TEN TOP TIPS FOR DRIVING IN RURAL SPAIN

I recently booked a holiday to Malta for later this year.  As always in preparation for a trip, I searched the internet to research the island, the area, culture, customs and the weather.

I found some very interesting and helpful information although a lot of it was geared towards the American visitor.

It occurred to me that a helpful post might be top tips about rural Spain, so here I go with tips on driving.  Any suggestions on other top tips, such as eating out, will be most welcome and I’ll see what I can do.

TEN TOP TIPS FOR DRIVING IN RURAL SPAIN

There is often a preconception about driving on the Spanish mainland.  It is one of suntanned Spanish men, filled with testosterone whizzing past you at ridiculous kilometres an hour and forcing your little Fiat hire car off a mountain road.

OK a bit OTT but it is an impression shared by a lot of people.  I drove all over the UK for 30 years and by the time I moved to Spain I would have been happy never to drive again BUT driving out here has become a renewed pleasure, little or no congestion, great roads (unless you go off road) and amazing scenery.  Plus NO road rage!!

So, hope the following makes your driving experience in rural Spain a delight.

TIP ONE

  • We drive on the right.  Having learned to drive on the left and driven on the left for 30 years I actually find it much more natural to drive on the right.  Of course it is easier if you have a left hand drive car!!  If it’s your first time driving on the right try changing your wristwatch over to the other wrist.

TIP TWO

  • Don’t expect everyone to indicate their intentions or if they do indicate it will often be at the very moment they are carrying out the manoeuvre and certainly not before.  If joining a motorway (autovía) always indicate, don’t cross the solid white line, wait for the broken line.  Always indicate when pulling out to overtake and rejoin the inside lane.  Not everyone does it, but the police are starting to enforce this law.

TIP THREE

  • Although roundabouts have been in existence for decades in Spain, there are still drivers who don’t understand who has right of way.  On approaching a roundabout, remember to look left and give way to traffic approaching from the left.  Drivers will often stay in the outside lane even if they are going all the way around the roundabout.  Don’t assume that just because they are in the outside lane they will be taking the next exit.

TIP FOUR

  • Drinking, drugs and driving don’t mix.  In Spain, you’re no longer considered fit to drive when your blood/alcohol concentration exceeds 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (or 30mg for drivers with less than two years’ experience and professional drivers). (current at the date of this post)
  • Random breath tests can be carried out by the police at any time and motorists who are involved in accidents or who infringe motoring regulations are routinely given alcohol and drug tests.
  • Drunk driving can result in a fine of up to €1,500, loss of points from your licence or its suspension and even imprisonment.
  • If you have an accident while under the influence of alcohol, your car and health insurance could be nullified. This means that you must pay your own and any third party’s car repairs, medical expenses and other damages, which could run to millions of euros.
  • However, drink driving continues to be a problem in Spain and alcohol is a major factor in a high percentage of Spain’s road accidents (around a third of drivers in fatal accidents are over the alcohol limit), particularly those that occur late at night.

TIP FIVE

As a resident or visitor you are required to carry the following documents in the vehicle:

  • A full, valid driving licence.
  • Proof of Insurance. Normally this is a photocopy of your car insurance payment plus the policy note.
  • Proof of ownership (the car registration document).
  • ITV (MOT) inspection certificate.
  • If you don’t have a Spanish driving licence, you will need to show your passport if stopped by the police.

TIP SIX

By law you are required to carry certain items in your vehicle and you will incur heavy fines if you are found not have complied.

  • Reflective jacket for the driver and kept inside the car for easy access. (It makes sense to have one for each passenger as a breakdown on the motorway would mean all occupants should leave the vehicle)
  • 2 warning triangles
  • A spare pair of spectacles if you use them for driving.
  • Light bulbs; a replacement set (usually present in hire cars).
  • First aid kit; Not compulsory, but recommended.
  • Fire extinguisher if pulling a trailer.

All of the compulsory items listed above should, and usually are in the boot of your hire car, but check before leaving the airport!

TIP SEVEN

  • Seatbelts must be worn by front and rear passengers and the driver.
  • Children under 12 must be placed in a suitable car seat or booster seat and may not travel in the front passenger seat.
  • Crash helmets are compulsory for riders of mopeds, motorcycles, trikes and quads, unless these are equipped with seat belts. Motorcycles on the road must have their lights on at all times.

TIP EIGHT

  • Using a hand-held mobile phone whilst behind the wheel of a vehicle is illegal; ‘behind the wheel’ includes stationary at the side of the road.
  • Only true hands free systems where the speaker is not attached to the ear are allowed.
  • You will see many locals ignoring this law, but the police are becoming increasingly vigilant.

TIP NINE

  • There are three types of police in Spain
    • Municipal Police; Blue uniform, responsible to the local mayor, their duties include traffic and parking violations.
    • National Police (La Policia); Black uniform, duties include protecting important people and buildings, also responsible for investigating more serious crimes.
    • Civil Guard (Guardia Civil); Green uniform, if you’re caught speeding on a motorway, these will be the boys who take your money from you, also responsible for national security.

         

  • Visitors are usually given on-the-spot fines if stopped for speeding. Remember to ask for a receipt ( un recibo por favor).
  • Residents can have their fine reduced by 50% if the pay within 20 days, though this does not apply to serious offences. Fines can be paid on line (to my shame I keep the website on my favourites!!!)

I have always found the police and Guardia to be approachable and friendly, a lot of them speak English but it’s always worth trying a bit of Spanish as they certainly appreciate it.

A really useful website is http://n332.es

This is a website produced by Guardia civil, in English and is all about driving in Spain.  They also have a Facebook page which you could follow.

TIP TEN

  • In towns blue zones are paid parking areas, pay at the machine and display your ticket in the car.
  • Where you see white lines, you may park for free.
  • Yellow lines is no parking, however, you may also see signs on gates or work entrances which say vado permanente (no parking at anytime or you will be towed).

  • Car parks tend to have narrow spacing, especially those underground, so tricky for larger vehicles. As in the UK, illegally parked cars will be towed away by the police. You will need to go to the nearest Police station to get it back, and will have to pay the fine for the parking offence, plus the costs of towing together with a parking fee for the time during which the vehicle was impounded.
  • Rather than park, locals will often stop in front of you to collect or drop their passengers.  Sometimes they will even stop to have a chat with someone they know who is walking along the street.  Be patient, chill out and enjoy the view. There is very little road rage in rural Spain, most people just chill and wait…..  it’s far too hot to get angry!!
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When customer service goes above and beyond – SleepcentreSpain in Albox

My sister wanted a new bed but was reluctant to buy one as reorganising the existing bedrooms was a complicated job.

The bedrooms are up two flights of stairs and the changes involved moving beds in four rooms as well as in the apartment below the house, which is down yet another flight of stairs.

The task at hand:-

Dismantle bed in main bedroom and dispose of.

Dismantle bed in apartment, dispose of mattress, move the bed up three flights of stairs to the main bedroom and rebuild it.

Dismantle bed in second bedroom, dispose of mattress and move the bed down three flights of stairs to the apartment, rebuild it and add a new mattress.

Take delivery of a new bed and mattress for the second bedroom and build it.

Phew!  Dismantling alone would take us three days!!  Let alone the remantling (if there is such a word)

So, we called into the SleepCentre at Albox, initially to buy a new duvet cover and my sister explained out dilema to Ruth.  Her response was ‘NO PROBLEM, we’ll do all that for you.’

We were a bit taken aback so explained the situation again just to be sure but again Ruth confirmed that it wasn’t a problem.  My sister chose her bed and mattress and I chose a new mattress.  This was on Monday and Ruth said it would all be available for delivery on the following Saturday.

We live over an hours drive from Albox  (about 90kms) and not only was it free delivery but there was no charge for Andy to come and do all the work.

Saturday arrived, Andy and Alex turned up at the time they had said they would and worked tirelessly for over 3 hours, dismantling, remantling, and moving everything needed up and down three flights of stairs.  They were amazing!!

If there was an award for the best customer service from start to finish these guys deserve that award.

The results:-

Not only did the SleepCentre deliver, they exceeded all our expectations and before they left they presented us with a bottle of wine each, complete with hand written tags to thank us for our business.

WOW

Thank you guys, you have saved us 3 days work, stress and hassle and you will be our first port of call for all our future bedding and furniture needs.

As a footnote, the bed and two mattresses which needed disposing of are given to families who are in desperate need of furniture (Organised by Ruth and Andy at the SleepCentre Albox)

MY CATARACT JOURNEY

I love playing Padel. What’s Padel you might ask?

Typically played in doubles, Padel is a racquet sport played on an enclosed court about a third the size of a tennis court. Scoring is the same as tennis and the balls are tennis balls but with a little less pressure in them.

padel court          padel game

The main difference is that the court has walls and the ball can be played off them, similar to squash. The racquets used are solid and stringless.

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Padel was invented in 1969 by Enrique Corcuera in Mexico. It’s extremely popular in Spain but is spreading rapidly across Europe and other continents.

The most important padel circuit is World Padel Tour (WPT), which started in Spain though it has already reached international expansion traveling to Portugal, Argentina and Dubai in 2014.

In February 2016, whilst playing a friendly match, I was hit in the eye with a returning ball. The injury showed immediately. The eye filled with blood and the vision was blurred…. no surprise there then!!!! As it was an eye injury, I went to Accident and Emergency here in Spain. At this stage they said the vision should not be affected but that I should ” keep an eye on it”.

padel injury on eye.jpg               padel logo.png

So I bought myself a pair of sports glasses for the following game and never play without them.

The following weeks saw a reduction in the redness but the vision did not return so I went to the opticians for a check. They said it looked like the trauma had caused a cataract and that I should see a specialist. So off I went to the G.P and sat in wait for my specialist appointment, which came through within a matter of months. He agreed it was a cataract but was not yet ready for surgery.

I was called back in November for a check and the cataract was now ‘ripe’ for a lens replacement, more waiting ensued and meanwhile the vision was deteriorating rapidly. As was my Padel game, my opponents quickly became aware that the peripheral vision in my right eye was not good and continually aimed their returns in that direction!!!!!

So, 4 months later I get a phone call from the hospital, ‘can you come in next week for your operation?’

And ‘next week’ was yesterday. With a mixture of excitement (at last my Padel game will improve), nervousness (I hate operations) and anticipation (what the hell are they going to do?), I arrived as told at 1400hrs.

Now everyone I asked who had already had a cataract operation, or knew somebody that had, told me it was ‘no problem’. ‘It doesn’t hurt’, ‘you don’t see anything’, ‘it’s over in 5 minutes’ and ‘you will be amazed at how much you can see immediately’. Well, maybe this is where I admit to being a wimp BECAUSE IT’S ALL BOLL***KS’.

I have considered that laser surgery might be different than actually having the lens cut out with a scalpel!!!! Or maybe I really am just a wimp!! BUT, it does hurt, you can see things, it took almost 30 minutes and 20 hours later my vision is still blurred!!!

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Among my friends I am known as the research queen, but on this occasion I didn’t want to know anything, so on arrival at the hospital I had visions ha!ha! of it being like the opticians, sitting in a chair, chin on the machine and 15 minutes later walking out of there for an afternoon with my feet up.

So, if like me, you don’t want to know what happens, THEN STOP READING NOW.

  • On arrival I was asked to defrock and put a hospital robe on, I was then placed in a cubicle on a chair/bed whilst the nurses continually plied my eye with a series of drops. (first surprise)

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  • The chair had a motorised recliner so I passed the next 2 hours occupying my time by sending the chair up and down to various positions and watching patients in other cubicles being wheeled in and out.

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  • I was eventually wheeled by an orderly into an anti room where a nurse proceeded to fit me with a drip (second surprise)

  • After a wait of 20 minutes I was moved to the operating theatre…….. operating theatre….. OMG this was starting to feel serious!

  • An oxygen tube was placed up my nose and a heart monitor placed on my finger (which I continually heard beeping throughout the operation) I did consider holding my breath at one point just to see if the beeps stopped as well!

  • My eye was then taped open, which in itself is uncomfortable.

  • The surgeon placed a purpose made sheet over my face and removed a plastic square from over my eye, then the staff poured about 3 litres of liquid over my eye, presumably to wash and anaesthetise.

  • At this stage, the surgery began. To be honest there is no pain, just a lot of stinging and a feeling of pressure on the eye ball.

  • Although you can’t see anything clearly the view is one similar to looking through a kaleidoscope, quite pretty really. The colours and shapes changed at various stages of the surgery and probably as a result of my imagination I knew when he was cutting out the cataract and when he was fitting the new lens.

  • Fractals on Pinterest | Fractal Art, Fair Trade and Kaleidoscopes
  • The eye was then covered with an eye pad and taped over with a plastic patch. I was wheeled back to the recovery area. My sister was waiting and my first words to her were ”NEVER AGAIN”.

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After a cup of coffee and a biscuit and a bottle of paracetamol fed intravenously, I dressed and left for home. (Arriving almost 7 hours after leaving home that morning).

To my bed within an hour of getting home I woke at 4.00 this morning, feeling much brighter.

I went for a revision appointment at the hospital at 0830 this morning, I was told to wear sunglasses but they are difficult to keep on with the eye patch.

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The doctor removed my patch, took a quick look and said ‘perfect’, which was very encouraging and at least the sunglasses fit better now.

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Writing this blog has been quite cathartic, sitting here now I actually think it wasn’t really that bad, it was uncomfortable but, other than a slight headache, there wasn’t any pain.

Ok it took longer than I had anticipated but what’s 30 minutes out of your life for the benefit of good sight.

I didn’t really ‘see’ anything, the kaleidoscope colours were quite pretty and the rest was more down to my imagination than anything I could see and even whilst typing this blog my vision is getting clearer.

So, it really is all down to me being a wimp and what people told me is NOT BOLL**KS.

Would I have it done again if needed? Yes I would. 

Post op I need to be careful while the lens heals, no bending, lifting, swimming etc. But with the continuing support of my wonderful sister, brother-in-law and friends I can forsee a speedy recovery.

As a footnote, the staff and surgeon (Dr. Perez) at Baza hospital are amazing and as a secondary footnote watch out my Padel opponents as my game is about to improve!!!!

padel couple.jpg

 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

SHOULD CHARITY BEGIN AT HOME? HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO SUPPORT?

A new report on Sky news this morning got me thinking, how do you decide which charity to support? The news report dealt with the unwanted children of Greece. Babies abandoned in a special unit, babies’ weeks old with no names. After six months these babies are sent to orphanages run by charities but because donations have dried up one charity will run out of money in 10 days.

Run by the largest Children’s charity in Greece. ‘Smile of the child’ they are in a desperate situation but vow to do all they can to ensure these children will not be abandoned for a second time in their young lives.

These children are the human consequence of the economic crisis: Greece’s unwanted children, abandoned because of a crisis that began before they were even born.Leader Partner: The Smile of the Child – Greece

My heart went out to them and as a European I decided to donate. After all this is on my doorstep, this is Europe, this is close to home.

But how do you decide which charity to support? My niece is having all her hair shaved off in August to support a cancer charity in the UK and of course I have donated. But do we donate based on who we know, maybe the illnesses the charity covers which have affected someone in our lives, do we donate to save animals from cruelty or extinction, to save the planet or simply for what we know the charity has achieved in the past?

There are enormous pressures to support charities, some pressures have even driven people to suicide. We are inundated with television and media advertising, every crisis has a helpline number to donate to, every crisis has a text number to give water, a scarf, a pair of gloves, stop girls from arranged marriages etc. and usually all for a few pounds. But which ones get your few pounds?

Do we have to give money to show support? Are there other things we can do?

When the tsunami hit Thailand in 2004, I was one of many volunteers packing supplies to be sent for their aid. When I gave up work I volunteered for the Red Cross in the UK. I bought lottery tickets in the UK and continue to do so here in Spain to support ONCE (a charity for the blind and visually impaired) I donate clothes and unwanted items to a puppy rescue charity here in Spain and always put money in the poppy appeal box.

How do you decide what to do?

Does charity begin at home?

If anyone wants details of Brave the shave or Smile of the child please let me know, I will be more than happy to pass on details.

81 ON THE BUCKET LIST – VISIT A MEDIUM

It’s one of those things where curiosity rather than belief makes you want to do something.

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I have friends who are very religious others are spiritual, some who are atheists and others are agnostic. I wasn’t raised in a religious environment but throughout life I have tried to keep an open mind whilst listening to the different and varying views and beliefs of those around me.

It was with this open mind that my recent travels took me to a spiritual medium. It wasn’t a private reading, this was a theatre environment with an audience of around 150, so I felt it was very unlikely that any of my loved ones would come through. As it happened I was one of about six people in the audience that had a visit.

It was an interesting experience, not life changing, but interesting in some of the messages that my Grandma and Father passed on through the medium. At the time they appeared to be quite specific and accurate and I have to admit, started to sway me towards believing in an afterlife.

It was only when I returned from the weekend away that I spent some time researching mediums. There are some very skilled mediums but are they skilled at talking to spirits or at cold reading? Was I prepared to believe because I really wanted to believe? Did my body language in the audience make me look gullible or susceptible and thus I was chosen?  Did the researchers study social media to gain information (that’s the cynic in me coming through).

 What do you think? Have you visited a medium? Do you believe?

I have still not decided, maybe I never will, but it has left me feeling more curious and I would not discount another visit to a medium.

In any event, it was a great weekend away, nice hotel, great company, lovely food and the event raised almost 4000 euros for ACTIN.

ABOUT THE WEEKEND

THE HOTEL

The hotel was Lacumbre in Puerto de Mazarron, Murcia, Spain.

Twin room 50 euros a night including a lovely buffet breakfast.

Beautiful grounds, great facilities, rooms are basic but the staff are a delight, very efficient and nothing is too much trouble.

Hotel La Cumbre, Calle Mulhacén, 1, 30868 Puerto de Mazarrón, Murcia, Spain.

+34 968 594 861

http://www.hotellacumbre.com/es/

THE CHARITY

ACTIN (Animal Care Treatment International Network)

Our Mission is to bring awareness and education to the region of Murcia and to the whole of Spain.

The aims will be to focus on what can be achieved in order to make changes in the laws against cruelty, neglect and abandonment. We also look to find the best ways to introduce education of the general care and welfare of all animals in Spain.

(Courtesy of ACTINs website)

http://www.actin-spain.com or follow them on Facebook for more information and to support their excellent work for the welfare of animals in Spain.

THE MEDIUMS

  • Colin Fry
  • Craig Morris
  • Barrie John

HEAD IN THE CLOUDS AT 1494 METRES ABOVE SEA LEVEL

Well it’s not Everest but it is higher than Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK).

What mountain is it? The one in my back yard!!

The Jabalcon stands at 1494 metres above sea level (about 4900 feet) and the other day I made it to the top.

christmas 2010 (50)

Sounds impressive? Well actually most of the climb was in the car, but even that was a bit hair-raising. Having parked up there is then a steep climb to the summit.

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The high winds made it feel like sub zero temperatures and with my head in the clouds there was very little to view.

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However, at the top of the Jabalcon is a church and it is to here that the villagers carry the statue of our lady of the head (Nuestra señora de la cabeza) as part of their romeria at the end of April.

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 It was exhilarating and I will be doing it again for the Romeria at the end of the month.

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Vélez-Rubio – A pretty piece of history in Almeria

Vélez-Rubio is a municipality in Almeria, Andalucia.  Located off exit 408 on the A-92N, it forms part of the Sierra María-Los Vélez Natural Park and, due to its historical heritage, has been declared a ‘place of cultural interest’.

Vélez-Rubio is somewhere I have driven past many times in recent years but it was only yesterday that I paid a visit to the town.

The Iglesia de la Encarnación can be seen from the road as you drive past and I have always promised myself a visit to go and see it. I was not disappointed.

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The church can be seen from any point in the village and has been declared a National Historical Monument. It was built in the 18th century on top of the remains of what was the San Pedro church and is one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Almeria.

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The old Hospital Real, a typical baroque style building and the seat of the Conservatorio Elemental de Música is also home to the tourist office and the Museum, including a great Archaeology section. Situated on Calle Carrera del Carmen 29 it opens from Monday-Friday 10am-2pm & 5-8pm, telephone 950 410148.

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Another building of particular historical and artistic interest is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, built in 17th century and is next to museum.

The museums are well worth a visit and show the history of Vélez-Rubio  from its time as a fortified medieval hill town, through its history when a Roman  settlement was formed,  to its greatest period of splendour during the 18th and 19th centuries.  This is when the town saw its greatest economic wealth and it was during this time that the most important and historic buildings were built.

Nowadays, as well as the historical sights, there are many shops, bars and restaurants in Vélez-Rubio and a stroll around the town in the warmer weather can be interspersed with rest breaks in the lovely shady plazas and bars.

DETOX – ALL ZEN AND CARROT STICKS?

It could not be further from the truth! I have just returned from a week’s detox and anti-ageing retreat in the beautiful area of Calpe, Valencia (North of Alicante, Spain) with The Ultimate Retreat Company and it was amazing.

Shorter hiking trails are marked in green and white (Sendero Local) or ...

The retreat is set in a wonderful location, 10 minutes walk to the beach and in a quiet residential area just outside Calpe.

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On arrival I was shown to my luxury apartment and given a little time to settle in then off to lunch for a delicious goat’s cheese, walnut and avocado salad. All meals are included and are prepared by the top resident chef. They are organic, healthy, nutritionally balanced, varied and extremely filling. I have a very sweet tooth and used to snack on chocolate and sweets BUT this week I didn’t have one craving and was never hungry.

The welcome meeting introduces the team and the activities for the week. You can get involved in as many or as few as you like, nothing is compulsory, however, I would recommend you do as much as you can to take advantage of all that is on offer.

There are sessions of yoga, Pilates, core training, walks to the beach, coastal walks and, as this is also a spa, treatments on offer. I had a couple of massages, a facial and a pedicure. One of the massages was a Chuvutti massage which the therapist does with her feet! The most amazing, relaxing massage I have had anywhere in the world. You don’t just get a spa treatment, they advise and inform and share a variety of useful help and information.

Included in the timetable are various talks every evening such as talks by the Nutritionist, Naturopath, Life coach, Fitness Instructor and Make-up artist. You have the option of including 1:2:1’s with any of the team. I chose to have meetings with the Nutritionist, one of which was an intolerance test and I also had a meeting with the Make-up artist who helps to select the right products from your own make-up bag and the application giving you a modern approach to make-up.

My meetings with the Nutritionist were eye-opening. I have been a yo-yo dieter all my adult life and realise now why that is the case….. total lack of Nutrition!! I’ve lost weight before on various diets, but they were always weight loss diets (amazing how many chocolate bars you can eat every day on a 1200 calorie controlled diet) I have learned so much, how the hormonal system works, why the body behaves as it does, where to get the best nutrition and how to really ‘feed’ the body.

My meeting with the Make-up artist was a revelation, I thought Primer was the undercoat you put on a wall before painting it!!! I’ve been wearing the same colours and applying them in the same way for over 20 years but now all that has changed.

The team of professionals available are stupendous, qualified, experienced, supportive, encouraging and extremely friendly.

I am at a stage in my life where I needed a kick start to get me healthy and ready for the next chapter of my life. This retreat has done that…… and more.

I am energised, with improved skin, an abundance of knowledge, new friends and I lost 2.8 kilos (6.2llbs) in 6 days without even trying.

An amazing experience, an amazing retreat and an amazing bunch of people. Thanks to these guys my future is healthy.

For more information visit www.theultimateretreatcompany.com

I would recommend it.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.