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Designing A Simple Garden For Your Home In The Sun

There are many advantages to moving abroad, and being able to enjoy plenty of sunshine year-round is one of them. Once you’re settled in your new home and have your house sorted, you can turn your attention to your outdoor living area and creating a simple garden.


Make the most of the Spanish sunshine with these tips for creating a simple garden… 


simple garden



1. Make it easy to maintain

Taking pride in your garden is a wonderful thing, but it can soon turn into a lot of work. Who wants to spend more time maintaining it than enjoying it? Keep things simple with some evergreen plants and consider installing a decking area to give you a seating area which is easy to look after.

Of course, there’s always the option of bringing in landscapers to help you maintain your garden, particularly if you have a lawn that needs regular cutting. This can also give you some peace of mind if you plan on travelling often.

2. Make it a place to relax

The Spanish lifestyle can be very chilled and laid-back, and your garden area can be the perfect place for you to embrace that. Having some comfy sun loungers and a seating area can help you enjoy your space day and night as you enjoy the Mediterranean atmosphere. Don’t forget to take a look at different lighting options too so that you can enjoy your garden at night and make the most of those balmy evenings.

Why not check out some outdoor living trends to help you find some inspiration for decorating your space?

swimming pool mijas

3. Invest in a pool

There aren’t many places in the UK that you’ll get much use out of an outdoor pool, but you’ll have plenty of opportunity in Spain. An outdoor pool is something you could get a lot of use out of, and is perfect for families – the kids will never be bored with their own pool! If your Spanish home doesn’t have one already, you should look at some quotations to help you start planning. You could always invest in a hot tub instead if space doesn’t allow for a pool.

4. Embrace Spanish living

When you move to Spain, you’re not just moving for the weather, you’re moving for the culture and lifestyle. The Spanish really know how to love and with a strong emphasis on family and socialising, you should make sure you make plenty of time to get together in your new home. Make friends with your neighbours, learn how to cook Spanish cuisine and bring elements of traditional Spanish living to your life.

Moving to Spain brings many benefits, and getting to enjoy the sunshine with your family is one of them. With a beautiful garden space, you’ll be able to embrace the incredible Spanish culture and make it feel like home. Think you’re ready to move overseas? Check out the A to Z of what you need to know about Spain and start making your living abroad dream come true.

Vegan Ferrero Rocher Style Energy Treats











How times change. Trends come and go.

Do you go with the flow or stand your ground and resist change?

I’ve never been a trend addict (except for a short “Townie” clothes phase back in the early 80’s), I’ve always done pretty much what I have wanted, worn what I feel comfortable in and bought things that make me smile or make my life easier in some way. But food, well that is a slightly different matter…

If you’d have told me, a few months ago, I’d be posting recipes for making scrummy Vegan Ferrero Rocher, vegan no cheese and dairy-free ice cream, I’d have laughed at you!

But, here I am. July 2019, amid what seems like a vegan revolution that has been growing for a few years and is gaining momentum at a great pace, about to tell you about these simple and scrummy Vegan Ferrero Rocher.

Before I share this simple and delicious treat with you, I must state that I am not vegan and have no intention of becoming vegan. However, I do believe it is a great compliment to our current Mediterranean style diet. Having been on a day course with www.vegetarianos.org, my eyes were opened to a whole new way of cooking. I have many new recipes that are improving our day to day eating habits. All easy to make and all super tasty.

NOTE: (Not all the recipes I have tested were tasty …. so they won’t be shared or repeated in our kitchen 😉 ) No matter how “healthy” something is, if it isn’t tasty, we don’t make it again. Simples!


How To Make Vegan Ferrero Rocher Style Energy Treats



  • 100 g pitted dates
  • 70 g toasted hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 dessertspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 bar vegan chocolate
  • 12- 15 whole toasted hazelnuts for centre
  • 20 g crushed nuts (of your choice) for decoration



  • Blend the nuts until they form a fine powder, with no chunks.
  • Chop the dates and add to blender
  • Add cocoa powder
  • Blend all ingredients together until evenly mixed.
  • Using a dessertspoon to measure, make small balls of the mixture and insert a whole hazelnut into the centre. Set aside.
  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl, over a saucepan of boiling water.
  • Cover the balls in chocolate and put on a plate to cool and set.
  • Sprinkle with crushed nuts or add crushed nuts to the melted chocolate (whichever you prefer!)
  • Leave to cool in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened.
  • Eat and enjoy!


Vegan Ferrero Rocher Style Energy Treats

Vegan Ferrero Rocher Style Energy Treats


We hope you enjoy these Vegan Ferrero Rocher treats. Share your photos with us on our Facebook page: Family Life In Spain

Dog Beaches Spain 2019: Fun in the sun with our furry friends!

dog beaches spain 2019

Bookmark this page to keep up to date with the latest Dog Beaches Spain 2019. The Google map below is automatically updated. Every year, the website www.redcanina.es publishes an updated map of dog-friendly beaches around Spain.

Last year was a great year for dog lovers since there were more than 10 dog beaches that were enabled in the Spanish territory. The Valencian Community and Andalusia were the communities that allowed more beaches for dogs. Municipalities such as Torrevieja, Alboraya and Torrox, already have pet friendly beaches for this summer 2019. Whether you are planning to enjoy a beach holiday for this summer, or if you want to escape a weekend with your pet to enjoy the beach, here I leave the updated list of beaches to go with dog this year 2019.

A few years ago, the Coastal Law was amended to include the prohibition of dogs on beaches in the summer season. Since then, many  municipalities have been encouraged to enable beaches for the enjoyment of bathers and their dogs (some better than others, everything must be said …)

For more information about beaches for dogs in Spain this summer 2019 (photos, schedules, how to get there, services etc), click on the icons in each location:

Our dogs love the beach and we are always looking for places we can enjoy with them. Here’s to a great summer and lots of beach time (within moderation of course 😉 ) with our furry friends!

Where is your favourite beach to enjoy with your dogs?

The Truth About Bilingual Schools in Spain: Our Story

bilingual schools in spain


For years I have said that choosing the best kind of education in Spain for your children is one of the most important decisions you will make whether you are moving abroad or you are already living abroad. Should you opt for local state schools, private international schools or bilingual schools in Spain?

We all do what we believe is best for our children, yet how do we make the right choice regarding the best schools and types of education? Rules and regulations differ from our home country. In Spain, there are no league tables to advise us which are the best performing schools, although there are many regulatory bodies that can be consulted to conduct basic checks.

In our “education in Spain” articles you can read lots of advice and experiences that may help you to make up your own mind on what is best for your own child.


I am a firm believer that enrolling children in local Spanish school from an early age is a good option for most if not all young (ie. up to age 5 or 6) children. However, from experience, I know that once they are five or six years older, the process may not be as smooth. That said, older children have taken this path and have done so very successfully. Every child is different and our role as parents is to decide what we believe to be best for them.

Before sharing my findings and thoughts on bilingual schools in Spain, I’d like to share our Spanish education story so far with you …

Our Story:


From the year they turned three, both our children attended local state-run schools in Spain. I stand corrected, Joshua actually spent a year in a local French school, age three!

Our children never fail to amaze me. They are so resilient and adaptable.

bilingual schools in spain

Joshua & Francesca January 2019

Their Spanish school experience, however, was very different during their first years. Joshua fitted in and adapted from day one. He spent one year at a local village school in Arenas near Velez Malaga and then stayed at CEIP San Sebastián in Mijas Pueblo from age five to twelve. During my final meeting with his tutor, when I shared my thought about the local secondary school or a private bilingual school, I was told Joshua will do well, whatever school you decide to send him to”. She knew him well!

Articles to read:





Francesca, on the other hand, had a rather more disruptive and emotional start. It was painful for many. Painful for us as we saw our quiet, “angelic” daughter scream and cry at the start of every term for the first few years. Painful for whichever school patio monitor who was punched and kicked by this fragile looking small child who transformed into a maniac as soon as she was sent through the school gates. We soon learnt that this performance ended as soon as she entered the school building. She was calm in the classroom, well most of the time.


As much as it tore me apart to see her like that, I knew in my heart that we were doing the right thing.

Articles to read:







Jump forward eight years and aged eleven, our strong-willed, independent, caring and intelligent daughter had developed strong roots and was ready to spread her wings. She was ready to make a big change in her life and follow in her brother’s footsteps … in her own individual way, of course!



We are extremely happy with our decision to put both children into Spanish state education, in local a village school,  from an early age.


We can confidently say that as a result of our decision to put the children in the local village school:

  • they are fully bilingual in English and Spanish
  • they are open-minded and caring individuals
  • they are knowledgeable about the importance of community values
  • they can switch speaking between the local Andaluz dialect and clear Castellano
  • they are fully integrated into the local community
  • they have a good knowledge of Spanish geography
  • they have a profound ability to effectively communicate with people of all ages, backgrounds and social status
  • they display creativity and a passion for learning


However, as happy as we were with our children’s Spanish state education, we decided it was time for a change. We wanted our children to be educated in their mother tongue, in English, as well as their adopted Spanish. We were looking for bilingual education.

baile fin de curso

The Truth about Bilingual Schools in Spain (in our opinion)


Before sharing my thoughts and findings with you, I’d like to clarify what I understand as “bilingual education”.


“I believe that a school that advertises itself as “bilingual” should offer an equal number of subjects in each language.ie. In our case,  half of the subjects in English, and the other half in Spanish. I think the teachers, if not native, should demonstrate an advanced level of the language, both written and spoken.”


When researching secondary options for our children, I struggled to find schools offering what I believed to be “bilingual” education. Most “bilingual” schools simply offered a couple of subjects that were taught in English. The majority of schools seemed to offer a British curriculum which was not what we wanted.


In order to research the matter further, I invited parents to answer a simple questionnaire about their experiences with “bilingual schools in Spain”:


This is what I said …

“Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience of bilingual (English/Spanish) education in Spain. My aim is to provide an accurate image of the current state of “bilingual” schools in Spain.

I do not intend to make any school look good or bad. I simply plan to give a true picture, based on experiences from parents and teachers.

I have just made the decision to pay for my son to attend fully bilingual private secondary education as I do not feel the state schools offer an acceptable level.

I am of the belief that the teachers providing classes, in English, in state schools, need more training and a higher level of English to better carry out their roles.

Hence this research … My current beliefs may not reflect the true picture. So, before writing the post on our family blog www.familylifeinspain.com , I’d like input from others.”


Here are a few comments and suggestions made by the parents, in response to my open questions:


Q1. How happy are you with the level of English of the teachers giving the classes?


We’ve been really lucky, the level of English of the teachers at my daughters’ school is fantastic, (almost) native. And they are really good at teaching! And I’m not talking about learning hundreds of (useless) vocabulary lists. My daughters (7 and 9) can have short conversations in English, enjoy watching English TV and have also started reading in English. However, we know it’s not the same in other schools in the same town.”


“Only Catalans can teach English in public schools, the level is really low, not one child in 5 or 6 form can say a word of English to me. My kids are appalled by the mistakes the teachers make in class.”


“I was one of two teachers at the school who had formally studied bilingual education. The rest had studied English and primary teaching.”


My kids attend a semi-private school (colegio concertado) but they follow the Comunidad de Madrid curriculum. I think the schools shouldn’t be called bilingual because the percentage of classes is not 50/50 and also they don’t actually produce bilingual children. Some children do acquire good language skills but usually because of the support they receive outside the school”


“Based on 2 different schools that we left! The first in Torremolinos is supposedly a completely bilingual school at ESO level, however we were told they were not sufficiently qualified to do the Bachillerato classes in English – if that’s the case then I don’t believe they would be capable of doing any classes adequately in English. The second was our last school in Benalmadena, it was ordered to offer bilingual education at which point all the teachers signed a petition saying they wouldn’t/couldn’t do it – the town hall backed down and allowed them to start with just 25% in English and made the appropriate allowances. The repeat-rate is sky high, so clearly something is going badly wrong!”


Q2: How do you think Spain can improve its Bilingual Education?


Teaching English at school with (almost) native teachers is important. – Methodology plays an important role too. Some methodologies are obsolete and yet still used by many (most?) teachers. Too many kids are unable to say or write a simple sentence after 6 years of English…


By having native English teachers teaching the language.


Having teachers of both nationalities speaking their own language only!


Lower the prices in the private schools or raise the level of English spoken by Spanish teachers in the state schools.


By bringing in native-speaking teachers, begin at infant level and not enforce it on a school that is not appropriately equipped. Good education 100% in Spanish is far better than shoddy teaching because the teacher only speaks intermediate English.


Giving more support and better qualification and training to their teachers,.


Start in pre-school. Native English speaking assistants and teachers.


Parents who want bilingual education are obliged to go to a private school


As you can see from the sample answers above, my own research into local schools, in the Malaga area, highlighted what I had already been lead to believe by other parents and friends working in the education sector:

  • the level of English of teachers in the many “bilingual” schools in Spain leaves a lot to be desired
  • there is a need for more qualified and/or native teachers
  • the term “bilingual school” is used too loosely, more control is required
  • it is pretty much pot luck as to what level of English is offered, based on the teacher you have


Needless to say, this does not make our role as a parent any easier when choosing the best school for our children!


This article from El Pais in English highlights some interesting facts that may explain some of these differences and nuances. Some of the statements and facts are quite frankly shocking …

“The boom in public bilingual centres in Spain has been remarkable. In the 2010-2011 period, 240,154 students were studying in a bilingual program in one of Spain’s regions (except Catalonia, which does not provide data). In the 2016-2017 period, that figure had jumped 360% to 1.1 million, according to an EL PAÍS study of data from the Education Ministry. Some 95% of Spanish students at bilingual schools have chosen to be taught in English.”


Regional differences in bilingual education

“There are notable differences between bilingual education in each of Spain’s regions, especially when it comes to the English skills required of teachers. In Asturias, where more students study in English than any other region (52.3% in elementary school and 33.7% in high school), teachers only need to have an intermediate level (B2). The same is true in Andalusia, where 30.5% of elementary school students and 28.6% of high school students study in English. In Madrid however, where 43.8% of primary school students and 27.6% of secondary students take classes in English, teachers must have an advanced level of English (C1).


The popularity of bilingual schools has risen so dramatically that many regions have been unable to keep up with demand. In Andalusia, for instance, “there are not enough teachers qualified to speak well,” says Christian Abello, professor of English studies at the University of Seville. After the bilingual program was launched in 2004, the Andalusian regional government allowed teachers with a low intermediate level of English (B1) to teach classes in the first few years, says José Antonio Romero, coordinator of the bilingual program at the public school Miguel Servert in Seville.

“We began without qualified teachers, and CLIL training – the European methodology to learn a new language through other subjects such as mathematics – is voluntary. The regional government did not supervise the teachers’ progress,” he adds.”


The British Council have been involved in attempting to improve the level of education in Spain offered in English …

“We have been working since 1996 with the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training to support the implementation, development and evaluation of bilingual and bicultural education throughout Spain.  This “Bilingual Project” has been pioneering for both Spain and Europe, and has inspired other governments and education authorities to develop multilingual education and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)  projects in their schools.

The British Council is proud of our legacy in Spain promoting, developing and supporting bilingual education.  Our priorities are to work with National and Regional Authorities in Spain to establish best practice in teaching and learning in bilingual schools.”

Reference: https://www.britishcouncil.es/en/partnerships/success-stories/bilingual


Sadly, as I write this article, February 2019, I am afraid to say that a lot more work is still required and true bilingual schools in Spain are few and far between!

What is your experience with bilingual schools in Spain? How can the situation be improved? Share your story with us …

Five Factors To Consider Before Moving To Mijas Costa

Are You Thinking About Moving To Mijas Costa?

Mijas Costa is a beautiful stretch of coastline on the Costa Del Sol. Popular with holidaymakers, this whitewashed destination is perfect for any trip with family or friends. It holds a perfect mixture of tradition and culture, without leaving behind the beautiful beaches and stunning sea. But what if you decide you love it so much you want to move there?

Here are five factors to consider before making that brave step into the sun and moving to Mijas Costa

1. Location

Moving to Mijas Costa proves to be a walk in the park (or on the beach) when it comes to the lifestyle. Found nestled between Fuengirola and the east Marbella resort of Cabopino, the area is full of a diverse range of restaurants, bars and shops.

Mijas Costa is approximately 25 km from the Malaga Airport, which works out as an easy 20-30 minute drive. It’s perfect for friends and family to come and visit throughout the year without long transfers and tiring journeys. A taxi would cost around €40.

There is a popular coastal walk to Fuengirola and over to Benalmadena which follows onto Torrequebrada. It is possible for walkers to venture all the way to Malaga if this is of interest – making for a great time to explore and discover new places.

2. Properties

Living in Majis Costa couldn’t be more relaxing, however this does make it a very popular area and properties don’t stay on the market for long before being snatched up. A property boom hit the area in the mid noughties when thousands of British and Irish property investors and lifestyle buyers flocked to the area.  It is recommended to 100% commit to moving to Mijas Costa before property searching to avoid missing out on the perfect villa.

The good news is that there is a property for every budget, as prices vary largely in Mijas. A two bed property would set a buyer back by around €150,000, however it would not be a surprise for a more spacious 3 to 4 bedroom villa to be on the market for over €500,000. If you spot a great property at an even greater price in the area, it is advised the grab the opportunity with both hands. The area is very popular and many are constantly considering living in Costa Mijas.

3. Getting around

Leaving town to move somewhere where the sun shines is always a good idea, if it is possible to move around. Transport in Mijas Costa varies. A regular bus can be caught from nearby Fuengirola every 30 minutes which runs to a selection of beaches and towns. An overground train can also be caught in Fuengirola which runs a scenic route along the coast before reaching Malaga Capital. It also does a handy stop at the airport.

There is currently no train link which runs directly to Mijas Costa. A hire car is a good idea to get out and explore more of Costa Del Sol, but not essential to enjoy a lazy week in the sun and lazing around the pool.

4.  Entertainment

Marbella is just a 15-minute drive away and inland pueblos of Mijas, Coín and Alhaurín el Grande are close by. Malaga City is around a 30-40 minutes leisurely drive which is the perfect distance for a day trip. If the kids are holding you back from living in Mijas Costa, don’t worry. It is home to many attractions for little ones, including its own water park complete with water slides, wave pools, play islands and body skiing slides.

Mijas also has its own auditorium which hosts concerts throughout the summer months and a free flamenco show takes place twice a week in the village square. An outdoor swimming pool can be found in Osunillas as well as a football pitch and indoor gymnasium. Beaches in Mijas Costa offer jet skiing, water-skiing and paragliding to keep every day fun. The destination is home to some of the best golf courses and nearby Miraflores Golf and Lawn Tennis Club comes highly recommended, providing entertainment for every age.

For a night out, the Hipódromo Race Course proves popular with a family-friendly atmosphere, live horse racing and entertainment shows in-between races.

5.  Food and drink

The popularity of the area may not work in everyone’s favour for finding somewhere to live, but the wide variety of food and drink on offer makes moving to Mijas Costa amazing. A line of typical beach bars can be found built on the sand, locally known as chiringuitos. Favourites offered here include the local tapas. Spanish bars can be found sitting alongside Italian restaurants or even the odd cafe offering a full English breakfast. The choice of food available will never leave a disappointed face or an empty belly behind. 

So moving to Mijas Costa is a perfect move for anyone looking for a popular area in the heart of Costa Del Sol.

The properties are hard to get hold of but once bought, never regretted. Activities are available for the entire family, from children’s water parks, play parks, sports clubs to golf courses.

Those who like their food will never be disappointed, with a range of Spanish, Indian, Argentinian, Chinese and British food on offer to keep tummies happy and full.

The area is accessible by train and bus from nearby Fuengirola and taxis are reasonably priced and highly accessible.

The amount of British and Irish people in the area create a friendly atmosphere but do not take away from the natural beauty and cosmopolitan feel of this lovely destination.

If you are thinking about moving to Mijas Costa, remember to consider housing, travel and financing and everything will fall into place.

You’re not far away from owning your dream holiday home in an aesthetically pleasing and bustling area now. Book a  flight, visit the area, we can arrange for you to visit properties. See if the children will feel comfortable there and most importantly, try to imagine yourself there. If you can see yourself moving to Mijas Costa and spending all of your time in the sun, then we say go for it.

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