Be Warned! Vacations Scams Do Exist

Everyone has seen commercials and other advertisements for can’t miss travel deals. It’s not hard these days to find a legitimate travel deal on almost any type of vacation. But what about the travel deals that aren’t legitimate? There are tons of those out there that catch unsuspecting people every single day. Most people love to travel, and with the economy in the toilet, they’re constantly looking for new ways to save money and still go on vacation. People should be mindful of a few things before going with any type of travel deal. This will save heartache and trouble while keeping money in your pocket.

Never Pay Any Type of Money up Front Without Verification

The major travel deal sites require the buyer to pay up front for their vacation deals. There’s a big difference between these companies and others – they’re highly visible. Companies such as Expedia and Travelocity couldn’t get away with scamming buyers if they wanted to because their commercials are all over television. So what about those smaller companies that everyone may not have heard about? Those may very well be legitimate also; however, it will take some research to verify that they do indeed offer what they say they will.

Read up on the Experiences of Others

Any company worth their salt will have reviews all over the Internet. If they’re reputable, you shouldn’t have any problems finding out about them because people know about them and will be glad to share information. If you come across pages talking about the company in reference to a travel club scam alert it may be best to bypass this company. If many people are saying they’ve been scammed, it may or may not be absolutely accurate, but it’s not worth your trouble if these reviewers just so happen to be right.

Companies that are upfront and honest lay out all of their terms, offer refunds or if not explain why, and make the entire process of booking simple and straight forward. If you run into a company that uses vague or fishy language, it may be time to sound the travel club scam alert. Companies that stand by their product have nothing to hide and will be more than happy to explain anything you don’t understand. Also, always live by the old adage, if it looks and sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Flamboyant Flamenco Dance

Flamenco-Dancer in traditional garbSpain is known for its vibrant traditions and customs and Flamenco dance is one of the best examples. This flamboyant Spanish dance has become ingrained into the culture of the country and is popular with both Spanish natives and those lucky enough to visit Spain and witness the dance first hand.

There are three forms of Flamenco; `Cante`, the song, `Baile`, the dance and `Guitarra`, the guitar. The dance is a sensual expression of the swaying rhythms of the guitar and the faster rhythm of the castanets that the dancers play.

The history of this beautiful dance lies in Andalusia where it was popular amongst gypsy, or `gitano` families in the 18th century. Due to its multicultural history, many cultural groups have influenced the Flamenco style to make it a true celebration of Spanish history. In more modern times, Flamenco has become more mainstream with the advent of mass media. However, despite its increasing popularity, Flamenco is still enjoyed in small, intimate groups rather than on large stages, which suits the personal nature of the dance and accompanying music.

There is a Flamenco dance festival in Mijas each year, a mountain village on the Andalucian coast. Here you can witness stunning Flamenco displays by both local groups and Flamenco groups from around the world who come to soak up the relaxed atmosphere and the traditional Spanish music and dance. These balmy summer nights are a perfect backdrop to the entertainment on offer and visitors are always welcome to join in.

Throughout Andalucia, you will find gypsy neighbourhoods, or `barrios gitanos`, where `penas` dedicate their time to the preservation of the Flamenco tradition. This is a perfect way to experience authentic Flamenco as close to its historic roots as anywhere you`ll find in Spain. One of the most famous of these neighbourhoods is Peña Flamenca Juan Breva in Malaga, which is well worth a visit.

When you inevitably fall in love with Flamenco, you can join the dancers and experience the `duende` (the spirit of Flamenco) for yourself by enrolling in a class. The Andalucian capital of Seville has several schools, the most famous of which is the Taller Flamenco, which caters to overseas visitors with lessons taught in English. You can choose from dance or guitar, depending on where your passion and skills lie.

For anyone who does not live in Spain, the best way to enjoy this tradition is to visit the country and experience Flamenco first hand. The best place in Spain to experience Flamenco is Andalucia where the dance originated. The beautiful areas of Seville, Cadiz, Malaga and Granada can be found in this region, which are surrounded by the coastlines of the Costa de la Luz, Costa del Sol amongst others.

male flamenco dancer poses

Some restaurants also feature Flamenco, where you can often sit outside to watch it while you dine. If the weather isn’t so good the dancing is brought inside.

You can choose from some great accommodation in this area, either on the coast or inland from large, resort hotels to smaller independent boutique hotels. Also, six airports serve this area including Malaga, Granada and Seville, which means that travelling to Spain is very convenient from any of the UK airports.

An Expat Survival Guide

Emigration is unquestionably daunting, but we reap so many rewards from living in another country, from understanding alternative cultures to making new friends. If this is your first time, try starting somewhere your family & friends can easily reach, like Madrid or Barcelona; flights arrive at these cities from across the UK all year round, & are usually cheap enough to make frequent weekends with your loved ones affordable, even on a low budget.

Of course, you might be itching to put as much distance between yourself & your in-laws as possible, in which case you can head somewhere more remote. Either way, here are our top tips for getting to grips with ex-pat life:

1) Bother to learn the language

While many Spanish people do speak English,living in Spain & not speaking Spanish is like watching black & white TV in a digital HDTV showroom. You can get by with smiles, gestures a few ‘por favor’s & ‘gracias’. But you will only be getting by. Not only is learning Spanish (& even some Catalan or Basque) respectful to your hosts; it will open a thousand doors, from conversing with local people in mountain villages to bargaining for your fish at the market.

2) Things are different – not wrong!

Constant criticism & negative comparisons with home are offensive & will make you unhappy. If you find yourself repeatedly using the phrases “In England…” or “They….”, take some time out & think about why you’re here & what you originally wanted. The road to homesickness & bitter ex-pat-dom lies in the presumption that your way is right.

3) Embrace the culture with gusto, from the start

At home or abroad, it’s easy to get tied up in daily life & put off the museums, theatres & sights that define a country. If you’ve always wanted to go to a bullfight, don’t wait until your last month in Spain to do so. If you love Spanish food, don’t waste time eating pasta at home; do a local cookery course & try every local restaurant.

4) You’re not alone

Modern technology has changed ex-pat life dramatically in the past 10 years. Skype, email, Twitter & Facebook make it easy & cheap to keep in touch with folks back home, while internet forums let you reach out & get advice. Whether you’re job-hunting, transferring money or buying land, forums are a font of other ex-pats, who’ve “been there” & are willing to share the experience. If technology is not your thing, there’s almost always a bar where fellow foreigners congregate. While you may not want to be there every night, it is sometimes a relief to hang out with people who speak English & know what Only Fools & Horses is!

5) Coming home can be harder than going away.

While you’re gone, your friends will continue their lives – they’ll get married, have children, get divorced… When (if) you return, they will be happy to see you, but they won’t want to see all your pictures or hear endless stories about Spain. That is hard in itself, but it’s more than that: living abroad will change you. For many people, it’s the start of an irresistible nomadic life; but don’t exclude the possibility that you’ll realise your home town actually contains everything you want.

Barcelona for Art Lovers

Although not the capital of Spain, Barcelona is just as popular with visitors as Madrid. Perhaps it’s the fact that cheap flights to Barcelona are more readily available than those to Madrid, or that Barcelona is close to charming seaside towns like Sitges that makes Barcelona one of Spain’s top city breaks. There are many great hotels in the centre and staying close to La Ramblas is highly recommended.

Barcelona is famous for art and many famous artists have lived here in the past. The Picasso Museum has one of the greatest collections of his work of any gallery, particularly as it features a lot of work from his Blue Period that occurred when he was resident in Paris. There are also some great sketches and sculptures in the museum.

Fundacio Joan Miro holds the largest collection of Miro’s work. Over 200 paintings, 180 sculptures and more than 8000 drawings are held here, although they are not all on display at once.

Aside from Picasso and Miro, the famous Catalan architect Gaudi left his legacy to the city all over it. Most famous is his Sagrada Família, a modern-gothic take on how to design a cathedral. The structure almost looks like something that might have been dredged up from a forgotten village under the sea, changed by the sea-life that encases it over time. It is a Roman Catholic church which has been under construction for many years. In fact, it’s probably been under construction for more years than most churches worldwide. It was begun in the late 1800s and will continue until at least 2017 according to the tourist board. Building has only been interrupted by the Spanish Civil War (which is remembered famously in Picasso’s mural Guernica).

Gaudi’s work can be found hiding in numerous places in Barcelona but the other of his famous designs worth a visit is Park Guell or Gaudi Gardens as they are less frequently referred to as. Walking around most gardens is a pleasant experience, but Park Guell is quirkier than most. Familiar curves in concrete are covered in a mosaic of multi-coloured tiles and there is a large sculpture of a dragon also covered in the multi-coloured mosaic. There is something quite childlike and wonderful about Gaudi’s designs and one wonders how his mind worked.

Barcelona has its own (man-made) beach. It is not the loveliest beach in the world and if you’re looking for a beach break you’d be advised to take the train just a little way down the coast. But for a lazy day or a break from wandering the streets soaking up the culture it’s good for a paddle.

While not top of the list of things to do in Barcelona in many guides, the Cable car, or Transbordador Aeri del Port takes people across the city by travelling above it. It provides great views of the city and is a fun way to avoid hiking if that isn’t your cup of tea.

Expats in Spain – The Dream

Graham and his wife Joyce moved from the UK to Spain, little realizing at the time all the hurdles they would have to contend with. Hopefully their experiences will help others to avoid some of the pitfalls in taking such a major step, and provide some useful information about the do’s and don’ts in joining the millions of Expats in Spain.

graham - expat in spainjoyce - expat in spai

The Dream

Hola, and welcome to our site. Hopefully this will provide some helpful information to those of you who might be thinking about becoming expats in Spain at some point in time.

When my wife said that she wanted to go and live in Spain I was more than a little apprehensive. What is it that is so inviting about a country which is almost twice the size of the U.K, has a smaller population, where they drive on the “wrong” side of the road, and where most Brits cannot speak their language? One big plus was the fact that as both the UK and Spain are in the EU it meant far fewer formalities in moving from one to the other. And upon checking web sites about moving to Spain it all seemed so easy – the sun – the lower cost of living – the beaches – laid back pace of life – and we went ahead with it. We took the plunge and lived there for over six years, joining many other British expats in Spain.

spanish dancersOf course like countless other Brits we had been on holiday to Spain and its islands a number of times, and always appreciated the culture of Spain. This time though we felt like escaping the vagaries of the British weather permanently. Instead of moving to a place where Brits typically go when on holiday in Spain – such as along the well-known coasts – we decided to go somewhere quieter, not too close to the Costas. Spain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and the last thing we wanted was to live where the lager-lout culture of Britain was present. So, we sold our bungalow, said our goodbyes to our family and friends, and joined the million or so of other expats in Spain.

For those of you who may be considering emigrating you can do all the reading in the world about your new country, visit all the official websites going, but there is nothing like living the experience for yourself. We thought we had prepared as well as we possibly could by researching such subjects as the Spanish health system, driving in Spain, buying property etc. And, to a certain extent you can prepare yourself, but some things you`ll only learn once you get over there.

Nearly Didn’t Make It

The first six months were pretty rough, due to broken promises from builders, vague assurances of assistance that did not come about, not being able to speak the language, and the shock to the system as regards the massive change in procedures and lifestyle. Our dream was fast becoming a nightmare. By this time of course we were totally committed. If not we might have been ‘nearly expats’ abroad.

After a while though we got used to the different ways of doing things, our dream came true, and we settled down as happy British expats in Spain.

It has to be borne in mind that Spain is still facing an economic crisis. The government has taken strict measures to reverse the financial downturn, including a halving of the deficit, government investment increases, and measures to help the poor. But, there is still a long way to go before Spain gets back to the boom times of a few years ago. Meanwhile, there is a lot of public unrest about some of the measures introduced which have affected pensions, jobs and wages.

According to figures from Eurostat there are currently 390,880 officially registered Brits living in Spain. This is almost 3 times as many Brits who settle in France.

In some areas Dutch expats in Spain can be found in larger groups too. The majority of expats in Spain tend to live around the Costas from Andalucia in the south up through the east of the country. But, since the British started to come out to Spain to live back in the 1980′s, a larger proportion have been buying property away from the coasts. Some have integrated well with the locals in smaller towns and villages

Where we lived started off as Rojales, then, as a new development, it was regarded as being in Benimar. About 20 minutes drive from the sea it was in the ideal location for us.

But, not everyone wants to live close to the sea. Many expats prefer life in the larger cities with all the visitor attractions that go with them. Madrid and Barcelona are very popular destinations in fact.

Sights of Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and with good reason. Walking through the streets of the city is like stepping into a living breathing gallery. Gaudi`s distinctive architecture dominates many of the streets giving the city`s landscape a truly unique experience. The capital of Cataluña – and if you are adventurous enough to learn some Catalan you will receive a warm response from the locals – it is also a vibrant multi-cultural metropolis. Situated on the coast, it has some of the cleanest city beaches you`ll find. Don`t be surprised to see swimmers enjoying the water as early as April and as late as November.

barcelona at night

Casa Batlló was designed by Antoni Gaudí for the wealthy Josep Batlló, an aristocrat. It was built in 1877 but then restored by Gaudi and a few others between 1904-1906.

There are so many attractions in Barcelona it is hard to know where to start. It`s important to just spend time walking along the Ramblas or among the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter to soak up the atmosphere of this deeply historical and cultural city.

Where the Ramblas meets the sea the skyline is dominated by a column dedicated to Columbus and two cable cars. One of the car’s destinations is the military fort on Montjuic Hill. The fort and the surrounding area are worth the trip while the cable car ride offers some magnificent views of the city.

The Arc de Triomf was built as the gateway portal to the 1888 Universal Exhibition. It stands at the end of the pedestrian boulevard leading to the entrance to the Parc de la Ciutadella.

arc_de_triomf-barca

For those visiting during the warmer months and would prefer some outdoor sightseeing there are some wonderful alternatives. Ciutadella Park is a fantastic place to relax and soak up the sun or amble peacefully. The fountain is an audacious display so bring your camera. Nearby there is a popular café and nestled quietly behind it is a small boat lake. There are some unusual animal statues lurking amongst the trees so keep an eye out for a surprise or two.

A short trip to the north of the city with a ride on the Blue Tram and a funicular takes you to Tibadabo, an old amusement park that sits on top of a mountain overlooking the entire city. The views are breathtaking and many of the rides are still active. If you are travelling with your family this is a must.

Of course a summary of Barcelona won`t be complete without mentioning its prestigious football stadium. Regular tours are available but consider getting tickets for a game as the prices are much more reasonable than you might think.

Barcelona has so much to offer and if you would prefer to get out of the city for a few days there are some great locations nearby. Transport in and out of the city is quite good and prices for car hire are reasonable, take a look at car rental Barcelona for details. Montserrat is a monastery town situated at the foot of mountains with unusual rock formations. The area is popular with climbers and walkers. If it`s culture you are after a short trip to Figueres is essential, home to the Dali Museum the building and the collection won`t disappoint.