Five years ago, newly engaged, with a newly incorporated business and a shiny new Italian passport in hand, we packed up six suitcases and boarded a one-way flight to Spain. Through a combination of adventurous spirit and complete naivete, we landed in Valencia, a city we’d visited once before, for less than a week. Three and a half years later (clearly haven forgotten how hard the first year in a new country was), we moved again, to our now home in Lucca, Italy.
No where else in Spain is the influence of the country’s diverse history and converging cultures so apparent than in Andalucia. It’s a region many think of as traditionally Spanish, from Flamenco to bullfights, tapas to a vibrant late night culture. Around every corner, the combination of Moorish architecture with traditional Spanish buildings and plazas creates a unique sense of place. When you’re in Andalucia, you know it.
Located in the southern part of the peninsula, Andalucia is the most populous autonomous community in Spain. The name, Andalucia, is derived from the Arabic word Al-Andalus and dates back to 716, just after the Moors took over Spain by defeating the Visigoths. Historically an agricultural region, it’s home to some of the best olive oil in the world. It’s also the hottest region in Europe, with average summertime highs of 97 °F in Sevilla and Cordoba. No wonder Andalucians are known for their siestas.
We come here in the summer, so as we mention, it’s hot. Near the Portuguese border and just north of the Golfo de Cadiz, Sevilla is an elegant city that feels like an amalgamation of Spanish stereotypes. We arrive in the late afternoon, check in to our apartment in the Triana neighborhood along the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, and quickly get ready for a small-group Flamenco, food, and wine tour.
It’s hard to believe, but we’re coming up on three years living in Spain. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday that we landed in Valencia, excited and eager to give this expat thing a try, only to have our life flipped upside-down for the six months following. But in other ways, when we think back to all the experiences we’ve had in Valencia and across the Iberian Peninsula, we’re reminded of how well we’ve come to know this amazing country that we call home.
Many people visit Spain and hightail it straight to Barcelona or Madrid. While both are great destinations, Spain has so much more to offer than its two largest cities. Choose to visit smaller towns to experience everyday Spanish life, medium sized cities for incredible architecture and mind-blowing food, or if you’re really itching for a big city experience, do something different and visit Valencia instead. Here are our top 7 spots beyond boring Barcelona (yeah, we said it)...
At the beginning of each year, we sit down together and start planning our travels for the next 12 months. It's become somewhat of a ritual for us - discussing our trips from the previous year, dreaming up vacations for the year to come, and deciding how exactly we'll make these adventures happen.
On the second episode of our new Vlog, we drive north to Strasbourg, France in the Alsace Region along the German border. Known for its quaint architecture, beautiful countryside, cobbled streets and canals, it was well worth the (very long) drive:
Here's the thing - since our appearance on House Hunters International, we've gotten a bundle of questions about life in Spain and travel in Europe. So, rather than writing everything in our ongoing Cohica blog, we decided to flip on the camera and record our first Vlog.
It'll have travel tips, highlight our favorite travel destinations, and provide an overview of expat life in Spain. We'll even take the vlog on the road as we adventure around Europe.
Please like, comment and subscribe to our YouTube channel to get notified every time we post a new episode.
Check out our very first vlog below!
We’ve always been fascinated by olive oil. By the beautiful silvery-green trees, the delicious olives themselves, and the fruity, peppery, healthy oil they produce. We’ve also been curious about the influence this ever important ingredient has on the overall health benefits and life expectancy associated with the Mediterranean diet. And since we moved to Spain, visiting an olive farm and learning about the production process has been at the top of our foodie experience wishlist.
Less than an hour’s drive northwest of Valencia, toward the province of Castellon and then straight inland and up nearly 2,000 feet, is the small pueblo of Viver. Tucked between the Sierra Calderona Mountain Range and San Roque Mountain and crossed by the Palancia river, it’s an agricultural community whose history dates back all the way to the Paleolithic era. And while the town’s roots have always been in agriculture, it wasn’t until 1990 that a collective of farmers and residents formed the Cooperativa de Viver in an effort to produce high quality olive oil, develop a more diverse range of products, and create a more professional operation to achieve greater success for its members who, today, total 500 (Viver’s population is just north of 1,500).
We’ve been super busy over the last few weeks designing some amazing trips for clients and planning our own summer road trip along the coasts of Spain and Portugal. The fact that we can hop in the car and drive to the Douro Valley to sip port is still 100% mind blowing. Moments like these, along with our second Spanniversary last month, naturally result in some reflection. So, to kick off year #3 in Spain, we’ve come up with our second list of things we love and things we miss. (See Year 1, Part 1 here).
Do you ever fall in love with a place then, when it comes to planning your next trip, struggle with the decision of returning or exploring somewhere new? This is a constant conversation in our house. We always want to explore the world and experience new cultures, but then there are those memories - sharing a bottle of red wine on warm stone steps overlooking ancient Rome; jumping off a 20-foot cliff into the clear water and swimming to the next cove to do it all over again; hiking along the narrow ridge of a volcanic crater surrounded by wild hydrangeas with the ocean on one side and a lake on the other - that we just want to go back and do all over again.
It's 2018, and we’re reflecting on the best parts of last year as we adjusted to our life as expats in Spain and explored new travel destinations throughout Europe.
In 2017 we finally started to get the hang of life in Spain and are wrapping up the year feeling more at home in Valencia than ever before. Afterall, in the last year we…
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