Relocation stories: Newcomers to the Maresme, Jeremy Rowe and Ian Jones, show how to live your life’s passions simply by making one bold move
TS: What prompted your move to Catalunya earlier this year?
JR & IJ: We thought about it for a long time. We loved London life and knew it would be a momentous decision for us to leave. However, we were tired of the stress, the dreary weather and the pollution, and wanted a more relaxed lifestyle. We like the culture of Catalunya, the diversity and quality of food, the beautiful countryside and the Mediterranean Sea. We fell in love with Barcelona when we first came here 17 years ago, on a motorbike trip. Then, 10 years ago we bought an apartment in Barceloneta, and have been coming back regularly ever since. As serious opera people, we were anxious to retire to a city with a world-class opera house, and we also wanted to be near a major international airport in order to develop our opera tours company.
TS: Why did you choose the Maresme, a relatively unknown area to British expats outside of the region?
JR & IJ: We did not think of it as unknown, and indeed have met and become friendly with other expats. Mainly though, we wanted easy access to Barcelona, without all the noise and stress of living in a city. By coming just a bit further out to Maresme we are delighted to have found the perfect place. We love the clean air and the clear views of the blue Mediterranean. We are also excited to have found a place to live that friends and relations will love to come to visit. Our diary for visitors for 2015 is beginning to fill up and we are delighted by this.
TS: What do you think the Maresme has that other better-known areas, e.g. Sitges, don’t?
JR & IJ: Excellent restaurants, uncrowded beaches and not being an intensively tourist destination. We enjoy the hustle and bustle of Barceloneta but it’s important to us to come home to the peace and tranquillity of the Maresme. We know Sitges fairly well, and although it’s a lovely town out of season, it’s far too “touristy” for us to live in during the summer. The same is true of other towns on the coast and since we wanted to be within sight of the sea the Maresme was an excellent choice for us.
TS: Jeremy, you’ve trained in opera and radio, but most of your working life was in teaching. How did it work out that way?
JR: As a teacher I was able to develop many aspects of involvement in the arts, even conducting children’s events in the Royal Albert Hall and many other prestigious venues in the UK and abroad. For the last 20 years of my teaching career I founded and ran an art-based independent school, using all the experience, skills and knowledge of the previous years in state education. 12 years ago we founded the Jones-Rowe Opera Tours Company, developing our mutual knowledge of opera, which until now has been developing alongside our “day jobs”. Through education I was able to develop a wide range of skills that continue to be useful for the opera tours company.
TS: So you’re planning to develop this passion?
JR: With Catalunya as our base, we plan to develop our opera tours company in many ways. Barcelona Airport is incredibly well connected for facilitating an international business and, from a more personal perspective, our wide range of interests and skills can thrive here. We think we have the best of both worlds, with the Liceu Opera, the Auditori and other prestigious arts venues. We’re looking forward to exploring the theatre we have here in Vilassar de Dalt too.
TS: Ian, your background is in high-end property. How does what you have seen in Catalunya compare to the British market and does it have the same sort of potential?
IJ: Absolutely. Barcelona and the Maresme both offer great long-term opportunities for property values to rise, especially as the region becomes the silicon valley of Europe. I see the same potential for many of the clients I have previously been working with in London from Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Russia and China.
TS: Do you have plans to explore more within the Catalan property sector and if so, what do you have in mind?
IJ: There are two aspects to this. First, I’m looking out for opportunities for former London clients for investment in the area, and second I’m interested in the potential of investing in Barcelona myself, where rental incomes are rising. At the moment rents seem to be low in the Maresme and may be slower than in the city to show a good return, but the potential is clearly very high, and I am watching the area with a great deal of interest.
TS: When you bought your property how did you find the Lucas Fox experience? Can you give us a brief run-down from the start of the process to the end?
JR & IJ: We were extremely impressed by the Alella office staff who have been professional and supportive throughout the whole process. Without a good knowledge of Spanish it would have been very hard indeed, and without the professionalism and assistance of the Alella staff it would never have been possible to buy the house so easily. Lucas Fox have been ready to go the extra mile (or kilometre!) to fix problems, which would have been very difficult without them. In terms of “process”, it was easy in our case. We had a vendor anxious to sell and we were in a position to complete quickly. Lucas Fox stepped up to the task of accelerating the process and worked very efficiently with us. Having a bi- and multi-lingual staff was essential and is a significant strength of the company.
TS: What advice would you give to others looking to follow in your footsteps – the ups and the downs?
JR & IJ: You have to be aware that there is a lot of red tape here and it’s different red tape from that in the UK. There’s no need to be daunted, but you must be patient – and you will need help. Also without the kind of network of contacts you probably have in the UK, you will find it harder to deal with everything from the lawyers to the plumbers. This has been part of the excellence of the Lucas Fox support staff, and it’s essential for anyone making this kind of move to seek support. It’s well worth emphasising, however, that waking up in the morning to a clear blue sky and glimpses of the Mediterranean, to breathing the fresh air and plunging into the pool, all make the challenges much easier, more worthwhile and ultimately supply the motivation to persevere through the complexities of the move. Incidentally, we’re suspicious that some vendors, on seeing a foreign buyer, imagine they will make a financial killing, as anyone coming to an area like the Maresme is assumed to be “loaded” and thus will pay top dollar for the property. It’s also ironic that one of the “downs” seems to be getting very keen on a property, only for the owner to take it off the market – so be ready for that!
TS: How do you think your life has changed since moving to Catalunya?
JR & IJ: This is a very easy answer: more than anything else we have become stress-free. We’ve left the London rat-race behind. We are chilling out, breathing fresh air, eating fresh food, we’re rejuvenated and enjoying life, and we have a brilliant base for developing the opera tours company.
TS: What does the future hold for you now?
JR & IJ: We’ll go on developing our retirement business of the Jones-Rowe Opera Tours and enjoy life with our newly-adopted dogs. We have an excellent base for international travel, we’ll find new skills and make new friends, and we’ll celebrate living in an environment where family and friends regularly come to visit.