We return to Wiltshire for the first time since our move to Spain in the summer. The flights and trains are booked, and we are counting down the days. There have been a few parcels and cards arriving at our home here in El Puig recently, which has been nice, and we have been making use of our Amazon UK accounts and sending order after order to Selena’s family home, in readiness for a wrapping marathon upon our arrival.
In the meantime life has continued as normal here in El Puig. Selena continues to work every day, Lizzy has been going off to Los Chopos nursery happily each morning, and I have been ploughing through the daily tasks.
After the frustrations of obtaining the NIE I was becoming disheartened at my fruitless search for a Spanish used car. The prices are ridiculously expensive compared to the UK, and by all accounts the whole process of buying one is not particularly straight forward.
An example of a used car price comparison.
Spain: Seat Leon 1.6 (2010) 120,000miles – 6000 euros
UK: Seat Leon 1.9 (2010) 121,000miles – £1990 sterling
In the end I found a respectable looking garage selling only tidy used cars, with a one year guarantee, a few miles up the coast. The added appeal was that I have a friend living nearby so he was able to visit the garage and see the cars on display. The Seat that I was after had been sold the evening before his visit so I decided to bite the bullet and buy something else in my price range from the same place.
I made the ninety minute journey a few days later and visited the garage with my friend and, after a quick test drive, paid the deposit on a very cool Fiat Doblo. Okay, not at all cool, but the folding rear seats transform it into a small van, it has good fuel economy, and it can be adapted for wheelchair access with it’s twin sliding rear doors, for when my knees pack up for good.
The whole car sales market here is radically different to the UK, and I have never bought a car abroad, so it really took some mental adjustment. I had already accepted that I would have to pay more than I wanted, but you get a better deal here if you take the finance option. In the UK a cash deal would save you a few pounds. If I wanted to buy this car with cash it would cost me nearly 1500euros more than the list price! Wow. The reason, I’m told, is that the car sales people here rely on the commission from the finance package to provide a reliable monthly income.
Therfore I was obliged to take the finance option, which was fine in principle, until the endless emails and messages from the garage and finance company, trying to satisfy the credit assurances. The bank account in Spain is only in Selena’s name, even though we have a debit card each, so the finance company wouldn’t accept the deal. Despite assurances of my funds in the Uk and Selena’s employment, and the fact we had paid the deposit, the process came to a standstill. The only option was to add Selena to the credit agreement, meaning we would both have to go back to the garage (with Lizzy in tow) and sign the paperwork before they would release the car.
So we set off early one morning in the Transit and began form filling at the garage. The salesman spoke no English so you can imagine how slow and tortuous this whole process has been from start to finish. Eventually it was all finalised and everybody was happy. But wait. In Spanish the salesman tells me, “Before we release the car you have to speak to the finance company on the phone”. ‘No problem’, we are thinking, ‘if that’s how it goes here, then so be it’. So we wait and we wait…… in the end we ended up going to a local bar for lunch as we had been waiting for so long. Eventually the phone call comes in and the phone is passed to me. The finance company then proceed to verify the car and finance details with me before releasing the funds to the garage. At least it ensures that the deal is genuine and that I haven’t signed up for some exorbitant credit.
Finally we were able to head home, proud owners of a very practical and sensible Spanish car.
Within an hour of getting home, after another long drive, we were heading out to the train station in El Puig. It was another ‘puente’ long weekend so we had booked to stay overnight in Xativa, a town some 45 miles south of Valencia. We had talked of cancelling the trip once we realised that the collection of the car was going to take priority (and some time) but I’m so glad that we didn’t.
The main reason for anybody to visit Xativa is it’s castle, and it was truly stunning. As we had stayed the night we were able to head up the hill fairly early the next morning, before the crowds. It was a perfect time to visit. It was gorgeously sunny and warm, but not too hot to make the climb uncomfortable, and there were relatively few people visiting. I can imagine, that in the height of summer, it’s completely different.
We will certainly go back. Xativa itself was very nice, with plenty of tapas bars tucked into it’s ancient narrow streets.
It was an incredibly cheap trip.
Train tickets (50 miles or more, an hour and a half journey, from El Puig train station): 4.35 euros each for Selena and me (Lizzy free)
Tickets here: Cercanias
Accomodation: We stayed in a basic, but comfortable hotel in the old town. 44 euros for the three of us, including breakfast.
Entry to the castle: 2.40 euros each for Selena and me (Lizzy free)
On Saturday we head back to the UK for the Christmas holidays. We are so looking forward to seeing everybody again, but not the bar prices!