The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain… (My Fair Lady by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, 1956)
It’s been my intention to write a blog about life in Spain since I moved to Madrid from the United Kingdom in January 2013. I had intended to start immediately. The pressure of a new job, a new City, a new language and being apart from my family (who moved six months later) derailed the idea long before it had started.
I’m pleased we didn’t start then. What I knew of Spain and the Spanish at that time would barely have filled a postcard. And it would mostly have been wrong.
Before visiting for interviews in July and then September 2012, I had been to Spain perhaps eight times. Twice I’d been on holiday in Mallorca, my chief memories of which were the extraordinary cheapness of food and wine (a theme I’ll doubtless return to) and the relentlessness of the summer sun (ditto).
I’d also been to Barcelona half a dozen times on business. These typically week-long trips consisted of spending about 10 hours each day nursing hangovers of varying severity in football field-sized convention centres or soulless hotel meeting rooms starved of natural light. The days would be followed by heading into the dark city for a great (cheap) meal and too much wine until about 2am, a mere five hours before the cycle started over. It was a self-inflicted sort of misery, for which – entirely unfairly and illogically – I still haven’t really forgiven Barcelona.
And what else do we in Europe’s frozen north really know of Spain? Beaches, sangria and football clubs that defy the laws of financial gravity. That the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, a familiar school days line, I recently learned was derived from My Fair Lady. My entire experience was of the Spain of lazy cliché. Ignorant? Guilty as charged.
So it’s fair to say that when Jane and I started talking seriously about looking for a stint living abroad, Madrid was not even on the radar screen. We’d talked about Paris, Munich, Berlin and even Helsinki. Perhaps the east coast of the U.S? But Madrid? Not so much. To be honest I’d have struggled to put it on a map. And at the time, in mid to late 2012, Spain was regarded in much of northern Europe – not entirely incorrectly – as an economic wasteland bedevilled by corrupt politicians, recalcitrant trade unions and marching workers.
As it happened though, Madrid was where the opportunity arose. Nobody offered me a job in Boston or Amsterdam.
And we’re delighted they didn’t, because Spain in general, and Madrid in particular, has been an absolute revelation. We have enjoyed just about every minute of it.
What they don’t tell you about Madrid and Spain will fill this blog – my words and Jane’s amazing pictures. And they will not do it justice (the words anyway).
What they don’t tell you about Madrid is how spectacular the winter subsets can be; that you can sit outside in November and eat lunch bathed in glorious sunshine; or the ebullient atmosphere in the crumbling wreck of the Calderón as Atleticos get behind their team; of the glorious tapas on the Cava Baja.
And while you learn about the Pont du Gard or the bastide walled town of Perigord, you will likely have heard less about the stunning Roman aqueduct at Segovia or the exquisite medieval walls of Ávila.
And further afield is the most extraordinary variety of language, landscape, gastronomy and culture. Yes, there are marvellous beaches and wines of amazing value but there is also a rich and diverse artistic and literary heritage, a fascinating social and political history. And then, of course, there are people of rare warmth and generosity.
I’m conscious this seems a little worthy and gushing, but over the past three years we have come to feel immensely passionate about Spain and we want to share our passion and enthusiasm with others who might not yet have had the opportunity or inclination to see past the package tour or the weekend mini break on Las Ramblas.
For our family it’s been a three year adventure of discovery and on this site we aim to share it. The blog will serve as a reminder of our time here, a personal photo album and diary. But it’s also explicitly for public consumption because we hope that sharing our experience will help others to discover Spain.
And we hope you’ll participate also with comments, suggestions and observations.