¿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?

4 Responses to “¿Por qué Granada, España?

  • Full steam ahead.

  • Mom/Granny
    9 years ago

    I’m so excited for you guys!!! What a wonderful experience for all of you!

  • HI Cheris and Rob,

    You may not remember me, but this is Dave. Dave, as in, Dave from the Canadian family who took over your house for a week in the summer of 2010 while you were in NY. (Thanks, by the way!)

    It would seem as though I’m creeping on your blog, but I’m here because Rob posted something on FB about you guys moving to Spain, and posted a link. So I checked it out.

    As you know, my family and I used to do home exchanges. In fact, the summer after we stayed at your place we did a home exchange in Granada for 5 weeks. I just wanted to say that we’re very excited for your family! We have our kids in an immersion program, but for French, not Spanish. Doing something like this would be an absolute dream!

    Sure, I could give you all sorts of advice about Granada, but the only advice I’d be able to give would be based on one’s experience as a pseudo-resident, not as a true resident. You guys are resourceful and you’ll find tons of exciting stuff to do. Some of our best days in Granada were days when we just walked around and cafe con leche at various restaurants, or routing through market in the older part of Granada called Albaicin.

    We lived in the Emirates for two years (sans kids), which did give us some experience living internationally. Again, a lot of that advice would be specific to living in Abu Dhabi, and would likely not be all that useful to you guys. However, if I could give you guys a little bit of (unsolicited) advice, that advice would be to “just do it”. When someone asks you to go out for supper, even when you are so tired that you can’t move…just do it. When there’s something that looks really scary that will take you way out of your comfort zone, just do it. You get the picture. There are so many amazing things to do. Your time may be short in that location, so just do it. Do everything you can. Eat it all up.

    I remember a few times when we lived in the Emirates that we didn’t go on that weekend camping getaway that some of our friends went on. Or the time that we didn’t go out for supper with friends. Now, in hindsight, I regret not doing those things. Even for that short stint in Granada…one of our neighbours that I got to know…he was going to a Mark Knopfler concert in Cordoba. I found excuses not to go: it was excruciatingly hot, I don’t really like Mark Knopfler, blah blah blah. I really should have been looking for excuses to go, not excuses NOT to go.

    Your family is going to thank you for this experience. You’ll absolutely love it. I hope you guys really enjoy yourselves. I’ll admit that I’m probably going to follow your blog a little more closely now…even if that’s creepy! 🙂

    If you guys ever find yourself in Alberta, Canada, let us know. We’d love to meet up again.

    Enjoy your time!

  • Hi Dave! I just discovered your comment in my “awaiting approval” folder that I never look at. Sorry!
    Of course I remember you and your lovely family. I’m excited that someone else, aside from my mom, will be following my blog. 😉
    And you offer very good advice that I really need to remember. We lived in Korea for 3 years and experienced EVERYTHING we could. Then again, that was when we were in our 20’s and without kids. Now I that I’m “old” and exhausted, it will be tempting to stay in. But I’ll remember your words and force myself to go out.
    There are always siestas!

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