Home sweet Home

And just like that…drumroll please…we have an apartment! Its always the same. You’ve searched, walked miles and miles. Spoken to countless agents and landlords. Sometimes you have no idea where you are, you get so turned around. And then, someone knows someone, who knows someone, who has an apartment that they were thinking of selling but have decided to rent. They haven’t shown it to anyone else yet, and you can see it if you can get across town NOW!!! And you run there.

Central Valencia

Such is the story of our new apartment.¬† I looked at very fancy places. Places with terraces that had a view of the city and were as big as the apartment itself. Penthouses. They were luxurious, lots of marble and high end finishes. Very Bellevue, Washington. But here’s the thing. If we wanted to live in the US, and Bellevue in particular – we would still be living there. Part of coming to Spain was to do it differently. Not just to downsize our stuff, but to downsize our lives. Sure, we’ll travel and have amazing experiences, but we’re going to keep it simple.

Don’t get me wrong. I like luxury just like the next guy. But the trappings of it, have become heavy. The show of it all no longer holds the appeal that it once did. I live in a different skin now. And I need different things. So I met the landlord of this secret flat, who isn’t working with an agent. And he’s a really nice guy. And the young family who lives there now? They’re lovely people who scraped together the money they needed to buy a house for their two young kids in the country. The vibe in the flat was wonderful.

I was torn. There was another apartment I was seriously considering. It was in a big building covered in granite. In the ‘New Part’ of town. It had all the hallmarks of living by Bellevue Square – near where we used to live in the US. Very slick – it would fit in well in MicrosoftLand. I took a video of the apartment and the view – a postcard. Stunning.¬† I sent it to Jeff at 2:30am his time and waited. I thought for sure he would say ‘That’s the one’. But while he loved the view – he said no. It’s not for us. So I just called and let them know we’ll take the one with the cool landlord, the good vibe and the real neighborhood. We’ll have our own ‘local’. Pub and caf√©. We can walk into the old city and enjoy the river.

I wondered if I should be nervous. I mean I rented an apartment on the other side of the world – we don’t even live here yet. But I feel great! When we arrive in early March, we will be staying at our apartment, instead of a hotel. We’ll be coming home, instead of just visitors. That’s the biggest luxury of all.

 

Conference with the Sea

Today, we officially entered the home finding phase on the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. Today, I spoke to my own version of The Great and Powerful Oz. My Gestor, Linda. Now that the time has fallen back to standard time¬†in Spain – Arizona doesn’t bother doing that, at all – we are only 8 hours behind Valencia, instead of 9. This means almost nothing, except that I can sleep an extra hour and still return calls or emails in the morning¬†before their working day ends. I’m almost a real live girl again, who can stay up past 8pm.

Linda explained all the ins and outs of leasing a flat long-term.¬†The details of how¬†we will go about it when I’m there later in November.¬†Things like¬†how to entice condo owners to lease to us, over the other guy, and how to have the utilities ready for us when we arrive in February.

Part of the main¬†focus is to ensure that the owners get to know you, and feel connected to you, before they agree to crown you as the winner of the Rental Olympics. To facilitate this, I had to write a short bio to help convey who we are and why we want to live in Valencia and make it our home. This is harder than you’d think.

I racked my brain. What will they care about? What if they decide to buy my book on Amazon? Then they’ll know who I really am, and¬†I’ll admit, its¬†a little crazy under the hood. ¬†Whew. OK. Best to be short and sweet. Just the facts, ma’am.¬†So I wrote that up and sent it off.

Conference with the Sea

Next on the list was finding apartments that met our criteria. Even those that might be for sale, rather than for lease. To give Linda an idea of what we are looking for in our first year.¬†Just until¬†we can get the lay of the land. My favorite part of this exercise wasn’t looking at the photos or finding apartments on Google street view. It was reading the descriptions that had been auto¬†translated on Chrome. Oh, Google. How you make me laugh.

Some of my favorites included:

‘A swimming pool that offers many possibilities…’ – I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to get at here. Usually, pools are for swimming – what else might they be implying?

‘A staircase of rise’ – As far as staircases go, I think it’s just up and down. I’m not sure pointing out that you can rise up on the staircase needs to be said. Unless they’re saying I can’t go back down it. That would be a problem.

‘Living room on the street’ – I think I know that they’re saying it overlooks the street. But as to the selling point, I don’t have the full grasp of the benefit of pointing it out. If I’m wrong – I’ll be watching TV on the sidewalk.

‘Great floor plan with public and private zones’ – aka living room vs. bedrooms?

‘Enjoy the dolphin show from you terrace!’ – seriously, I have no idea what they could possibly be talking about. How can Google translate something like dolphin incorrectly? But then if it isn’t dolphin, what the hell is in the show I’m going to enjoy from my terrace?!

‘Easy conference with the Sea’ – Based on the photos, I think it either means there is a view of the Med or that I can walk to the beach in short order and actually Conference with the Sea! I think I¬†just felt my blood pressure go down.

It will be quite a ride finding the right place but I’m sending many of these places to my new friend, Linda. Hoping perhaps she can help me tease out the¬†real meaning and find us the perfect place. But¬†if I could¬†advise anyone who is leasing¬†or selling property in Valencia – or any seaside¬†town on the Mediterranean – it would be to include that last one¬†in your property description.¬†I don’t care about the possibilities of swimming pools and staircases that rise.¬†These people¬†had¬†me at ‘Conference with the Sea’.

 

Baja – ha ha ha

My vocabulary is increasing by the day. Not my English vocabulary, but my ‘Moving to Spain’ vocabulary. I have learned what a Baja is, and after being told it was essential that I obtain one of these, by my US shipper, learned that only citizens of Spain can get one. Yup. Just another day of ‘Huh? What’s that?’ and ‘Oh, so I can’t even get that and it’s not essential.’ after hours and sometimes days of chasing my tail via email and phone calls.

What is a ‘Baja’? It allows you to import your personal goods from another country into Spain duty free. The consulate set me straight. ‘Oh, international moving gods’, I chanted yesterday ~¬†‘How can I stop all this misdirection and misinformation from sending me scrambling?’¬†The answer came to me in a dream… OK, not in a dream but¬†by asking my¬†helpful Expats on the closed FB group I belong to. And Voila! I have a Gestor.

One might think that a person who is hired to amuse the King, wouldn’t be the best person to help us navigate the confusing world of moving to Spain. But its not that kind of Gestor. This kind lives in the country, is familiar with the bureaucracy and just gets how things work. They know the system and they make a career out of helping people who don’t¬†understand it, to¬†get what they need.

At first I was like ‘Seriously? I need a person to help me understand how to file paperwork?!’ but after several weeks at this, I’m like ‘Seriously – I need a person to help me file paperwork, get insurance, get an apartment, get my NIE card, register with the town hall…’ and on and on. And of course, I must pay for this person to do these things for me – because it’s an actual job. And it’s essential. And I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m having a WhatsApp call with my new Gestor early next week, to lay out a plan. Funny, I don’t feel so alone anymore. It’s like I have been running around in a dark room, bumping into everything. My shins¬†are bruised and my knees bloody, from falling on my face daily. My wonderful Gestor, Linda, will be turning on the light. The reality might be blinding at first, but with a good pair of sunglasses, at least I’ll be able to see the whole picture.

 

Seriously? Seriously. Seriously?

We’ve all heard the saying ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’. Well, in this case it should be ‘Which came first, the permanent address or the bank account?’. Today I got the news. Pretty much everything in Spain is done using something called a ‘Bank Transfer’. Huh? What’s that, you ask? Well, sit down boys and girls and let me tell you a tale of how to chase your tail.

Once upon a time, there was a girl trying to get medical insurance in Spain so she could get a residence visa. To get Spanish Medical Insurance, a person needs to have a Spanish banque account, from which payment can be debited monthly.¬† To get a Spanish banque account, a person must have a permanent address. And finally, to get a permanent address, like even a mail box, one must have a banque account, from which they can initiate a ‘Bank transfer’ to pay for either the mail box rental, or a monthly lease on an apartment, or their medical insurance premium.

Following so far?¬†It’s kind of like when you break into the movies. You need to be in a movie before you can get your Screen Actors Guild (SAG)¬†card. But you can’t¬†act in a movie without a Screen¬†Actors Guild (SAG) card.

Google translate and I are becoming fast friends. As am I with a girl who works at a Mail box store in Spain. I’m not above begging and pleading. This seems perfectly acceptable, under the current circumstances. The fate of my Spanish Banque account now resides with a girl I have never met, and her willingness to help me find a work around.

When I complained a little to the very helpful insurance fellow I chatted with this morning he summed it up. ‘It’s Spain. You just gotta take a deep breath and roll with it.’

So You Say You Want to Move to Spain

The decision has been made. After spending the summer walking the Camino de Santiago with my daughter, we decided to move to Spain. Now for the hard part. The administrivia of getting from decision to getting on an airplane is fraught with missteps, frustration, misunderstanding and broken Spanish. But here we go!