Choosing schools in Spain. Emigrating with children

Moving abroad with children means making important decisions around schooling. Choosing a school in Spain means getting to grips with a whole new system, and lots of choices. Do you put them into a local school or a more international one? We moved to Valencia earlier this year and had to make decisions about schools in Spain for our native English speaking 4 and 6 year old sons, who had no Spanish whatsoever. Here is some information about schools in Spain and the different aspects to think about. *I am of course no expert, so this information is purely my personal experience and knowledge.


Choosing schools in Spain: preparation

Before the move we had done some research into choosing a school in Spain and particularly schools in Valencia. We visited a few too while my husband and I were over for a recce trip. Were we going to go for an English, bilingual or Spanish school? And what curriculum is best? It is hard to know where to start and like most expats, we looked at the best known private international or bilingual schools first. This was only because they are mentioned most in forums and on expat websites. There are so many

other choices which could be much better suited to your children and your lifestyle. It is worth ‘shopping around’. They may also save you quite a bit each month if you don’t have the funds or the desire to commit to private school fees.


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Schools in Spain: Public, semi-private or private

I was blown away by the vast amount of schools Valencia. They range from public schools, semi-private schools (‘concertados’) to private schools. Many schools have nursery, primary and secondary school/baccalaureate all in one building. That way your child can stay in the same school their entire childhood. No wonder parents get quite anxious about finding the right school.

Public


Public schools are state-run, Spanish, and many parents are happy with their children to go here. They are free, but you pay monthly for the ‘comedor’ or dinner hall at school. That is if you want your children to eat at school and not come home for lunch. The public schools, there are of course many, are the trickiest to select as an expat. You just don’t have any knowledge about which ones are good. Also, if you don’t know where you are going to be living yet, it is pointless trying to enroll them since you need a postcode within the catchment area. But if you are looking for a way to get your children to speak Spanish as quickly as possible, going to a local, Spanish school is a good option.

Semi-private / concertado


The semi-private, or ‘concertado’ status means that they are run and paid by the state but as a parent you contribute a monthly fee to receive the extras that a school offers. This could mean perhaps an extra teacher per class, more freedom in terms of their curriculum and how they design their classes and activities. A lot of the semi-private schools are religious (Catholic). And whereas some of them charge about the same as most private schools (which is around a minimum of 300-400 euro per month per child, often more), others charge very little and are in fact very affordable.


Private, English or Spanish schools in Valencia

There are also a great number of private schools in Valencia. Some are small, other very large, and they are based on either the Spanish, British or American curriculum. The best known among expats are the Amercian school, Caxton College, British School of Valencia, Cambridge House and Mas Camarena. There is even a French Lycee. But there are smaller ones too, such as Los Olivos.

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Even though a lot of the private, bilingual or English speaking schools call themselves ‘international’, almost 100%  of the pupils are Spanish children. Many Spanish parents nowadays want their offspring to become fluent in English. Future job prospects are important in a country where unemployment rates are still at almost 25%. Being English speaking therefore has advantages. The ‘international’ part has mostly to do with the fact that half or almost all lessons are taught in English or the curriculum is based on the American or British system. It also means for many of these schools there are waiting lists.

what language: Spanish, English, bilingual or…Valenciano?

Choosing schools in Spain, and Valencia, comes with another question. What language will my child be taught in? I believe that the younger the child, the less important it is what the main language is they are taught in and whether or not it is a British (or other) curriculum. Obviously children will learn Spanish much quicker with full immersion. Most expat parents with teenagers say their children adapted better to their new environment in an international school with a curriculum similar to what they were used to back home, especially if exams are on the horizon. A toddler? They just want to play and within weeks they’ll come home using a handful of Spanish words already.

Bilingual schools in Spain


There are a lot of bilingual schools (English and Spanish), with some following the Spanish curriculum, some the British. Some are 100% English spoken schools and then there are some other foreign languages with their own schools too (French, German). Last but not least, this is Valencia and they have their own language called Valenciano which is a bit like Catalan, although I am sure the locals will tell me otherwise.

Valenciano as a compulsary subject


Valenciano is compulsory in all schools, private or not, with a minimum amount of hours per week. It is a political thing, and depending on who the mayor is in any particular year, the hours could go up or down in the curriculum. Most schools choose to teach subjects like music, religion or science in Valenciano in addition to the actual Valenciano language classes, to make up for the required hours.

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Creating multilingual children

A lot of expats freak out about the whole Valenciano thing and get frustrated that their kids have to study it, but to me it’s just another language. This is my humble opinion. Surely it can only be beneficial for a young child’s brain to learn plenty of different languages? The biggest argument against Valenciano I hear all the time is that “they only speak it in the Valencia region so what’s the point?”. Now I am Dutch and Dutch isn’t actually spoken anywhere else in the world other than the teeny tiny Netherlands and a few old far away colony islands in the Caribbean. Any expat child moving to the Netherlands has to learn Dutch if they are not in an international school. Also not particularly useful as a world language.

Your child may not stay in the Valencia region when he or she grows up, but they’ll have had the benefit of studying another language. They will pretty much be able to understand Catalan too as a bonus. Just my personal opinion, you may feel differently. The only advice I can give is to ask the school if it is possible for your child not to get Valenciano lessons until his/her understanding of Castellano is good enough.

How to get a space in a Spanish school?

When you choose schools in Spain, the next question is, how to get your child in it? Now this is the tricky bit. Like everywhere, good schools are hard to get into. Almost all bilingual or fully English semi-private and private schools are very popular among the Spanish parents. They all want their brood to speak decent English. This means it is not easy to get a place.

Spanish parents often start looking at their preferred school almost as soon as their baby is born. Then they enroll their kids as early as they can possibly start. In Spain this is the year they turn 3 and in the private schools that are offering preschool childcare, they even babies accept babies. So by the time you arrive from abroad with your 4 and 6-year old, especially halfway through the year, classes are full. You may find yourself having to put your kids in a school that wasn’t even on your shortlist.

School enrollment times in Spain

Enrollment time is usually mid May and school websites and the local municipality publish the exact dates on their websites . To enroll your child in a public or concertado school you need to live in the right catchment area to score enough points. Other factors are whether you already have siblings in the school and some other criteria – check your council website for the details. For private schools the postcode area is not a concern, but they may still have waiting lists. Many private schools have school bus transport around the city.

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Choosing schools in Valencia: ask other expat parents

I hope this post has been somewhat useful for those of you thinking about moving to Spain as a family. It is tough knowing whether you are doing the right thing for your children! At the end of the day, you can start with one school and change down the line if it is not working out for you. I have heard that many people do this. It is also a good idea to join some local Facebook groups and check other people’s opinions on schools. Without one central international school in Valencia, expat children go to many different schools everywhere around town.

Be aware though that asking about schools on these forums is a bit of a mine field. Everyone has their own take on things. What suits them may not suit you and your family. Some love the all singing all dancing international private schools with the beautiful facilities and the matching price tags. Others sing the praises of their little local public school in their own neighbourhood. “The facilities may be poor but the teachers are fabulous”. If you have time, ‘shop’ around. You may just find a hidden gem.

Moving abroad as a family with young children: settling in Valencia

Moving abroad on your own is one thing, but when you have two kids, a husband and a couple of cats tagging along it is a different ball game. Especially when half of the family is Dutch and the other half British (hello Brexit!). It can feel pretty overwhelming. Think about all the paperwork you have to get organised, in particular when you are not fluent in the language of your new country yet. Our first quarter was one with ups and downs. Moving abroad as a young family is wonderful, but not without its challenges.

We moved to Valencia in Spain earlier this year and it was hectic! Our boys, 4 and 6 years old, are at the perfect age for moving abroad, at least, that is what people keep telling us. Still, it is a huge change for these little ones. It certainly can cause a lot of anxiety and meltdowns. After all, we took away all they had ever known in their short lives. Their home, their garden, their school and nursery, their wonderful childminder, their friends, neighbours and village.

City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. Moving abroad as a young family


The kids, I must admit, are OK now. But not without a good two to three months of very emotional behaviour, abandonment issues and absolutely not wanting to go to their new school. It has been in the past month only that both of them have been happy to walk into their classrooms by themselves. I am very proud of them. It must have been a nightmare those first weeks, being in an unfamiliar environment, not understanding a word.

Anxiety in the first few months of moving abroad as a young family

My boys were proudly announcing to every man and his dog back in Scotland that they were going to go to a Spanish school and making new friends. The actual settling in phase however was far from pleasant. Once the novelty had worn off after a very exciting first day, they soon realised this was reality. It was not nice at all being put in a strange Spanish school ALL day and having lessons different from their old school. The times were weird and the days long (9am to 5pm!). There were strange teachers, strange children, all speaking in a strange language. How scary can you make it for little ones without their mama by their side? Needless to say, for at least eight weeks every single morning was a drama.

I just waited for you to come back

I had to walk my normally very confident, happy 6-year old into his new classroom where the teacher literally had to peel him off my legs. He was clinging onto me, begging and screaming not to be abandoned. It was awful. I left many a morning in tears, feeling so, so guilty about the whole move and what I was doing to my children. Was this really worth it? Why was I being so selfish? Had I been naive?

This was not what I had in mind at all for my family, starting a new life in Valencia. My youngest was only slightly better, but also always crying at drop off. At pick up time both boys were generally calm, usually telling me their day had been ‘ok’. But I shall never forget the day when I asked my youngest what he had done at school. He replied with:”Nothing mummy, I just waited for you to come back.”

 

Moving abroad with a young family in Valencia.


Ending up in a 100% Spanish school with zero Spanish

The selection of schools did not go entirely to plan either. In November of last year we selected this great bilingual semi-private school on the outskirts of Valencia. We even chose to rent a house in the right postcode area in order to be eligible to enroll the boys. A bilingual school would be best in our opinion, to learn Spanish but also still get a good English based education so they would not struggle too much.

We arrived in Valencia late February. Although the staff of our preferred school suggested that there was a high probability of at least one of our children getting a space (in infantil, the Spanish equivalent of nursery), this unfortunately turned out not to be the case. With the school not being fully private, it was the council who eventually decided and they were unable to provide a space for either children. What a disappointment! We had already moved and the children were at home. What to do next?


Our 6-year old has to be in school by law, so the council was obliged to find us a school in our area. They were only able to offer us two spaces in a local Catholic ‘concertado‘ (semi-private) school we had never even heard of. We are not religious ourselves and were also worried about the 100% Spanish school they were suggesting for our children, so we were apprehensive. We were also very annoyed with ourselves for not visiting more schools beforehand. But we shouldn’t have worried, as when we arrived at the school for our first introduction, the staff greeted us like family, kissing us on both cheeks and making us feel very welcome. We were the only foreigners in the school. The school turned out to be lovely.

MAKING FRIENDS AND NAPPING AT LUNCHTIME

The kids in school, young and slightly older, are all very kind. And although my eldest son gets a tad bored of them all trying to practice their two words of English during break-time, he has already made friends. Teachers all work together to adapt lessons for our eldest, who of course didn’t speak a word of Spanish.

The local language Valenciano (yes! another issue when enrolling your children in a school over here, as they have at least four hours of it each week!) is toned down for the time being in order to bring the kids up to speed with Spanish first. During the first few months at nursery, his lovely teacher let our exhausted 4-year old nap in the classroom while she took the rest of the kids outside to read them a story so he could fall asleep. How sweet is that?

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NO HOMEWORK, VEGETABLE PLOTS AND TRIPS TO THE THEATRE

Another plus at our school is that there is no homework, which is rare in Spanish schools – but for which I am so grateful! School days in Spain are very long, so having to spend even more time staring at letters and numbers really isn’t what I believe any kid age 6 should be doing after school. The school also has their own vegetable plots and they do plenty of (affordable) school trips to museums, theatre and other out of school places.  Teachers with terrible Spanish accents teach English at the school, but my kids being native English speakers already, I don’t mind at this point in time – we do plenty of reading with them at home.

For now, it is good, so we will stick with this school for at least the next year before reviewing our decision and deciding whether this is going to be the school for our boys long term. Just now, all we care about is that our boys are happy, fit in socially, make friends and become fluent in Spanish. Within two months my children were able to understand basic sentences, use some words and count to 30 in the most adorable Spanish accent. That is at least something to celebrate!

NEVER GIVE UP. Street art in Valencia. Moving abroad as a family


MOVING ABROAD A YOUNG FAMILY…four months later

We are now almost four months here and the boys are doing much better, integrating at a faster speed than us. They are both happy to go into school by themselves, no more tears. They are having swimming lessons in Spanish and will also be going to summer camp in July (in Spanish of course!) at our local sports centre. On the weekend we often hang out with international families. This gives them a bit of a break so they (and we too!) can ‘just’ chat in English. Learning a brand new language is tiring!

Our youngest is a sponge, knowing so many words in Spanish already. I guess for him it doesn’t really matter what language he is learning, as he is only 4. He is still developing his English grammar and vocabulary as well. He happily picks a Spanish book at bedtime now, rather than English or Dutch and is hardly aware of it.

Routine, cuddles and a safe home environment

Our six-year old is still showing some anxiety and a need for reassurance, especially at home. I can understand the reasons why and we are trying our best to just be there for him. Being in a Spanish speaking environment all day not knowing what is going on, must play havoc on your brain! Sleep, routine, cuddles and a safe family home is the best cure.

Now summer vacation is here (oh my, nearly three months long!). Perhaps the boys will have their huge anxiety issues again in September when school is back, but a teacher told me that most Spanish kids have exactly the same issue after such a long break. At least a row of other parents and their upset children will join me in the first week of school. To be continued…

Moving abroad as a young family in Spain

D Day. We’re off. Moving to Spain as a family

We’re finally moving to Spain as a family. D Day is here. “Why are you so stressed, we’re only moving!” my husband said to me after I had another meltdown in the past few days. I know, right? He wasn’t even joking! Well, he must be the exception to the rule, because I do feel like all those people stating that moving house is in the top three of most stressful things in life.

Packing, cleaning and a broken elbow

Moving house as a family with lots of stuff and two pets, that is, if it had been just me I’d been fine. The packing for the removal lorry was one thing, it was all the stuff that was left to do afterwards that made it feel never ending. Cleaning up and sorting out. Loads of admin. Finishing at work. Getting our cats prepped for the cattery and planned pet transport journey. An X ray to see if my youngest’s broken elbow is healing ok (it’s ok!).

Moving to Spain blogs


Adios leaving parties

Then of course there are the many leaving drinks, meals and parties to attend and host. Even though my tired body told me it really rather wanted to go to bed, it was lovely to be able to catch up and say goodbye to our Scottish friends, neighbours, band members and colleagues. After moving to Spain as a family I would be able to have plenty of siësta’s, wouldn’t I? No rest for the wicked. Hell yes, throw in a 4th birthday party for my little one as well while we’re at it, one day before departure! Crazy.

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Ready for a new adventure

Leaving our home and the local area on D Day was pretty emotional, even though I often cursed the place longing to be somewhere more exciting, feeling cut off and stuck in a far grey, chilly corner of the Great British island. Still, I am grateful, as I believe all things happen for a reason and so I spent over twelve years of my life in the North east of Scotland, always feeling the colourful Dutch outsider but adapting and making it my home. The truth is, no matter where you go, if you open your eyes you will find what matters to you. In some places you just have to try a little bit harder. Up there I found like-minded creatives, found a great band to sing in, started my business and started a family. Aberdeenshire is beautiful and full of hidden gems.

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Goodbye beautiful Scotland, thank you for having me

The train journey from Inverurie to Aberdeen was like a trip down memory lane…passing familiar scenery, a previous work place, my husband’s city flat where I started a life in Scotland many moons ago. Goodbye Aberdeen! Thank you for having me and making me work hard, push myself, mature and become resilient.

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Looking forward to a brand new life

The night before we left also happened to be the night when labour kicked off for the planned home birth of my second baby boy, exactly four years ago. It was a strange feeling to be sitting on the floor in our empty living room, the same spot as where my youngest was born after a lot of drama and life threatening complications (he was a big 10lb baby and got stuck with his shoulder – BBC’s Call the Midwife anyone?).

Four years later we are sitting here again, excited and slightly nervously awaiting another brand new life. I always dreamed of this moment, moving to a sunny climate, moving to Spain as a family. Let’s hope this birth will be a smoother one!

The great big move South. Preparing to leave Scotland

It’s all happening. We are moving to Spain. But what a month it’s been. The thought of a glass of wine on the other end, enjoying the warm spring sunshine, is what’s keeping me going just now. The movers have been a few days ago. A great big artic lorry parked outside, loading in my house contents. Everything is on its way to Valencia and we’re sitting on camping chairs in an empty house, scrambling for cutlery and cups. Food is now kept in our baltic utility room as even the fridge freezer is gone. Our goodbye party next weekend will be a blast, with so much dance floor space!

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What better way to spend a Sunday than to play campsite in an empty living room?

 


What to bring when you move to Spain?

We decluttered a lot beforehand, but still we managed to fill around 50 boxes and load a almost all of our furniture. The idea of going with just a suitcase full of clothes did sound very appealing and quite liberating, but at the end of the day, you need something to sleep on and sit on and you’d only be buying stuff again over there. And hey, I did want to bring my vintage sideboards! Grant of Buckie were great, offering us part load to keep it affordable, as international removals can get up to 5 figure sums which is not what we wanted.

Big artic lorry parked in a residential street
Just a small van then, we’re not taking much haha. We are actually sharing the truck with others which is a great way to keep the cost down.
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Shop with toys for sale. My eldest is joining in with the selling!

How to rent an apartment in Valencia?

Luckily we have an address. I know a lot of expats arrive in Valencia having to rent an Airbnb for a month before finding something more permanent. It made me feel a bit nervous not knowing where we’d be living as a family, and not knowing where our furniture and belongings would have to be stored. Back in November we had already done a recce trip to visit some schools, but in January my husband went back on his own to look for accommodation. There a few helpful websites to find homes for sale or rent in Spain, such as idealista and fotocasa.

hiring a relocation assistant when moving to spain

We decided to rent first, because we don’t know the city and surrounding areas yet so buying would be too much of a gamble if perhaps a year down the line you felt you didn’t like the neighbourhood. Still, finding a rental house in Valencia proofed trickier than we expected, with houses being snapped up quickly. We made the very wise decision to hire a brilliant relocation assistant called Linda from Moving to Valencia, who is a true wizard and geared my husband up with 17 properties to view in two days, doing all the Spanish communication with estate agents and landlords in the background.

Husband himself lost the will to live after two days and 400km driving from one house to the next. We kept on missing out on the ones we liked and disliking others. We managed to secure a townhouse in the suburbs very last-minute, literally hours before he flew back. Unfurnished, thankfully, and within walking distance of schools and tram stop into town. Oh, and with a roof terrace! See that blue sky?

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A nice modern, white semi-detached house with a roof terrace. A big change from a 1930s granite house in Scotland!

Meanwhile back home…

In the meantime life back home in Kemnay was not particularly stress-free, with builders coming in having to do a few repairs before we could put the house up for sale. Our two cats were now advertised on a cat adoption website (it broke my heart), but still no suitable homes were found and time was running out.

And then my youngest son, almost 4, broke his elbow in a local soft play. Yup, great timing. He jumped like a superhero down one of the cushioned slides and landed badly on his arm. Elbow fracture. He needed surgery the next day and now walks around with three pins in his arm and a big gold sprayed cast (his big brother was well impressed). He will need surgery again once we are in Spain unless we fly back for it. I suppose it’s one way to quickly start finding our way around the Spanish healthcare system!

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But here we are. Just over a week to go until we are moving to Spain. I am sitting on a camping chair, laptop on a camping table. It feels weird leaving this house behind. The garden we spent so many hours in, planting, shaping and building, the house itself, remodeled, redecorated, modernised, made into something beautiful and totally our own. I had my babies here. My youngest son was even born at home, right here in the living room. Such a lovely street, great neighbours. Nice walks in the countryside, right on our doorstep. So many memories. Ten years of our lives. It’ll soon become someone else’s home. I know they will love it.


Ready for the next chapter

But I am excited for the next chapter. Excited for the unknown. Even though I know there will be plenty of challenges once we are there, from registering ourselves everywhere (hola, Spanish bureaucracy!), getting our kids into school and making them feel settled, finding our way around, building a new network of friends, learning to speak decent Spanish! And the cats? They’re coming! Even though we initially felt they belong in Scotland, with access to the wild, they will probably enjoy spending their retirement stretched out on our sun deck. I am relieved and happy they are coming, now we have made the decision, as they are part of our family after all and now we will all be together. They will be following us in March, overland in a fully kitted out pet transport van. I hope they’ll be sending us their road trip selfies!

Hasta luego, see you on the other side!

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Nina’s Apartment on the move…moving to Valencia, Spain

I am moving to Valencia, Spain! Having lived twelve and a half years in Scotland, my family and I are preparing to emigrate to sunnier climates. Although this is not the first time I am swapping countries (after all, I moved to Scotland from the Netherlands when I was in my mid twenties), I am a bit overwhelmed by everything that comes with moving house, let alone moving to another country! Back then, all I was moving was my granny’s old cupboard, four vintage dining room chairs, some clothes and six boxes of books on one small pallet. Twelve years later it’s a family of four and the contents of a four-bedroom house.

from Dutch to Doric and now spanish. being an expat all over again

I moved to Scotland in 2005 to be with my husband, who was working in the oil industry. I had never heard of Aberdeen before meeting him in a Dutch pub on a Friday night in The Hague, and certainly never thought I’d be making it my home. But I did, for far more years than I had ever imagined. Living in the North east of Scotland was a learning curve. English was not my first language and the local tongue Doric was like Chinese to me (my first job here was in an office, regularly answering the phone – you get the picture!).

I had to start from scratch in my career, in finding friends, in building a new life. Getting to know a new city, a new country, with all its foreign rules and quirks. Being an expat can be hard work!

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twelve years in scotland

Aberdeen was a bit of a bleak contrast to the colourful, cultural Dutch cities I was used to back home. No, it certainly wasn’t love at first sight! But you either sink or you swim, so you adapt, you carve out a life and find the things you love when you open your ears and eyes – and you make new friends anywhere if you try. I feel living here has made me more resilient, more flexible and more confident in my ability to adapt in new situations while staying close to myself.

Although I still feel very Dutch at times, even if it’s only because I am taller than most Scots, I no longer feel like an expat in Scotland. I made it my second home. I love the stunning beauty of country, the honesty and down-to-earth-ness of its people, the traditions, the music, its pride in Scottish culture. I had my children here, I started my business here, I have matured here. Scotland will be in my heart forever. I even understand Doric now. Kind of.

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Loch Morloch, Scottish Highlands
nina's apartment blog
Juggling upholstery and motherhood outside my shop.
beaches in scotland
A day on the beach in Banff, Aberdeenshire

keeping our promise: a life in the sun

Why are we relocating to Valencia then? Brexit? Well, no, that’s not the reason, although it certainly made the choice easier for me as a EU citizen. On a night out a long time ago, long before we got married and had our boys, my husband and I wrote our dreams for our future on a napkin. One of the agreements was that we “would go and live in the sun at least once in our lives”. Because well, yes, Aberdeen is pretty cold and miserable most of the year.

Of course, life and bills got in the way and we ended up spending the next ten years working very hard, buying a house and staying put. Then around three years ago, when the oil price dropped and jobs were at risk, we remembered that napkin. We even found it back in an old notebook. What if a redundancy meant we could actually make that life change? Would we? Could we? And where would we go?

discovering spain and taking the plunge

In 2016, it was as if fate struck. Redundancy became a fact for my husband, which despite our wish for change, still came as a shock. Then within months, my shop burnt down to the ground. From having very busy lives, we were all of a sudden both sitting at home with our head in our hands, wondering what to do next. We decided to pack our kids and camping gear in the car and drove off to the continent for six weeks. With no jobs to go to and school closed for the summer, we went on a big road trip to clear the cob webs and get ideas for our future.

We drove through France, thinking that could be our new home perhaps, but fell in love with Spain after accidentally ending up in San Sebastian and traveling through the Spanish Pyrenees. Still, what location to pick? Where could we see ourselves settling? The choice is endless. Then at Christmas we got a request for a home swap in Valencia.

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Sunshine makes everything better. Spanish Pyrenees.
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Not a bad view to wake up to. Spanish Pyrenees.
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Strolling around in San Sebastian

falling in love with valencia

We spent two weeks holiday in Valencia in August, while living in a homely flat in a residential neighbourhood rather than a hotel. It’s a great way to get a feel for the place. We met some lovely expats who had made the jump before us and all seemed a lot more doable. The idea of bringing up our kids in the sun, enjoying the good weather, the food, the culture and meeting new people made us feel excited for the future again.

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Valencia, the City of Arts and Sciences
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8.15pm on the beach. I can get used to that!

preparing for the big move. moving to Valencia spain

Back home we did the sums (spreadsheets galore!) and started the process. We went back to select a school for our boys and are now hunting for a rental home to move into. It’s all getting very real! What will we be doing when moving to Valencia, Spain? It’s the one question we get asked all the time. Live!

We will live, bring up our children, learn Spanish, get healthy, get out of the rat race, meet new people, see new things. Be an expat all over again, with all the challenges that come with it. I will work as a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant (check out my other website Copy Por Favor). I will also continue Nina’s Apartment in Spain, blogging and offering design services where possible (E design can be done everywhere!). Who knows, I may even be opening another vintage shop in the future? And I’m sure we’ll come back to Scotland for our holidays, to see old friends and to cool off in the height of Spanish summer.

one way flights booked

First things first though, a house move, which means packing up, selling stuff, decluttering (you don’t need five warm winter coats in Spain, do you?). One way flights have been booked at the end of February.  Better get going.

Hasta luego!

Valencia, historic city with an edge

This summer my family and I did a house exchange with a lovely family in the city of Valencia, Spain. It is a fantastic city for families with children and there is plenty to see. So what to do in Valencia?

what to do in valencia
Renting bikes and cycling through Turia park to the City of Art and Sciences

 


Valencia seems to be a city of many layers. At first sight, it’s just like any other big city: lots of high-rise buildings, busy traffic and not an awful lot of beauty about it when you first arrive on the outskirts of town. It is after all Spain’s third largest city and has just under one million inhabitants. But when you dive into it and stroll around – or rent a bike – you discover a wonderful, laid-back, colourful place full of art, parks, cafe culture and last but not least…the beaches. Oh and also plenty of vintage shops. Did we love it? Oh yes, we did.

Street Art in valencia

The Ciutat Vella, including Barrio del Carmen, is the old town. Now as any old town this one too has plenty of little streets, old buildings, cathedrals and historic squares, but what makes Valencia different is the street art. What? Graffiti and historic buildings? No way! Yup. And it looks pretty good. Definitely a big hit with my 5-year old who loves drawing (why are they allowed to draw on walls, mummy? Erm…).

Now I would use all of my own photos in this blog, but unfortunately my dear husband left our camera on the plane to Madrid. Ouch. Fingers crossed we’ll get it back. In the meantime, you’ll get my iPhone shots and some beautiful images I found around the net.

 

what to do in valencia
Image: Travel and Lust
what to do in valencia
The mural in the image below must have been one of my son’s favourites. “It’s a mummy! Did you now that mummies have toilet roll wrapped around them?” Image: Travel and Lust

what to do in valencia


City of Arts and Sciences

The City of Arts and Sciences is a world in itself. This impressive part of Valencia, whether or not you end up actually going inside any of the buildings, is worth visiting. It consists of the Oceanographic (Europe’s largest sea aquarium), The Science Museum, the Palau des Arts and the Hemispheric. Plenty to keep you occupied. More info here: www.cac.es

what to do in valencia
The City of Art and Sciences is an amazing complex of white contemporary architecture (by Calatrava) and blue shallow water all around the buildings. The kids couldn’t wait to get their clothes off for a dip after a visit to the Science Museum!

science museum valencia



Turia gardens in valencia, great for bikes and kids

Rerouting the river Turia and turning the old riverbed into a 9km long park must be one of the best decisions ever made by city planners. What an asset to have for the people of Valencia. Full of play parks, fountains, cultural events, free outdoor gym equipment and cycle and footpaths. We rented bikes from Valencia Bikes (although there are many rental places everywhere) which kept us entertained all day and was great to move around quickly from A to B with the kids. Valencia is super kid-friendly by the way. Mini play areas next to the cafe terrace, why doesn’t anyone else think of that as standard?

what to do with kids in valencia

 


discover The beaches in valencia

One of the great things about Valencia is the proximity to the beach. Different from what most people think when they hear the words ‘beach’ and ‘Spain’ in one sentence, the ones in Valencia are nothing like the package holiday type. We experienced some fantastic beaches, quiet and more lively, but never overcrowded or lined by tacky bars and souvenir shops. A breath of fresh air. You can easily reach them by public transport, bike or car.

what to do in valencia
Valencia has some great beaches all along the coast, many of them quiet. This is the beach at El Saler, just south of the city. It’s 8.15pm…kids still playing. Spanish routine!

what to do in valencia
A little gem of a place on Patacona beach is La Mas Bonita, cafe and beach bar. Fantastic food and stunning location.