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!!

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.

Posted in Spain, Spanish life

Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel, an absolute Foodie’s paradise

We just got to Madrid and discovered the Mercado San Miguel right next to the little apartment we rented for 3 nights by Plaza Mayor. What an amazing place. Muy maravilloso!!! We have never seen anything like this. It is an epicurean’s delight of food to buy and eat on the spot with a glass of wine, beer or premium sangria. Wow! Look at that food. Everything is so fresh and delicious. A feast for the eyes and the palate. What a great idea to be able to just walk in with a friend, and have a bit to eat with a drink. Can’t wait to go back tomorrow!!


Posted in Spain, Spanish life

Here is my Spanish language friend Sandra!

I completed my first two week Spanish course but I need much practice.  I therefore found a friend to speak with a couple of times a week.  Here is the gorgeous and fun Sandra.  She is mucho guapa y muy sympatica!!  We talk of everything and nothing and she is very patient even if I am struggling a lot.  She gives me great tips about the culture and what to do and see in Spain.  She lived 12 years in Madrid and had great recommendation for our getaway to the capital next week.  Stay tuned, I will share them with you!!