The 18-Month Toledo Review – And Where To Next…?

I’ve been living in Toledo for a year and a half now. From the outset, I thought I might stay here for two or three years, and seeing as I’m half way, it’s time for a review.
The main reasons I chose Toledo as my first place to live in Spain were as follows:

  1. It has (or rather, its inhabitants have) the ‘right’ accent. Considering that I moved to Spain with the firm goal to finally learn the language properly, this was of prime importance. The costas sure are nice, but they either speak barely intelligible aberrations of Castilian Spanish, or different languages altogether.
  2. You can be at Madrid Airport in two hours flat by public transport
  3. It’s a (very pretty) small-ish town almost devoid of foreigners (except for masses of tourists). When you’re struggling with a new language, it’s extremely tempting to get sucked into the expat bubble to spare yourself the initial pain. Had I moved, for example, to Madrid first off, I would probably have ended up speaking English or German most of the time, and learning very little Spanish in the process.
Ah, Toledo... I found out today that it's home to 45 convents. But not a single Cake Order! I won't be signing up.

Ah, Toledo… I found out today that it’s home to 45 convents. But not one of them dedicates itself to eating cakes. I won’t be signing up.

Have I considered staying in Toledo for longer… perhaps even indefinitely? Yes. I’ve made some really nice friends here, and my heart aches at the thought of having to say goodbye, but deep down I know that it just won’t do for me in the long term. I need to be in a place that’s bigger and a little more ‘international’.

More frequently than I’d like, I find myself craving face-to-face contact with least a handful of people of different nationalities, and/or with Spanish people who have lived in other countries for a while. The experience changes you profoundly many ways that are difficult to describe, and I have to have some direct exposure to people who can relate to this. Also, I dream about fresh sushi and a gob-scalding curry… but there’s none of that to be had here. It’s ham and tortilla all the way. In short, I miss variety, and not just the culinary kind.

I’ve been ruminating over whether or not I should move to Madrid. At first glance, this would seem the most convenient option. It’s only 70 miles from Toledo, there’s a fairly decent train connection, so I would be able to see my Toledo friends regularly. They also speak Castilian Spanish in Madrid. Needless to say, it’s international, as you’d expect from a capital city.

Trouble is, every time I go there (which isn’t very often, I must admit), it fails to inspire me. I find the city a bit bland and generic looking. On top of that, it suffers the exact same extremes of temperatures that I find difficult to bear in Toledo – freezing cold in the winter and 45 stifling degrees in July and August.

So, now I’m thinking… Barcelona. I’ve never actually been there (embarrassing or what!), but it looks absolutely glorious. It has both sea and mountains, an airport, and sushi must exist there. It just has to!

The one major drawback, apart from being expensive (but then again, so is Madrid), is the language issue. They speak Catalan, although everybody also speaks Castilian Spanish, which is the second official language. And…I have to concede that living in a bilingual city does appeal to me. It’s very international, and I’m sure I’d even find a bunch of Brazilians before long to help me work on my Portuguese. A virtually impossible feat in Toledo!

As it stands, I’m in no desperate rush to move. I’m still enjoying Toledo, I’ll probably be here for another year or so, especially as I’ve got big travel plans towards the end of the year and don’t want to go through the hassle of a move between now and then.

I know that there are a lot of expat bloggers in Spain, so if anyone has any thoughts on this, I’m open to suggestions…

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41 thoughts on “The 18-Month Toledo Review – And Where To Next…?

  1. יונתן קסר

    Barcelona would certainly be a language adventure, and have a lower threshold for entry since they also speak Spanish… but if you’re thinking of brushing up on your Portuguese while you’re at it, would Lisbon (or elsewhere on the Portuguese coast) be a consideration?

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I have indeed thought about Lisbon… but it’s too early, I feel. Not quite done with the Spanish project yet, I’m planning to stay in Spain for at least five years. By then, my Portuguese may even be serviceable 😉

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I’d rather eat my own eyeballs. Which, I suppose, would help me come to terms with the facts that nobody ever smiles at you there, and that they all look like supermodels….hmmmm….

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        I have a better idea: Why don’t YOU come to Spain? Their English is just as diabolical, but at least they know about definite and indefinite articles.

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      2. Expat Eye

        I was actually thinking about it! I loved Madrid and know a couple of people there so it could be an option! The weather, the food, the people, the bad English – it’s a match made in heaven!!

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      3. ladyofthecakes Post author

        You’d love it here. Try and get a job at Escuela Oficial de Idiomas, or private academies where you can teach adults who actually give a damn. There’s plenty of demand.

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      4. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Commitments? Don’t tell me… in a moment of Ferrero Rocher induced exuberance, you signed a contract with the Irish embassy to elicit a hearty smile from a minimum of three Latvians, pictorial evidence required…

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      5. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Really??? I find that soooo hard to imagine… you’ll get plenty of that here. Despite the abysmal economic situation, a sense of hilarity prevails 🙂

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  2. Annabel

    Hi! Loving your blogs. Great writing. As for the Barcelona thing – it’s soooo great there. When I lived in Perpignan I used to go all the time and it is definitely one of the great cities of the world and would be a great place to live. It’s pretty, fun, inspiring, cultured, has great shops, great food and is by the sea … What’s not to love?! Worth a recce at least… X

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  3. traveller

    My vote goes to Madrid. Barcelona is lovely but a bit too good to be true really:) It’s amazing and all the rest of it but there’s something uneasy about it, I can’t really put my finger on it.

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    1. tobyo

      I vote for Madrid too, especially for the language factor. I should disclose that I have a soft spot for Madrid having lived there as a student years ago. However, there is a lot to see and if you’re an art lover, their art museums are fabulous. and did I mention the food? oh my, so many great things about Madrid!! However, I also like Barcelona. definitely got the international feel going there, same as Madrid, but different since it’s a port city too. should be interesting to see where you go!

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Madrid… I just don’t know… I’ve not fallen in love with it so far. As far as European cities go, it seems very generic to me. Then there’s the stifling heat in the summer and the freezing winters (just like Toledo). I guess if I did move there, I’d learn to love it, just like I did London. It’s hard to decide…

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  4. Kathleen

    The more I read your blog the more I love it! And my vote goes to Madrid as well…. It’s not surprising that you’re not in love with it yet but thats how Madrid works— it’s a city with a soul… This is one of my favorite (and pretty frequently quoted) saying about the city:
    “Porque Madrid, en realidad, no es nada especial. No tiene un gran río. Ni apenas rascacielos. Ni canales, ni lagos. Ni gloriosas ruinas. Ni mar. A Madrid le faltan muchas cosas. Pero tiene la gente por las calles. El rincón inesperado. La variedad. El contraste. La animación constante. Y sus costumbres. Vale la pena levantarse temprano- por una sola vez- para vivir un día la vida de Madrid.”
    You don’t move to Madrid for the physical city but for the Madrileño lifestyle! Go for it!!!!!

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  5. gina4star

    I’ve never been to Madrid and I lived in Barcelona for a year, so I am of course biased towards the most fabulous place on earth! Barcelona is a city which literally has everything, so your experience there can be whatever you make of it. The people do speak both Castellano and Catalan, but whilst it’s definitely appreciated to show some knowledge of Catalan, it’s certainly not essential. Again, it can be what you make of it. On a similar tangent, not quite as big or cosmopolitan as Barcelona, but similar in many ways, how about Valencia? 🙂

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Now don’t go confusing matters even more!! 😉
      I guess if I settled in Barcelona for any length of time, I would get down to learning Catalan. I like to know what’s going on around me.

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  6. Anna

    I absolutely loved Galicia/Santiago, and Leon. Wonderful medieval and pan-European feel. I’ve heard Gijon area is nice too – I would absolutely settle into one of the larger cute fishing towns up north. One of the things that was mentally a bit difficult for me in Spain was the lack of luscious greenery I was used to in Russia and American North East. But the Spanish North is so verdant, has amazing hiking in the Picos de Europa, and beautiful beaches without the hordes of tourists. (I know I am pretty late to this post but I wanted to contribute my 2 centimos 🙂 )

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Any contributions, welcome, lol, this post has certainly not ‘expired’ just yet!
      I do miss the greenery here in Central Spain, but I need an international city, I feel. Plus, the constant rain in the north is what I was trying to get away from. Can’t have it all 😉

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Yes, yes, I know, and it was a great one!
        How can you run out of ideas? There’s tons of stuff to write about. The topic of being out of synch with one’s own culture is enough for an entire book! Then there’s the day-to-day stuff (how’s it going with those street snaps, btw…? 😉

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