We get asked a lot – how’s your Spanish? Which is inevitably followed by, how are you learning? So, we thought we’d give an update on our progress, our experiences, and share our favorite methods to learn Spanish.
We arrived in Spain in July of 2016, and began our journey to learn Spanish (Castilian/Castellano). We’re from California where there are lots of Spanish names for places, streets, Latino owned businesses, Latino radio and TV stations, and lots of Spanish speakers. We were familiar with a few basic words, and some pronunciation, but were starting from knowing near-zero Spanish. So how do you learn Spanish in a hurry – at least enough to get by?
Last weekend was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception holiday in Spain, and we took advantage of the 4-day weekend to take a quick trip to Madrid and Toledo. Thanks to the AVE high speed train, which goes up to 310 kph (192 mph), we made it from Valencia to Madrid in under 2 hours.
High-speed AVE trains between Valencia and Madrid
Madrid street vendors near Plaza Mayor
Chestnuts and sweet potatoes are common during the Christmas season
A perfect little wine and cheese shop in our neighborhood
Vietnamese Pho in Madrid
The nightlife was vibrant and energetic
Madrid's holiday decor was festive
Near Puerta del Sol
Legit street tacos at Takos Al Pastor, Madrid
Delicious champiñónes tapa at El Brillante cafeteria, across from Madrid Atocha station
The train station in Toledo is really cool
Exterior of the Toledo train station
The Alzacar in Toledo
Toledo- Alzacar in the background
The Academia De Infantería in Toledo. Spanish Army Infantry school.
Is Valencia a good city for kids? You bet it is. The people of Valencia seem to adore children, and they’re welcome everywhere. There are lots of kid-friendly activities in Valencia, and we’re constantly exploring and discovering what our 9-year-old son and his friends like and keeping a list of the best. We’ve included active and passive activities, which will help you find something to do regardless of the weather or time of year.
Update, I discovered one of the moms in our son’s school has a website called Valencia For Kids, which has some great advice and many suggestions for day trips and excursions.
I’ve been walking the streets of Valencia for a few months now and frequently come across little stands selling orxata de València or horchata de Valencia (the former being Catalano/Valenciano and the later Spanish (Castellano) both pronounced or-CHA-ta). I just passed them by, writing them off as a tourist thing.
Almost 3 months after leaving San Jose and now that summer is nearly over, our family is starting to settle into routines. We’re adjusting well to our new European and Spanish ways of life. We’ve learned some survival Spanish, no longer need maps to get around, are drying our clothes on the line, using the 24 hour clock, the metric system, celsius, and managing to get by just fine without a car.
We moved to Valencia about 2 months ago, so I thought I’d share some of my first impressions, both the good and the not so good. Keep in mind that we’ve only lived here for a short time, and much of that time has been spent finding an apartment, and setting up our household. We’ve been eating out a lot during this time, and since it was summer, TJ was not in school and we were working hard to try and keep him entertained. (Note: We now refer to our home in San Jose as “Home Sweet Home” and our apartment in Valencia as “Home”. It just makes it easier in conversation so we can distinguish one from the other). Continue reading
Heather and I have always enjoyed traveling, and have done a lot of it together over the years. We enjoy learning about different cultures, the history, and trying new foods. As a life-long suburbanite, I’ve always wanted to try living in a city, and love the idea of living in a really old city. We’ve talked many times about moving to Europe, and I’ve even had a couple of potential career opportunities here, but there was always something that held us back. Whether it was Heather’s career or mine, the birth of our son, or something else, the timing was just never right to make it happen.Continue reading
The day has finally arrived. We’re on our way to Spain to start a two year adventure. I’m writing this from a 747 en route to Frankfurt, then on to Stuttgart, and Valencia. It’s the Fourth of July, and seems fitting to be leaving our great country on Independence Day. We won’t see any fireworks, since we’ll be over Canada before dark.Continue reading