#DareToDreamValencia: Jess Waters of QuirkyAccom on relocating to beautiful Valencia
Valencia is my favourite city break – not only because it is within an hour of my house – but because it has a wonderful old town centre with stunning, well preserved buildings and squares, good value Menu del Días, a relaxed pace, plus vintage shops and artisan stalls.
Valencia’s charm grows on you. Every time I visit I find something new and I love it a bit more.
My favourite thing to do is cycle through the Jardin del Turia in the former riverbed of the Turia. You can stop off at cafés, events, the giant Gulliver slide park (which the kids love) and cycle all the way to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences buildings, or go beyond… to the beach. There are always lots of activities and interesting people to watch in the park.
The most challenging thing about living abroad has been the schooling. There is a lot of homework and exams from a young age and in three languages (Castellano / Valenciano / English). It’s great for them to be so multi-talented, but it does take time and effort. Doing it with them has helped me get a reasonable level of Spanish along the way though and I can read and understand a bit of the local language too.
We moved to Spain for many reasons – the culture, climate, language opportunities for our children – and myself. We moved to this part because of a school we liked and Gandia is real Spain whilst still being near the coast. That can be hard to find.
The main advantage for children growing up in this region is that they can go everywhere with you, day or night. Children are always welcome and included. There is respect for every person in the family – young to old. I hope this will help us during the teenage years!
We first came to Spain when the children were small so they picked up the languages and fitted in well. They have never been to school in the UK. But, if you move to a popular expat location particularly, they will need support. Extra classes, Spanish TV, family integration. If they see you working on the language and if you can help them with their homework it’s a bonus. It’s important to keep their English to a good level too. Sometimes families suddenly have to move home and the children struggle to catch up. We speak English at home. But will swap to Spanish at the school gates etc. The children like to talk to their parents in their mother tongue.
There are many people who live here without speaking barely a word of Spanish. There are often many Brits about so there are usually people to translate and befriend. You can live in an expat ‘bubble’, but personally I think it’s a shame. And it can become overwhelming if you get ill or have a child with problems at school for example. I did have a basic level in Spanish when I arrived which helped of course, but I’m not a natural – I just keep at it. I took classes in Valenciano too so can understand and read a bit of that.
School starts from 3 years old which felt very young initially, but my kids always loved it. To be honest I moved to a more Spanish area to allow my children to concentrate more. In expat areas kids tend to come and go, and your kids can end up helping others learn Spanish rather than learning themselves. I’ve been happy with the education offered in Spain. Unfortunately because of the crisis now you are starting to see some cuts, strikes and no school excursions.
Overall I think Valencia is a wonderful place to bring up children. They are involved in so many fiestas, right now there is Carnival – the whole country is in fancy dress! Almost everywhere you go families are welcomed. Childhood should be the time to build confidence and if they don’t understand what’s going on fully it can limit their belief in their abilities. However if they don’t struggle with the languages it means they are trilingual at an early age, which is a great start. It’s a fantastic place, but be prepared to get involved and put in some work to help your children feel fully part of it.
QuirkyAccom.com is an extension of my slightly alternative and traveller self. I enjoy putting people and unusual accommodation together – helping people create memorable and inspiring holidays. We have over 500 amazing places from around the world – from tree houses to castles, cave hotels to cabins, arty and bizarre places. There are so many gems.