November 02, 2006


The drive from Almeria south towards Andalusia on the coast is quite thrilling in an older, heavy camper.... much more so than we had expected. Whoa baby! We have a winding, hilly road similar to this not too far from our home on highway one in Big Sur, so it reminded us of that road which we would also prefer not to drive in an older, over loaded camper and this one was also much hillier along with the hairpin curves on the coasts edge. (You might remember that Big Sur road from the Clint Eastwood thriller “Play Misty for me” that used the road for heightened drama, but it is tame next to this one).

The views were spectacular, but a bit hard to fully enjoy when one is not quite sure what is up next and
the signs keep saying “extremely dangerous road” in Spanish. Each steep hill up, as our seasoned camper chugged under the strain, we wondered if we would make it. I was too busy holding my breath and praying to capture much of the beauty on film. We were certainly glad that we did not end up doing this at night which had been a possibility had we not decided to go those extra miles. It was a thrilling way to enter Andalusia on a gorgeous sunny day and one we will never forget.

It did not help that the road is under construction, so some bizarre (to us) detours added to the fun as it
was not always clear where the road was going to. I was glad that going southward we were on the inside lane next to the mountains, but we are already thinking about looking into an alternative road for when we leave and head northward again. Perhaps we will go up to Madrid and then over to Valencia. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

I am not quite sure what to think of Spain thus far. It has been very different since the moment we crossed the border. I am not sure exactly what one can tell about a country just zooming by on a highway down a coast at a fairly fast pace but thus far it seems very different than the rest of Europe that we have seen.  Just the vast lands and open spaces makes it different and the weather is noticeably much warmer (perhaps that is a coincidence as they could be having a warm spell).

It looks and feels a lot like parts of Mexico’s coast and Baja too thus far (tho much, much cleaner as Mexico can be shockingly littered) and even parts of California. There are endless orange trees for miles and miles and lots of olive trees and semi arid mountains and landscape. Sometimes it seems silly to be half way across the world to find something so familiar. One part which was very flat and tropical reminded me of Florida. Yet it is not really like any of these places exactly either as it seems to have its own particular flavor. Like most places, it looks like its pictures, yet different in reality too as they can only catch bits and pieces.

We hate the looks of some of the over built coastal areas and we wonder who wants to live in those endless condo high rises and wish things were built with more harmony to the local beauty. Yet I suppose it is no difference than built up areas of Miami or Hawaii or Mexico. Being the warmest winter place in Europe, it
is a mecca in ways for northern Europeans. I have much to learn about Spain and my brain is on high speed trying to sort out things that I have read, the fantasy that comes with how one interprets what one reads and trying to analyze what I am seeing as we drive. I don’t feel an instant love for Spain thus far, but I am curious to know it more and somehow have a feeling that it is a place that takes a while to fully absorb. It is a large country with many diverse areas which probably all have different things to say to me,but for now we will focus primarily on Andalusia which in itself is a large area with many divergent aspects.

Andalusia comprises Spain’s eight most southerly provinces and is a region that is 34,700 square miles (or 90,000 square kilometers) large. The Romans colonized this area and grew wheat, wines and olive oil in
the fertile soil. The name comes from “Al Andulus” the Muslim name for all territory in the peninsula brought under the control of Islam. The area was, in fact, the longest occupied - 800 years in the case of Granada-and has retained more Moorish traditions than elsewhere in Spain. They spell it Andalucia in Spain and the English version seems to be Andalusia, so you will probably see me doing both as I go back and forth trying to decide which is most correct from my perspective.

The road to our village was also more hilly and challenging than we imagined. Somehow bringing a camper to a white village perched on a hill entailed more than what we fully realized. We will go in and out, but not in the way I imagined as it will be more of a chore than I expected with a camper. I knew there would be some challenges and  knew we would use the bus some, but as we approached we could get more sense of the reality. As DaVinci said when we hit Europe,” We are not in Kansas anymore ”and that definitely resonates here as we are in a new world to us. Still, there was something wonderful and familiar about seeing “our” village perched on its hill ahead of us.

It is a bit tricky to pick a home in a country that you have never been to in a village and area that you just picked from online information, hoping and guessing that it would meet your needs. Luckily you can do this today thru the internet, but there are still things that one can not know until arrival. We wanted to get the experience of authentic Spain, but not so remote that we would be totally isolated from everything we know. We picked living inside a village compared to a villa in the countryside because we wanted to
be able to walk around easily to things and make it easier for Mozart to walk to school and meet with friends without driving around. She has only known country living thus far, so it seemed time to
experience something new and the white villages in Andalusia appealed to us.

In all of Spain, I had to find one area that would meet our needs. It is complex too because this will be our home away from home, so while we want to experience authentic  Spain we also wanted a place that would comfort us and help us refresh from the culture shock aspects of living on the road in motion switching countries and languages regularly and the challenges of living in a camper. So far we have not had much problem with culture shock, but it is usually part of an expat’s experience, so I must keep that in mind.

In many ways, I picked an area that was similar to our home. For instance, it is in a mountainous/hilly region that is near the sea and it is warm in the winter with lots of sun, but not too far from a ski region in case we want some snow. We love those aspects of our hometown and knew we could find those similarities in southern Spain. We were not interested in the built up coastal areas, yet did not want to be too far out and wanted to be within comfortable driving distance to a major city and the conveniences it could offer. We would have preferred a place with perfect Castillian accent for Mozart, but those places were just too cold in the winter for us and hopefully her exposure to lots of different types of Spanish and Spanish TV, will keep her accent pure enough.

We picked a village that was 90% native Spanish with the ten percent made up of people from many different countries. We wanted a small village, but not so small that we would stand out like freaks of nature. After such a long wait it was electrifying to approach our village that we had seen so many pictures of, read everything we could about it, fretted about endless details and now were longing to finally be here in person!













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Hi there,

I have loved reading your adventures (I heard about you from the book The Art of Non-Conformity). As I have been reading, I haven't been able to find your mention of which village you are in? Would you share? We are considering wintering in Spain and I would love recommendations of landlords, rather than starting with a blind Internet search. Do you have any recommendations you could pass along? We have two children. 1.5 and 3.5 years old and this would be our first overseas extended stay. I am also wondering how you deal with visas for a winter stay? Thank you for your guidance! I look forward to hearing from you.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Hi Emily! Happy you found us!

I've written a lot on Spain, so make sure you catch all the posts that are chuck full of details that can help like:

We purposely do not put the name of "Our" village online, as a safety precaution for my daughter as it is one of our "homes" we return to.

I understand your request, but honestly, it is so easy to do once you are there as there are TONS of places and villages.

If you need encouragement just look at places like airbnb, bedycasa, wimdu, homeaway...but book it with local agents when you arrive for a long stay. MANY are English speaking owners from UK.

Easiest is tourist visa for 3 months, but you will have to then go to another country nearby ( easy) for 3 months before returning for another 3 months to stay legal.

Also could get long stay visa, but that is not easy, could also get language 6 month visa through a school for one parent.

Good luck and happy travels!

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