Parcent from our terrace
We did not know Spain very well. We had spent four walking holidays exploring Wellington’s Spanish and Portuguese battlefields in the 1990s. More recently we had enjoyed a walking holiday in the Canaries. Despite this we had decided to consider moving there on retirement.
In the 1970s we had spent five years living in Germany, so we had some experience of life outside the UK. That was when I was serving in the army, and we lived in a military community. We did have a few local friends, but most of our social life was on garrison. It did give us an insight of how difficult it might be living in a completely foreign community.
In 2004 there was a lot of interest in living and working in Spain. It seemed a lot of Europeans, many of them British, were moving there to work or retire. There were programmes on TV about the experience and regular exhibitions at local hotels sponsored by estate agents. We attended a few, and accepted an offer of a free four day “inspection visit”. We used the visit to get a feel for house prices and what was available in our price range. The estate agent was disappointed that we did not put down a deposit.
When we returned to UK we started our research. We had no clear idea what part of Spain we wanted to live in, and would have to narrow down the choices. We were very aware that living in a foreign country is a lot different from a short holiday in one.
We wanted to move for a better retirement experience, which meant the weather and the relaxed and friendly life style. However we also wanted a comfortable life with all the advantages of living in the UK, including access to an English speaking community. We also wanted to be able to enjoy our two hobbies, wargaming and hill walking.
It did not take long to realise that the most suitable area for us would be the Costa Blanca. The weather was less extreme than further south in Andalusia. It had a large ex pat population and the local community catered for it. On our inspection visit we obtained a copy of the local English language newspaper, which included a large pull out section about clubs and activities aimed at ex pats. There would be a large number of English speaking people where we might find fellow wargamers. There were also a large number of walking groups which would make exploring the surrounding hills much easier.
Most ex pats live on the coast, between Benidorm and Denia. The holiday resorts are really a sort of “Blackpool in the Sun”. That was not what we wanted at all. So we expanded our search inland.
Parcent in February (almond blossom time)
Our research had revealed that there was a very popular walking area called the Jalon Valley. It is half an hour from the coastal towns of Denia and Calpe, and another 15 minutes from the holiday mecca of Benidorm. We contacted a local estate agent and arranged to spend a week looking at suitable houses.
One of the first villages we visited was Parcent. It is situated in the middle of the valley and surrounded by mountains. Our first impression was “Scotland with sunshine”. It has a population of about 1000, of which about 100 are ex pat. A mixed collection of British, German and Dutch. For such a small village there are five bars and a mini supermarket. We had found our new home.
Next week I will tell you about moving my large collection of model soldiers and settling them in their new home.