Settling into Granada

By Paul Read

Granada is, according to many Andalucians, one of the region’s more peculiar provinces. Sneered at by the rest of Andalucía for its unintelligible accent and conservative nature, Granada, in the shadow of the highest mountain on the peninsula, has existed almost isolated from its Andaluz neighbours until recent times. Whilst the rest of the Spanish coastal provinces have developed their fast road and rail links over the past 30 years, Granada has sat on its lethargic backside raking in the tourist spoils from its Alhambra and Sierra Nevada attractions. But now, the casual tourist has become a hard-fought-for currency, causing the province, at last, to sit up and take note. It is now developing its infrastructure, bringing the motorway along its coastal strip as well as inland from the capital city to the tropical valleys of Motril and Almuñécar. And its popular cute and cuddly airport has only recently been upgraded from its provincial status to that of an International one. In short, Granada is fast becoming the flavour of the month.

We came to live here by accident as much as by careful consideration, stumbling across the area from our previous home in the heart of Castilla La Mancha merely because the main road cuts through the capital on its way down to the coast. Should you wish to be completely enchanted by the province, as we were back then, I suggest taking this timeless mountain road to the coast as you emerge from Granada’s smoggy suburbs. Its called the Suspiro del Moro - the sigh of the moor – a legendary route that was taken by the last Sultan who, the story goes, stood at some mythical point on this road and turned to sigh at his kingdom he had just lost to the Christian forces. The Sultan’s mother, rode up and spat out the poignant comment: “You sigh like a child over that which you couldn’t defend like a man”. And thus a street name was born. It is a journey that will leave you with a lasting impression as you drive through pine forests, almond fields, abandoned cortijos and lunar landscapes until you reach the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean and the gentle descent into the lush green vega of the Coasta Tropical.

The province of Granada can be roughly divided into three different living environments. The first is to reside in the capital city itself. The city is a bustling, noisy, and polluted place. It is however a fascinating cultural center that will satisfy the most eager of culture vultures. Work may be found (for those looking) in the numerous language schools, or if a command of the local unintelligible tongue is possessed, then what better place to start your new venture? But remember that Andalucia has high unemployment, so think carefully about what you have to offer that others may not have.

Many newbies to the peninsula opt instead for a coastal resort town, where they hope to mingle with ‘real Spaniards’ and other ‘real’ foreigners alike. Almuñécar and Salobreña and Motril are the three flagships resorts of Granada and each have something special to offer. Almuñécar is the more popular of the three for toe-dipping foreigners due to its International School on the outskirts of town and for its – until recently – lower priced housing. Beware though; this has changed considerably in the last few years and its now not so easy to find that bargain Spanish dream home without considerable effort, resources – and luck!

Finally, to become the cortijo or finca dweller in the countryside has a great attraction for many a recent arrival. It offers plenty of space, peace, fruit trees, a veggie plot, pets, the justification for buying a 4x4, and the possibility of finding quaint hobbling leather lipped neighbours. It could all add up to that Driving over Lemons romance.

If any advice is to be given, then its to give your new life a minimum 2 year trial. Before that period is up you will pass - as we all have done - through many different stages of cultural adaptation, from the initial extended holiday-honeymoon period of: “ Ooh, aren’t all Spaniards lovely” to the equally inappropriate “they are all a bunch of lazy, corrupt, unintelligible…”. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between and the truly wonderful part of moving and settling in to a new country, is to find this out for yourself.

Only do remember the bit about the accent. Forewarned and all that.

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