Posted in Spain, Travelling with a dog

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

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(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.

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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.

Posted in Spain

Back in Spain for another sunny winter

(View from our apartment in Malaga. We are here for 6 nights before returning to Nerja until April)

We are now back in Spain after a fabulous summer in Vancouver Canada. As you remember, we decided to come back to Spain for another winter because we liked it so much last year, felt right at home, made friends and could not let the residence visa expire.

To be in most European countries (part of the Schengen area) for more then 3 months, you must obtain a residence permit. It sounds strange but whether you want to be here for 6 months or permanently, you have to get the same type of visa. We had to jump many hoops last year and pay a fee to qualify for the residency permit. You can read all about it here Rules about going 6 months in Europe . This visa must be renewed after one year and then again 2 years later. I will soon write a blog post on our visa renewal process. It is not terribly difficult to get but there are many steps and paperwork required.

Are we crazy, you may think? Why go through so much trouble just to go to Spain for more than 3 months when there are so many other places you could go to for the winter? Well, if you came to Spain for an extended visit, you would likely understand. The fact that it is sunny most of the time, is a very safe country, a well organized society, happy people everywhere, very dog friendly, makes Spain an ideal place for us to spend several months.

So, we are here again, on the Costa del Sol, for another six month experience. I will be updating the blog regularly with information about renewing the residence permit, traveling with a small dog and lots of information about the wonderful Spanish culture. I hope you that you will follow us on our journey again this year.

French translation

Nous sommes de retour en Espagne après un été fabuleux à Vancouver, Canada. Comme vous vous en souvenez, nous avons décidé de revenir en Espagne pour un autre hiver, car nous avons tellement aimé l’année dernière, nous nous sommes sentis chez nous, nous avons connus de nouveaux amis et nous ne pouvions pas laisser le visa de résidence expirer.

Pour être dans la plupart des pays européens (faisant partie de l’espace Schengen) pendant plus de 3 mois, vous devez obtenir un permis de séjour. Cela semble étrange, mais que vous souhaitiez être ici pendant 6 mois ou de façon permanente, vous devez obtenir le même type de visa. L’année dernière, nous avons dû franchir de nombreux obstacles et acquitter des frais pour pouvoir obtenir un permis de résidence. Vous pouvez lire ici tout ce qui concerne ce sujet. Rules about going 6 months in Europe Ce visa doit être renouvelé au bout d’un an, puis à nouveau deux ans plus tard. Je vais écrire un article de blog sur notre processus de renouvellement de visa. Ce n’est pas très difficile à obtenir, mais de nombreuses étapes et formalités administratives s’imposent.

Sommes-nous fous, vous pensez peut-être? Pourquoi traverser tant de difficultés juste pour aller en Espagne pendant plus de 3 mois alors qu’il ya tant d’autres endroits où vous pourriez aller pour l’hiver? Eh bien, si vous veniez en Espagne pour une visite prolongée, vous comprendriez probablement. Le fait qu’il soit ensoleillé la plupart du temps, est un pays très sûr, une société bien organisée, des gens heureux partout, très favorable aux chiens, fait de l’Espagne un lieu idéal pour passer plusieurs mois.

Nous sommes donc de retour ici, sur la Costa del Sol, pour une nouvelle expérience de six mois. Je mettrai régulièrement à jour le blog avec des informations sur le renouvellement du permis de séjour, les voyages avec un petit chien et de nombreuses informations sur la merveilleuse culture espagnole. J’espère que vous nous suivrez encore cette année dans notre voyage.

Posted in Spain

What is it like coming home after 6 months in Spain?

 

Kitsilano neighborhood Vancouver, Canada

My husband Terry, our Yorkshire terrier Amy Lou and I, have been back from Spain since May 1st. Six months away from home is a long time. What is it like to be back, you may wonder? It first feels a little weird. It may sound cliché but you do come back changed a little.

Luckily, we returned to a sunny and exceptionally warm month of May in Vancouver. We did not see rain for a month and had few cloudy days. This made for an easier transition and nice welcome home.

Vancouver is such a beautiful city where everything is lush and green. We really enjoy the ubiquitous bike lanes and renewing with our active lifestyle. It is amazing to see that it is the most insignificant things that you miss, like the grocery stores, Shoppers Drug Mart (I know, this is silly eh!), the variety of restaurant cuisine, and of course your own stuff! Your bed, your home, your pots and pans and everything that you have accumulated instead of just what can fit in a large suitcase.

Like I said, six months is a long time and because we liked Nerja and the Costa  del Sol so much, it felt like we “cheated” a little on Vancouver. It feels like we fell in love and now have a mistress in Nerja. Spain has stolen our heart. Ha Ha!

Jokes apart, Vancouver and Canada in general is such a great place to come back to and the summer weather is usually quite nice. We didn’t really want to leave Spain but we are happy to be back especially knowing that we will be right back in beautiful friendly and warm Nerja in November!

Hasta Luego!! I will continue the blog posting in the fall. Thank you for following us on our retirement journey!

Posted in Spain, Spanish life, Travelling with a dog

Last post about our six month experience in Spain.

Photo: Nerja, Spain

Six months away from home is a long time, but for us, it felt like we actually were home in Spain. It is easy for a Canadian to feel at home in Spain because it is very easy going and the people are similar to Canadians in many ways. Here are the things we loved about Spain and things we liked less which are very few.

Starting with the positives:

More Sunshine: There is a lot more sunshine in Spain than in Vancouver. Even if it was the rainiest and coldest winter in 50 years we were told, we found the winter here like a sunnier version of May or June in Vancouver. The sunshine usually comes out at some point even on forecasted rainy days.

Longer days: In the depth of winter in December, the sun comes up at 8am and goes down at 6pm. Compare this to Vancouver winters where the sun comes up at 8:30am and goes down at 4:15pm, that is a major improvement for your mental health.

Milder winter: November and April are like summer in Vancouver at about 18 to 24 Celcius with slightly cooler evenings in November. You can still have 20 Celcius days in December and January but it generally hovers between 12C and 16C. February is the most unsettled month with a mix of overcast, rain and sunshine,  usually all in the same day. March is usually nice we are told but we experienced torrential rain and downpours like I have never seen, even in Vancouver. Everyone here kept saying, “no es normal”. Unfortunately, most of our guests came in March.

More outdoor living: you spend tons more time outdoors. Long lunches in the sunshine are a way of life in Spain. We loved our lunches sitting outside basting in the sun and watching people go by.

Dogs anywhere on terraces: For a dog owner, this is such a welcome change from Vancouver where you can’t have your dog on any terrace or café. We could have Amy Lou with us everywhere and she was a big hit for waiters and passerbys.

Cheaper food: Our grocery bill was 40%-50% cheaper than in Vancouver.

Cheaper booze: Beer and Wine is incredibly inexpensive here. Even fine wines are more affordable and there is plenty of good wine to have even in grocery stores.

Cheaper restaurants:  Spaniards go out to eat A LOT! And that is reflected in the restaurant prices. There are restaurants everywhere filled with people especially for lunch everyday and dinners on weekends. The big cities have the most excellent fine dining and international restaurants. But the small cities or pueblos also have amazing selections, all at discounted prices compared to what we pay in Vancouver. We found restaurant prices to be about 40%-50% cheaper than in Canada or the States. Also, you don’t see much fast food here. People prefer their privately owned restaurants to food chains which is so much more authentic to me!

Cheaper mobile phone service: Our cell phones plans in Canada cost us $140 per month with tax. In Spain, we pay 20 Euros or $30 Canadian.  WHY are Canadian mobile phone plans so expensive? This is a ridiculous difference.

No cable need w antenna: If you have a house, you can have perfect TV reception with an antenna. If you don’t care about cable, that is a clear perk.

Cheaper real estate: House prices are not cheap on the costa del sol but significantly less expensive than Vancouver. A nice 3-4 bedroom house and 2-3 bathrooms with a pool will cost about 600,000 to 800,000 Euros or $1m to $1.2 million. The same house in Vancouver would be 2 or 3 million if you could find it. A 2 bedroom condo would be about 300,000-500,000 euros compared to $700,000-$1.5million in Vancouver. This is oversimplified of course but it give you an idea. There are also more affordable detached homes with a view.

Cheaper rent: if you prefer to rent, a two bedroom apartment would be approximately 400 to 600 euros per month or the equivalent of $600 to $900 per month. Short term rentals cater to tourists and are more expensive of course. Apartments go for $75 to $150 per night in high season or $250 to $350 per night for a house. We rented in the winter months and paid $2000 per month which was a very good deal for a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house with a pool and view of the Mediterranean.

Grow your own fruits & veggies year-round: the weather is conducive to gardening and growing your own fruits and veggies year round.

Fast and inexpensive travel in Europe: You can easily and affordably travel everywhere in Europe for weekends or longer getaways. Think about spending a weekend in Paris one month and Berlin the next! What a pleasure without the long flights and expensive tickets.

Here quickly are more positive to travelling or living in Spain:

Very good medical access and quality care

Easier to meet people

You will never get the restaurant bill until you ask for it.

Spaniards are clean people; Garbage collection daily, Beaches swept daily, Sparking clean toilets, alley way, etc

You can drink beer on the beach

Less rules and regulations about everything

No obnoxious drunks

The best thing we liked about Spain is the Spaniards! They are chilled, polite, friendly, and happy people!!

Here are the things we liked less:

More expensive energy

More expensive cars

Not as good grocery stores

No shoppers drug mart, I miss our SDM!!

Not as good restaurants in Nerja but great in Malaga

Some owners leave their dog poo on the street but this is about to change with new regulations and DNA poo testing to fine the ones who don’t pick up after their pets! Wow!!

That’s it…we could not find more things we like less. As you can see, we loved Spain and can’t wait to go back for another winter in the sun!

Posted in Spain, Travelling with a dog

Amy Lou’s perspective on 6 months in Spain

Hi, it’s me Amy Lou, the Super Model of la Costa del Sol! Ha Ha! That is what my mom calls me because I am the most photographed dog in Spain with my stylish sun glasses.

My mom and dad brought me with them to Spain for the winter and I was nervous at first but I feel right at home now. I too love Spain, here is why.

  • I can go anywhere with my mom and dad except museums.

  • Spaniards love dogs, they smile at me a lot and they tell me how cute I am everywhere I go.
  • I am welcome on all restaurant terraces and even inside in many. Mom usually puts me in a tote when her food arrives which I like because I can rest and peek out the window while my parents eat their meals.

  • They eat lots of fish in Spain, I like it because my mom always keeps a little for me including the lovely crispy skin.
  • There are many yorkies here and small dogs. Big scary dogs are rare.
  • It rarely rains here and when it does, it doesn’t last all day so I rarely have to walk in the rain.
  • I don’t have to wear a wet and smelly rain coat everyday.
  • I have had no skin allergies this year and no ear infection.
  • It is sunny a lot and I love the warm sun.
  • We live in a house in Spain with a beautiful walled garden where I can run around unleashed. There are no coyotes or eagles to be worried about. Just stray cats to chase away.

  • I made a new friend. Her name is Perri and she gave me a lovely Flamenco dress! I gave her my second pair of sunglasses.

  • We go on day trips and getaways a lot and my parents take me with them everywhere. I like snoozing comfortably in the car.

  • And the number one reason why I like Spain and traveling with my parents is that there are lovely new smells everywhere and lots of pee-news to discover!

Please like my post, it is my first one!

Posted in Spain, Spanish life

Spain’s Semana Santa is all about tradition and devotion.

Semana Santa is Holy Week in Spain, the week which leads to Easter. This is a BIG event for Spaniards. Some say that it has been celebrated since the 12th century, for certain since the 16th century, in Sevilla.

At first, you might be surprised by such a display of religion but Semana Santa in Spain can truly be enjoyed for what it is. A wonderful tradition and display of devotion. Please take a minute to read on to find out what it is all about and why this tradition is an important one in Spain.

Photo credit: roomsevilla.com

My photo taken in Sevilla this weekend.

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My photo taken in Sevilla this weekend.

From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, huge statues carried on floats called “Pasos”, some as old as 300 years, representing various images from the Passion of Jesus Christ take to the streets in processions that last up to 12 hours almost every day during that week and on the “Madrugá”, the Holy Thursday night, the processions run all night long through to the next day!

The people who carry the floats are devoted locals, performing an act of penance, repenting their sins. They are called Costaleros and wear a protective garment on their head to take the weight off the float. There are 20 to 40 costaleros per float and they practice all year long even in 40C August! That is devotion. Some of the floats weight a ton and costaleros can switch out every hour or two to take a break. I have read that each year a special section of the hospital opens up to treat costalero injuries.

Photo credit: Tío Spanish

My photo taken this Holy Thursday in Nerja.

The cone like head dress you see in all the processions are worn by “Nazarenos”. No, they are not members of the Ku Klux Klan. The attire is born from a desire to repent sins without revealing the identity of the person. There can be up to 3,000 nazarenos participating in some of the bigger processions in Sevilla. Kind Nazarenos will carry bags of sweets and give them to kids as they go by so they know they’re friendly!

Photo credit: Sevilla.abc.es

We are in Sevilla now for 3 days and could not be happier to have been here to experience the tradition, pride and solidarity this annual event is all about. Come to Spain during Semana Santa and feel the passion!

Some of photos were taken in Nerja on Holy Thursday, a smaller and more intimate event where you see the floats up-close. The others were taken by myself in Sevilla this weekend.

Posted in Spain

When you invite friends and family to Spain, they will come. Here are my comments on our experience.

When we rented our beautiful house for the winter months on the Costa del Sol, I felt a little guilty to have all this space just for two people and a 3 kilo dog. I also thought that it might be a little lonely being away for this long.

Terry and I like to share and entertain so, it was only natural to offer a visit to family members and several close friends. I then explained that we would not be tour guides and what we offered was a place to stay for a few days while they explored the area.

A total of 10 people came and stayed with us. Two came in January and February and 8 in March. What fun we had to see them all and be able to share our beautiful little town we love so much. All of our guests have been fabulous. Everyone was truly awesome in respecting the house we rented and gracious even if the weather was not the best at times.

Most wanted to come in March of course, when the temperature crosses over to 20 Celsius normally. However, we had a full month of unsettled and cold weather when most of our guests were here, from the end of February to end of March. It was the rainiest, windiest and coldest winter in Spain in over 50 years! We had two “deluges” during that period. I had never seen so much rain before. Not even in Vancouver. Can you believe that!!

While we enjoyed our time with them very much, it became redundant towards the end. We had developed a schedule and sightseeing route including the best restaurants and cafés which we repeated with each one of them. Think about what it is like to do the same circuit 6 times in a row over the span of a few weeks. Oh la la!

Entertaining for this long, this many guests is quite tiring as well. You had to plan breakfasts, some full meals and bites with aperos. You have to plan walking routes, excursions, have alternatives in case of bad weather. Some guests don’t always want to do what you have planned for them. And of course, you have to wash sheets, towels, clean bathrooms and the rest of the house non-stop.

One thing I would do differently however would be to spread out the visitors or bunch them up together. It would be much less work and redundant for us to have two or three couples at the same time instead of three couples one after the other.

One group per month would be ideal and 3 or 4 days is perfect to see the sights in the area. This way, we will be refreshed and looking forward to spending time with them.

All in all, we feel blessed to have had such good guests. Everyone picked up after themselves, did not make one complaint and were a true pleasure to have around. There was not one awkward moment. It strengthens every relationships. We made memories to cherish forever.

Thank you Universe for allowing Terry and me to have such abundance of great relationships in our lives. In the end, sharing and caring for each other is all that matters!

Here were our guests this year!