A Learning Experience

We don’t call it failure; we call it a learning experience and a lot of fun…

Note to self and others who may be considering moving overseas—

  1. Give yourself time to settle into retirement. Leaving 45+ years of employment, clearing out your home and moving to a new country should be tackled over a multi-year period—not a matter of months.
  2. Try living in the new place for 30-60-90 days over two to five years. Check out the culture to be assured you click. Does smoking bother you? What are the things you can adjust to, which are deal breakers?
  3. Does your lifestyle fit with your new home? We came from a large, clean, quiet, private home to a noisy, city apartment with neighbors on top, below and ten feet across from us. You can hear your neighbors sneeze. The Spaniards love to celebrate and do so with gusto and fireworks! Partiers revel down the street until dawn.
  4. Are you a light sleeper? City life can be extremely noisy. Besides the revelers coming home at all hours, three dumpsters (full of glass) are picked up outside our window every night between 2-3 am–this goes on for 5-10 minutes every night (not kidding!) They say that lack of consistent sleep is tied to wellness. After four months of interrupted sleep, I believe it. Craig and I have been under the weather more than we wished.
  5. How well do you handle noise? It’s come to the point, where we hardly hear the church bells anymore. However, they do start ringing at 8 am and the last bells are at midnight. The bells have become our guide to when to sleep. We can live with the bells, but the constant construction noise has us going bonkers. With a city that is more than 700 years old, there is ALWAYS a lot of repair and remodeling going on around us.
  6. Do you have a plan for post employment? Are you really ready to quit working? I have devoted the past 30 years of my life to helping others. I had no transition plan from work to retirement to make me feel that I was contributing to society. This was extremely difficult for me. I miss working!
  7. Love, true love? Going from spending 8-10 hours a day to 24/7 with your spouse is difficult in the best scenarios. However, it is quite different when you have only each on which to rely. Back home we have our escapes from one another through friends, sports, hobbies. While we have met lovely folks, it’s not the same after a lifetime of friendships and ability to getaway when necessary.

The Good We Discovered

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Spain has so much culture, art and history—we could spend the next ten years here and never see it all. We stayed pretty close to home, but took some amazing holidays.

A restaurant with a chef, server and four tables can serve up gourmet food as well as any four-star restaurant.

Our local bodega sells thousands of varieties of wine as well as vermouth stored in old wooden kegs!

We found the Spaniards are very open and warm if you respect their culture and try to speak their language. Even when we didn’t speak the same language, we found ways to communicate and made some lifelong Spanish friends.

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The history, art and architecture are mind-boggling. Its sense of history is different. Unless something is more than 500 years old, Spaniards don’t consider it “old.” Funny, a 100-year-old home in US is historic, here that’s considered new.

From small villages to large cities, there is great emphasis on local customs and culture. Their pride is evident in their music, dancing, food, festivals more.

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This is one of dozens of fabric stores where locals shop to create the traditional dresses for Fallas. Valencianos prepare all year for Fallas, a celebration each March that lights the city ablaze!
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Towards the end of our holiday, we contacted last year’s Airbnb host from Vila Franca to reconnect and take to lunch. Next thing we know, we are back out at their organic farm for two days of pure delight! We visited his family’s farm and horse ranch, 800-year-old homes, picked grapes and blackberries and visited a wonderful winery. Ferran’s Airbnb listing: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3738382

It has been wonderful relying on our feet or bicycles to get around Valencia, and it shows! Craig and I both have lost considerable weight. This is from much more exercise that we were getting in the US as well as eating fresher, healthier foods on the Spanish schedule of a large lunch between 2-4 pm and light dinner.

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While we used electronic communications like wifi calling, instant messaging, Facetime and Duo, and were truly grateful for them, none replace the warm embrace or kiss from a loved one or friend.

So with heavy heart, we have made our decision to move back home. We want a “do over!” I plan to go back to work fulltime, Craig may go back to his health clinic a few days a week, but begin to enjoy retirement back home—painting, tennis, golf and bicycling. We’ll be refurnishing and restocking our home—but plan to do so with a minimalist frame of mind.

First things first…visit the families! Ben and Gabby had their little boy on July 1. I can’t wait to meet Mr. Mason! Ruthie turned one year on September 1 and is getting ready for her first steps. I want to be there to see her milestones. Craig and I both miss our 90-year-old dads and our kids. Craig plans to go back to Michigan to play golf with John and visit his sister and family. I already booked tickets to take Al to the symphony.

Starting over (again) is very exciting. It is our hope that we will spend four weeks each year getting away to a new place—in the US, Canada, Europe or who knows where. We’d like to spend time in many places that we might revisit for our “real retirement” down the road.

We depart Valencia in three days. The past four months have been a roller coaster—lots of splendid memories of new friends, great food, wonderful discoveries of art and culture. We’ll be sure to add our last few trips with pictures on the blog, as we still have many entertaining stories to tell about Spanish wines, cava and vermouth; tasty tapas and much, much more.

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I Promise I’ll Write Soon!

Busy with life–learning a new culture, new language, adjusting. Here’s a few photos to let you know we are alive and well and promise we’ll get you up-to-date soon!

The rain in Spain…looking down from our third story walk-up
Spanish horchata comes from tiger nuts that are farmed nearby in the Alboraya area. Craig and I biked through the region last weekend.

 

 

 

Kindred Spirits–or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Since discovering Valencia, I have been following a fellow Valencian blogger, Jill’s Urban Food Crawl. She kindly reached out upon our arrival to share info about an expat group that meets regularly. @InterNations has over 500 members here in Valencia and thousands around the world. It organizes and matches individuals by their interests to events—i.e. hiking, arts and culture, jazz, etc.

Friday evening Craig and I headed down to the Marina Real for an InterNations gathering. We intentionally got there early to get our bearings and meet people before it got too crowded.

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Magic at the Marina

The first folks we met were couples Leslie and Dwight, Richard and Tom. Former Chicago educators, Richard and Tom have spent most of every year here since 2015, returning home to Florida from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Retiring, selling their high-rise apartment in downtown Chicago, Leslie and Dwight came to Valencia permanently in September last year. People were surprised we found InterNations so quickly and chatted us up about all the Valencia had to offer, things we had in common, our take on American politics, et al.

Within a very short time we learned that we all rented from Anthony of @PerfectSpain in Barrio del Carmen and live in the same building with Leslie and Dwight—and it is only a six apartment building! The evening breeze arose off the Mediterranean and the light began to diminish around 10 pm as the gathering continued to go on strong. Our new friends were kind enough to invite us to dinner, walking just a few blocks to their friend Sheree’s restaurant, Hosteria El Vizio. Upon arrival, Sheree, welcomed us warmly. An expat New Zealander, Sheree gave up a super busy, high-stress job in Rome ten years ago to start her restaurant. With a heart of gold and a laugh to light up the night, Sheree had her very accommodating staff placed three tables on sidewalk so we could enjoy our dinner and evening breeze.

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Her friend Vanessa is an Australian expat, who also came here years ago for America’s Cup. Her husband is a professional America’s Cup-level sailor, participating in the last nine… yes, count them… America’s Cup competitions! She and her husband are raising two teenage girls and are spending much of this summer taking in friends and family from around the world. While we were dining, Vanessa’s husband FaceTimed her from Bermuda where he was working this year’s America’s Cup, however sailing on a different category boat.

Sheree brought out a refreshing white wine and ordered three pizzas that turned out to be a multitude of delicious toppings—including eggplant and prosciutto. Everyone shared their travels throughout Spain, paradors (old converted castles and convents that are now incredibly luxurious hotels), trips to Ibiza, day trips to Albufera national park, and lots of other great hints they have come to know.

As we ate, drank, shared stories and commiserated, I thought to myself, “I could get used to this.” Meeting new people; warm, welcoming companionship; great food and drink in a picturesque city.

We walked to the street to catch taxis home, Leslie said, “Nights like this are exactly why we came to Valencia.”

I couldn’t agree with her more.

 

Drawn to Masterpieces of Talent, Whimsy, Social Statements

Valencians are appreciative of arts and culture. As such, shopkeepers commission local artists to create masterpieces on their security shutters and walls. The result is a plethora of fun, whimsical and often political and social statements. Craig and I are drawn to these masterpieces (pun intended).

 

After our morning visiting Gran Via, we headed down to the Alternative Festival along the Jardin del Turia.

The Turia Garden is a 110 hectacres (270+ acres) public park, with a length of more than nine kilometers. Crowned by 18 centuries-old bridges the garden was built on the river Turía bed that was diverted to avoid the continuous floods that the city suffered. After the great flood that desolated the city in 1957, the city channels the Turia to the south leaving this strip of land that crosses the city from west to east, surrounding the historic center. Inaugurated in 1986, several urbanists and landscapers designed the different stretches, reproducing the old river landscape and creating a unique route populated by palm trees and orange trees, fountains and pines, aromatic plants and ponds, sports courts and rose gardens. Each evening after dinner, we stroll over one of the historic bridges or down into the park to watch a fütbol game, cyclists and runners.

The Alternative Festival was filled with thousands of Spaniards, eating, drinking, shopping and dancing to live music. It felt like a throwback to the 60’s filled with artists selling their wares– weaving, woodcarving, leatherworks, handmade children’s toys and more. The welcoming of diversity of Valencia is one of the reasons that drew us to this special place.

Local children making a mud-wall casa

The evening features teams of drummers vying for top honors. While we didn’t stay late enough to watch the competition, we did watch the “green team” practicing on an earlier evening.

The folks here are apologizing for the weather. It topped out at 84° here today and it is a tad humid.

All Our Bags are Packed, We’re Ready to Go… Well, Almost

One week from now we will be landing in Barcelona to begin our adventure! Unfortunately, no time for the Gaudy sites this trip.

This past week was a busy one in the Wells home. Thursday was my final day with my client with my client @MesaArtsCenter. They gave me a wonderful send off with cake, card and gift. It is truly wonderful to retire on a high note. My clients are appreciative and poised for success. I feel very grateful to have been able to serve so many worthy nonprofits over the past 30 years.

As many of you saw on our social media accounts, we packed our items that will be shipped to Valencia via freighter. That was a chore onto itself! Weeks of packing, down to the wire, Craig palletized all of our boxes on a nice cool day of about 105 degrees+ in the garage! The evening before the trucking company was set to arrive, we wrapped the entire contents in plastic and strapping. Talk about hot, hard work!

The Shipping Surgeon!

The trucking company arrived with a 40ft. semi to pick up our pallet. The driver gave us an A+ for our packing job. He said we wouldn’t believe how many folks are completely unprepared for shipping. I am so glad that Craig is a great researcher and does his homework.

Holy moly! An 18-wheeler picked up our “life on a pallet” Valencia here we come!

We had a dry run packing our suitcases last week, and are convinced we are not going to get everything we want into four bags. Now we have to determine if we will ship one more box and if so, what items to include. Flying premier on @Fly_Norwegian we are able to bring four bags of 22kg each. Decisions, decisions.

The movers come tomorrow to pick up our belonging to store in a 5 x 15’ container. Family photos, artwork and our few favorite pieces of furniture.

The holiday weekend was spent with friends sharing memories, food and wine. While there is sadness in leaving our close, cherished friends, we hope they will come visit so we can share our new country with them. Both being outgoing individuals, we plan meet new folks who will become our new Spanish amigos.

 

 

 

 

We Did It!

We picked up our visas from the Spanish Consulate yesterday. The woman who assisted was lovely (as was the previous) and was delighted for us. She asked where we were planning to live and when we said Valencia, the gentleman next to us said, “That’s where I am from! Valencia is the best!” The Consulate employee said, “Yes, Valencia is lovely, but San Sebastian is best!” We all chuckled and told them we were looking forward to exploring all of Spain and San Sebastian was high on our list. This pleased her very much! Their warmth reminded us why we chose Spain and the kindness of its people.

But the best part of the day was spending time with our LA kids and beautiful granddaughter! Thank goodness for FaceTime! It would be a lot more difficult without being able to connect daily if necessary to see her and our newest addition (due this July in NYC) regularly, as well as our son and daughter here in Arizona. While it is very emotional to be moving far away, we know Ruthie has competent, capable, amazing parents–who promise to bring her to Spain every year!

Our singing sweetheart serenaded us on the way to dinner! 

As the final days tick by, we are reminded of lots of work still ahead–sorting, packing, selling, cleaning, storing. The saga continues…

The Beginning of Goodbye

We adore our friends and families. That being said, I believe the next few weeks saying goodbye to those we love will truly be the most difficult. Both Craig and my fathers are 89 years old. Fortunately, Craig’s dad is active and in great shape, playing golf and living quite well. My father has gone down hill since my mother’s passing in September—he misses her terribly.

Craig returned to his birthplace in Michigan to visit his father and other family. This weekend I returned to the town where my kids grew up and I lived for 20 years before moving to Phoenix in 2008 for my farewell to a few of my dearest friends.

The girls planned my going-away dinner at one of Prescott’s best restaurants, El Gato Azul. Owned and operated by phenomenal chef and restaurateur Barry Barbe. Gato is a crown jewel in the small town of Prescott, AZ. For more than a decade Barry has featured scrumptious tapas and Spanish-inspired, fusion entrees created for adventurous palates. The tiniest of eateries, tucked along-side Granite Creek and a huge office building, Gato is always packed to the hilt with locals and a few visitors lucky enough to discover this gem.

Round I – fresh, specially prepared tapas por mi y amigas.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

As we ordered our drinks, Barry returned to the kitchen to get creative with a Cinco de Mayo-inspired menu. He proceed to serve us four specially created tapas. The first was a duck taquito with a cilantro crème fraiche, mini chicken mole enchiladas that were savory and scrumptious. Barry filled a margarita glass with smoky and spicy colossal shrimp, and completed the first round of tapas with gazpacho-inspired salsa and chips.

We sipped our refreshing sangria and continued to enjoy our meal as we reminisced about all the special meals Barry created for us over the years including both my sons’ high school graduation parties, numerous holiday events and more.

Even though Gato was packed to the gills, Barry took the time to create three more personally inspired tapas. The next by far was totally Spanish and by far one of the extraordinary flavor—saffron croquette with a mushroom ragu and rosemary cream. OMG! The flavors melded together in delight!

Saffron Croquettes – LOVE!

Next was a roasted duck breast with goat cheese crostini with a Jezebel sauce. This sweet and spicy sauce gets its sweetness from apricot preserves and a spicy kick from mustard and horseradish.

Roasted duck & goat cheese crostini…it kept getting better!

The second round was topped off with a crab Caprese salad with fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella pearls.

Chunks of fresh crab meat melded beautifully with the mozzarella pearls and sweet tomatoes.

Stuffed to the gills, we had to finish our meal with a shared crème brulee that melted in our mouths.

The rest of the evening was spent walking around the quaint Courthouse Square and sharing stories of the past 25+ years and thoughts of what Craig and I will discover in Valencia. My friends reminded me at I would not have any trouble finding new, wonderful friends in Spain. (It’s my reserved and quiet personality that keeps me from meeting people…not!) I can only hope and pray they are as dear as the friendships I have developed here in Arizona.

 

The End is Near!

Holy moly! Ten years ago I thought I would be working until I was 70, now at age 58, I will be retiring in four weeks. Craig retires today! Craig was a reinvented, reimagined soul. At age 50 after a long career as a commercial photographer, with a sick wife and two teenagers, he went back to school for his third degree—this time in nursing. When we met in 2008, he was completing his master’s degree as a Nurse Practitioner. While he enjoyed many opportunities in health care, his most fulfilling was his last three years in a community health clinic serving the indigent and refugees. He would come home to tell me about families from Congo, Bhutan, Sudan, Iran, Iraq and many others—all coming to America to start a new life.

However, the thought of reinventing ourselves AGAIN is truly exciting. Moving to a new place where we know no one, hardly speak the language and discovering a new culture is both terrifying and thrilling.

Things we will miss in the US: our family and friends, Amazon Prime and Costco.

Our new way of shopping…so long Costco!

Things we won’t miss in the US: politics, racism and bigotry, our cars and Costco. It’s funny how as Americans we are taught to consume—the mass quantities of groceries, new cars, big homes—all things we are happy to leave behind in search of a local bakery, mercado, cafes on every street corner with coffee, wine and tapas. Living without a vehicle feels liberating—no gas, insurance, long commutes or traffic jams in exchange for new folding bikes to meander along town and beach bike paths, the subway, buses and trains for out-of-town travel

Valencia train station – magnificent art and 

architecture with mosaic tile everywhere!

We will arrive in Valencia with two large suitcases each, with plans to ship Craig’s art supplies as well as a few kitchen and bath items via slow boat. So while the end in the US is near, our new beginning is just around the corner. We are ready (almost) for our new adventure.