At long last, we are here—the beautiful and seductive city of Barcelona, Spain. I plan to chronicle the first day, the first month, and each month after that to see if this dream of life in Spain matches the reality.
I asked Gina her thoughts on the first day this evening (we are six hours ahead of the US). Here is a mash-up of the two of us. We feel a distinct sense of excitement and no remorse—of course, we are both eternal optimists and love new things and adventure.
The weather is perfect! Sixty degrees high and forty degrees low, with very low humidity (at least, for us former Floridians) of 60%. One wall of our apartment has windows that open to a small but very scenic and tree-lined balcony, and we threw them open and marveled at the sounds of our neighborhood as it bustles with life. We have a cute tram that operates on the intersection to our right, giving us a comforting sense of routine.
We have a Mercadona, our favorite supermarket, two minutes away, a Turkish fruit stand at our doorway, and a street cafe and bar to the immediate left. We discovered a fantastic home decor store three doors down around the corner, and there is an Anytime Fitness gym two minutes away, and the famous Barceloneta beach is a ten-minute walk.
The food prices have stunned us. We expected 40% less, but it was almost 60% less than America. For example, we walked over and bought our first batch of groceries, and the bill was 28 Euros ($30). We calculated what it would cost at our local Dunedin Publix, which would have been $70. Stunning! We had to buy some essential home goods for our new apartment, and they were at least 40-50% less than in America or on my US Amazon account. Unbelievable!
We immediately adapted to the Spanish culture routine, so we slept in until after 10 am and then had two leisurely cups of espresso on our balcony, watching life go by—lots of dogs, young adults and children. The pace is much more leisurely and far less frantic, and a huge plus is there are no monster trucks with giant flags. And no sirens! Dunedin (pop. 36,000) has constant blaring sirens and invasive emergency horns all day. Yet, here in a city of 2 million, we heard only two all day, with a much less strident timbre, and as they pass our neighborhood, they silence the siren. Imagine that!
We took the metro (clean and safe) to our favorite tapas restaurant, Ciutat Comtal—it took 15 minutes. We had “lunch,” the day’s big meal, at 4:30 pm. We enjoyed five substantial tapas plates and a bottle of my new favorite wine from the Spanish district of Ribera del Duero (they have been making wine there for 2,000 years, and the taste proves it). The meal was $48. total. In America, we had an eerily similar meal (five tapas plates but only three glasses of wine—two for Gina and one for me) in Miami, which cost $148. One hundred dollar savings. Oh my.
Here are a few answers to questions many of you are asking.
First, getting here. The Spanish resident visa (ours is one of the most sought after and is called a non-lucrative visa, which are fancy words for a retirement visa) is good for one year of life here and was tricky (it took three months of tedious paperwork) and inexpensive (about $2,000) to obtain compared to most other European countries. We are not allowed to work and must renew our visa every year; after five years, we can apply for permanent residency.
We were required to obtain private insurance for the first year (no co-pay or deductibles and includes dental, ambulance, and psychotherapy if needed, and will never have a rate increase) for both of us at age 65 and 68, respectively, which is $188 per month. We can choose to work next year (Gina’s travel advisory company) and register for a digital nomad visa, which gives us one of the world’s best public insurance free. For perspective, Spain has the world’s eighth-best healthcare, and the United States is ranked eleventh (Source: CEOWorld Magazine).
Second, being here. We chose a real estate agent (Eva with Engel Voelkers) who helped us find a temporary apartment for two months as we get acquainted with the neighborhoods (barrios) of Barcelona. It is tiny (540 sq. ft.) but well-appointed and is in one of our favorite neighborhoods so far, San Marti in the Eixample Dreta district. We then plan to find a larger apartment to rent for a year.
Our bed last night was a dream. They fit a king-size bed in our tiny bedroom, which isn’t crowded. And to my surprise, it was quiet. I had heard horror stories of people banging on walls and noise filtering up from the streets, but our first night was perfect. And we have automatic metal shades on our wall of windows that make it seem like night during the brightest daylight. We could not believe it was 10:48 am when we woke up.
I finally figured out how to get television in English (hint: it takes a VPN). We are learning to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius and inches to centimeters and reading Spanish menus and labels. I wonder how we could have made it without Duolingo and Google Translate. They are lifesavers.
Third, staying here. We plan to enroll in Spanish language school immediately. It will help us converse more effectively, and we will hopefully meet some fellow expats to form a few relationships. We must obtain our TIE, which will be our identification cards (sort of like how a driver’s license functions, but of course, we do not have a car) in the next thirty days.
The city came alive with Christmas lights as we strolled home at dusk from lunch. Ha, that sounds funny—at dusk from lunch. Beautiful is not an adequate word for the decorations and lights we witnessed. We hugged each other in disbelief that we were finally here. Next week, we have our first visit to the iconic Liceu opera house for a performance of “A Christmas Carol,” and we can’t wait to visit our favorite “neighborhood” bar from last time, Marlowe Bar, once we catch up from jet lag.
More soon. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the photos—many more will be coming. If you would like to follow along on our life in Spain, subscribe to my website: randyelrod.com/subscribe I will not spam you, but you will receive an email about once a week or two with a new post and work of art. ¡Muchas gracias!