In the latest of our Spanish expat stories we feature Laetitia who is 60 and lives in the campo close to a village of around 2,500 souls in the Albaida Valley, which is roughly 30 minutes driving inland from Gandia (on Spain’s Costa Azahar).
Hello I’m Laetitia aged 60 and I live in the campo with my dogs and a cat, about 1.5 km from the village which I can see on its hill. The Spanish think I’m very brave! They don’t do campo (except for weekends and parties) which tickles me pink.
I’m close to a village of around 2,500 souls in the Albaida Valley, which is roughly 30 minutes driving inland from Gandia. It is a very beautiful, big valley with the mountains either side.
Two years down the line is a good time for reflection. On answering the inevitable question. Why?
No real reason except Why not?
Love it, love it, love it. Just wish I’d come earlier, but as always the timing wasn’t right. Now I’m here can’t imagine being anywhere else. I’m having so much fun.
My first year here was an incredibly steep learning curve with numerous adventures along the way. Having spent 6 months before moving learning Spanish, arrived here to find that I couldn’t make myself understood as the pronunciation is so different.
But as the Spaniards say ´poco, poco´. Interestingly all the Spanish I thought I’d learnt seems to have vanished from my brain completely.
I moved over here having bought my little house, in an area I had never even heard of. Saw it, I loved the view, and bought it.
A string of coincidences brought me here as usually happens in life. The area is called the Valley of Light and is very beautiful with the mountains all around showing their different faces during the day.
I flew over in the Autumn with my old dog, Doody. Hassle at the airport – you can’t take the dog. What! I had just bought his ticket – he was excess baggage. He was already booked and confirmed on my ticket, so he was ensconced in his cargo bed on the luggage trolley. Aeons later the all clear and mad scramble down into the bowels of the airport to hand him over for loading. A frantic run as the flight was giving the last call.
On arrival in Spain, where is my dog? In my best Spanglish I kept asking officials and kept being told to go to the baggage hall. Eventually I gave up and went to get my luggage and there he was on the baggage carousel.
My first night in my new house with the dog was very strange. One minute we were in England where everything is familiar, next minute we’re here with crates up to the ceiling all around us.
Slightly anxious time waiting for my horse to arrive, having left her in a field being cared for by a friend. Phone call – she’s left England and is on her way.
Great excitement. She arrived looking a million dollars, totally unfazed by her three day journey and more concerned about having her tea.
So here we are all safely gathered in.
It’s amazing how one gets used to ‘I’ll meet you off so and so round about, junction, petrol station, whatever’ Purely because people who live out in the campo, or have summer casitas, are almost impossible to find. If truth be known it took me several false goes to actually find my own house.
It does help if one is fairly clued up with following another car especially in the dark. Going out for dinner with some friends I managed to miss the turning in the village completely and was eventually rescued, an hour later!
Trouble was my Spanish pronunciation is so execrable that the Spanish friend coming to find me couldn’t understand me at all until I spelt out the name of the shop I was outside. He laughed like a drain as I was just round the corner.
I was determined to create a garden as soon as possible, not heeding sound advice to wait until you’ve been here a while before embarking on any lengthy and expensive projects. I rushed off and bought all these wonderful plants and trees – like jacaranda and ficus.
Practically killed myself planting everything and had very little time to enjoy them as the winter was upon us. I lost every single thing to a severe frost. Frost in Spain? Yes, in my neck of the woods – frost. So having asked around and by looking, I now have hardy trees/plants with more exotic ones in pots and no further casualties.
After the first flush of excitement and spending most of my time out with the horse or socialising, life has settled into a bit of a routine. After all I can’t spend my entire time drinking café con leche (which I am hooked on) and gossiping.
I am concentrating hard on learning Spanish and can at least make myself understood now, more or less!
I am still absolutely thrilled to be able to have a bit of a conversation with a Spanish friend. I have made some very good friends with all different sorts of people and nationalities from all over the area.
I find the Spanish a wonderful, warm people. They are so patient and encouraging with my faltering Spanish.
They work very hard and are also great party people. They really enjoy themselves and live life with great gusto, and sweep me up along with them which I find absolutely marvellous.
My horse has settled really well and we go out for long rides/drives. With Doody by my feet and the horse singing, we bowl along endless tracks with stunning scenery and cloudless blue skies, bliss.
I have very full, busy days. I am retired and had my 60th birthday last October. I had a big party (paella cooked by the ladies in the village) and had to stop inviting people when I reached just over the 50 mark – not enough room. I actually know and count as friends almost more Spaniards than Brits.
Especially during my first year, I tried to approach every new experience as an adventure and still do and as a result enjoy myself immensely.
So all in all my move here was the best thing I could ever have done.
Laetitia (aged 60) – Albaida Valley – Spain.
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