Because of the “knock-on-wood” principal, I have been reluctant to write about the “six box saga” until now. The saga was resolved last week (mostly), so now, I am free to talk about it. It began early in April when, during our estate sale, Celia and I separated some things that we wanted to ship to Spain. We had been contacted by a company that promised they could provide door-to-door shipping at a fixed price per pound, plus they would handle all of the customs paperwork. Worry free, right?
Worry free, NOT!! After approximately thirty phone calls to UPS, getting new documents that UPS required (including a copy of our flight itinerary), Spanish customs still wouldn’t release our packages. Finally, I hired a local attorney who spoke English and she was able to file the correct documents within hours. After 17 days in a customs warehouse in Barcelona, our household items were finally on their way to Malaga.
But, there was one more problem. As I discussed in an earlier post, through a stroke of magnificent luck, we had secured a permanent home much sooner than expected. Now, our packages were headed to the temporary address in Mijas and UPS refused to change the destination. A representative in Spain told me that they would not change the destination until they had attempted to deliver four times at the old address. (Even though that would mean some poor driver would have to climb five flights of stairs.) Finally, a representative at UPS International in the US (thank you, Anna) understood the situation and got some cooperation from UPS Spain.
So, everything was delivered last week. The boxes were in rough shape, but the contents were undamaged (except for a minor problem with this computer). We had to pay €118 import duty, even though the shipping agent had assured us it would be duty-free. Needless to say, we will not be recommending White Gloves Express to anyone.
In my last post, I hinted that a magnificent stroke of luck solved our housing problem. The word “luck” doesn’t even begin to describe the series of events that led us to this beautiful three-bedroom, two bath home in the campo (countryside) a mile or two outside of Alaurin el Grande. If I wrote this story into one of my novels, it probably wouldn’t be believable.
As I mentioned in the earlier post, Mijas Pueblo, where our temporary residence was located, is a very beautiful white village high on the side of a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean, but the almost daily drive to Alhaurin was going to be difficult, so we had decided to look for a closer place. That’s when things started to break our way.
Bright and early on our first Monday morning in Spain, we drove the long and safe route to Alhaurin for a meeting with Susana Santos of Banco Sabadell to open an account so we could transfer in funds from the U. S. We needed to purchase a car as soon as possible to get out of the more expensive rental car. And Celia wanted to acquire a new horse to replace the one she’d sold in Florida. Also, getting local cell phones was a high priority and we would need a local account to arrange payment.
When we left the bank, we headed to a cell phone store a couple of blocks away. We had to wait in line for a short time while a woman in front of us finished her business with the clerk behind the counter. Finally, she turned to leave and Celia and I stepped to the counter.
“Do you speak English?” Celia asked.
“No English,” the clerk responded.
The woman who had been in front of us turned and came back. “I’ll translate for you,” she said.
Natasha was born in Canada, but had lived in Alhaurin for many years. She worked for a dental clinic nearby. As the three of us were leaving the cell phone store, we mentioned to Natasha that we were looking for a place in Alhaurin. She pointed to a building across the street.
“My mom owns that real estate agency,” Natasha said. “Let’s go see her.”
Natasha’s mom, Zhilla, was eager to help. We explained that we were most interested in finding a small finca (farm) where we wouldn’t have to worry about the dogs, but would consider an apartment in town if there was nothing else. Zhilla explained that the only finca she had available was a little above our budget, but that we should go look at it anyway.
About that same time, a couple from Scotland came in looking for a finca as well. We all piled into two cars and went to look at the property. Both couples liked the house, but the Scots offered to completely renovate the kitchen for the owner and there was no way we were going to compete with that for a property that was already over our budget.
But Antonio, the finca’s owner, liked us and wanted to help. He made several calls to his friends to see if anyone had a house they were willing to rent. One of those friends was Cristobol Garcia and by four o’clock that afternoon, we had this wonderful home. The property manager in Mijas was happy to let us out of that lease with just the forfeiture of our deposit. A happy ending for everyone, but also, the realization that if we’d gotten to the cell phone store five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, none of this would have happened.