Our Exodus: England To Espana

Posted on: 13 February 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

50connect are delighted to introduce established bestselling author Kitty Neale as our new ex-pat columnist, coming all the way from sunny Spain.

Kitty moved to the Costa Blanca in 2004 and will be on hand to give you an insight into the Spanish lifestyle as well making the most of your retirement in Spain and tips for getting the most out of your move abroad.

The Big Move

We'd done our homework, researched medical care, finances, the pluses and minuses of becoming residents in Spain, and had taken holidays in different areas to see where we'd like to settle.

Spain is a large country, with something to appeal to all tastes, and property for most pockets too - from a villa, finca or an apartment to inexpensive mobile homes. Before thinking of buying, I would highly recommend renting a property in Spain because, as in the UK, unless you know an area really well, you can make a mistake with the location.

There are many who buy here in Spain and then a year later want to sell up to move to a different area. I can say this from experience, because that's just what we did. However, I am jumping forward a bit so I’ll start at the beginning.

We had talked for a long time about retiring to Spain, dreaming as I’m sure a lot of people do of sun, sea, sangria and a more relaxed way of life. There was a health issue, too, when my husband was diagnosed with narrowing of the arteries in his legs (a genetic condition where others in his family had suffered strokes and, in one case, the loss of limbs). His job didn’t help as he worked outdoors in all weathers and the enemy of this condition is the cold.

We knew that a warmer climate would greatly benefit my husband’s health and so planned that he take early retirement at 60. However, all that changed when one evening he came home from work looking grim, haggard and older than his years as he walked down our garden path.

He’d been with the same company for many, many years, but things were changing that he found intolerable. ‘That’s it,’ he said. ‘I’ve had enough. We’re going to Spain, and now.’ He was 58, and it was two years earlier than planned.

Talking about it is one thing, but actually doing it is another, yet within days our house in the UK was on the market and as soon as we had a buyer we flew to our chosen area of the Costa Blanca. In just two weeks we had to find our new home but, as in the UK, there are estate agents aplenty, making our task a lot easier.

To buy a property here you have to have what is called an NIE number, but even this was easy to obtain. In fact, if you follow the right procedures there is nothing much to fear in buying here; the estate agent and a local, if necessary, English- speaking lawyer, will guide you through it. Ours took us to Alicante where we obtained the NIE document in just a few hours.

The house we found came fully furnished, so it was just a matter of putting down a deposit before we flew back to the UK to await the completion of our own sale. Of course there was also the headache of deciding what personal possessions we couldn’t bear to leave behind, and in the end we paid a removals company to bring over a lot more than we expected.

The January day came and there was a blanket of snow on the ground. The boot of our car was loaded to the hilt, and with a mesh screen behind us to prevent our two cats from climbing into the front; they had the whole of the back to themselves.

The painful part was saying goodbye to my daughter and grandson, and I kept telling myself over and over again that Spain was little more than a two-hour flight away. If you avoid school holidays there are generally cheap flights available, and when they weren’t visiting us, I intended to fly back every six weeks or so to see them.

Comforted by this thought, we drove off, but as I waved to my family, despite my resolve, I found myself in tears. As we turned the corner, leaving all that was familiar behind, my husband asked if I was all right. He looked so concerned, and I knew that somehow I had to pull myself together. He would be the sole driver on our journey and the last thing he needed was to have me downhearted and crying all the way.

I pulled out our route map, a frisson of excitement at last arising. We might not be spring chickens, but we were embarking on a new adventure, a new life, and were on route to our first destination, the Channel Tunnel.

More next month and in the meantime, love and rainbows to you all.

By Kitty Neale

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