Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Give me Moor: Islamic tales, free tapas and terrifying Alhambra staff in glorious Granada

By Sarah Gordon
When King Boabdil was forced from his kingdom of Granada by the Catholic Reconquista in 1492, he is said to have stopped on a mountain path, looked back at the Alhambra palace one final time and shed a tear for what he had lost.

Confronted by a steely-eyed Spaniard, perched like a vulture at the entrance to the Alhambra’s Nasrid Palaces, I feel a similar urge to cry as I am barked at in front of a startled line of tourists, quietly pretending not to witness our exchange.

My crime? I am twenty minutes late for my timed visit to the most popular part of the palace complex. So much for the Spanish mañana culture.
The Alhambra
The Red Fortress: The Alhambra palace is Spain's most iconic remnant of Moorish rule
When Boabdil broke down, his mother is said to have reproached him with the words: ‘Thou dost weep like a woman for what thou couldst not defend as a man.’

My vulture is not so poetic, her talons thrust my tickets back and me and I am told to return to the ticket office, explain why I am late and wait for my entry to be reissued.

The sentiment is more or less the same. ‘Thou dost complain about not being allowed in at 5.50pm, when thou didst buy tickets on Ticketmaster for 5.30pm.’

The Alhambra crowns a hill above Granada, a walled complex which for centuries was a symbol of the Moors’ domination of Spain. The first palace was built in the 11th century and multitude buildings have been added over hundreds of years by Islamic dynasties and, later, Christian conquistadors.

Up to 6,000 people pass through the serene gardens and ornate palaces each day in peak season, soaking up the sunshine, unparalleled views of the city and Islamic heritage, which is why it is important to buy a ticket in advance. And turn up on time.

Court of the Lions
Intricate: Detailed carvings transform the palace's stone surfaces into delicate works of art
When we finally make it into the Nasrid Palaces, they are well worth the contempt of the snappy bird of prey.

Spikey turrets scratch at the sky and every wall that is not graced by coloured tiles has been intricately carved with the words ‘There is no conqueror but God’.
Remnants of the red, blue and yellow paint that once adorned these surfaces is still visible in parts and stuccoed columns, marble water fountains and carved ceilings, so elaborate they look like paintings, recreate the lavish rule of the Moors in the 14th century – at an artistic peak, but on the cusp of political decline.
If there was ever any doubt about Spain’s mixed heritage, Granada is the city that maps out the Iberian Peninsula’s blend of Christianity and Islam.

While Islamic Seville and Cordoba fell to the Catholics in the mid-13th century, Granada – meaning pomegranate in English – brokered an agreement to become an independent Islamic state in a deal that lasted until 1492, when an eight-month siege by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel forced Boabdil to give up his throne and make that long walk into exile.

Remnants of Moorish influence are ever-present in Spain, from quirks of the language (ojalá is a way of saying ‘with any luck’ and comes from the refrain ‘Oh Allah’), unpronounceable place names that have no base in Latin and those keyhole-shaped gateways that mark the entrance to medieval walled towns.

Caleresia Nueva
Eastern exoticism: The jumble of streets is filled with tea shops and stalls selling Moroccan-style wares
While in most areas this influence lurks in architecture and language, in Andalucía, it bubbles to the surface, eventually bursting forth in Granada as a mix of mint tea-selling teterías (tea shops), hubbly bubbly pipes and markets with a distinctly Moroccan flavour.

The stout cathedral may stand in the centre of the city, an ominous threat to anyone trying to remember Granada’s Islamic past, but just behind it a burrow of streets is packed with outdoor stalls selling silver tea sets, handmade rugs, pretty woven shoes and blood-red lamps and lanterns.

Add to this a youthful spirit – Granada is a university town – and a hippie vibe, created by the mix of gypsy influences and international travellers who come here to study, and you have a Moorish-Spanish city with an ambience that is very different to formal neighbour Seville, party-town Malaga and quaint Cordoba.

Escaping for a girls’ weekend, my friend Sanne and I spend hours tramping through the streets, haggling for rainbow-coloured clothing, clanging bracelets and leather belts, stopping only to refresh with mint tea, strawberry-flavoured hubbly bubbly and free food.
While Granada can’t really claim to be the home of flamenco – that honour goes to Seville – it is the capital of tapas.

It is said that barmen in Andalucía started giving out free bread and jamón as tapas (literally meaning lids) to cover customers’ beers and protect them from flies.

Alhambra Palace hotel
Back in time: The Alhambra offers views over the Albaicin, which is little changed since the 14th century, while the Alhambra Palace hotel recreates the lavish surroundings that Moorish rulers would have experienced
The tradition grew and has now been transported around the world as a restaurant concept, but only in Granada does the tradition of serving up free food with your drinks live on.

Along with our Alhambra-branded beer – surely sacrilege to the palace’s abstinent Islamic creators? – we are given meat stews, jamón, patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy sauce) and montaditos (open sandwiches).

It’s not hard to burn off the indulgent dishes as Granada is a series of peaks and troughs. We spend hours walking around the Albaicín, the old Arab Quarter which clings to the hillside opposite the Alhambra and grew up in a tangle of narrow streets and topsy turvy buildings.

The oldest quarter of Granada, it is still lived in by locals, but also crammed with restaurants, bars and pretty shops run by long-haired hippies. At its pinnacle lies Mirador San Nicolás, a quaint plaza often graced with mournful guitar-strumming travellers and tourists taking photos of the mighty Red Fortress which stands proud with the Sierra Nevada in the background.
In the evening, after more free tapas, we make the hike back to the Alhambra, stopping just before its red walls at a hotel with architectural influences borrowed from its authentic Moorish neighbour.
Plaza with a view: Sarah and her friend Sanne pose for the iconic Alhambra photo taken from the Mirador San Nicolas
Where the imagination fails to fill the empty ornate rooms of the Red Fortress, the century-old Alhambra Palace hotel steps in. Keyhole-shaped doors filled with coloured glass, carved wooden furniture and wrought iron balustrades may not be historically correct in the strictest sense, but they certainly recapture the extravagance of Boabdil’s kingdom. No wonder aristocrats and royalty have chosen to stay here as they have visited over the years.

A terrace jutting out over the city completes the offering, the perfect spot to sip cool beers and watch the early evening shadows extend across the diminutive city below as the snow-capped peaks glint with the last rays of the setting sun.

Francisco Asís de Icaza, a Mexican poet who visited the city at the turn of the 20th century, famously wrote: ‘Dale limosna, mujer, que no hay en la vida nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada.

It translates as: ‘Give him alms, woman, for there is nothing sadder in life than being blind in Granada.’

The quote now lives on as a tile placed in a wall near the city’s cathedral.
But it is only when perched above Granada, taking in its sweeping panorama that you fully understand the meaning behind Asís de Icaza's words.

Travel Facts

Flights to Granada via Madrid (there are no direct flights) cost from £80 each way with Iberia (www.iberia.com 0870 609 0500).
LateRooms.com (www.LateRooms.com) offers accommodation at the four-star Alhambra Palace in Granada from £80 per night.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2175601/Granada-holidays-Islamic-tales-free-tapas-terrifying-Alhambra-staff-glorious-Granada.html#ixzz24Ai2g7GW

Bungalow in Moraira

2 Bed 2 Bath
Bungalow in Moraira

 Ref: NCB275
Type: Bungalow
Area: Costa Blanca North
Town: Moraira
Beds: 2
Baths: 2
Pool: Yes
Price: €125,000

Description: A single level 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom whitewashed bungalow situated close to the San Jamie Golf Course. The property has a glazed naya and the lounge benefits from an open fire with a timber beamed, barrelled ceiling completing the Spanish style living. The open plan kitchen has a breakfast bar leading into the lounge. The current owners rent the property throughout the summer season, given the properties close location to Moraira town and all of its facilities

Find us on Facebook


Mortgage enquiries for Spain increase

Mortgage enquiries for Spain increase by 33% as now is the time to buy
Posted on: August 11, 2012

Murcia is a key location as prices there are low even though tourist attractions are being developed.

In summary:

Murcia is a key area to invest in.

Mortgage enquiries for Spain increased by 33%.

Investors can get value for money by investing now.

The Spanish property market may be suffering at the moment, with the Eurozone crisis and employment rates being constant issues focused on by the Spanish people but that doesn’t mean that the country lacks investment prospects.
Investors can make the most of the current market if they take the leap and invest in Spanish property now, whilst it is cheap and it seems that some investors are sitting up and taking note of the market with an increase of interest in Spanish property.

Overseas mortgage specialists, Conti said that over May and June there was a rise of 33 percent in the number of mortgage enquiries highlighting that people are wanting to bag a bargain whilst the time is right.
Clare Nessling, Director at Conti, said: “Bargain prices and the opportunity to negotiate these down even further with some very motivated sellers mean that it’s most certainly a buyer’s market.
“In addition, despite the ongoing eurozone crisis, the growing strength of the pound, which has been rising against the euro to levels not seen for around four years, is boosting the budgets of British buyers.
“These factors, together with historically low interest rates, are making it more affordable to buy in Spain right now. And signs that the market is improving are starting to lift the confidence of prospective buyers.”

Murcia is one region that is proving to be attractive especially since the Paramount Theme Park is under construction. The region already attracts more than two million visitors every year with the theme park expected to boost that number, with visitor numbers maybe even doubling.

Investors who are looking to purchase Spanish property for the purpose of renting it as a holiday home should look to Murcia as it is destined to become a thriving tourist driven area in the coming years and the current prices of property there are among some of the cheapest in the country.


Assessment of distressed property markets compiled by website IPS

Many European property markets which have seen prices plummet in recent years could be good bets for overseas buyers but others should be left well alone, according to a new report from below market value specialists.
The United States, and Florida in particular, could be reaching the bottom of the market as prices are picking up i...
n some areas. But IPS reckons it is a market only for experienced investors as prices vary so much depending on location.
Hungary is described as uncertain.
Greece is a high risk market at present even for experienced real estate investors, it points out.
Bulgaria, once the darling of overseas property investors has seen prices plummet in the capital, in the ski resorts and even on the coast where many British and Irish investors are trapped unable to sell.
It says that Portugal’s property market has been hit hard by the sovereign debt crisis.
Oversupply and the economy have put huge pressure on Spain’s property market, according to IPS. ‘It is now possible to buy a property below market value. If the banks are willing to lend then they must be confident this market has finally reached bottom in the more desirable coastal areas. Invest now if you want to grab a bargain in coastal areas. Properties are unlikely to get cheaper,’ says the report.


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Interest in Spanish property on the increase

Despite a turbulent few years it seems that the British love affair with Spain is far from over. Conti, the overseas mortgage specialist, has seen a 33% increase in Spanish mortgage enquiries over May and June, and attributes the rise to excellent buying conditions and signs that the market is starting to bottom out.

According to the monthly house price index from appraisal company Tinsa, Spanish property values were down by 10.8% year on year in June, compared with 11.1% in May. And figures from the Spanish National Statistics Institute, INE, show that the decline in property sales in May were -9%, a lot less than the declines from January to March this year, which were between -21 and -33%.

Commenting, Clare Nessling, director at Conti, said: “Bargain prices and the opportunity to negotiate these down even further with some very motivated sellers mean that it’s most certainly a buyer’s market.
“In addition, despite the ongoing eurozone crisis, the growing strength of the pound, which has been rising against the euro to levels not seen for around four years, is boosting the budgets of British buyers.

“These factors, together with historically low interest rates, are making it more affordable to buy in Spain right now. And signs that the market is improving are starting to lift the confidence of prospective buyers.”

Conti says that mortgage availability is generally good, despite the negative headlines about the property market. Mortgage providers still have a healthy appetite for lending, with maximum loan to values still around 65-70%. Generally speaking, smaller deposits are possible in areas where house prices are more resilient, such as the Balearics, the Canary Islands, Madrid and Barcelona.

The company stresses the importance of seeking the right advice before agreeing to a purchase. Clare Nessling said: “You should always go through the same process that you would follow if you were buying a property in the UK. Take independent advice from an English-speaking lawyer who is not connected to your seller, estate agent or property developer. And ensure an independent valuation of the property is carried out, even if you’re buying in cash.

“It also pays to be selective. Many so-called bargains are being offered at knock-down prices because they’re of poor quality and in undesirable locations. It’s very easy to be pulled in by descriptions of ‘cheap’ or ‘knock down’ prices, but you really don’t want to end up with a toxic asset simply because you didn’t do your homework or take the right advice.

“It may be wise to look at re-sales, where you can get references from previous buyers and check any other re-sales being offered on the same development. As a result, you’ll get a much better idea of the property’s true market value.”