though we work, we are self-employed and pay taxes, which do not entitle us for free health care. It’s complicated. In order to qualify we would need to pay monthly contribution of at least €280 per person, rising with age. The public system is good, one of the best in Europe, but there are also waiting times for surgery etc. Anyway, so we pay a little less than €200 for two per month, which pays for a range of essential health care, i.e. consultations, x-ray, biopsy, annual check up plus blood test and others we haven’t yet needed. It does not pay for medication or dentistry, although a yearly check-up and cleaning is included.

This is a rural area, Huelva with ca. 100,000 inhabitants being the next biggest town. So there is not much choice in private clinics or doctors. We are currently on No. 2, which is a lady doctor in La Palma de Condado, hence the photos. We needed to change as the previous doctor, a heavily overweight guy who practices only on Wednesday afternoons in Almonte and sits otherwise in Pilas, was very inefficient. It took three visits until he finally gave us a referral for blood tests and his prescription for Nigel turned out to give him increasingly painful muscle cramps. Every time we go, he swipes the insurance card and cashes in.

For my annual check-up I have teamed up with Teresa and we go to the private hospital ‘Costa de la Luz’ in Huelva together. It has all the specialists and equipment to do all sorts of investigations and surgery. I am only exploring at this stage and am very lucky to have Teresa to explain the ins and outs to me and even make the appointments. This is actually quite normal here in Spain, usually all the family goes together to any doctor and gathers daily around the hospital bed.

In the public system all is happening streamlined as you would expect it from Germany, Ireland or England. In the private system here however it seems you are punished for your choice and money. Everything has to be done by the patient, the doctor basically only writes referrals and prescriptions. So for the blood test we have to go to another location, a laboratory that specialises just in taken and analysing bloods. For x-ray it’s another special unit, or the hospital. For any tests you have to get them done, collect the results in person another day and bring them to your GP who will interpret them and write a prescription. Luckily in the Costa De La Luz Hospital all specialists are in the same location. But that doesn’t mean you get all the investigations done in one day, or the results. That’s as far as we have figured it out.

Christmas – Navidad at Casa Halcon

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We had pre-Christmas visitors, Dylan, Nigel’s son and his girlfriend Kaycee from Hongkong.

It was nice to have youngsters around and I really enjoyed this bit of family-time. Of course we showed them the usual places, El Rocio, the beach in Matalascanas, Mazagon and Christopher Columbus’s ships by Huelva. One day they took the bus to Sevilla.

 

We included a trip to the western side of Portugal, to Vila Nova de Milfontes, because there is a company, Camposol, that grows roll-out grass, which Nigel wants to use for our front lawn. This place has a lovely beach, with a river outlet and even though it was rainy, windy and dull it looked stunning. I am already looking forward staying there again, this time without the rain, when we go back in March to collect our piece of ready-made lawn.

Kaycee gave an impromptu concert on the piano in the restaurant where we had a few drinks. She is a gifted musician and it was a really uplifting, wonderful experience listening to her. Unfortunately it rained all the time during their few days with us, so not many photos were taken. These photos below are taken from the web to show the location.

But honestly, this cute town should be kept as a secret, because it kept its charme  by not being build-up with hotels and is mainly enjoyed by locals and Portugese, see https://algarve-south-portugal.com/vila-nova-de-milfontes-portugal.html for more information.

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LISBON

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We have actually worked quite hard between Nigel amongst the olives and me keeping the house, the pool and the larder in good shape for the rotating arrival of guests since the end of June. So I was ready for a little break.

My daughter spent a weeklong holiday in Lisbon with her boyfriend. I took this as my cue to visit her there (If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain…).

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So we went on a whistle-stop tour to Lisbon with our trusty Toyota. This took us 5 ½ hours, including an hour lunch break in a small but dear town, whose name I forgot. It was a prosperous town because of the quartz mine and the aluminium factory nearby. Hence the prices were surprising steep for a countryside town somewhere off the main motorway.

We arrived in Lisbon via the A2 over a bridge, that spans the Tagus river and gives a nice view of the town.

We had managed to book a stylish Airbnb in the heart of the Alfama, the old town, not far from the Church of São Vicente of Fora  and the flea market on the Saturday.

Lisbon has a different feel and flair. I like its shabby chic, the bygone glory of a different era still visible in its architecture and the antique shops. It is of course a tourist trap and hence expensive in the old town quarter, the Alfama.

We had only one day to spend and went to Sintra. Definitely worth a visit, but bring good walking shoes. We drove to Sintra town with our Toyota and parked for free in the town. We then looked for a bus to bring us to the mountain top castle. Waiting at the bus stop a Tuc-Tuc, the Portuguese Rickshaw, came by and we hitched a lift with the second, as the price was a lot better than the first chap quoted us. He also lied about the price of the bus ticket, but we are not that gullible. The way up is quite long and steep, so if you want to last the whole day do yourself a favour and take a lift.

Horse drawn cart ride through the Park of Pena.

In the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is situated the fairy-tale looking Palace of Pena, a feast for the eyes and a breezy spot up on top of the turrets and wall-walk. The whole park is made of wondrous winding paths and surprises like fountains, a cute Chalet which belonged the Countess of Edla, stables for the amazing looking draught horses and randomly scattered seats of stone or carved wood. Within walking distance is the Hilltop Moorish Fortress, which also grants views over the whole National Park up to the coast.

On the way back we started walking but were a bit discouraged by the distance and again a Tuc-Tuc came puttering about and we got a real speedy, cheap ride to the car park for €10. It was a bit like being on a rollercoaster, speeding downhill around the sharp bends and the wind whistling in our ears.

We left Lisbon over the 17 kms long Ponte Vasco de Gama, with the morning haze slowly lifting.

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On the way we saw cork oak forests and  a truck bringing the cork and timber to its destination.