Our first year in Spain has been all that we expected – and more.
We saw London dressed in her best for the Christmas season:
We wandered through Christmas markets in Germany:
We admired the snow-topped Alps from our hotel window in Murren:
We watched our oldest propose to his girlfriend at Sagrada Familia:
We explored the Alhambra – more than once:
We roamed the Mezquita and the old quarter of Cordoba:
We enjoyed seafood on Mallorca:
We immersed ourselves in culture in Italy:
We investigated the past in Cartagena:
We revisited Prague, one of our favorite cities:
We tasted wine and tapas throughout Spain:
We spent the weekend in Paris:
We became regulars at Xiringito:
We shared our new home with friends from home:
Best of all, we made really good friends in our new home:
People back home ask us what’s different than we expected. Nothing, really.
We’ve learned a lot, though.
We’ve learned that paperwork takes time. And multiple trips to multiple offices. And prepayment of fees at the bank.
We’ve learned that a smile and a positive attitude go a long way toward communication.
We’ve learned to shop for just what we can carry.
We’ve learned to appreciate fresh foods that actually have taste.
We’ve learned to slow down and enjoy meals. No more 20-minute lunches.
We’ve learned to just chill at the beach and watch the waves – and the people.
We’ve learned to spend all afternoon – or evening – nursing a drink.
We’ve learned that ex-pats – no matter where they’re from – automatically have enough in common to become friends fast.
We’d lived in Spain just over a year when we took a trip back to Texas.
We caught up with our doctors (even though we’re healthy, getting older sucks).
We overdosed on our favorite restaurants and foods that we can’t get in Spain (Tex-Mex and Ruffles with Borden’s French onion dip and Velveeta-and-Rotel queso).
Most importantly, we caught up in person with family and friends. Facebook is a godsend, but nothing beats face-to-face with drinks in hand!
I expected to feel a bit torn between the two worlds. But, while it was great to spend time with family and friends, I missed our life in Spain. Spain had become home.
I missed our Mercado, with all of its fresh seafood and fruits and vegetables:
I missed our pedestrian lifestyle with convenient public transportation.
I missed our favorite cafes and bars:
I missed our frequent parades and fireworks:
I missed our Alicantino friends.
Texas will always be Home with a capital H, but my home now is in Spain.
In our first year in Alicante we had five sets of visitors, and it’s been interesting to see our new home through their eyes.
They love our sunny apartment, with our view of the Med:
They love our Mercado, with all of its sights and smells and our favorite stop-in: Katana.
They love our beach, with its lack of body shaming and our favorite stop-by: Xiringuito Postiguet, with its views, drinks, music, and friendly staff:
They love our castle, accessible by elevator:
They love our old town, with its sidewalk restaurants, including La Taberna San Pascual, run by our friend Antonio:
They love our neighborhood park and its outdoor bar: Sotello:
They love our sangria.
No judgment either way, just general observations, and not universal:
· Women are either dressed stylishly, or really not.
· Women don’t wear hose.
· Men don’t wear socks with suits or dress pants.
· Parents push strollers, but carry babies.
· Small children cry and scream – perhaps related to the point above?
· People move with more purpose.
· People don’t stop and block sidewalk traffic just to chat – perhaps related to the point above?
· While many shops also close in the afternoon, they close for good by 8:00.
· Lots of bicycles.
· Pay phones and condom machines on the streets, but no mail boxes.
Sunday afternoon. Music wafting up to our apartment from the street. I look out. Just another parade. Mostly women. Mostly dressed in highly ruffled flamenco-style dresses. Two carts pulled by festively adorned mules. Two more floats pulled by cars. No idea who. Or what. Or why. Just another day.
We see 2-3 parades a month. And 4-5 protests. Most of the time, we have no idea what they’re about. Such is life in Spain!
And Sunday evening, all hell broke loose on the plaza. Car horns, air horns, yelling, singing. Real Madrid won la Liga, and the local supporters were out in force.
We are fortunate to have a washing machine in our apartment. As is typical, we have no dryer.
The place we rented when we came to hunt for an apartment had a combination washer-dryer. All we could figure out was that that meant clothes came out HOT and damp, not really dry.
There are several laundry lines outside the kitchen window. We’ve lost several towels to wind. Todd was able to rescue one from the apartment below us, but one kitchen and one bath towel have yet to come home.(see photo).
Most of our clothes we dry on a rack inside the apartment. It takes up a lot of room in the guest bedroom, and it’s always out, as we are always in the process of doing laundry. We hang shirts in the bathroom or in the doorways.
Occasionally, we take sheets and towels, and maybe jeans, to the laundromat. It’s nice when they can get dried and not end up crunchy and stiff! As an additional benefit, the laundromat is across from a Columbian panaderia, so what’s not to love?
A couple of times now, Todd has taken his better shirts and slacks to the cleaner’s. Just as clothing in general seems to be more expensive here, so, too, does cleaning. Oh, well. The last time, we paid in advance and the guy told us we could pick everything up Sabado por la manana. So Todd went back to the tintoria Saturday morning: it was closed. He went back Monday morning, and the guy wanted to see his passport before he would give him his clothes. Never mind that we had paid upfront – with a credit card. Or that we were probably the only Americans he had seen in weeks, if not months, if not ever. The guy reluctantly accepted Todd’s residency card as evidence of his identity.