Discovering Spain Through Its Many Expat Stories…
A few weeks back from a whirlwind scouting trip in Spain, and I’m still keeping the culture alive here at home in Paris…
While there, I became addicted to the typical Spanish breakfast: tostadas and café con leche.
Nearly every day I was there, traveling southwest from Zaragoza to Valencia, Los Alcázares, and Murcia, I would arrange for a breakfast interview. I’d venture out in each new city, and first thing would meet some expat or another—each with back stories as wildly different as their new lifestyles in this diverse country—and we’d have breakfast.
Whether in a city café steps from a medieval tower… at a chiringuito on the boardwalk in a little beach town… in a quirky bookstore/arts venue/performance space… or at a lean-to with your feet in the sea…
No matter where you go in Spain, you’re sure to be offered a tostada and a café con leche before noon.
Tostada just means toast in Spanish, but in Spain, it’s a specific breakfast staple.
A simple small baguette cut in half, toasted, spread with tomatade, and layered with any number of delicious local specialties, from serrano ham to sardines, avocado to eggplant. Or left simple, pan con tomate.
There’s nothing like it to start the day.
I missed it so much that I’ve made it at home nearly every day since I returned. The new ritual reminds me of my travels, helping put me in the mindset to recollect. I think of it as writing fuel.
(Pro tip: If you try this at home, rub a garlic clove on the toast before layering on the tomatade.)
The conversations I enjoyed during these outings was as much part of the delight as the cuisine.
As I say, each of the folks I was lucky enough to meet in Spain couldn’t have been more different from one another.
Eugene Costello is a mid-50s Londoner who began to question his life in the U.K. after he and then his brother suffered serious health events. He moved to Valencia in 2020, started an online newspaper, Valencia Life. He rents a massive, four-bedroom apartment with two balconies in a historic building for 900 euros a month—and he’s so well entrenched in his new neighborhood that every few minutes we paused the interview for him to chat with some passing neighbor or another.
Micah Hart is a young father who moved here from Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and two boys last September. They only intended to stay for a year but almost immediately decided it would be at least two… if not more. They rent a three-bedroom apartment for 1,600 euros a month, which, he says, is actually an inflated price. “We had been living out of suitcases for two and a half months, and we just wanted to get settled. I think we actually got lucky that it was overpriced—that was the only reason it was still on the market.”
Liz Whitehouse, originally from the U.K., moved to the Murcia region over 30 years ago with her husband. They ran a farm here together until he passed away a few years ago, and she’s since moved into an apartment by the beach.
Julian Preston-Powers moved to the El Valle golf community near Murcia 18 months ago along with his wife and six children. In fact, they bought two houses in the estate, one to live in and one to rent out. The spare, six-bedroom villa rents for an average of US$660 a night and it currently only has a couple days’ availability per month all the way through September. His kids go to the local public school, conveniently picked up by bus at the gates of the community and delivered back again at the end of each day.
Andy Young moved to the Costa Blanca 20 years ago as a young bachelor and got into the real estate business. He moved around a bit between cities along the coast, finally settling in Murcia, which he says was his favorite of the cities he lived in there. After 10 years, he fell in love with a Spanish woman there and they’ve since moved to Alicante. Murcia is a pretty local Spanish city with few foreigners, and she wanted a more international vibe, so they moved to Alicante for its more diverse population.
-Hazel Marie Savage
Hazel Marie Savage is a British young mother of three who moved here with her American husband. They lived for the first couple of years in a rambling farm house—what she called her Spanish dream home. They’ve since moved to Mar de Cristal, a beachfront urbanización (planned community) on the Mar Menor. Her husband works at the American School of Murcia, where their kids attend. (They’re looking for more teachers, if anyone out there is looking for a teaching job in Spain!) The whole family loves the Spanish lifestyle and have no plans to leave.
And I have to say, after hearing all these examples of ways to create a new life overseas, I began to become inspired. There is no one way to “go overseas”—you can tailor this all exactly to your preferences.
I love Paris, but there are things about Spanish culture and lifestyles that provide such an exciting contrast to life in France, that my husband and I have been tempted over the last few years to organize to spend more time there on a more regular basis…
Our most recent conversations have us contemplating making a Spanish property purchase in the next couple of years. We both love Barcelona so much, we’d love to have excuses to spend more time there…
And that’s the beauty of this whole way of living life.
Once you cut those mental tethers you think hold you to a place, you realize the possibilities are endless.
I love France… and Spain… and I don’t have to choose between them.
Editor, LIOS Confidential