F&F: We are SO, SO happy we got to interview the lovely Kate from fabulous blog: Oh Hello, Spain!
Oh Hello, Spain is an incredible resource for anyone who is considering relocating to Spain, or planning a trip there. It is packed with information about the country: What to do, where to eat, how to get around. It is wonderful! And all written by someone who has experienced it first hand!
Kate is fabulous and we are so happy to share with you all her answers to our questions about her blog, her life in Spain & all the rest!
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about you – where did you grow up? What was it like?
I grew up near Chorley, a small town in the north west of England but moved to Oxford when I was 18 to study and later to work. It was at secondary school that I discovered a love for languages – and soon after that, for travel!
What brought you to Spain originally – and what kept you there?
I’ve actually moved back and forth between Spain and England a few times but my first move there in 2004 was for my year abroad. I studied Spanish at university and spent my thirs year as a language assistant in the tourist-free town of Alcalá de Guadaíra near Seville. Despite its lack of obvious charms, Alcalá gave me a taste of life in ‘la España profunda’ and I was hooked! I’ve now been living and working in Madrid since 2013.
Oh Hello, Spain is a popular blog and resource for those interested in moving Spain. How did it begin? Was it always your intention to blog for others or did your blog begin as a personal project and grew?
I started blogging on a whim in 2010, the first time I lived in Spain. Back then I didn’t think much about the purpose or audience, but it was always intended to be for those interested in Spain rather than just family and friends. I’ve always loved writing so the blog was an extension of that. I’m so pleased to see how it’s grown and hopefully helped and interested readers.
Tell us a bit about Madrid! What do you love about it?
I love the fact that there’s always something to do, somewhere to go – but it’s not huge or overwhelming. There’s relatively little big-city hustle. It’s also a great value place to live or visit compared to some European capitals.
When is the best time to visit Madrid as a tourist?
Autumn or spring – winter can get quite cold (it snows a lot in the mountains outside Madrid!) and summer is unpleasantly hot.
What are your top three places to visit/things to see in Madrid?
Madrid isn’t the greenest city, but the beautiful Retiro Park makes up for this. I’d also visit the roof terrace at the Círculo de Bellas Artes for spectacular city views, plus the La Latina area for some tapas bar-hopping in Madrid’s oldest quarter.
Where are your favourite Spanish destinations when you venture out of Madrid?
As I used to live in Seville it’s one of my favourite places to return to – it’s a stunning city, although sadly more touristy than it was 10 years ago. Valencia has a great mix of old and new architecture, with a beach and great food thown in. Girona is also well worth a visit – the old town is just gorgeous and I love the relaxed atmosphere.
Can you speak fluent Spanish? Is it easy to get by on no/little Spanish?
Yes, I can. As a tourist visiting bigger cities or resorts you should be OK, but learning a few words in Spanish (or Catalan if you’re in Catalunya) will really be appreciated.
What has been a highlight of your life in Spain?
It’s hard to choose just one! I feel lucky to have had the chance to travel around the country and get to know the different regions. I also love the feeling of acceptance and integration that comes after a few years of living and working here.
Any future holidays coming up?
Plenty! This summer I’m off to the Costa Brava and further afield to Croatia.
Anything you miss from home?
Friends and family. Definitely not the weather!
Foodie question! Where and what is the best food you’ve had there?
Difficult to answer! In Madrid, my favourite place to eat is La Pescadería, which does amazing cod fritters. I also loved the pintxos (tapas) at Astelena in San Sebastián earlier this summer.
What has been the biggest challenge?
When you move abroad, it can be difficult to adjust to a different lifestyle and the temptation can be to try and preserve your old routines. If you want to get over your homesickness and really settle in, throw yourself into life in your new country and take every opportunity to meet new people and try new things. My biggest challenge was probably moving back here in 2013 as I was quite settled in England before I left, and really missed people back home at first.
Any words of advice to those looking to move to Spain (ie, where to begin, must do’s before heading over)?
Try and learn as much Spanish as you can before you move. A move entails bureaucracy like getting a national ID number, and you can’t expect to do this in English. If you’re planning to work here, have a clear plan of what you want to do while also being realistic – if you aren’t fluent in Spanish, teaching English may be your best option at first. Go with an open mind and ready to enjoy yourself!
What is next for you & Oh Hello, Spain?
More travelling and more blogging! It’s been a busy year so far, so hopefully I’ll have time to write more in the coming months.