Category Archives: Expat Guide

Learn Spanish with Rosetta Stone language courses

Learn Spanish with Rosetta Stone

Successful, enjoyable language learning with Rosetta Stone. Award winning language learning softwareLearning Spanish with a Rosetta Stone language course could unlock a wealth of experiences for you. With 450,000,000 Spanish speakers around the world, even a simple understanding of Spanish could make or break a trip to somewhere exotic, or just a city escape – discover Spanish with Rosetta Stone before you take off and experience the world your way.

  • LEARN BY IMMERSION — Learn your new language in real-life scenarios, using your new language from the start – without translation or memorisation. You will be motivated to enhance your learning experience each and every day.
  • IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK — Speak, record and listen to your first words and phrases in Spanish and get immediate feedback – this will give you the confidence to talk to the taxi driver in Spanish when arriving in Barcelona or Buenos Aires.
  • ADAPTIVE RECALL — Transfer what you’ve covered in previous lessons to long term memory, our method lets you know when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Ronda Today is pleased to offer these discounts on Rosetta Stone!

Rosetta Stone – language learning software

Alternatively you can browse the courses, books and software from Amazon.co.uk

And for our website visitors from the United States here are some books to help you learn Spanish from Amazon.US

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We have received many emails from people asking for a printed version of Ronda Today so we have created a 21 page A4 essential guide to Ronda and the Sierras from some of the articles on this website. At just 3 Euros (Paypal) It is well worth the investment if you are planning to visit the “City of Dreams” for a week, a couple of days or just a day. The guide contains Ronda Todays’ most important tourist information articles and includes a map of Ronda, the most popular monuments and nearby places to visit including information on the Sierra de Grazalema and the white villages (Pueblos Blancos).  Just click the link below, pay via Paypal and you will receive an email with a link to download the guide to your computer. It’s a PDF document so you can store it on your machine and print it straight away.

Click here to buy and download your essential printable guide to Ronda

Thank you for supporting Ronda Todays continued growth by purchasing this essential tourist guide to Ronda!

andalusian-sierras-malage-to-gibraltar-crossbill-guides

Book Review: Andalusian Sierras, from Malaga to Gibraltar (Crossbill Guides)

From the jacket, “At the Strait of Gibraltar, where Europe touches Africa, Spain shoes its rugged side. The jagged mountain chain that lies at the very southern end of the peninsula is one that harbours many delights. Dense, fern-draped forests alternate with unexpected bare mountaintops and dazzling steep cliffs. Flowery rock fields on windswept crests overlook picturesque white villages amidst green oak groves. These are the Sierra of Western Andalusia, an enchanting region with an incredible natural diversity.”

The first thing that stands out when picking up a copy of the Crossbill Guides Andalusian Sierras, is the heavy paper, and full colour photos and maps. The quality of the paper makes a huge difference to your enjoyment of this guide, which should accompany you in the car. Buy a second copy to keep on the coffee table, for easy reading at home.

At 208 pages, this is a meaty guide that is also only slightly wider than a paperback novel, and very easily fits in a daypack when you’re walking or hiking around the district. Though district might be too localised a description, since the area covered in Andalusian Sierras stretches from the Bay of Gibraltar, through the Alcornacales, Grazalema, Sierra de las Nieves, Torcal and Ardales-El Chorro parklands.

Visitors to the area are often struck by the contrasts between differing parts of Western Andalucia, that in such a small geographical area there can be so many ecosystems bordering each other. The terrain is unique in being the meeting ground where Africa is pushing into Europe, with high limestone mountains, rolling sandstone hills, and low fertile valleys.

Needless to say, the flora and fauna of the area can differ quite substantially. In Andalusian Sierras we are first introduced to the landscape, written in an appealing descriptive style, and heavy on facts. Climate and geology is discussed first, and includes schematics of the terrain explaining the various habitats to be found.

For the infrequent visitor to Andalucia, a book with 30 walks of the Serrania de Ronda is useless. Far batter to invest in Andalusian Sierras: From Malaga to Gibraltar (Crossbill Guides) with 14 excellent walks covering a wider area, that take in a broader variety of habitats. The majority of visitors to Andalusia are after all, only here for a week or two, and it would be a shame to not experience El Torcal, Grazalema, or the lowland walks of the Campo de Gibraltar near Tarifa.

Nature lovers who travel the world in search of new experiences will thoroughly enjoy the treatment of the the natural spaces in Andalusia by the Crossbill Guides Foundation. Whilst this guide only covers the nature of Malaga and Cadiz provinces, anyone familiar with the district would confirm that the native and migratory flora is amongst the richest in Europe.

Pages are colour-coded, and roughly divided into four sections, Landscape, Flora and Fauna, Walking Routes, and Tourist Information and Observation Tips.

The walking routes are graded, include a map, description of terrain, colour photos of highlights, and itinerary. The routes are; bird Migration along the Strait of Gibraltar, the Southern Alcornacales, the Northern Alcornacales, Climbing Aljibe Mountain, El Pinsapar Spanish Fir forest walk, Salto del Cabrero, La Garganta Verde, Along El Bosque river, the north slope of the Pinar mountains, the karst landscape of Villaluenga, the fir forest of Luis Ceballos, the hight mountains, El Chorro, and walking in the Torcal de Antequera.

The back of the book gives a species list for plants, mammals, birds, invertebrates, and reptiles. Curiously, the editors have decided to provide English, Latin, German, and Dutch, but not Spanish. This isn’t a huge oversight, but does mean when speaking to Spaniards about fauna and flora, you’ll need to use the latin name to find common ground.
andalusian-sierras-malage-to-gibraltar-crossbill-guides

Book Cover, Emily's Ronda Romance by Michelle Cameron

Book Review: Emily’s Ronda Romance by Michelle Cameron

Ronda and the Serranía form the backdrop Michelle Cameron’s romantic comedy, “Emily’s Ronda Romance”. The story is an hilarious tale of a British couple who arrive in Spain after winning a Valentine weekend as second prize. First prize would have been a diamond engagement ring.

Emily wanted the first prize, she’s always wanted to be engaged. She’ll settle for two days in Spain, but after all that happens to them, she doubts their relationship will continue, despite all her scheming and planning to make sure Brian pops the question anyway. Spain can do that.

This is a story written in the mind of Emily, so we aren’t just entertained by their dialog. We also get to hear Emily’s thoughts. Her view of the world is sweet, funny, scary, and if Brian could read her mind, he’d run for the hills.

We are first introduced to Emily when she meets her boyfriend, Brian, as she signs the radio competition form. Almost immediately, she knocks him unconscious, slaps him, then falls in love with him.

From the airport in Malaga, to the apartment buildings as she enters Ronda, the plazas, the architecture, and then their excursion around the white villages, we are amused with Emily’s thoughts. At times she is disappointed, but most of her thoughts, are filled with interest and wonder.

During their holiday Emily gets a giggle from Brian’s misfortune as he stumbles through bad Spanish. False cognates are the bane of his trip, and sources of endless amusement for Emily. But don’t tell Brian she wanted a saddle to ride him up the steep cobbled streets of Ronda. Actually he does say he wants to read her mind. So, she tells him what she’s thinking. His silence speaks volumes. Emily’s mind is not for the meek.

Her mind daydreams of being an international fashion celeb, and Ronda is the perfect canvas for her photoshoots. She pictures herself as caesar at Acinipo, and wishes she could own a house in the countryside, and drive a convertible sports car with the wind in her hair. It’s amazing how much Ronda can change a person in two days.

As the reader, we are treated to in some moment, Emily’s scatter-brained thinking, her fleeting imagination, and her dreams as a woman. Unfortunately, her thoughts that should stay in her head, often exit from her lips, leading to several awkward moments.

Readers will of course recognise places and characters from the Ronda district, even though they are cleverly disguised to protect the (?) innocent.

Book Cover, Emily's Ronda Romance by Michelle Cameron

SeriouslyAlpacaCover

Book Review: Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca? by Alan Parks

We’re delighted to review an expat romp set in Andalucía, “Seriouly Mum, What’s an Alpaca?” by Alan Parks. Giving up a life as a dance teacher for Lorna, Alan’s better half, seemed to have been an easy decision. [Get from Amazon UK: Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca? - An Adventure in the Frying Pan of Spain
]

With some experience of animals, three dogs, and two cats to be precise, Lorna and Alan couldn’t go wrong. After all, the other alpaca breeders all assured them alpacas are lovely animals, that never get sick, and are cheap to feed. Famous last words?

Several encounters with real estate agents in the expat areas of Malaga, and advice such as “You have to be flexible, if you want to live in this area, you may need to do some work”, or “Alan, remember it’s all about potential”, settled it. They would buy a property far away from expats in Córdoba province.

One can only imagine their shock on discovering that Córdoba is known as the frying pan of Spain, with regular summer temperatures of 50 degrees celsius, and 40 degrees in the shade. However, the expats are few and far between, and they could really get involved in their local community.

They still needed to do a lot of renovation, mind you! And, cleaning out the paddocks to accommodate their new alpaca friends. Four days of lifting horse manure made them as pink as prawns, or typically English under the Andalucían sun.

Establishing that alpacas were in fact allowed to be settled on the farm appears to have been quite the chore, until Alan and Lorna learned why there was no need for an alpaca license, the word means bales of hay in Spanish. Instead, they needed a license for llamas. With hindsight, it seems so obvious.

As you can imagine, their stories of adjusting to life in Spain just keep getting better, and in comparison with Driving over Lemons, Alan and Lorna’s tales seem more contemporary, and still as true of expat life today as when they arrived in Spain.

This really is a ripping tale of authentic Andalucía, from a family known and loved within the expat community, precisely because they chose to remove themselves and breed alpacas. If living the expat life appeals to you, or you’re already doing it, then “Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca?” should be considered a must read.

SeriouslyAlpacaCover

Kate Nicol's Divulgence

Book Review: Divulgence by Kate Nicol

Divulgence is a contemporary literary romance, set in the Costa del Sol and Ronda’s white villages. This is the story of an expat who settles in Spain, gets married, and then her life falls to pieces. Download from Amazon UK: Divulgence.

Anyone who loves the western end of the Costa del Sol and inland territory as far as Ronda in the Serranía, will find Kate Nicol’s Divulgence very familiar. Grace Marchant seems to have everything. A successful business, a happy familiar home life with her husband, Leo, and friends.

Her life is a cliché of course, which is rarely true of anyone. An indiscretion on her part brings the entire house of cards crashing.

Two years later Grace’s guilt leaves her torn, almost literally as dream Grace leaves her husband. She starts a new life teaching English in the Genal Valley, from the back of a horse transporter she’s kitted out as a classroom.

Barely-awake Grace tries to continue her life, with Leo’s detachment and refusal to acknowledge her guilt adding to the tragedy. Her employees suspect, as does the little old lady Grace sees every day.

Each Grace needs to deal with her demons, perhaps poorly, and each is forced into situations she would prefer to avoid. The Spanish lover, Leo’s visiting sister, and her own friends, all with their often unwelcome advice.

This is the story of two Grace Marchants, both seemingly at a loss to reconcile the indiscretion, and valiantly trying to make sense of a world that she now can’t understand.

Kate Nicol, has pulled together an account of her protagonist’s life that is stimulating and fully believable – with a strongly written character I wanted the best for. The supporting cast in Grace’s life are instantly recognizable to any expat. I could imagine each character having a real world equivalent.

Intertwined in Grace’s fall, we are amused with many humorous events that catch Grace unaware. We are also introduced to expat life in Spain, warts and all.

Happily, Grace Marchant finds peace and there is a happy ending. Though, perhaps not quite what the reader expects.

Kate Nicol's Divulgence

Simon Hugh Wheeler's romantic comedy,"Loosely Translated"

Book Review: Loosely Translated, a Romance by Simon Hugh Wheeler

I’m always interested when I find a work of contemporary fiction partially set in Spain, because let’s face it, Andalucía is home now. Discovering Simon Hugh Wheeler, who lives in Ronda with his Spanish wife, and that he’s written a funny romance entitled, Loosely Translated
(buy at Amazon), which crosses from England to Spain, with hilarious consequences for the protagonist whet my appetite for a quick read of his novel.

So, Loosely Translated is a romantic comedy with a mixture of contrasts: love/hate, England/Spain and literature/cheesey murder mysteries. But perhaps the biggest contrast is between the two main characters: Mike, a boozing, womanizing, uncultured but somehow charming guy and Maria, a classy, intelligent and thoroughly professional girl. Cupid is going to need more than one arrow for these two to get together.

In the first scene, Mike appears boorish and a clown. Success has clearly made him lazy. María by contrast is sweet and lovely. I could be friends with her, and would probably advise her to keep significant distance between her and Mike. Much like her friend in the story, Carmen, does.

Mike writes really bad detective novels and Maria has to translate them. She is disgusted that he can get such a bad book published, actually a series of them – something that still eludes her. So she decides to rewrite his story.

One of my favourite scenes is when Mike is invited to Madrid for the launch of the second book in Spanish and Maria has to work overtime to “translate” for the audience, in case her little secret is exposed; some of Mike’s comments become hilariously twisted around.

María is determined to keep Mike under a watchful eye to prevent her secret getting out, and what follows is a series of very sweet, frequently funny disputes as Mike grapples with her lack of interest in him romantically. Readers familiar with Madrid and Córdoba will recognise a few landmarks. You may never look at them quie the same ever again.

An interesting quirk of the book is that it holds the record for the most epilogues: twenty-one! They reminded me of out-takes at the end of a movie. The author is clearly determined to give each character in the story a page all to themselves. It’s a nice touch. So often my favorite minor characters disappear while the main protagonist goes on to life happily ever after.

Simon Hugh Wheeler has written an enjoyable book that is perfect for reading on the beach, sipping sangria while soaking up the Spanish sun. Or, if you love Ronda as much as I do, it is perfect for reading in the sun, with a mountain backdrop.
Simon Hugh Wheeler's romantic comedy,"Loosely Translated"

Online Shopping from the UK

Online Shopping from the UK for Spain Residents.

We frequently hear from expat women living in Spain that shopping can be difficult, Spanish sizes just aren’t the same as UK sizes, or Northern European ladies aren’t the same shape as Mediterranean women, or perhaps a particular brand is desired and not available in Spain.

In Ronda and other small towns most shopping is limited to small family owned fashion stores, Spanish high street brands such as Zara, or to foreign brands that tailor their range to Spanish sizes. Typically this means that plus sized ladies often struggle to dress fashionably without either visiting Marks and Spencer or BHS on the coast or Gibraltar.

However, it is possible to shop online using a debit or credit card, and in some cases a Paypal account, and have items shipped to Spain to your home address. Most retailers also offer free or cheap delivery if orders exceed a minimum amount, and if shopping for the season or several people in the family, this can amount to paying not much more than visiting a UK high street store and all without the cost of a ticket back home.

We’ve excluded online shopping portals such as Amazon, eBay, Pixmania etc because these companies operate in Spain. If you know of any other UK-based online retailers who deliver to Spain that aren’t included in our list, please let us know.

All information below is accurate as at May 2012. Delivery costs quoted may change in time.

Childrens Clothing
Adams operate an online store with a full selection of clothing, books, toys, swimwear, and baby items. Standard delivery to Spain takes upto 8 working days and is free if order exceeds £50 otherwise £4.99. Payment via card, Paypal, or Amazon payments.

The Kids Window operate a large site covering the majority of their product range priced in Euros in the international site. Spain residents need to click the “Outside UK?” link at the bottom of the page and then select Europe from the options. Delivery charges start from €6.50 with items dispatched in 24 hours. Payment with all major credit cards.

Mothercare‘s website is extensive and offers children’s clothing, footwear, pushchairs, cots, car seats, and maternity wear, and they offer to deliver to Spain from their UK website. Couriers are used so fees start from £14.95 and will be delivered in 3-7 working days. All major credit cards are accepted.

Fashion Clothing
Wallis (womenswear) website offers the complete range of instore items, including blouses, pants, jackets, dresses, skirts, accessories, petite clothing, and shoes. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £75. Payment by Wallis card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Topshop offers women’s clothing, shoes, accessories, and make-up on their website. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £75. Payment by Topshop card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Dorothy Perkins website covers their entire range of women’s clothing, collections, shoes, accessories, and the magazine. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £75. Payment by Dorothy Perkins card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Evans Plus Size online shopping is for women sized 14-32, and includes cothing, lingerie, shoes, and accessories. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £75. Payment by Evans card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Miss Selfridge have their complete women’s store online including clothing, accessories, shoes, petites, collections, and going out items. Standard delivery to Spain is £5 or free if order is over £60. Payment by Miss Selfridge card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Monsoon carry an extensive range of womens clothes and shoes, weddings, children, and mens clothing, as well as accessories. Delivery to Spain costs £3.95 taking 4-7 days. Payment is by major credit card.

Topman men’s fashion provide an extensive range of clothing, shoes, suits, and accessories. Standard delivery to Spain is £5. Payment by Topman card, or major credit cards.

Shoes
Jones Bootmaker offer their range of brand-name shoes including the ever popular Timberland, Birkenstock, Geox, Gabor, Hush Puppies, Sketchers and more online. Delivery to Spain is by Royal Mail and starts at £17.50. Payment by major credit card.

Department Stores
Debenhams, every item on the Debenhams website can be delivered to Spain, with delivery fees starting at £7 and taking 5-6 days. Payment by Debenhams card, and all major credit cards.

Harrods website covers fashion and clothing, shoes, sport, food and wine, and gift hampers. Delivery costs to Spain start from £20 and expect 5-6 days. Payment can be made with a Harrods charge card, and major credit cards. Harrods gift certificates cannot be used in their online shop.

House of Fraser claim to have over 1000 brands catalogued in their online shopping website, including beauty, clothing, shoes, handbags, furniture, electrical, and more. Standard delivery to Spain starts at £6 and takes upto 8 days t deliver. An express service delivered in 3 days starts at £10. Payment via House of Fraser store card, and major credit cards.

Marks and Spencer have stores in Spain, but their complete product range is available from their UK website such as clothing, lingerie, home and furniture, technology, food, and gifts. Delivery charges start at £7.50 with arrival in 6-9 days. Payment by Marks and Spencer cards or gift certificate and major credit cards.

John Lewis have a very large website, covering home and garden, electrical, clothing, beauty, babies and children, toys, and sport. They deliver to peninsula Spain (sorry, no islands) with fees starting at &pound7.50; and between 4 to 7 days to receive the package. Payment by John Lewis card, major credit cards, and Paypal.

Littlewoods have put almost their entire catalog online, including mens and womens fashion, child and baby, sporting goods, home and garden, electrical, entertainment, jewellery, beauty, and toys. Delivery fees are quoted as £5, with occasional free delivery over &pound30; and taking upto 8 days. Payment by major credit cards and Paypal.

Next have their catalog online, but it’s necessary to change location to Spain to see which items are available to delivery amongst clothing, shoes, accessories, sports, and homeware. Delivery is currently free, taking 3 working days via DHL. Payment by credit card.