Living in Spain was not part of my bucket list. It was my husband’s. As so many of you reading will understand we sometimes do things for those we love that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. Living in Spain was one of those things.
I therefore let Mike do all the research on Spain and make a list of the safest cities to live in; what area had a good infrastructure and a good transportation hub and mostly where would it be fun to live. On a very short list of places he would be interested in living was the city of Torrevieja.
Torrevieja is located in south-eastern Spain directly on the Costa Blanca. It is a seaside city with a population over 100,000 and at one time was a major salt producing region of Spain and a major fishing spot. Torrevieja is surrounded by two large natural saltwater lagoons that form the well-known “Salterns of Torrevieja”, which are considered to be the biggest in Europe and the second largest in the world.
Many of the expats who live in Torrevieja come from the UK, Norway, Germany, Russia and Sweden. Mike and I were the only Americans in our part of town. In fact we were told that very few Americans have ever even been to this part of Spain.
The experience that stands out for me is that we were able to locate a pretty good place to live less than a five minute walk from the beach. Mike and I are not beach people but we ended up buying a beach umbrella and sitting on the sand almost every day. We would bring our sack lunches and then sit under our umbrella and read. I like people watching and there was plenty of that to do there as well.
What I struggled with in living in Spain was the constant dust that seemed to cover everything in the house. I would sweep the whole house (we had no vacuum cleaner and all tile floors) and the dust would be back by nightfall. I watched the women of Spain literally sweep daily and wash tile floors every other day in order to keep up with the dust. After pulling out my hair over this I finally asked another woman what the heck was up. She smiled indulgently and told me that the dust was coming up from the African continent and when it rained in Spain everything turns a rusty red color from the water mixing with the sand. She said there was nothing I could do about it so I swept daily and moped every other day.
The most horrible part of living in Torrevieja was dealing with all the dogs and their owners who felt that the sidewalks were the perfect place for the dogs to do their business and if no one was looking they didn’t need to clean it up. There were doggie poop piles everywhere and if you didn’t look down when you walked you could easily step into a little surprise that would ruin your day. Towards the end of our stay the dog owners wanted to be allowed to bring their pets to the beach and a loud outcry ensued because everyone knew that no dog owner would pick up the shit on the beach any more than they picked it up on the city streets.
As a transportation hub for our other travels Torrevieja was perfect. The weather was mostly mild and pleasant. The shop owners were friendly and very accommodating. Cost of living was in line with the rents we had paid in other countries in the EU and food costs were less than here in the US. I didn’t realize then but those wonderful bags of Valencia oranges that I was buying for 1.5 Euros were like gold. I was able to eat two oranges a day if I wanted because they were so cheap. Here in the US these same oranges cost almost a $1 each.
Torrevieja, being a beach town, has lots and lots of seasonal apartment rentals. The rental we were in is usually empty until May or so and then full throughout the summer and into September. Because we landed in January we literally had our pick of the rentals available. The rental had no forced air heat and no electric heater. We most likely wouldn’t have run it anyway since the electricity was so expensive so we learned to live bundled up in layers. It was still bone chillingly cold so I made a lot of vegetable soups and drank a lot of hot tea.
The friendliest people we met in Spain were all expats. We met shop owners from Cuba, Portugal, Colombia, Argentina and made new friends with people from England. No Spanish national made an effort to be friendly or get to know us. We certainly didn’t hide in our apartment; we went out every day to use the internet and mostly we used the free service located in the local library.
Culinarily Spain really doesn’t have much to brag about in the way of food. We ate Tapas a time or two and it is Spain’s version of bar food in the US. Most of it was uninspired and tasteless. We still don’t know what all the fuss is over. Mike attempted to eat many versions of paella and never found one that he liked.
Spain has a lot of history, and it was from Spain that Columbus sailed west and by mistake landed in the New World. However he bumped into us he found land and it forever changed Spain’s place in the world as a world power. Spanish is spoken throughout North, Central and South America and is said to be spoken in half of the countries in the world. That is some legacy.
In our six month stay we visited Cartagena, Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, Pilar, Benidorm, Alicante, and Granada. We know there were many more cities to see and explore but as is often the case no matter how much time you spend in a country you can’t see and do it all. In past blog postings I have recounted stories of many of the places we visited during our stay.
Spain has now been checked off Mike’s bucket list. Funny thing however, the more countries we check off the list the more we add to the list. We returned to the US to rest up and to get our travel mojo back. In the short number of days we have been back in the US we are already talking about our next adventure. I’m thinking Germany, then Norway, then Iceland. Decisions…decisions.