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

Granada and its Alhambra, a gem in Spain’s jewellery box

Terry and I went to Granada this week which is about an hour’s drive north of Nerja. The city was extremely busy as it was the last couple of days before January 6th, the “real Spanish Christmas” when gifts are exchanged. There were people everywhere rushing to get their shopping done. It was quite difficult to walk little Amy Lou in the busy streets of Granada. We had to carry her a lot but we managed and truly enjoyed the city’s incredible energy.

The Albaicín neighborhood and the Alhambra were undoubtedly the highlights of our stay. A friend of ours said that the Alhambra is a gem in Spain’s jewellery box. I would totally agree with this statement. What is the Alhambra you may wonder?

You may have heard that the Alhambra was a palace and fortress complex built for defense purposes by the Moors but it was in fact much more than that. It was truly a city of three parts: the alcazaba (military citadel), the alcázar (the palace) and the medina (the city).

It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until 1238 when Mohammed Ben Al-Ahmar, the Nasrid Emirate of Granada started to build the Alhambra we know today. It was converted in a royal palace by Yusuf 1, Sultan of Granada in 1333. I was surprised to learn that the Arab civilization occupying Andalucia called the Moors, occupied Andalucia for over 800 years, a much longer period than most might think.

In 711 the Islamic Moors of Arab and Berber descent in North Africa (Moroccans) crossed the Strait of Gibraltar onto the Iberian Peninsula, and in a series of raids, conquered Christian Hispania. The Christian re-conquered the Andalucia territory in late 1400s, “the Reconquista”, and the Alhambra site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand & Isabella. Throughout the Alhambra city, you can see both Catholic and Moors art and architecture. It is truly fascinating to walk through the fortress and castle and learn how the Sultan lived.

The name Alhambra means “The Red” in Arabic for the sun-dried brick of which the outer walls are built.

The Alhambra is like a book that you can read, mostly stories about Allah and the sentence “the only conqueror is Allah” is carved or etched 9000 times on its wall.

Take a look at these few pictures. Unfortunately, they do not come close to the beauty and grandeur of the site and art. You must plan a trip to experience Granada and its magnificent Alhambra yourself.

We spent 3 days, 2 nights to see Granada and it was just about right. You could do it in one day but you would need to be prepared for a very full day. Make sure to book the Alhambra several days in advance. Some say months but it is easier if you book a 3 hour tour and is well worth the extra money I found.

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 Spain, Spanish life

Christmas in Spain

How do the Spaniard celebrate Christmas?

The Holiday season in Spain spans from December 24th to January 6th and is refer to as Navidad.

The Christmas shopping season is officially kicked off on November 24th with the lighting of the Christmas lights.  Take a look at Malaga this year. Just spectacular!

Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve called the Nochebuena, the “Good Night”.  The Nochebuena is very similar to how French Canadians Québecois celebrate le “Réveillon de Noël”.  A large family dinner party is enjoyed until the early hours of the morning.  In Spain, I am told that it often lasts until 6 o’clock in the morning.  Gotta love those Spanish party people!!  The Misa de Gallo, Spain’s midnight mass, is now attended by fewer and fewer Spaniards.

Most homes, churches and streets display Christmas decorations, some nativity scene and a Christmas tree.

December 26th is Sant Esteve (Saint Stephen) day and is also celebrated with another family gathering.

Presents are given on January 6th morning, however, children usually receive one or two presents on Christmas morning, December 25, brought by “Papá Noel”, which is a non-traditional imitation of Santa Claus. There is a special Christmas dance called the Jota which has been performed for centuries in Spain during Christmas and many towns also have a Christmas Parade like this one in Nerja, our town, on Dec 23rd.

Terry and I will be spending Christmas like we do every year on Christmas Eve with Cava this year instead of Champagne and a few tapas I will be preparing such as olives, manchego, serrano & iberico ham, chorizo al inferno, albongidas, croquettas and langoustines Pil-Pil!

Feliz Navidad to everyone.  We wish you a wonderful Christmas with family and friends.  In the end, these are the most important moments in life!

Stay tuned for how the Spaniards celebrate New Year’s Eve! Another fun fiesta celebrated in their own special way!!


Posted in Spanish life

Why do the Spaniards call red wine vino tinto instead of vino rojo and what the heck is Tinto de verano?

The color red in spanish is rojo but, for red wine, they say vino tinto, not vino rojo.  Why, you may ask?

It essentially relates to the latin origin of the word “tinto” and also to the process of wine making.  “Tinto” comes from the Latin word “tinctus”, which means “dyed”, “stained” or “tinted”.

If you know about the wine making process, you know that it is the skin of the grapes that gives the wine its color.  Green grapes for white wine, red grapes for red wine unless you only use the flesh of the grapes.  Therefore, red grapes tint the white juicy flesh and dyes it its distinctive color.  Therefore, it is not really “red wine” it is “tinted wine”.

In Spain, you can order vino tinto, vino blanco, vino rosado which is rosé wine and Tinto de Verano!  What the heck is tinto the verano?!!  Its literal translation is the “Red wine of summer”.  It is a refreshing drink Spaniards enjoy in the hot summer months made of vino tinto and a lemon sparking pop called Limón.  I know, it sounds terrrible but believe me, it is deliciously cooling and perfect for the boiling hot summer days of Spain.  Most tourists will have a sweet and juicy Sangria but Spaniards on the other hand,  will for the most part, enjoy an icy cold, not too sweet, Tinto de Verano!




Posted in Spain, Spanish life

In Spain, you say going Tapas, not going to eat Tapas. Find out why here.

One of Spain’s true joys are Tapas.  These are the small dishes now so popular around the world who originated right here in Spain.  A Tapa is simply a small snack or appetizer traditionally consumed at lunch or in the early evening before a main meal. They are always enjoyed with a glass of wine, a beer or water if you don’t drink.  You never have a coffee or tea or cocktail with tapas in Spain.  It is just not done.  Also, the Spaniards will rarely drink without eating something at the same time.  The proper way is one tapa for each drink you order.

The word tapa means top, cover or lid in Spanish. The most likely legend is that the first Tapa was simply a slice of bread which was placed over the wine glass to keep the flies out.

The most interesting fact learn last night about tapas is that the Spaniards do not say, lets go eat some tapas.  They use the word as a verb.  It is an action to go Tapas, meaning getting together with friends for a drink, a bite and some fun social time.  Don’t you love how they live!!

In Andalucia and other parts of Spain, a tapa will often be given to you for free.  Yes, gratis!! when you order a drink.  How wonderful is that!!  And they are delicious, sometimes a culinary experience and source of pride for the bar.  Take a look at the feast we had on a night out with our wonderful Spanish school, La Escuela Idioma de Nerja.

Tapas are just another wonderful reason to come to Spain and enjoy its culture!  Salud!

Posted in Spain, Spain legalities

How can a non-European spend 6 months in Spain legally?

When we were planning our retirement, Terry and I dreamt of spending the winter months somewhere warm and sunny.  The winters in Vancouver are mild but dark and rainy.  I have always had this deep love for Europe and Terry loves it too.  Spain is Europe’s warmest and sunniest destination in the winter months.  So, it was only normal to start looking at Spain for our first winter abroad.

Snowbirding is customary  to many retired Canadians.  Our winters are harsh and when given the chance, many will head south to better climates for several months.  The US and Mexico, the most usual destinations for Canadians snowbirds, allow a six month stay.  When starting planning our long-stay in Spain, I never even thought six months was going to be an issue.

Spain is part of the Schengen Agreement which consists of 26 European countries. The Schengen Area operates very much like a single state for international travel purposes with external border controls for travellers entering and exiting the area, and common visas, but with no internal border controls.  Non-Europeans can only stay 3 months in the Schengen area at a time and a total of two 90 day period in a given year. So, this means that you can not stay in any country of the Schengen area without a special visa and no, you can NOT go out of the country or area for one day and come back.  The periods must be separated by 90 days.

We were shocked to find that out and I was almost in tears at the idea of not being able to come for the six month period, I had for several months by now, planned and dreamt about. So, we decided to bite the bullet and embarked on the long and tidous journey of applying for a long-stay Spanish Visa.  What fun 😤 it has been to navigate through this process!

Before going through the numerous steps we had to go through, let me say that most Canadians we spoke to, never applied for a Visa.  They just come and stay for as long as they want without any issues.  We are told and read in several online publications that the Spanish authorities are reknown for letting retires stay and turning the blind eye at border controls.  Terry and I however, like to sleep at night and play by the rules.  So, taking a chance wasn’t an option.  Little we knew however how ridiculously onerous the process would be.  To stay for more than 6 months, you have to apply for the non-lucrative residency visa.  It is the same visa if you want to move there or just, like us, visit for 6 months. Here are the steps if you are interested in continuing reading.

Step one: apply for the Spanish visa at the Spanish consulate. We had to go through Toronto as there are none in Vancouver. So everything was done by mail.  You must travel within 3 months of the visa approval.  So you can’t start the process too long in advance.  They require 3 forms completed, photos, original passports, proof of income, list of assets, proof of medical coverage, letter from your doctor stating that you do not have any infectious deseases and are in good health, a criminal record check, flights details and $760 Canadian each.  It took 2 and half months before getting the visas and our passports back.  We had to make numerous phone calls and follow ups to ensure that they had everything and to find out if we would be approved before our flights.  It was nerve racking to say the least but we got everything back 3 weeks before our trip and everything worked out.  Here is the link to the National Visas requirement page.

Step two: They give you a visa for 90 days, not 6 months.  When you get to Spain, you must report to the authorities within a month. Your passport is stamped when you entered the Schengen area.  For us it was Amsterdam on October 31. You then have to go to city hall in the town where you are staying and get on the padron (census). They will need your passport, your NIE (foreigner identity number issued by the Toronto consulate) and your rental contract where you are staying. We rented a Homeaway property for 5 months and we will be travelling the last month so, we used the Nerja 5 month property and drafted a short rental contract email confirmed by the property owners. That worked without issues. You then have to go to the closest comisaria de policia, Torre Del Mar for us, at 7:30am to line up for an hour to make sure you get in that day.

You then are given a number and have to patiently wait to see someone who will hopefully speak a little English. With my limited Spanish and the friendly person we met, we filled out more forms and were asked to get two more photos, form 790 and go pay the tax at a bank.


They don’t give you the form. You either have to download it yourself or to a printing office who specialize in doing just that for you. We met there another friendly man (everyone in Spain is super friendly which is a bonus dealing with this insane process) who printed the form, helped us filling it in and showed us the way to the photographer and the bank. Oh la la! What a day. You then go back to the comisaria de policia with all your signed forms, proof of paid tax which was 15.65 Euros and your photos. They then get your finger prints and issue a document which is your temporary foreigner card good for one year. They then explain that we have to come back in January to pick up the real card and if you want to come back next year, you need to renew it 3 months prior to expiry date at the Malaga foreigners office. Wait!! Three months prior! But we will be back in Canada then. We are pretty sure that we do want to come back next year after all this work, we are not prepare to let this foreign card go away. Once renewed next year, it will be good for 2 years given us the choice to go somewhere else and then maybe come back again if we want. So, we now need to go to step 3.

Step 3:  We wrote to the Malaga office and they confirmed in writing that you have to renew 3 months before or after the expiry date of your foreigner’s residence permit BUT you must come back to Spain before expiry date.  That is the main think to remember.  So we will be back before October 30 2018 to renew our Permiso de residencia which will be then renewed for a period of two years.  I will update this page next year to let you know how that part went!!