Posted in Cost of living in Spain, Spain

Renting a car in Europe for six months and do you really need a car for your long-team stay?

When planning to go away for six months, we never even thought about not renting a car. For us North Americans, having wheels and the freedom it offers is a perceived necessity.

We have now been in Spain for 3 months and I can say that having a car is not necessary if you like to walk like we do and live close to the city center. Our house is a 20 min walk from the center of town and we love our walk to town every day. We often do it twice to run errands and go for lunch or dinner. We rarely use the car.

Having a car for us still makes sense because we like to explore and go on day trips and getaways. So far, we have driven to Madrid, Granada, Almuñécar, Frigiliana and almost weekly, to Malaga, our favorite big city. Next week, we are driving to Barcelona via Valencia and can’t wait to see the entire coast.

So, whether you want to rent a car or not is really a personal choice. If you are on a tight budget, you can certainly do without as most European cities are very walking friendly and you can rent a car only when you chose to go away for a few days.

If you decide on renting a car for the full duration of your long-stay, you will find that the cost is somewhat inexpensive compared to other countries. A week rental is about $250 Canadian dollars. It cost us $3600 for the full six months through a deal our wonderful travel agent, Regine Barry from the Travel Group, got for us through a broker and Europcar. This includes unlimited KM, insurance and two drivers.

Please note that the rental car company will contact you half way through your stay to change the car. Yes! You get a new clean car every three months. It is a requirement. We first got a Citroen C3 which I loved and now, we just got a brand new car Volkswagen Polo with only 7km on its odometer!!

Why such a small car, you might ask? Well, the streets are very very tight here and you will be smart to choose a smaller car, certainly in the first few months while you get used to driving in such tight spaces. The parking stalls are also ridiculously tight, so you will be happy not to be driving an SUV or other larger cars we normally drive in North America.

Happy driving and walking in Europe. Both are pleasant and easy!!

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Posted in Uncategorized

New Year’s eve in Spain, one big party!

New Year’s Eve in Spain is known as Nochevieja (old night) and it is an awesome time to visit Spain. It is a time of fiestas, traditions, and superstitions.

One well known and followed superstition is wearing red underwear on New Year’s eve. It is apparently an important step to bring good luck, especially if you are looking for love.

After a meal at home or a restaurant with family and friends, you head out to the town square where every one gathers to celebrate the new year. City hall usually offers a complimentary ‘pack’, consisting of a small bottle of Cava, a bag of twelve grapes and an assortment of funny paper hats, noses, moustaches and noise makers.

One of the biggest Spanish New Year’s traditions to bring more luck to the year ahead, is to eat one grape on every chime of the last 12 seconds of the year so that by the time it strikes midnight, you will have eaten a total of 12 grapes. Many supermarkets sell a small package of 12 grapes ready for you to bring to your party.

Cava, the deliciously dry Spanish “champagne”, is, of course, the most popular beverage to celebrate with at New Year’s Eve. The new year is officially welcomed as the clock strikes midnight by raising your glass of Cava and toasting the new year.

Some Spaniards put a gold object at the bottom of their glass, like a piece of jewelry or a coin, to bring them good luck and wealth for the year ahead. The idea is to drink the whole glass of Cava in one go and collect your golden object at the end.

The origin of the twelve grapes tradition goes back to 1909, when the grape growers in Alicante thought it was a great way to get rid of their huge production surplus that year. The idea caught on and now, almost every Spaniard observes the tradition. This habit of the 19th century has now been extended to several spanish speaking countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica.

The city will usually have a magnificent display of fireworks to ring in the new year and immediately after that and many people in Spain believe that the correct way to begin the New Year is with your right foot as in ‘start on the right foot,’ or the Spanish saying, ‘enter with the right foot.’ So when you walk away from the fireworks or step down from the dinner table, make sure it’s with your right foot; that way you can start the year the right way and bring luck for the future.

The next morning, the traditional breakfast is hot chocolate and ‘churros’, a delicious deep-fried pastry which you dip in a thick hot chocolate. Simply divine!

On New Year’s Day many Spaniards will enjoy a lunch of lentil and chorizo (a delicious slightly spicy sausage) soup or stew. Lentils represent small coins and are said to bring prosperity.

I have read that throughout the day, certainly well into the afternoon, you will invariably see people wandering around town still dressed to the nines with party hats and all, although by this time looking a little disheveled. The Spaniards sure love a good party, and I sure love them for that!!

Terry and I will be on the Balcón of Europa in Nerja tonight for New Year’s eve. There will be live music, fireworks, Cava, the famous 12 grapes and dancing until the early hours I am told. I will be sure to let you know how the night went.

Happy New Year everyone! Feliz Año Nuevo! Feliz 2018!!

Posted in Cost of living in Spain, Spain, Spanish life

How can mobile phone rates be so much cheaper in Spain than in Canada?

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Getting a phone number and data plan for Spain was super easy.  There are several cellular phone stores in Nerja with staff who speaks perfect English or French.  We selected Digi Mobil LTE coverage which met our needs of a plan with 2GB of data, unlimited texts between us and 400 minutes of phone calls anywhere in the world.  This is more than what we need.

The cost is 10 Euros per phone or $15 CDN per month, a total of $30 per month for both our phones. We could have 5GB each for $40CDN which we don’t really need. By comparison, our plans in Canada charges us $115 per month for both of us for 4GB each and that is for the super preferred Long-term customer Rogers plans.

Why are cell phone charges so expensive in Canada?  The difference is huge!!

While we are away, we have turned off our phone service in Canada but had to pay $7 per phone per month to be able to keep our phone numbers.

Mobile phone services are another item to add to the long list of less expensive costs in Spain compared to Canada. Apart from the cost of getting here and our accommodation, we are saving money living in Spain!