Our love affair with Spain

Authors experiences News Portal Spain Travel

The Costa del Sol region, with its perpetual sunshine, has captured our hearts, and we’ve made it an integral part of our annual Snowbird retirement journey. Our initial visit in 2022 was sparked by a touch of whimsy, reminiscing about my partner’s high school excursion to Costa del Sol during her junior year. Moreover, her proficiency in Spanish, honed through our various travels to Mexico and other Latin-influenced nations, has only deepened our connection to this enchanting locale.

For three months in 2024, we embraced the local lifestyle in Spain by residing in an Airbnb rental. The experience turned out to be a delightful success! Today is our last day here this year. We will do a pitstop in Portugal on the way home.

It just feels Right. The decision to move here, despite the additional effort and expense from Canada, is affirmed by numerous small factors. My support for the underdog aligns with the remarkable work ethic observed here. The abundance of small, independently owned shops and eateries, staffed by employees who appear to truly appreciate their work, is heartening. The absence of obligatory tipping—save for truly outstanding service—is a bonus, as a 10% gratuity is already factored into the prices. Dining out and grocery shopping tend to be more affordable here than in Canada, especially when opting for items produced in Spain. However, a preference for familiar Canadian brands comes at a higher cost due to importation. The use of Euros can give the illusion of lower expenses, though the reality is a 50% increase when converted to Canadian dollars.

Regarding language, the locals are amiable yet unobtrusive. They’re unlikely to engage in conversation unless you initiate it in Spanish. English proficiency seems more common among the youth, particularly in retail, though this varies by town and is likely influenced by the tourist demographic. The Google Translate app has become a valuable asset in overcoming language barriers.

Climate Overview

During the winter months from January to April, the climate in Costa del Sol resembles the Canadian spring or fall, with day time temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C. It’s common to have some days with mild or warm rain. We were fortunate to enjoy several days above 25°C. Unlike in Mexico, where the midday sun is often too intense, we found pleasure in basking in the direct sunlight during our afternoon strolls. A light jacket is advisable for walks, as shaded areas can be up to 5°C cooler than sunny spots.

Coastal Charm

The Costa del Sol boasts a 300 km stretch of almost continuous sandy beaches, peppered with numerous quaint communities, each with its own character yet united by rich Spanish traditions. Dog owners are held to strict cleanliness standards on the beaches, with hefty fines for non-compliance and some beaches even prohibiting dogs altogether.

Pristine Public Spaces

The streets of Costa del Sol are remarkably clean, thanks to diligent street cleaners who tirelessly remove litter and pressure wash sidewalks. The region’s dedication to tourism is evident in the meticulous maintenance of public areas, including the separation of waste into categories like glass, paper, cardboard, plastic, and organic materials. The local pride is palpable, with residents actively participating in keeping their towns tidy and attractive. This civic pride extends to personal presentation, with locals dressing smartly in public spaces and businesses ensuring their storefronts are inviting.

The Plaza Lifestyle

In both Spain and Italy, charming town squares known as “Plazas” dot the cities. These public spaces serve as delightful gathering spots for both locals and tourists alike. Our apartment happened to offer a splendid view from the balcony, overlooking one such Plaza situated in front of a grand church.

Around the edges of this open square, park benches are thoughtfully placed. Here, you can simply sit and observe people—especially during the golden hours when the sun bathes one side of the square in warm light. The local bar even extends its service to this area, allowing visitors to enjoy drinks while taking in the scene.

The joy of people-watching knows no age limits. Families with young children playfully dart around, while elderly individuals with canes or in wheelchairs relish the opportunity to be outdoors. Occasionally, a busker appears, filling the air with music or entertaining the kids.

As night falls, the younger crowd emerges after the bars close. They gather in lively conversations that sometimes stretch into the early morning hours. Meanwhile, a raised stage graces our Plaza, adorned with an artistic water fountain. Children often pretend they’re famous performers on this stage, adding to the lively atmosphere.

Every few weeks, “official” events take place in the Plaza. We’ve witnessed the National Police celebrating their 200th year, multicultural festivities where the people of Kurdistan welcomed spring (their new year), and the awe-inspiring Easter Week processions. During these processions, a marching band accompanies the solemn carrying of the throne of Christ or Mary through the streets.

At the far end of the Plaza stands a venerable tree, a silent witness to countless moments. Pretty green parakeets arrive in small flocks, nesting amidst its branches. And here’s a fascinating tidbit: beneath the Plaza lies an underground car parking lot. It cleverly shields the cars from the summer heat, preserving the city’s beauty above ground.

This vibrant Plaza, with its blend of history, culture, and everyday life, truly captures the heart of the city.

No car needed

Initially planning to rent a car, we discovered the efficient bus and train systems made it unnecessary. The government encourages public transport use, offering free rides on the main electric train line to Malaga and affordable fares on local buses. Long-distance coastal travel is also economical. High-speed trains traveling at up to 300 km/hr connect major cities swiftly, offering a convenient alternative to driving or flying. Parking is predominantly underground, preserving the towns’ aesthetics and providing cool shelter for vehicles.

Local Mobility

Residents commonly use scooters and electric skateboards, often given priority at intersections. Pedestrian safety is paramount, with strict enforcement ensuring drivers yield at crosswalks.

Banking and Credit Card Tips

Most merchants accept credit cards with chips; however, it’s prudent to have some cash in Euros for the occasional vendor that doesn’t. To reduce the currency conversion fees and extra charges typically levied by Canadian banks, we utilize “Wise” – a global currency exchange prepaid Visa. This card supports multiple currencies, enabling transactions in Euros without additional fees. Withdrawing Euros from local bank ATMs is straightforward and incurs a modest transaction fee of 3€. Be aware that when using a standard credit card, payment terminals might prompt you to choose between paying in Euros or US Dollars.


In Spain, about 30% of the population are smokers. While indoor smoking is banned, many eateries offer sunny patios perfect for a drink. Unfortunately, these can be crowded with smokers. We often choose indoor seating or edge seats outdoors to avoid smoke. Last year in Mexico, new laws made roofed areas non-smoking, which significantly improved our experience there.


Spain really does it right!

Our Other Spain articles: Easter Week Processions, Spanish Castle, Islamic Castle, First Impression details, Amazing Zoo, Torremolinos, Charming white washed town, Seville – Flemenco


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