We are moving to…Pomegranate?

PomegranateSince my last update, we’ve made remarkable progress planning for our adventure.  Our family will be moving to Spain next summer where we’ll become proficient in Spanish and take in and learn about all things española.

In less than one month’s time, I’ve determined the city, found a school for our boys, and have started negotiations to lease a house in one of the coolest neighborhoods in town.

I’m super jazzed to say that we’ll be spending the 2014-2015 school year in Granada, Spain.

Why Granada?Alhambra - Espejo

  • We wanted our final destination to be in Andalucía for mostly language and weather reasons.
  • Being a university town with a population of about 300,000, it feels like the Goldilocks option – not too big, not too small.  Plus, on the surface it matches the demographic of our current hometown – Madison, Wisconsin.
  • While Sevilla was high on my list at the start, I just couldn’t find the needed information or gain any leads to help sort out the details.  Being less than a 3-hour car ride away, I imagine we’ll visit a time or two.

Granada Fast Facts

  • Granada means “pomegranate” in Spanish.
  • Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, it is about 13 miles (21 km) to the mountains and about 45 miles (70 km) to the Mediterranean coast.
  • More than 2.5 million tourists visit annually, primarily to visit one of Spain’s key tourist attractions – The Alhambra.


  • Passports – All have been applied for or renewed.  When the newly minted passports arrived for our boys, they gave me a knowing and excited smile after I told them they were now free to leave the country.
  • Schooling – While I haven’t yet been in contact with the administration of the local public school that we’re targeting, I’ve made many contacts in the area that assure me that there should be little concern getting our boys in.  The application process starts in March so I’ve got some time to sort this out further.
  • Long-Term Visas – My wife’s latest visit to the consulate in nearby Chicago was fruitful.  They were able to provide a checklist of sorts for applying for the needed visa.  While it will take quite a bit of work to get all the documentation together, it doesn’t seem insurmountable at this point.  They informed us that November and December were very busy for them dealing with student visas and that we’d be best applying after the new year.

Off-the-charts Excitement

I must say the one thing that excites me most is where we likely will be living.  You see, the Alhambra is THE thing to see in Granada.  Down a valley and up a hill to the north from the Alhambra is the Albayzin district (El Albaicín).

Along with the Alhambra fortress, this area is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It’s a medieval Moorish neighborhood whose oldest parts date back to the 11th century.  The area is filled with narrow, walkable streets (alleyways) impassable by cars.  I’ve been told everything we’ll need is within walking distance (groceries, banks, school, restaurants and bars).

Check out the photo below of the view from the rooftop terrace of the house I’m trying to rent.


As my wife says, “stuff’s gettin’ real.”  (except she didn’t say ‘stuff’)

Next Steps

Now that we know where we’re going to be, all focus needs to be on getting there legally and timely with the needed long-term visa.  Below is a checklist of those items needed to be included with the application.

  • Passports
  • Criminal Background Checks – no one wants a bunch of hoodlums in their country.
  • Medical Certificates – proving we’re all of sound physical and mental health.
  • Health Insurance – We need to prove sufficient health insurance coverage during our time in Spain.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources – the latest rules suggest an amount of €45,000 ($61,000) which is considerably less than $120,000 estimate I’ve seen in other documentation.  Either way, I think we’re good.
  • Proof of accommodation – signed lease.
  • Birth Certificates – for minors.
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Fees – Looks like this may be more than $600 for the application alone ($150 per person).

Preparation Costs

I’m adding a cost tracker to the bottom of these posts.  It will be a running total of the expenses associated with our family’s move.  Up to this point, I haven’t spent a dime other than countless hours of my time doing online research.

  • Passport Photos:  $44.27 for entire family
  • Passport renewal for 2 adults:  $225.60 = Renewal fee ($110) times two + Shipping ($5.60)
  • New passports for 2 minors:  $210 = Application fee ($80) + Execution fee ($25) times two

Running Total:  $479.87

As a quick aside, I was appalled when I learned of the price of passport photos taken at the local Walgreen’s.  This would have been $8 more if we didn’t have a coupon.  Yes, it was quick and convenient, but $44 is a ridiculous amount for eight 2×2 inch photos on a white background.  To help offset this cost, I’ve decided to shave my head myself all winter and save on a couple $16 haircuts.  (Edit:  Since this complete waste of money, I’ve figured out a way to get super cheap passport photos of any size.)

Does anyone have any Grenadine suggestions for us?

(Edit:  To read about the latest in this adventure, click here).

39 thoughts on “We are moving to…Pomegranate?”

  1. Very, very cool to see your plan come together.

    While I’ve been to Spain a couple of times, we’ve not been to Granada. Looks stunning!

    Is your plan to stay just for the year or open ended?

    1. Our family has committed for one year come heck or high water. We’re hoping we like it enough to stay a second, but we’ll make that determination once we’ve been there a while.

    1. Oh yeah. I think Spain is right up there with the number of national and regional holidays and we certainly plan to travel a bit. We have friends in England, Switzerland, and Italy and will probably hit a couple of those.

      I’m also thinking a trip to Morocco would be really cool – potentially over a winter break. And my in-laws spend half the year in India so if we’re in Spain for more than one year, I could also foresee a trip there as well. Distance-wise we’d be about halfway there anyway.

  2. Nice choice and great apartment view! Moving there in the summer should be great. The Alhambra is, of course, a must see. We walked the shit out of those little streets – I always find that’s the best way to know the lay of the land. There is a little church at a high point which offers spectacular views of the Alhambra. I think it’s called Mirador San Nicolas. Thanks and keep us posted.

    1. Yes, I think you are right. And if its the church I’m thinking of, this particular house is located just south of it (downhill) a couple of blocks.

      My wife and I did that walk for the same views over 10 years ago – the only other time we’ve been to the city. Strange to think about now that we’ll be living there for an extended period of time.

  3. That’s really nice! It’s like watching a personalized, more in depth House Hunters International episode (and there was actually one in Granada with an apartment with a view similar – although a bit worse – to the one that you will have). Really exciting stuff and it’s really nice to see that the costs for a long term visa are lower than anticipated. In my case it would be somewhere around EUR 3,000 per month, which is way better than what I also heard I needed, which was around 5,000.

    Keep us posted, this is really interesting stuff!

    1. Haha. House Hunters International. My wife wanted to apply to that show. I’ve read that they are pretty scripted and do not necessarily represent ‘real-life’ scenarios. They were still good fun to watch, though (before we got rid of our cable subscription).

      Regarding the cost of the visa…Just last month we received paperwork from the Spanish consulate in Chicago that had the cost written out as $75K + $15K for each dependent. But once I linked to the same requirements online the other day, they had already been reduced, published in Euros, and written out in a ‘per month’ metric. I’m not sure the reasoning but it sure seems strange that it would be changing so much. It’ll be interesting to see if they change again before we apply in January.

  4. Wowee, that really puts it into perspective, huh? It’s right around the corner! I wish you good luck in renting that house because the neighborhood appears so full of character and the terrace view would be beautiful to look at while eating breakfast. And lunch.. Dinner, too! I hope you get it!

    1. Yeah, it’ll be here before we know it. Thanks for wishing us luck with the house. I think we’re in since just today I traded emails with the landlord and it appears to be ours provided a deposit. Now I need to figure out the best way to get that to him from Dollars to Euros with the fewest transactional costs. Always something more to research…

  5. I’m one of the Madisonites you ran into at the MMM meetup. Having cemented plans for Spain is amazing. It’s so cool to see you really get things moving.

    1. Hello CH12. By process of elimination, I think I’ve derived who you are from the meet-up 🙂

      Yes, things certainly are moving but they really all hinge on long-term visa acceptance. I had to explain that to our future landlord. He seemed to understand. I told him worst case, we’d spend the summer in his place (we’re allowed 90 days or less without a visa).

      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. This is remarkable — really excited for you and your family!

    I just renewed my passport last year and I was aghast at how much those pictures cost too. What a racket they have going there.

    And the view from your potential apartment looks amazing, wow…

    1. I figured we’d end up wherever I could find a contact that was able to relate to our situation and provide the most information. I ended up getting in touch with an Australian family with similarly aged kids that is essentially doing the exact same adventure as we speak. They had done a lot of the legwork to prepare and have been overly gracious in sharing those details with me. They are obviously in Granada and loving it. The internet can be a beautiful thing, sometimes.

      Thanks for stopping by, Cat. Your blog is fantastic and one that I know I’ll be referencing even more when we’re looking for long weekend trips once we’re in the land of jamón.

  7. Hey, Buck, I’m digging the “reach FI or close” and move to Spain story you have here. I’ve always thought how cool it would be to live abroad for a year or three with our kids, so I subscribed to make sure I don’t miss any stories you share.

    Granada popped up on my radar of potential places to live (most of the others are in Latin America). I don’t really know anything about it, other than watching an Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown episode on Granada.

    I’m very curious about how the city treats you as an expat, your schooling experience, and the general costs of living.

    1. Hmm, I haven’t seen that particular Anthony Bourdain episode – I’ll have to look that one up here soon. Thanks for the tip!

      Needless to say, we’re all very excited and a little nervous for it to all go down. Everything hinges on our long-term visa acceptance that we’ll apply for early next year (probably late Jan/early Feb).

      We’re targeting July to start our adventure so you can expect on-the-spot posts from Spain at that time. Will probably be more boring preparation posts in the mean time. Thanks for the subscription and feel free to check in from time to time as I post updates. I plan on sharing all related costs and experiences to hopefully inspire and help others thinking of doing something similar.

      Happy new year, Justin.

  8. I have heard many great things about Spain, what a great way (really the only way) to learn the language. Sure Rosetta Stone is a great learning tool, but immersing yourself in a society and being forced to learn their dialect, there is no comparison to that! Look forward to future updates!!

  9. I’m glad I found your blog! I’m from Wisconsin as well and have lived in Waukesha, La Crosse, and Wauwatosa (current). When I was in college in La Crosse, I actually studied abroad in Granada for 6 months. I loved it, and you will (are) too. In two months, I’ll be leaving Wisconsin to head back to Spain. This time I’ll be in Logroño, La Rioja though. Maybe I’ll see you over in Spain!

    1. Cheers Mike! Nice to see another person from the land of cheese and beer around. I had to look up where Logroño was – just south of beautiful San Sebastian, I see. I’ll be sure to reach out if we ever find ourselves in that area – feel free to do the same.

  10. Hi, just dropped in here so apologies if this is a FAQ, but how much is the rent on your place there in Spain? Also, did you have to pay for school there? Thanks!

  11. I know you get a million of these. But my husband and I are ready for a retirement change. Spain is it. So excited. I dream of it every nite. Live in Washington DC area and in the next year, and a half we will be in spain, i hope and pray. We are in our sixty’s and will be living o social security, around 4000 a months but have a nice nest egg, for us, like a couple hundred thousand for a rainy day or if we live to 100. lol what do you think. should we do it. I think yes!!!

    1. Go for it, Kathi. I don’t think you will regret it. Outside of the big cities, you should be able to live rather lavishly for $4K per month in Spain.

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