¿Por qué Granada, España?
So, when you decide to have a giant, crazy family adventure, how do you choose where to go? For us, language narrowed it down considerably. (see #2) But there were still almost 30 countries to consider.
I thought about Panama. After all, my great-grandparents moved there, my grandparents grew up there, and Panamanian lore has always been a big part of my family history. But because of that, I know very well that it’s constantly hot and damp and the cities are growing quickly. This sounds way too much like Austin. I think I’ll just visit someday.
I thought about Mexico. I have family there, we’ve visited many times and it’s always been lovely. But because my cousin moved out of Mexico after her friends’ kids were kidnapped, we weren’t that keen to bring our own kids there. Besides, we may as well try someplace completely new.
I thought about Ecuador. Some friends of ours are from there and bring their children back every summer. They say it’s safe and lovely with mountains and beaches and good infrastructure. So I followed many family blogs detailing adventures in Cuenca… until the post about the armed robbery gave me pause.
Now I know no country is safe everywhere all the time, but many South American countries really are too unstable. And some are too touristy. I was zeroing in on Argentina, but Rob seemed vaguely uninterested in the entire hemisphere.
So I suggested Spain. I wasn’t initially too excited about it. But the idea made Rob the happiest out of all our options. After all, we’ve never been to Europe. It’s relatively cheap, and the internet connection is fast. (Don’t laugh; Rob’s ability to work remotely is key to this endeavor.) So in the name of family buy-in, I agreed that Spain would be our goal. And I started my research.
For months I followed blogs, scoured maps, emailed friends-of-friends, read articles and researched schools. Spain is tricky because there are so many other languages in addition to Spanish. I wanted to make sure that the kids’ school wasn’t that kind of bilingual. (I know, this sounds strange coming from a serious dual language proponent, but I think the shock of moving to a new country, a new school, and total spanish immersion is enough for the kids to handle.) The north was out of the question because of all the Basque, Asturian, and Galacian spoken up there. All along the east coast they speak Catalan. So that just left central and southern Spain for Castilian spanish.
Okay. I’d narrowed down a hemisphere of choices to an area about the size of Oregon. Helpful, but still a lot of work. I needed more parameters.
Rob and I have talked about moving from Austin many times. So we have a pretty concrete list of ideal characteristics for our imaginary new town. I used these ideas to help me narrow down my search.
- near the mountains, not the beach
- small city, not a tiny town or a giant metroplex
- four seasons (but not 9 months of bone-chilling cold or 9 months of death-star heat)
- dual language school
I crossed Madrid and the costal towns off the list. Now I was only thinking about an area the size of Kentucky. I spent weeks staring at a map, researching each town near mountains. Finally, I whittled the list down to Segovia, outside of Madrid, Càceres, in western Spain, and Granada, near the Sierra Nevada mountains in the south. Segovia is a perfect size for us, home to an incredible Roman aqueduct that towers over the town, and it’s a short train ride to all the art and culture in Madrid. However, it is very cold there in the winter. Càceres is an ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage site in fact, because the central area remains much as it looked 500 years ago and is surrounded by a fortified wall to protect it from attackers. Cool. However, it’s very isolated and doesn’t have much of an expat community. In theory, this would be ideal because we would all be forced to learn Spanish quickly. In reality, though, I know that we need to have some English-speaking social ties to stay sane, and English-speaking help if/when we run into difficulties.
So that left Granada. I had been following several blogs from families who visited or lived in that area. It seemed ideal: mountain views, 30 minutes to skiing, 45 minutes to the coast, not too overrun with tourists (comparatively), home to a “castle”, an ancient Moorish neighborhood, hot summers (but cooler at night than Austin), cold-ish winters (but not as cold as the north), and a dual language school. Great! And really, at this point I just wanted to get on with the process. So Granada became our goal.
From half a hemisphere to one town. We’ve cast our lot.
¿Y ahora qué?