Updates on some of our favorite interviews
A lot of things can change in a few short years. We, for example, were pretty happy in Nerja a couple of years ago. This year we moved to Antequera.
We thought it was time to catch up with a couple of our favorite interviewees from the last few years. There’s been some changes.
PS. I love that everyone below volunteered to update their status. I think part of the process of expating/immigrating to another country is the progression we make along the way. We all learn and benefit from other people’s experiences (good or bad). So thank you to everyone who contributed to this update.
Louisa in Estepona
It’s been 3 years since I moved to Estepona old town from Brighton UK. I have no regrets about doing so, even though I took a big hit financially due to COVID.
If you love going to the beach, walking in the mountains, playing golf and sampling local food in a place with a stunning climate and friendly people, then Estepona is a pretty idyllic place to live. I have made a lot of friends here, but personally, I find it too quiet.
I miss the cosmopolitan nature of a big city, a wide variety of shops, an eclectic food and drink scene, live music, theatre, a decent public transport system and in particular the young vibe a local university brings.
Estepona has recently been heralded as ‘the new Marbella’ and property prices have shot up, meaning that less Spanish people live in the old town. Several arterial roads in central Estepona have been pedestrianised. Although new cheap car parks have been built, as a resident of the old town, day-to-day activities like getting heavy shopping to my house, or having anything delivered has become a nightmare.
I don’t want to live in a big city again, due to the amount of noise, anti-social behaviour and lack of accommodation with a decent amount of outside space. I also hate the suburbs. So, the solution may be basing myself elsewhere in Estepona, and spending time elsewhere to get my fix of the things I miss. Part of my frustration has been the limitation placed on the amount of time I can spend outside Spain in the first 5 years of residency. I used to travel internationally most months, either on business or for pleasure and have friends all over the world. Since 2020 they have needed to visit me in Spain (which they have not really objected to). But being in one place so long has made me a little stir crazy.
On a positive note, I have returned to a project I put on hold because work offers got in the way – my mystery novel “The Birdcage Shoes”. I submitted a synopsis to a well-known publishing house and interest was expressed on completion. 12 years later I am almost ready to send it to them.
As remote work dried up a bit (I still do the odd consultancy assignment), I opened the house (Casa Florestos) to tourists in April this year and it has been rammed since. Managing this property is a bind, so I recently put it on the market. Like most homes in Spain, it may take a while to sell, but I’m not exactly stuck in a bad place.
I cannot wait for the new chapter of my life to start and am planning my travels to the last few places on my bucket list which are China/Japan (I reached Singapore then had to cancel due to COVID in 2019), and South American. Then I will return to my favourite places in the world for long stays, such as India which I absolutely love. After that, who knows.
Aline in Valencia
Tempus fugit! So, here we are 48 months into our Spanish adventure.
Our lives seem so simple and peaceful on the surface. We bought a house and live in a great urbanization, our children go to a Spanish concertado about 1 km from our house and they love it, we have a nice group of friends, we are mostly integrated into our village life and believe it or not, we have mastered Castellano and the Spanish bureaucracy enough to feel comfortable living everyday life without a constant question mark stamped on our foreheads.
But that is on the surface, right below that, we paddled like mad.
Buying a house was not for the fainthearted. It took us nine months and two times we thought we were buying a house before we landed our current one. Contrary to what we thought, there is not one single process to buying a house in Spain. It’s really the wild west. Real estate agents do not need to have any kind of certification and we saw some really questionable practices. We finally gave up on the fray and worked directly with our lawyer. She rolled her commission and all legal fees into 1,5% of the price of the house. Great for her, great for us. We found the house we wanted on Idealista. It is not far from the centre of Valencia, about 15 min or so and near a metro station. It is in the same small city where we rented our house when we first arrived. I will spare you the details, but after many months of back-and-forth negotiations, we finally agreed on a price that was reasonable. Our house is in an urbanization, a gated community of 20 houses, rather than a piso (apartment) or a chalet (independent house). We have a common garden and pool, and an instant Spanish family, complete with abuelas, tias and a gang of friends for the kids.
Finding a school was also an interesting adventure. After 18 months of being together 24/7 during Covid, we all became stir-crazy. The children needed to make friends, Spanish friends, and so did we. We started out the expat route by visiting every and all possible private schools near us. Our eyes watered by the small fortunes quoted for a private English-Spanish education and after hearing for the 15th time the same speech of why our children would be perfect for their school, we asked our ayuntamiento for help. In my broken Spanish with many gestures and a very nice man at the front desk we got onto some list.
Two months later and a day before everything closed for the summer, we got offered two places at a coveted concertado, a semi-private Spanish school near us. And jackpot! We had heard that the Spanish education system was not that great, but to our pleasant surprise, this school ticked all the boxes of our well-honed must-have list. Not only that, but when the children started in September, we discovered that the pedagogy and the curriculum matched with those in Montreal. What could be better! The kids adapted like ducks to water, no matter if the classes were in Castellano, Valenciano, English or French. What we did need to adapt to was the school schedule with half days in September and June, and with a start date in mid-September.
We finally had some much-needed free time to tackle renovations, to mingle with people around us and to get our bearings in our village and the surroundings. We made friends through people in our urbanization, our Spanish teacher, the parents at our children’s school, expat social groups, even through our travels in Spain and by meeting people while selling things through Facebook groups.
We figured out how to register for tai chi, yoga and Castellano classes, all given by our town, and discovered little shops with great prices a bike ride away from us. Half of our family is even part of a Casal in our town for Las Fallas. Last year we lived the Fallas hands-on with our daughter’s presentation as a fallera. We also no longer go to expensive doctors geared toward expats and we have, unfortunately, gotten quite acquainted with the excellent Spanish public healthcare system and our Centro de Salud.
Our bodies have also fully adjusted to the Spanish schedule and weather, and so have our eating habits. We now drizzle olive oil on everything with a generous shake of salt. What is still challenging is mastering the language beyond just general communication and finding a job. But Valencia is growing and becoming more cosmopolitan. Hopefully something will shake loose soon.
We still miss our families and wish they could move into one of our neighbours’ houses, but overall our mad paddling was worth it. Valencia was the right choice for us and hopefully will continue to be so for a long time.
We wish you continued patience, good luck and courage in your own expat adventure!
Toni in Cadiz
Our interview for Mapping Spain was done in April of 2022, when we were new to Cadiz city, to our apartment here, and generally to our retired lifestyle. So, now is a good time to reflect on our early expectations versus the reality of our life in Spain.
Our original intention was to divide our year between the Cadiz flat and our country home in rural Italy. We thought that we would be “snowbirds”, coming to Spain for the milder winters and, returning to the green hills of Piemonte the rest of the year.
It hasn’t turned out that way.
July of last year, we had to be in Lisbon for a week. Then, Roberto, curious to see Cadiz in the “high season”, convinced me to hop a bus to Sevilla. I was skeptical that Southern Spain was ‘habitable’ in summer. I envisioned living in air conditioning for days and sneaking out for tapas after dark (unacceptable).
But that wasn’t the case.
We thought we would be “a bit snug” in the 80sq.mt Cadiz apartment. It is small compared to our Italian cascina. We have no garage, no garden.
That hasn’t been a problem.
In reality, we are here in Cadiz much more than we had expected to be.
Summer in Cadiz is hot—of course—but, day for day, has been about the same temperature as has Northern Italy: hotter than ‘normal’. Higher humidity of the oceanside is balanced by continuous sea breezes.
We have an azotea that is delightful, morning and night, with a little Atlantic view. Though we knew that it was a common space when we bought the piso, we have discovered that our two neighbors never use it. They have given us permission to add a sunshade and a bit of furnishing to our part. Our near beach, the famous Caleta, is jammed by noon in summertime, but, in the mornings we share it with a few fisherman and happy dogs. Further, bigger, whiter and lower density beaches are just at the end of our bus line.
We walk everywhere or take the excellent bus/train/ferry around the city and Andalucia. We fly out of Sevilla, 90 minutes away and have visited Morocco, Prague, and Northern Spain so far. For a tour around the Pueblos Blancos we rented a car. This week we ride Renfe from Cadiz to Madrid and on to Turin for the harvest/house repairs/family/doctor visits. We’ll be back in Cadiz when the indoor pool opens, opera season begins and Roberto’s soccer club has a home game.
I know that I have to balance all this gloating with some downsides…so, I will admit that there are two aspects of life here that aren’t so easy and that require adaptation.
- Most people here speak a ‘Gaditano’, which, while not a language itself, is neither the Castillano that we are studying to master. We sometimes have to really concentrate to understand our neighbors (though they are patient with us.) We found Spanish in Malaga, Bilbao (well, some), Asturias and Cantabria more comprehensible.
- Cadiz is vibrant and lives for its year-round spectacles: Navidad, Carnival, Semana Santa, Pasqua, summer concerts, Regatta. While these events are creative, traditional, boisterous and thrilling, they can also be drawn-out, crowded, and messy. When it gets to be ‘too much’, we take a trip……
So, there you have it Frank. After nearly two years, we are still residents of Italy, though we feel that we are ‘living’ in Spain. Check back with us again in another few years!
Tania in Sevilla
I’ve now lived in Sevilla for just over three and a half years and I must say the time has flown by. I have become an expert in the city and have had many friends and family visit since then. Never tiring of giving tours of the not so touristy places, eating at my favorite spots and showing them all the reasons why I’ve fallen in love with this amazing city. Many of my local friends feel I know the city better than they do. I often plan our days and evenings out. Since moving here I’ve adopted a dog, my Pomeranian, Pupi. Together, we’ve made many friends in the neighborhood and he gets me out everyday.
I have been fortunate to also travel around Spain quite a bit. Asturias, La Rioja, Valencia, Madrid, and most recently I completed El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. This was something I had always wanted to do and decided to do this year. I began the journey on my own but the Camino provided and I did not walk alone. I arrived in Santiago on my 55th birthday and felt something so profound. I didn’t expect it. Then again, my entire experience living in Spain has been profound and unexpected. I have many more plans in my future with my ceramics and travels. I don’t regret any of my decisions so far!
Thanks again to all the above for contributing these updates!
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