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The Ups and Downs of Settling in Valencia

Well, it’s been a roller-coaster getting settled in Valencia since we arrived in early July. We knew there would be challenges, as with any move to a new city, let alone another country. But we didn’t anticipate it would be as stressful as it was the first few weeks, especially with housing.

First, the positives:
• Already we can see why Valencia is a great city to live: it’s easy to get around with public transport and bike (though with how hot and humid it’s been, biking will be more enjoyable later); many family-friendly cultural activities, with air conditioning if you can find it; the Turia river park which cuts across the city; and the beach.
• With efforts to speak Spanish, people have been friendly and helpful, and we’ve found good services like the pool, nail salon, library, yoga/Pilates, and bike shop. 
• Thanks to the Facebook groups connecting expats, we’ve been included in play dates and gatherings.
• Jacob has been loving his full-day summer program. 

We were also thrilled to have @corrinagf as our first visitor, enjoying activities and meals as a welcome break from the stress of the housing debacle, and having her do the tourist stuff and report back. 😉 

The challenges: 

  • Finding acceptable housing: though we had done significant research in reserving a two-month Airbnb for July-August so we wouldn’t be time-pressured in finding a longer-term rental, the place ended up being a dump, with significant mold. We escaped with a full refund and a little compensation for replacement housing but also a ton of stress. Fortunately we were able to crash at Corri’s Airbnb while we scrambled to find alternate arrangements; it was really bad timing being in the summer season. We found a decent Airbnb to hold us over for a few weeks, and thanks to amazing relocation support and wisdom from Christa at @moving2valencia, we navigated a confusing and frustrating search/leasing process, but ultimately landed a great place in El Carmen (the old city), though not as close to our school as we would have liked. 
  • Housing uncertainty, abrupt moves, and feeling unsettled between the travel and too many Airbnbs has been difficult on Jacob, understandably. We knew this would be a challenge but were not prepared for the extent of the behavioral hurdles and sleeping and toilet regressions, and it definitely takes its toll on the whole family.
  • Weather: July was not a good time to arrive in Valencia. The summer heat and humidity is oppressive and it’s frankly impossible to spend time outdoors from about 1/2 p.m. to nearly 7/8 p.m. (this made it pretty uncomfortable to pick Jacob up by bike from the summer preschool programs which ended at 4 p.m.). Unlike LA, it doesn’t get any cooler at the beach in Valencia. As a result, there’s a very different Spanish schedule due to the heat: getting things done in the morning, and then taking a siesta/staying indoors in air-conditioning through the “afternoon,” which basically lasts until 8 p.m. Also note that it doesn’t get much cooler in the later evenings either in the summer; in fact it felt even more humid at night at times. So your afternoon is more like 5-8 p.m. and thus the typical dinnertime starts even later (most restaurants don’t even open until 8 p.m). This is a big adjustment especially with a young child and so each family needs to figure out what works best for their situation. For us, in terms of summertime schedule, we preferred having dinner at home around 7/7:30 p.m. and targeting bedtime around 8:30/9 p.m., as that was optimal for Jacob’s sleep and parents’ time to decompress or get some work done.

We’re trying to adapt to many of these challenges and look forward to making our El Carmen flat feel like a home.