Outstanding Oviedo

September 14, 2017

Have you ever heard of Oviedo? I’m guessing, probably not. What about Asturias? Did you know that this is a province in Northern Spain, and Oviedo is its capital city?

Maybe I’m wrong and you’re a geography buff, or maybe you remember this place being featured in Woody Allen’s movie, “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona,” as the lusty getaway.

I was clueless about this destination, and now consider our visit there, as the BEST kind of luck. When Dan and I began planning our move to Spain, our visa required that we enter the country in July, but our new home was not going to be available until August 16th. We found our least expensive flight to Barcelona on July 17th, and began to plan a month of exploration to fill the gap. The beginning of our trip with five days in Barcelona and ten in Mallorca was formulated without effort, thanks to cheap flights and the generosity of Peter, who let us stay in his house in the Balearics,… but where to next? The tricky part was that Dan was not on holiday. For the most part, he had to work full-time. For this reason, we did not want to be moving around a lot, dragging our massive luggage around the country.

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More to Mallorca than Beaches

August 25, 2017

My previous post highlighted surf and sand in Mallorca, showing only the periphery of this stunning isle. Although the platjes and calas might satisfy the majority of visitors, the locals know that a place is not defined by its leisure culture alone. It was the city of Palma and the myriad of picturesque villages that really stole my heart and my imagination. These were the places that made Mallorca livable and less of a packaged sun holiday, and they were beautiful to boot. What amazed me was how much open land still exists in a place as highly desirable to live in as the Balearic Islands. There are miles of rugged and undeveloped coastline, and a vast interior dedicated to olives, almonds, goats and sheep. When we first arrived, picked up our car rental, and ditched the density of Palma for the countryside and its farms, I was taken by the old windmills on cylindrical or squared stone towers, and patches of orchards divided by crumbling, rock walls. We drove off the interstate onto narrow, winding roads, with vistas of distant craggy mountains and golden fields. there was not a beach in sight, only the knowledge of its proximity. It really felt like it was possible to get away from all of the touristic clamor.

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The Magic of Mallorca

August 14, 2017

Mallorca, Spain is the largest of four Balearic islands (including Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera) in the Mediterranean Sea. If you have heard of it, it is likely as a beach destination especially popular with German and British holiday makers; or, maybe you are familiar with the classic book by the French author, George Sand, called “A Winter in Majorca,” in which she describes a miserable stay in the hilly village of Valldemossa with her children, and her lover, the ailing and tubercular composer, Frederic Chopin. I knew of this destination from stories my parents, brother, and sister told me, of their visit almost 30 years ago, when I was left behind in California as a busy, high school student. I was made jealous by tales of waterparks, magical caves twinkling with lights, and pristine beaches with warm, azure water.

Our family’s opportunity to visit arose serendipitously, springing out of the generosity of a German friend. When we were traveling in Udaipur, India, and my beloved iPhone dropped into the murky waters of its polluted lake, Peter was the first to try and assuage our pain with a numbing glass of whiskey. This act of commiseration cemented a friendship that has continued to this day. He made it his duty to banish our negative thoughts and misdirected blame toward the spirit of a place, by sharing with us his favorite restaurants and rooftop swimming pools, and introducing us to expat friends who expounded on the charms of Udaipur. Peter visited us in Portland, where we shared our plans to move to Spain. He convinced us that we must see Mallorca, as guests in his finca (a modest cottage on agricultural land). Unfortunately, he was not present at the time of our travels, but he opened his home to us, for our 10-day sojourn.

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Brava Barcelona!

August 4, 2017

It was impossible for me to sleep on our flight from Los Angeles to Barcelona, despite the fact that the travel gods were with us. We scored an empty seat between us, in each three-seat section. This meant that both Gabriel and Stella were able to lay prone with their feet or head in Dan’s or my lap, and snooze. The flight was almost eleven hours, during which I tried to forget a dream that I had last summer. In that long ago slumber, my deceased grandmother visited me and prophesied that my life would end on my next flight; but, as made apparent by these words, I survived. Perhaps, the true interpretation of that dream is as my sister believed, that the only thing that would die would be my old life.

Here begins more than a new chapter – I’ve entered a new book – yet, our landing in Barcelona felt like nothing other than dejavu. All four of us were struck by the similarities to our August 2015 trip to Rome, our entry place to an epic year of travel. Dan and I tried to recall our own individual visits to Barcelona over twenty years ago…reminiscing on young lives long-aged. Even though we knew that this time would be different, odd coincidences proved that some things don’t change.

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July 6, 2017

Seven months later, and I am finally tackling an update…

Before I began this entry, I reread my December 2017 post and felt some self-satisfaction that we have accomplished our intended goal. We are moving to Spain!

In March, we finally compiled all the necessary documents for a non-lucrative resident visa in Spain, and made a journey to San Francisco to submit our application. The process was more complicated and expensive than I had imagined, with several roadblocks to a smooth approval. Specifically, we had to order new birth and marriage certificates which required notaries and apostiles, get background checks, supply evidence of financial security, then purchase medical coverage for a year abroad – with all documents officially translated into Spanish. The Spanish consulate was very precise about the requirements, yet had murky descriptions on their website which were not elucidated until we could speak with a representative in person. It took months for us to satisfy the visa application, with numerous hurdles that made me question our decision. It is only now when our efforts have paid off that I can shake off the frustration; BUT, it won’t be until the moment that we arrive, that we will know in our marrow that the challenges were worth it.

On July 17th, we will fly to Barcelona and spend a month traveling around Spain until we move into our flat in Granada on August 16th. There, we will make our home in the Albaicin barrio. Stella and Gabriel will attend a local public school, experiencing pure Castilian language immersion. Dan will continue working for Airtreks (a US-based Internet company), and I will continue revisions on my historical fiction novel. Our goal is to learn Spanish and experience a new culture in-depth. Living abroad represents a fulfillment of a dream – one which I hope to share with our readers!

What Now?

December 7, 2016

Before we officially landed on US soil, marking the end of our months of travel, I ‘journaled’ the following entry:

Wrapping up our trip. It all happened quickly. Before we knew it, our conversations were focused on the future, on a sedentary life with no backpacks, a familiar pillow and a cup to store your toothbrush in. Is this really what we want? To return to a life of predictability and commonplace responsibilities? We found the drive and determination to pull ourselves away from the treadmill, yet find ourselves slipping back into the belief that we must return to routine. It feels like a step backward as opposed to an inspired leap into a new way of shaping our lives. How do we keep alive the awe and surprise that comes with the “new”- the immersion in the moment?

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