Posted in Spain

Do we feel like we would have stayed in Spain instead of returning home to Canada for the summer?

Vancouver’s Burrard bridge and downtown in the background on one of my daily long city walks.

Coming back home to Vancouver from a glorious 6 months in Spain for the second time feels even stranger than the first time.  We bought a house on the costa del sol last January and very much enjoyed our incredible new winter home for 3 months before returning to Canada.  We did not feel like coming back this time of course, leaving this beautiful house and garden and the already summer weather.  

Friends asked:  do you wish you were still there?  Yes of course.  Who wouldn’t! But we know very well that we are in the “honeymoon” phase and it is normal to feel this way.  Returning to beautiful Vancouver is equally elating after adjusting for a few days.  Canada in the summer months is not a bad place to come back to and it feels so nice to be back home to friends and a lifestyle we love.  

Vancouver is a great place to be in the summer for the warm but not too hot weather, pristine beaches, outdoor cafés, foodies worthy restaurant, healthy cheap eats, magnificent outdoors, walking everywhere, biking the ubiquitous bike lanes, happy hour with friends, the live concerts, the summer festivals, getaways to glorious nature and the wonderful friends gathering! 

As I described last year, it is somewhat discombobulating to be back.  It takes a little time to adjust.  In the end, Nerja Spain feels like a lover and Vancouver a spouse/partner you love and are loyal to.  So we have two loves and feel incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy both.  We hope to continue to be able to travel the world, go to Spain in the winter and return to our beloved home Canada 🇨🇦!

Posted in Spain, Spanish life

Transferring money from Canada to Europe

I did a lot of research when it was time to transfer a lot of money to buy our dream house in Spain.  It can be overwhelming to find the best way to move large sums of money in a timely manner at the best possible currency exchange rate.

The first step will be to open a Spanish bank account.  I will have a separate post on the subject of opening a bank account and why it is a good idea to get a mortgage even if you don’t need one when buying a property.  The actual opening of an account is relatively easy if you already have an NIE identification number which you obtain when you apply for the long-stay Visa. You can read the past blog here.

I read countless articles and blogs online to find the best and easiest way to transfer money.  I checked the currency rates daily and made comparisons  using different companies.  The two best companies to move money from Canada to Europe were Transferwise and Currencies Direct. 

I made several transfers with the two companies. Transferwise is my favorite way. There is a smart phone application which makes the process seamless. You can also use the website online access.  With Currencies Direct, you can do it online for amounts of less then 25,000 British Pounds but must speak to someone on the phone for larger amounts. In both cases, you must have a bank account in Canada and Europe. 

The exchange rate is about the same. When you compare online, the Currencies Direct rate will appear superior for amounts of more than $60,000.  They also say there are no fees but don’t be fooled.  When it was time to actually do the transfer, the rate was inferior and I had to negotiate with them to get the equivalent transfer amount as Transferwise.  For the big transfer, I preferred to use Currencies Direct because I felt more secure with speaking to a human instead of using the smartphone application.

You can use this website to compare rates by companies but this is only an indication, not a guaranteed rate. These are posted rates for large amounts. Transferwise uses the mid-market rate which is more accurate. Only the application will give you a guaranteed rate at the time of initiating the transfer. Cuex website link here.

There are several choices when making a transfer.  With Transferwise, on the smartphone application, I choose “pay an invoice”, it’s fast and has no additional costs. You then need to go to your bank’s internet bank site and pay the invoice in the name of Transferwise with your account number.  You get notifications at every step.  It takes about 3 business days to complete the transfer.  It is very efficient and painless.

With Currencies Direct, you must first make a wire transfer in the Currencies Direct bank account in the country of origin; in Canada, they use Bank of Montreal.  This requires you to fill out a wire transfer form with your own bank and pay a fee.  With our bank, Vancity, based in Vancouver, we paid $20 per wire transfer.  Vancity called us to verify our identity and then wired the funds to Currencies Direct.  It takes only one or two business days to transfer the funds to Currencies Direct’s bank account. Someone from their UK office contacts you when the funds have reached their account.  You then need to decide whether you want to make an immediate transfer to your Spain bank account or delay to a future date.  You can also decide to transfer only when you get the currency exchange rate you want.  The rate is somewhat negotiable as well if you can clearly demonstrate that you would have done better with Transferwise.  Since I was making big transfers, I would “squeeze” them a bit. For those who know me well, know that I can be very well prepared and persuasive!  It is worth asking. 

It definitely takes more steps with Currencies Direct but you have more flexibility in when to actually do the transfer if you have time to wait for the best rate.  Of course, waiting can also work against you.  It can be stressful to exchange large sums of money.  I did several transfers over several days to hedge my bets.  Our timing was very poor with a low Canadian dollar this past December and January.

Now that our large transfers are done, I will use Transferwise for our regular money transfers.  Their rate is highly competitive and there is no need to contact my bank or talk to anyone. It’s direct and super easy with the app.

Here are the two websites link. I do not get any compensation whatsoever and these are not formal recommendations. I merely share my own personal experiences on this blog.


Currencies Direct

Posted in Spain

We bought a house in Spain!

You may have been wondering why I have not been writing much lately.  I have been very busy.  On January 31, 2019, we moved in our new house in Spain.  Yes!  We bought a beautiful house on the Costa Del Sol.  After much research and soul searching, we just could not resist buying our own house.  We love our life here in Nerja, Spain, have made wonderful new friends and really feel at home.  We plan to be here 6 to 9 months a year for at least the next 4 or 5 years.  

In the next few blog posts, I will walk you through the process of opening a bank account, transferring money from Canada to Europe, finding the best currency exchange rates, looking for real estate, obtaining a mortgage and buying the forever second home in Spain.  I will also discuss the tax aspects of spending more than 183 days a year.

In the meantime, take a look at our new house located halfway between Nerja and Frigiliana, a short 5 minute drive or 40 min walk between the two towns. The house will be rented for the summer months.  I have copied the link to the rental agency website who will be managing the property for us when we are not here.  On this site, there is also a virtual tour of the property if you want to see the whole house.  It is a beauty, with total privacy, incredible views of the Mediterranean, east, south and west terraces, two sunrooms, a pool, jacuzzi, sauna, in floor heating, fireplace and much more.  

Stay tuned in the days ahead for my blogposts where I will share everything I have learned in the process of buying property in Spain.

Here is the link to view the rates for your dates and book our house.

Here is El Gavilan, or Sparrowhawk in English. We are looking for a new name to make it our own.
The west terrace. Perfect for sunset dinners.
Our stunning seaview of the Mediterranean.
Master Bedroom
Living room with the upper sunroom behind.
Fully equipped and very functional kitchen.
The garden was designed by the previous owners. We have 23 different types of fruits.
Amy Lou in her flamenco dress given to her by a local seamstress.
You can see the full length of the property along its wall and the beautiful sea views.
Posted in Spain, Spanish life, Travelling with a dog

The single most question I am asked is: What to wear in winter on the costa del sol?

We have been in the south of Spain since October 28 and the weather has just been fantastic. We only had a handful of overcast days and hardly any rain. Temperature ranged from 18 to 24C on average. Quite pleasant for walking, hiking, biking and sitting on a terrace, sipping wine and watching the world go by. It gets much cooler at night however or on cloudy days. So, even in the fall, you will need a warm sweater at night.

It is noticeably cooler this week in Nerja officially the start of winter my Spanish professor said today. For a Canadian it feels much more like a sunny day in October however.

Early mornings and evenings are cool, sometimes going down as much as 4C, in January, February and early March, so you will definitely need a jacket for going out at night but in the mid-day sun, it is still very warm and you will be happy to be in a t-shirt and even having a hat if you are sensitive to sunlight.

So the best thing you can do, is wear layers. T-shirt, sweater and a scarf is my daily attire in January. That is the way I start the day and as soon as I am walking in the sun, the layers come off. The sun is incredibly strong here and when it comes out, it is hot! In the shade however, you will want to put back your sweater or cardigan. On cloudy days, you may need a fall jacket. I have a short leather jacket which I find perfect for evenings and on cloudy days.

Jeans or a dress with tights works best for me. Terry wears his shorts everyday and jeans at night. I have a paid of boots as well for evenings but you can do without that if you wear closed shoes or runnings.

As far as Amy lou, the fashionista is concerned, she wears a “cooling” dress on really hot days and a fleece on especially overcast days. Rarely do we need to put on her rain coat, although, February is coming and it is known as the rainiest and coolest month of the year!

To summarize, t-shirts, shorts, jeans, sweaters, wrap or scarf and a light fall coat for evenings is what you will need during winter months on the costa del sol and a fleece for your small dog!

Here are a few pictures of daytime activities this month with friends visiting and with my wonderful weekly hiking group.

Posted in Spanish life

Life in Spain: why the Spaniards live longer


A new study came out this week from the Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle USA which forecasts that people in Spain are predicted to have the longest life expectancy in the world by 2040 beating Japan into second place.  The comprehensive study finds that much of the reason is to do with the way they eat.  There is very little high blood pressure and blood sugar here and drinking is reasonable. The Mediterranean diet is also known to be promoting health.  They eat a lot of healthy olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish and wine, all in moderation.  The current life expectancy is 85.8 years.



I have also observed a way of life that may also be part of the reason for a longer lifespan.  The spaniards I met, seem more relaxed and don’t seem too concerned about accumulating material things which is a lifestyle that may be contributing to stress. 

Spaniards live the simple life.  The majority of them earn little and are perfectly happy with that. They appear to be putting a lot more emphasis on relationships, a long lunch, and frequent chats with friends than owning a big house or going on an expansive vacation. I am certainly oversimplifying here but I think it is fair to say that time with family and friends is important in Spain more than time in front of the TV like my North American culture for example.  The sense of community has time and time again been discussed as an important contributor of happiness and longevity. 

So, since I want to live a long and happy life, I am glad to be here and be able to rub shoulders with Spaniards practicing the simple life of good food and good times with friends. 




La vie en Espagne: pourquoi les Espagnols vivent plus longtemps

Une nouvelle étude publiée cette semaine par le Health Metrics and Evaluation de Seattle, aux États-Unis, prévoit que l’espérance de vie des Espagnols devrait être la plus longue du monde d’ici 2040, devant le Japon à la deuxième place. L’étude approfondie montre qu’une grande partie de la raison est liée à la façon dont ils mangent. Il y a très peu d’hypertension et de sucre dans le sang ici et ils boivent raisonnablement. Le régime méditerranéen est également connu pour promouvoir la santé. Ils se nourrissent surtout d’huile d’olive, de fruits et de légumes, de poisson et de vin, le tout avec modération. L’espérance de vie actuelle est de 85,8 ans.  Voici le lien pour en savoir plus sur l’étude.

J’ai également observé un mode de vie qui pourrait également faire partie d’une plus longue durée de vie. Les Espagnols que j’ai rencontrés semblent plus détendus et ne semblent pas trop soucieux d’accumuler des objets matériels qui peut contribuer au stress.

Les Espagnols mènent une vie simple. La majorité d’entre eux gagnent peu et en sont parfaitement satisfaits. Ils semblent mettre beaucoup plus l’accent sur les relations, un long repas et des conversations fréquentes avec des amis que de posséder une grande maison ou de passer des vacances inoubliables. Je simplifie certes trop, mais je pense qu’il est juste de dire que passer du temps avec sa famille et ses amis est plus important en Espagne que devant la télévision, comme dans ma culture nord-américaine par exemple. Le sens de la communauté a été maintes fois discuté en tant que contributeur important au bonheur et à la longévité.

Donc, puisque je veux vivre une vie longue et heureuse, je suis heureuse d’être ici et de pouvoir côtoyer des Espagnols qui pratiquent une vie simple, qui consiste à bien manger et à passer de bons moments avec des amis.

Posted in Spanish life

My first full text in Spanish (translated as well)

As you know, Terry and I are learning Spanish. We have a weekly class with a private tutor every Thursday and we will go back to school in January. Our tutor, Patricia, asked us to write a one page text on the differences between where we live and Spain. Here is my text before being corrected by the tutor. I only had to look for two words. I did not use Google. Don’t be too critical, I’m still a very beginner Spanish student. See the translation below in English and in French!!

La vida en Nerja es muy diferente que en Vancouver

La vida en España es muy maravillosa especialmente para nosotros en la costa del sol. Como la palabra lo dice, hay mucho sol en la costa del sol. En Canada, hay bastante sol en el verano pero no mucho en el reste del año. Hay mucho lluvia en invierno y a menudo nubes.

Vancouver es una ciudad muy grande similarmente a Malaga. Hay muchas playas en Vancouver y parques con grande árboles. Esta una ciudad muy verde. Podemos caminar y ir en bicicleta todos los partes en la ciudad. La planificación urbana estaba muy bien hecha. La vista en Vancouver es muy hermosa con los montañas y el mar. Nuestro barrio es cerca del centro y los playas. Hay muchos restaurantes, bars y tiendas. Los supermercados en Vancouver son muy buenos con muchos alimentos y cosas del mundo por que es una ciudad muy international. (Foto a la derecha de Vancouver Tourism)

Nerja es muy diferente. Esta una mucho mas pequeña ciudad que esta llama pueblo tambien. Nerja es muy bonita. Me gusta los casas blancos y los pequeñas tiendas. La vista del mar es espectacular y los playas son lindas. El Balcón de Europa es el corazón de Nerja. Me encanta caminar en el centro todos los días para un café cortado y comprar los frutas, verduras y pan en unas pequeñas tiendas del centro. Los tiendas cierran de 2.00 a 5.00 de la tarde.  En Vancouver, los tiendas no cierran en la tarde.  Hay más tiempo para la familia y la comida en España que en Canada.  (Foto a la derecha de Hotel Los Arcos, Nerja)



La vida es muy simple y simpática en Nerja. Es más tranquilo aquí. Vancouver es un poco más impersonal y mucho mas ocupado.

La vida en España es más barata. Los alimentos, restaurantes y el alcohol son económicos. Los apartamentos y casas también son muchos más baratos.

Nos encanta la vida en España y en Nerja. Nos sentimos como en casa aquí. Los españoles son similares que los Canadienses. Ellos son muy amables, gentiles y respetuosos.

Esperamos de pasar mucho tiempo en Nerja en los próximos años!!

_________________Translation in English _______________________

Life in Nerja is very different than in Vancouver

Life in Spain is very wonderful especially for us on the Costa del Sol. As the word says, there is a lot of sun on the “Coast of the sun”. In Canada, there is enough sun in the summer but not much in the rest of the year. There is a lot of rain in winter and often days are overcast.

Vancouver is a very large city similar to Malaga. There are many beaches in Vancouver and parks with large trees. It is a very green city. We can walk and bike everywhere in the city. Urban planning was very well done. The views in Vancouver are very beautiful with the mountains and the sea. Our neighborhood is near the city center and the beaches. There are many restaurants, bars and shops. The supermarkets in Vancouver are very good with many foods and things of the world because it is a very international city.

Nerja is very different. This is a much smaller city that is called “Pueblo”. Nerja is very beautiful. I like the white houses and small shops. The view of the sea is spectacular and the beaches are beautiful. The Balcony of Europe is the heart of Nerja. I love walking downtown every day for a coffee and buy fruits, vegetables and bread in the small downtown stores. The shops closes from 2pm to 5pm here in Spain which gives you more time for meeting friends, spending time with family or to have a long lunch and rest.

Life is very simple and friendly in Nerja. It’s quieter here. Vancouver is a little more impersonal and much busier.

Life in Spain is cheaper. Food, restaurants and alcohol are cheap. The apartments and houses are also more economical.

We love life in Spain and in Nerja. We feel at home here. Spaniards are similar to Canadians. They are very kind, gentle and respectful.

We hope to spend a lot of time in Nerja in the years ahead!

_________________________ Traduction en Français __________________________

La vie à Nerja est très différente de celle de Vancouver

La vie en Espagne est très merveilleuse, spécialement pour nous sur la Costa del Sol. Comme le mot le dit, il y a beaucoup de soleil sur la côte du soleil. Au Canada, il y a assez de soleil en été, mais pas beaucoup le reste de l’année. Il y a beaucoup de pluie en hiver et souvent des nuages.

Vancouver est une très grande ville similaire à Malaga. Il existe de nombreuses plages à Vancouver et des parcs avec de grands arbres. C’est une ville très verte. Nous pouvons marcher et faire du vélo partout dans la ville. La planification urbaine est excellente. Le panorama de la ville de Vancouver est très beau avec les montagnes et la mer. Notre quartier est proche du centre de la ville et des plages. Il y a de nombreux restaurants, bars et magasins. Les supermarchés à Vancouver sont très bons avec de nombreux aliments et choses du monde parce que c’est une ville très internationale.

Nerja est très différente. C’est une ville beaucoup plus petite qui s’appelle aussi un Pueblo. Nerja est très belle. J’aime les maisons blanches et les petits magasins. La vue sur la mer est spectaculaire et les plages sont belles. Le balcon de l’Europe est le coeur de Nerja. J’adore marcher tous les jours en ville pour prendre un café dans la bars et acheter des fruits, des légumes et du pain dans les petits magasins du centre-ville.

La vie est très simple et conviviale à Nerja. C’est plus calme ici. Vancouver est un peu plus impersonnel et beaucoup plus occupé.

La vie en Espagne est moins chère. La nourriture, les restaurants et l’alcool ne sont pas chers. Les appartements et les maisons sont aussi beaucoup moins chers.

Nous aimons la vie en Espagne et à Nerja. Nous nous sentons chez nous ici. Les Espagnols ressemblent aux Canadiens. Ils sont très gentils, doux et respectueux.

Nous espérons passer beaucoup de temps à Nerja dans les années à venir!!

Posted in Spain, Travelling with a dog

Home is where friends are. Part 1 of the advantages of going to the same destination.


(Amy Lou and Perri her best friend in Spain)

Six months away is a long time.  It is a totally different experience than going on a 2 or 3 week trip.  When you are spending so much time away, going to the same destination has many advantages.  For us, coming back to Spain immediately felt like coming home.  The most important reason for this, we figured, is the fact that we made friends here last year and stayed in touch through the summer.  We have only been back in Nerja for one week and we had an invitation for a delicious dinner, a long walk and breakfast with another and a visit from Amy Lou’s BFF.  It made it heart warming to be back.

If you are planning a long stay somewhere and may want to come back to it, make sure to be open to meeting people.  We met most of the friends we have in Nerja through the Spanish school, either a teacher, another student or a friend of a student. That was a start.  Having a dog also opens the door to meeting like-minded people.  We also met people by going hiking with a group and going wine tasting.  I might want to volunteer at the local Food bank or the dog shelter later this winter.  There are many ways to meet people.  The important part is to be open to it and be receptive to new experiences.  Home is where the friends are and the welcome we had this week sure makes us feels like we are home here now.

A big thank you to Jan for bringing a huge box of cookies and dresses for Amy Lou, to Carol and Lars for that delicious, full of flavor dinner with perfectly paired wines and to Sandra for taking me on walks with these incredible views.


Traduction en français pour mes amis et la famille

La maison est là où sont les amis. Première partie des avantages d’aller à la même destination.

Six mois, c’est long. C’est une expérience totalement différente de celle d’un voyage de 2 ou 3 semaines. Lorsque vous passez autant de temps à l’extérieur, vous rendre à la même destination présente de nombreux avantages. Pour nous, retourner en Espagne a immédiatement donné l’impression de rentrer à la maison.  Nous pensons que c’est dû au fait que nous nous sommes fait des amis ici l’année dernière et sommes restés en contact tout au long de l’été. Nous sommes de retour à Nerja que depuis une semaine et déjà nous avons été invités à un délicieux souper, à une longue promenade et à un petit-déjeuner avec un autre et à la visite de la meilleure amie d’Amy Lou’s. Ça faisait chaud au cœur d’être de retour.

Si vous planifiez un long séjour quelque part et souhaitez y revenir, veillez à être ouvert à la rencontre. Nous avons rencontré la plupart des amis que nous avons à Nerja par le biais de l’école d’espagnol, qu’il s’agisse d’un professeur, d’un autre élève ou d’un ami d’élève. C’était un début. Avoir un chien ouvre également la porte à la rencontre de personnes partageant les mêmes idées. Nous avons également rencontré des gens en randonnées de groupe et en participant à des dégustations de vin. Il y a beaucoup de façons de rencontrer des gens. Il suffit d’être ouvert à de nouvelles expériences. Chez nous, c’est où sont les amis et l’accueil que nous avons eu cette semaine nous donne l’impression d’être rentré chez nous.