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 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.

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, Travelling with a dog

Road trip to Barcelona: Should you drive or fly within Spain?

The nice thing about Spain and Europe in general is that if you drive half hour in any direction you are bound to meet a village, town or city to explore and discover. The land is populated by quaint white-washed villages called in Spain, Pueblo Blancos, beautiful seaside towns along the coast, spectacular mountain villages or majestic cities all different from one another. It would take more than a lifetime to see them all. It is simply impossible to get bored in Spain. One will instead either be charmed and seduced or intrigued enough to plan a second trip.

Terry, Amy Lou and I went on a week long road trip last week, up the coast to Barcelona. We stopped on the way to Valencia and were incredibly surprised at how beautiful this first class city on the costa Blanca is. Wow! What a beauty this city is with endless beaches, first class art and culture centers and a gorgeous old city core. This is a classy city renowned for its fine restaurants and art galleries. We must go back for an extended weekend next year!

We then drove all the way to Barcelona. This elegant city is bustling with life and energy. The architecture from the modernist days of Gaudi adds a different look compared to other Spanish cities.

You can also hear and feel the very distinct Catalan culture here. Barcelona is a huge and very busy city. You really need to take a bus tour, like the hop on hop off bus, to get an overall look of what the city is all about.  Here is a picture of Amy Lou on the Hop on Hop off bus illegally and incognito in our carrier bag.  We let her head out while on the bus.  Such a good traveler!

The city has so much to offer such as; the Gothic quarter, the eclectic and artsy El Born, the chic neighborhood of Eixample, a walk down the super busy La Rambla, the surrounding area, the locals call “Las Ramblas”, the Port and its amazing marina restaurants, the majestic and avant-garde Sagrada Familia, and the other Gaudi designed masterpieces, Casa Milà, La Padera, and Parc Gruel.

So much to see and do in Barcelona. One must also sample the delicious Pintxos, which are the Catalan version of Tapas but mostly on a slice of baguette bread like the picture below.

We will definitely go back to Barcelona. Four days was good but it deserves a second visit just to soak it all in and live the Barcelona lifestyle. A word of advice about Barcelona, it is incredible noisy. The World Economic Forum rates it as number 7 noisiest city in the world. Bring earplugs to sleep well!

Also, while there were no tolls at all to drive to Madrid or Granada, there were tolls as you approach Valencia and all the way to Barcelona. See the cost below. Not cheap!

On the way back, we stopped for a night at the sea side town of Altea. Wow! We were pleasantly surprised at this beautiful old village where you can also stay in a small hotel on the pebbly beach with stunning views of two mountains extending to the sea. This is a really nice little town to stay for a couple of nights.

The drive to Barcelona is a total of 9 hours. Stopping one night each way cut the journey in half and was perfect for us and our little dog, Amy Lou who by now, has got the hang of road trips.  She loves hotels as well because we get to all hang out together in the big bed!!

You may wonder whether it is best to fly or drive from the costa del sol to Barcelona. If you have time like we do, driving is fun and you get to discover other places you would not see if you flew. When you add up the time spent to drive to the airport and wait to board, fly and cab to the hotel, all in all, it took us two more days but these were spent discovering new towns. We really enjoyed this road trip and would do it all over again someday.

As far as cost is concerned, here is the tally:

Flying from Nerja/Malaga to Barcelona
120 euros x 2 tickets + dog fee 80=320euros. (You can do it cheaper with Ryanair but they don’t take dogs in cabin. This was the fare with Iberia)
Parking car at airport = 50euros
Cabs to and from airport in Barcelona = 100euros

Total approx. cost of flying: 470 euros or $714 Canadian dollars

Driving from Nerja to Barcelona
Gas: 90euros
Tolls: 11 euros x2 + 35 euros x2 + 15 eurosx2=122 euros
Parking 4 days in Barcelona: 60 euros
Hotel in Valencia with parking and breakfast = 120euros
Hotel in Altea = 80 euros
I don’t count the extra meals because we would have gone out to dinner in town most likely anyway.

Total cost of driving: 472 euros! Ha Ha!! About the same. Who would have thought.

We rented a beautiful little apartment in the chic Eixample neighborhood in Barcelona. That was $675 Canadian for 4 nights. Contact me if you want the link.

Posted in Spain, Travelling with a dog

Deadly diseases your dog can contract while traveling abroad

Our sweet little Amy Lou is very precious to us. We don’t have children so, she is like a child to us. When we embarked on this six month journey abroad we did our research, ensured we could take her with us, read everything we could on how to travel with a small dog and visited our vet to get all the shots and paper work she needed to travel. You can read more about all of this here.

Little did we know that this was not enough. When you travel abroad it is essential that you research diseases specific to the country you will be visiting. You need to do this yourself because your vet will likely not know about diseases in other countries.

We had the good fortune to meet a vet in Nerja who casually mentioned deadly dogs’ diseases in Spain. “You know about diseases carried by mosquitos and flies here in Spain, right?” We had never heard of it. My heart sank as soon as he went on to explain that Dirofilaria and Leishmania can kill a dog within a couple of years.

Dirofilaria immitis causes heartworm disease, a chronic and potentially fatal cardiopulmonary disease which mainly affects dogs and cats. It is present in most of Spain, due to favourable climatic factors. Fortunately, there is a monthly tablet you can give your dog to kill the worms before they spread.

Leishmania disease however is more complicated and has no cure. Leishmania is an immuno suppressive disease. The chance of a dog catching Leishmania in Spain is extremely high, many veterinary put it as high as 30 to 35 percent. In reality, the figure is much higher because there are many stray dogs with the disease and the figure given applies only to dogs registered with a veterinary. It is often referred to the sandfly disease but this is misleading because the disease has nothing to do with sand or flies.  Your dog is equally at risk in town, country, woodland or wherever. The disease is carried by a certain type of mosquito, so small that it is virtually invisible to the human eye.  The creature flies at dusk and at night whenever the temperature is over 20 degrees Celsius. In the south of Spain, especially, this can occur in the middle of winter.

Symptoms are:
* Severe weight loss
* Loss of appetite (anorexia)
* Diarrhea
* Tarry feces (less common)
* Vomiting
* Nose bleed
* Exercise intolerance
* Skin issues

See more info here

Fortunately, there is a brand new vaccine developed in Spain which is 85% to 90% effective which a local vet gave Amy Lou right away. But it is not 100% effective unfortunately.

To maximise protection, you should never let your dog sleep out at night. Of course,  Amy Lou sleeps with, us in bed, tucked in between Terry and me, ha ha! Your dog should be indoors as soon as darkness falls and temperatures are 20 degrees Celsius or higher and open windows should be covered with mosquito netting or screens.

Bottom line, make sure to check with a local vet as soon as you arrive in the country and monitor your dogs health and behavior.

Here is a picture of our sweet Amy Lou in Torre Del Mar, on the costa del sol, the best traveler a fur mama could hope for!





Posted in Spain, Spanish life, Travelling with a dog

Madrid and driving on Spain highways

Madrid and driving on Spain highways

We are just back from a great 3 days getaway in Madrid. Here are our tips and notes which you might find interesting or helpful if you plan to go someday.

We drove from the costa del sol on highway A4 and it took us 6 hours including 2 stops of about 20-30 minutes each. Driving in Spain is fantastic. The roads and drivers are very good, safe and there were no tolls are all! There are lots of gas stations/restaurants on the way. There are very few rest areas however. This makes sense since the Spaniards love to enjoy lunch. The gas stations toilets are remarkably clean. Spotless bathrooms everywhere. We have noticed that Spaniards are, in general, very clean people. Their tile floors are spotless everywhere you go even in public places. Look at this gas station toilet!!


Amy Lou was a doll on the road. Not a peep. We had her in her large carrier for part of the way and some of the way in her comfy velour bed where she dozed off a little. She is an amazing traveler!!


We rented a small penthouse apartment in Plaza Major in the center of Madrid’s Centro. What a perfect location. Walking distance to everything. We saw all the sites on foot over two full days. The first day we went to Puerto del Sol, the Prado, Retiro Park and the Gran Via. We stopped for coffee at a really cool cafe recommended by my Spanish friend Sandra and had lunch on a sunny terrace off the Gran Via. We had dinner at the Mercado de San Miguel where you grab a glass of vino or cerveza and eat your way through sampling tapas! What a great spot to sample and mingle. We met an exuberant American and a friendly Italian!!

The second day, we walked to the Palacio, Plaza España and did a little shopping on the Gran Via. We had a long lunch at another fantastic sunny terrace. We stayed in our little apartment at night after a short stroll in our neighborhood.

A few notes regarding dogs in Madrid. They won’t let you in with your dog in Museums or other government buildings. We tried to go in with her incognito in her purse carrier but they scan the bags so, we could not go unfortunately. Also, in restaurant, unlike the costa del sol, they won’t allow dogs but we had her safely hidden in the purse bag and was able to take her out at the end of the meal on terraces. She was a hit everywhere we went. Spaniards are major dog lovers and could not stop saying “que lindo, muy préciosa”, so cute, very beautiful!!

Madrid is a BIG city with a LOT of people everywhere. So many that it is hard to walk. With a small dog it is good to have a carrier or this type of legs out knapsack otherwise they might get trampled.

We liked Madrid but we can’t say that we loved it and are dying to go back soon but probably will someday to explore more thoroughly.  The weather was cool and the city very busy. It must be insane in the summer. The main attractions are the museums and art galleries and we were not being able to see them with Amy Lou very unfortunately.  I would have really liked to see the Prado especially.  If and when we go back someday, it will be in the early fall and I will make sure to plan ahead to leave Amy Lou with a trusted friend to be able to go to the museums and galleries.