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There's little doubt that Vera Playa is the best seaside naturist place on the planet. But just because it's paradise doesn't mean to say that there are no niggles - even paradise could be improved no doubt!
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One webcam too far? Is this Vera Council's Secret Weapon?
First there was Street View - Google's revolutionary system enabling anyone anytime to tour distant places (or near) and see what they would see if they went there. And when Google went to Vera Playa in 2009 it was early in the morning and early in the year, so there were no naked people to be seen (well, not quite actually - but the two they did spot scuttled out of the way before the camera car returned up Avenida Tortuga Boba [incidentally now called Calle Tortuga Boba on Vera Council's map] past Vera Natura where they had been enjoying breakfast on their terrace before Google's invasive camera car came calling). When Google get around to updating their Street View database they may well do so in July or August and then there will be a lot of flesh around to pixellate out (or maybe leave in? Street View usually seems only to pixellate faces - so Vera Playa's streets could confront them with a policy decision about bodies).
   Phase 2 of putting Vera Playa online is the arrival of a live webcam (perhaps the first of many?). The location of this first camera is at Antonio's chiringuito, near to Playa Baria 2. It is fixed to a tall mast and seems to be wirelessly connected and solar powered. The camera resolution is quite low so individuals are very unlikely to be recognisable but webcams are getting better and it will not be too long before definitions start getting better and maybe equalling Street View's quality and other facilities such as user controlled rotation and zooming could be introduced as has happened with many other webcams. And live webcams will have no pixellating out of faces to make individuals unrecognisable.
   The location of this first webcam on the naturist beach is in an area not greatly used by naturists and the definition is low so there may not be much reaction to this world-wide surveillance? But webcams on the beach, especially a naturist beach, do raise all sorts of questions about privacy. Photographing naturists on the beach without their permission is certainly verboten in the naturist code of conduct and, at busy times, anyone doing so is likel;y to get quite a hostile response. But there could be good effects from the webcam in terms of spreading the word about naturism? But what of unintended consequences? Does this live coverage of naturism increase the risk of terrorism by religious zealots fundamentally opposed to naturism?
    What will naturists think about this? I suggest you use the facilities of the Vera Playa Friends Forum to make your views known. Will the webcam encourage or discourage visitors to Vera Playa? In particular, will naturists make a point of ensuring they are outside the field of view of the camera when they visit the beach? And is this just the first of many? When Vera Council erected signs illegally limiting the length of the naturist beach the response of the more militant naturists was direct action - so if you want to see what these webcams see don't delay too long as they may not survive too long.
5 , 6 & 10 March 2012
To use the webcams - click here Or to go direct to the naturist beach webcam - click here
To visit Vera Playa using Street View - click here
Post your views on the Vera Playa Friends Forum - click here
Talk about yo-yo's
We'd just got used to car rental being really cheap again after the post Credit Crunch hike in rates and shortage of cars when it seems the underlying unviability of the car rental industry in Spain is catching up with it. It seems that Auriga Crown had something like 14,000 cars and I'm guessing they weren't the biggest. Now in financial problems they seem likely to either scale right down or maybe even stop operating. So suddenly, virtually overnight, instead of a surplus of cars chasing too few renters, it will be the other way round. There's no sign yet that availability of cars will be as bad or prices as high as 3 or 4 years ago but if you are booking flights you might well be sensible to get your car firmly booked as well at the same time.
   There's more and more evidence that the "headline" rates you see on the web are only a part of the actual rental rates you'll pay as more and more risks are being transferred out of the "comprehensive insurance" into risks that you either have to bear yourself or pay up to €3 to €5 per day for an add-on insurance which the car rental company will high pressure sell you at the collection desk. In the winter period which is just finishing these extra charges could be as much as the actual hire rates, which were admittedly unprecedentedly low (e.g. €60 for a fortnight).
    Recently governments forced airlines to show the bottom line prices on their websites - it's about time the car rental firms were forced to do the same and also that the dodge of charging your initial tank of petrol at an exorbitant cost was also knocked on the head.
It sometimes seems the world has gone bonkers - allegedly some of the budget airlines rely on on-board catering sales to make any profit and car rental companies seem to rely on overcharging you for petrol and on selling you over-priced insurance in order to make their profits.
4 March 2012
Do we get the publicity we deserve?
   Almost invariably, it seems, whenever there is a TV programme about naturism what is depicted is a travesty of the reality of family naturism as I and most other naturists know it. Take last week, when there was a programme called something like "I was a teenage naturist" on Channel 4. The principal character was not a naturist and said in the programme that she didn't regard herself as a naturist. In fact the programme featured a number of young people who were clearly too shy or embarassed to take their clothes off and just a couple who did seem to be what you might call "lifestyle naturists". In this particular film none of the participants appeared to be weird, but so often those who feature in such programmes do seem to be somewhere near the edges of normal society.
   The reason for this, I guess, is that most normal naturists shy away from any publicity, not wanting their families, non-naturist friends, work colleagues and, particularly, bosses to know they are naturists. Entirely understandable I think because society at large has such double standards and hyocritical attitudes that it is a brave person indeed who takes the risk of being identified as a naturist not knowing what effects it could have on career prospects and relationships.
   There are exceptions, of course, naturists who don't lead a double life and make known to friends and family, and work colleagues, that they are naturists. Good on them for doing so and hopefully they won't have suffered bad consequences from "coming out". However, even such folk tend to be reluctant to appear on television or in magazines - or on the internet. I know from experience how difficult it is to find naturists who are willing to have photos of themselves on this website - and many thanks to those who have been willing as it would be very odd indeed to have a naturist website with no photos of naturists on it.
   Many of the residents and regulars at Vera Playa are retired folk and no longer have to fear deleterious consequences to their careers if they admit publicly to being naturists. Mind you, I have been surprised to learn how many naturists still keep the secret even from their own families - indeed that is one of the reasons why many naturists at Vera Playa don't live within the naturit zone - either because their families don't know they are naturists or that they fear their families wouldn't come and visit them if they lived in the naturist area.
   Anyway, I'm pleased to see that a naturist who is quite happy to stand up and be counted (though perhaps less willing to have a naturist photo of herself published?) has written an article on naturism at Vera Playa for the main local English language free newspaper - the Euro Weekly News. Hopefully Maureen Berry's article will help non-naturists to understand what a normal lot nearly all naturists are - and maybe at least a few will give it a go by at least visiting the naturist beach and enjoying swimming and sun-bathing without the nonsense of bathing costumes. Maureen's article is a highly positive piece of PR for us all as naturists - well done Maureen.
18 January 2012
Read Maureen's article in the online Euro Weekly News (12 - 18 January edition) - click here
10 years on
This website has now been running for over 10 years. When I started it in December 2001, flush with the enthusiasm of being a new property owner at Vera Playa, I can't say I gave a moment's thought as to whether it would still be around 10 years later. But it is. It's had its ups and downs. But it's still here and there is more content on it than ever. It is difficult to keep everything up to date but every page with date sensitive information does show the date the page was last updated and if, as is the case for some pages, that is a couple of years ago then obviously things could have changed since. The website is still at the top of the rankings of most search engines for searches on "Vera Playa" - and we don't pay the search engines for "sponsored listings", we get that high ranking on the basis of usage, popularity etc.
Whether this website will be around in another 10 years is anyone's guess - back in 2001 it was still not certain that the internet would become an integral part of most people's lives. Now it is, but the rise of different forms of internet use may well mean than in 10 years time this sort of information website may well be as much a part of history as the paper and drawing pin parish notice board. We'll see.
27 December 2011
Watch out when you rent a car now - you may not be fully covered unless you pay more!
Car rental rates during 2011 decreased from the high levels they went up to following the Credit Crunch and winter "headline" rates this year appear at first sight to be as low as they have been for 10 years or so, but this is misleading. Car rental charges used to cover most insurance risks but recently the Spanish car rental market has become more like the American one with the car rental price only giving you basic legal cover (3rd party, fire and theft) - and you could be lumbered with a big bill for car repairs if things go pear-shaped. This seems a ruse for the car rental companies to bung up the charges compared with the advertised rate - to be sure you are fully covered will cost you a surcharge of something like 2 to 3 per day on top of the advertised rate. Some of the companies have a maximum of 30 or 40 for this surcharge for longer rentals but others don't. You can take out an annual excess policy in the UK but these policies were designed to cover exclusions (such as glass, wheels and tyres and underside) and there are increasing doubts as to whether an excess policy would really cover all eventualities now that the insurance companies only build in the legal minimum third party, fire and theft cover within the actual rental charge. You may feel that to be on the safe side there is little alternative than to pay the rental company's insurance surcharge. Unfortunately, yet another added cost. And if you have a one way rental (picking up at one airport and leaving at another - often necessary for out of summer visits when there is less choice of flights and airports) most companies will now charge you extra (typically €35) - prior to 2011 one way rentals often cost no more than ordinary rentals.
27 December 2011
Will the new Murcia Corvera airport open in 2012?
It says quite a bit about the state of planning in Spain that one airport which has just had a lot of money spent on it is in serious decline in terms of flights and passenger numbers (Almeria - see below) and another, which has recently had many millions spent on development and passenger terminal facilities should be about to close completely and be replaced by an entirely new airport only a matter of a few dozen kilometres away (Murcia, San Javier).
It seems an Agreement has been signed by which the owners of Murcia, San Javier will be compensated for their losses resulting from its closure and the optimistic scenario is that the new Murcia, Corvera airport will open in March 2012. The likelihood of the new airport opening so early seems to be widely questioned and UK airline Jet2 has publicly stated that the opening should be delayed until the end of the 2012 holiday season as it fears chaos if it opens part way through the main busy season. Indeed you can easily imagine people turning up at the wrong site and failing to make their flights, etc.
27 December 2011
Who thinks that using the new Alicante terminal is an improvement?
Anyone who has flown out of Alicante since about April 2011 will have found themselves in what must be one of the biggest roofed spaces in Europe - certainly the size of several mediaeval cathedrals side by side and end on end*. The space is so vast that even with all the technology available these days the public address system is almost impossible to understand. The signposting is also difficult to understand (where else do you see the numbers of check-in desks or departure gates described in descending order - such as 50 to 20?) and in some cases just plain wrong, meaning you end up on the wrong level or place or on vast trecks around the seemingly never ending building. Indeed the distances are so great that you'd better be fit to use the airport, especially as it seems to be laid out so as to take you as far as possible in one direction to check-in, then all the way back to go through security, then all the way back and even a bit more to find your departure gate (which won't be signposted at all most of that distance). And, as at most airports these days, you are forced to walk through a vast "Duty Free" shop (which really means "Duty Paid" and expensive for internal EU passengers) before you get to the departure lounges and gates. The walls of the toilets have been beautifully clad in stunning marble (as have most of the immense terminal building's floors) but the hand dryers are surface mounted with exposed plugs and electrical leads going into sockets on the wall surfaces - many of the dryers and soap dispensers have already broken and last time I used the airport a few days ago, replacement dryers were hung loosely at a crazy angle by just one screw.
The old Alicante terminal was large by normal reckoning, but convenient to use and didn't require a route march either to reach the check-in desks or to get to the departure gates (though the distances to the gates were far enough in all conscience, but only a fraction of the distances in the new terminal). The old terminal now stands empty and boarded up. What the future holds for it I do not know, but I suspect it may be planned to be demolished and replaced with something even grander than the new terminal in 10 years time. I've read somewhere that there is a new airport somewhere in Spain which opened some months ago but has yet to receive a single flight. Little surprise that the Spanish economy has some significant problems. In Britain our tendency has been to build on bits and pieces to existing terminals at airports. It ends up looking like a dog's breakfast but arguably it is more cost-effective.
27 December 2011
* Aena, operator of Alicante airport , say that in 2005 the suface area of the terminal building was 45,800 square metres, in 2007 when the old terminal was extended, the area became 54,800 square metres and in 2011 when the new terminal was opened (and the old extended terminal was completely closed down, only 4 years after the major extension) the floor area became 335,500 square metres - more than 6 times as large. Aena say that the new terminal is designed for "more than 20m passengers by 2010" (it didn't actually open until 2011 and the passenger numbers in 2011 were 9.9m (5.7% up on 2010). So, a building 6 times larger than the old extended terminal but passenger numbers up by only 5.7%. How did this project ever get authorised to go ahead? Madness.
25 January 2012
Why is Almeria Airport in decline?
Despite its new departures hall which opened in 2009, Almeria airport seems to have a steadily reducing number of flights and passenger numbers (1.2m passengers in 2007 declining to 0.8m in 2010). BA pulled out several years ago, Ryanair has reduced the number of airports from which it flies to Almeria and cut out winter flights, and Monarch, which was flying there from Luton, Manchester & Birmingham has now axed services from two of these three places. And, in the winter, from UK regional airports, no flights at all to Almeria. Contrast this with 5 or 6 years ago when several airlines were flying there, some daily, all year round. OK, yes, there has been the economic crisis, but there are still lots of people wanting to fly to Almeria province which has many seaside resorts and huge numbers of apartments and villas owned by or rented for holidays by Brits. Is the airport too expensive for the airlines to use? Does no-one really want to fly there? A mystery! As far as we can see at present, these are the routes from the UK to Almeria which will be operating in 2012: Easyjet - London Gatwick to Almeria (three times per week, incl winter), Ryanair - London Stansted to Almeria (twice weekly, no flights in winter period), Monarch - Birmingham to Almeria (Twice a week - April to October).
26 November 2011
8 or 9 new routes announced by Ryanair from to/from Almeria airport could see the airline becoming the main operator at Almeria. UK visitors will now be able to fly from both East Midlands and Liverpool airports twice a week from late March 2012. If all the new Ryanair routes prove successful the airline could single-handedly reverse the decline in passenger numbers using Almeria in recent years.
4 March 2012
The Idyll Continues . . .
Spring 2011 was by no means typical at Vera Playa, with unusually unsettled weather, some rain and storms and more cloud than normal. At least it was a good bit better than most of Spain which for 2 or 3 months seemed to be getting the weather that the British Isles normally gets, whilst the UK was itself unusually warm and dry.

Now, however, and better late than never, the Levante area of Almeria is enjoying the more stable weather which one expects - dawn to dusk sun, blue skies, warm mornings, balmy evenings. Daytime highs are in the low to middle 30s and nightime lows are in the low to middle 20s.

The beach is in great condition, most seem to agree it is the cleanest and sandiest that anyone can remember, the sand from the north end of the bay has built out the main length of the naturist beach to be even deeper and the sea is now shallow for the first 30m or so, great for kids and the olders - and the sea is wonderfuly warm at 25C and outdoor pools are as warm or warmer. Magic!

And, final bonus, this paradise is naturist. My typical start to a day here is a 2 kms run along the promenade to Puerto Rey, a swim in the sea , a 2 kms return walk along the seashore (with a few more swims along the way), a chat or two on the beach and back home for breakfast, and naturist every metre of the way. Perfection - what could possibly be better? And that's just the start of the day. Yet to come today: more swims in sea and pools, more walks along the seashore, cycle rides, good food, wine and company. All followed by the sound sleep of the virtuous (OK, the last bit might be exagerrating just a wee bit).
(22 June 2011)

The Iceland Phenomenon - will it melt away?
It is said that many ex-pats living in Spain are strapped for cash these days, and UK owned businesses of every sort have felt the draught since the property bubble burst - and many have gone to the wall. Intermarche closed its Vera store, presumably because it was loss-making (which will have surprised few who visited it in its last couple of years).

And then, apparently bucking the trend, along comes Iceland (or to be pedantic, Overseas Supermarkets, which has rights to use the Iceland branding and sell its goods in Spain as some sort of franchisee). And on opening day Brits (and perhaps even some others) had come from far and wide - from Almeria and Roquetas and beyond - a 250 kms road trip, in order to buy British frozen meals and groceries at an inevitable mark-up (given the transportation costs) of 25 - 40% on UK prices and where like for like comparisons can be made, at what appears to be a substantial premium over local Spanish supermarkets such as Mercadona (eg. 500g Flora original, €3.24 Iceland, €2.64 Mercadona)

As a phenomenon this must rank alongside Jaguar/Land Rover's ability to raise the sales of its up-market vehicles to record levels and make £1bn profit at a time when job security, incomes and fuel prices are having a depressing effect on the rest of the car industry. In other words, both phenomena are not only counter-intuitive but are also counter to the general trends in the economy.

But when people get over the novelty will they still take 250 kms road trips in order to pay 30% more than they could buy comparable goods for from a Spanish supermarket? My guess is no - they may occasionally visit to get those "can't do without" British things (like Marmite - but does anyone actually eat Marmite? The Danes have actually banned its sale recently). And Intermarche was actually pretty well stocked on British foods and comforts and it didn't save them.

Only time will tell, of course. It will be interesting to observe the outcome.
(22 June 2011)

Footnote: There seems to be a significant street-crime problem around the Iceland store - distraction thefts, muggings etc. Take care if you decide to sample the delights of Iceland (19 July 2011)

Who knows the mystery of the seaweed?
Years ago, from memory, it was rare for there to be any seaweed floating in the sea at Vera Playa. These days, there often is sea-weed and other marine vegetation floating in the sea in the first few metres out from the shore. Why? But before you answer, the mystery deepens: in the mornings the sea is pretty well always weed-free but the afternoons aren't. Why is this?

Before someone says it's down to the tides, it's worth remembering that the small Mediterranean tides vary through the 24 hours according to the moon's attraction - two high tides each day being an hour or so later than the day before. So if it is due to the tides you'd expect it to vary through the days and sometimes for there to be more seaweed in the morning than in the afternoon. But there isn't. So why's that?

Some say that before the Tuna farms were established a few kilometres off-shore there was never any sea-weed or other vegetation in the sea at Vera Playa but if so how does that work?

I've yet to hear a convincing explanation, but I'd like to do so. Do you have one? If so let us know - click here

(22 June 2011)
Ola, Blackbirds
It is a common cry in bird-watching circles in the UK that the numbers of song birds are decreasing, due, apparently, mainly to all sorts of nasties which are sprayed on British fields. Sparrows, once the commonest of birds in England have become distinctly rare.
Well I can tell those bird watchers where at least some of those birds seem to have relocated - Vera Playa. There have been sparrows in profusion for many years but in the past 3 or 4 years that seemingly archetypal English songbird, the Blackbird (Turdus merula) , has not only arrived but seems to be doing remarkably well. Three or four years ago the evocative song of a Blackbird perched on a tv aerial or palm tree was a surprising reminder of cooler climes. Now, in 2011, there seems scarcely enough aerial perches for all the blackbirds seeking to proclaim their territories and seek out a Mrs Blackbird.
Whether these immigrants hitched a ride on Ryanair or Easyjet or winged it themselves all the way down from England to Spain is far from clear. I'm guessing that in fact it will have been a slow southward movement of the Blackbird's territory, so the Vera Playa Blackbirds are probably Spanish born and bred and might even sing in Blackbird Spanish with a Spanish accent. What is beyond doubt is that the dawn chorus at Vera Playa is beginning to sound like the one in the Home Counties of England, especially if you overlook the distinctly non-English sound of the local Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
(21 June 2011)
Latest update : 6 March 2012

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