After two and a half months of living out of our suitcases, today we are unpacking. One suitcase doesn’t take long to unpack but the feeling of settling into a house for awhile is lovely. We have found an apartment in Marbella, Spain. It’s got a great view of the ocean, in a nice, secure condo development and a great amount of space for a family that spends a lot of time together. Space is good. We have a nice, comfortable living area, the girls have their own rooms and share a bathroom, and we have a wonderful deck with a second living and dining area where we can enjoy the ocean view and the fresh air.
Finding places to live in foreign countries is not so easy. All the real estate offices we found were only interested in year-long rentals. They had a lot of options but not for the 3 months we are here. We told them they’d get a lot more business if they could do away with this silly Schengen rule that doesn’t allow us to stay longer than 3 months! But I digress.
We looked on a few local websites but didn’t get a lot of response to our inquiries. Do they just not do a lot online? Did they not want to bother with our non-local phone number? Were they taking a siesta instead of checking their email? I dunno but we didn’t get too far. So we turned to our old friend Airbnb and hit the pavement. But Airbnb is a tricky fellow. He does not want you to have any direct contact with owners of apartments before you book your stay. You can chat with the owner but any time you start to exchange contact information, the algorithms pick it up and block it. No website listing, no email address, and definitely no phone number exchange. So it’s a bit hard to do what we were trying to do: see the apartments before we signed on the dotted line (or clicked “book now” in this case). In fact a few owners said it was against Airbnb policy to show the apartment first. We read the guidelines and Airbnb certainly suggests we book first and see the place later (a little self preservation there, huh!?) but there was no listed restriction about this.
So we hit the road in our milk truck and started connecting with Airbnb owners. We used the “meet up” trick. Airbnb did not prevent us from arranging a time and central location to meet. Hotels, restaurants and especially Starbucks made it easy to connect and from there we took it all off-line. We looked at 5 different apartments and in the end we settled on the very first one we saw. We arranged for a significant (as in, about 50%) discount off the listed Airbnb nightly rate in exchange for a 2.5 month lease. When we expressed our uncertainty about the apartment due to the fact that we’d need to rent a car, the owner said he’d provide the car as well. OK then! This is the benefit of renting for a long time in the off season, and being a nice family of 4 that does not appear to have any interest in loud partying, wrecking the apartment nor inviting 3000 of our closest friends and family to come stay for weeks on end. We had owners falling all over themselves trying to rent to us.
In the end we are renting from a wonderful Spanish man. I think he took a week off work to make all the arrangements. He’s such a great guy and we moved in last night. It was move-in ready. As in, drop your suitcase on the bedroom floor, buy a few groceries, hook up to the wifi and you are home. It’s bueno.
Here are some things we love about the apartment:
Space: it’s a 3 bedroom apartment so each child has their own room. It also has a large balcony with a second living room area and second dining room area. So for a family like ours who spends so much time together, space is so important to allow us to be in different rooms but still be at home. Studio apartments are the number one cause of arguments when you travel.
Light: the living room has a big wall of windows that points south and there is a totally unobstructed view of the ocean. The sun streams in in the morning and you can just hang out on the balcony with the door open. All day! And because we are on the second floor, we can leave the doors and windows open even when we leave.
Kitchen: the kitchen is a decent sized and properly equipped. Cooking at home will be nice for a change after all those restaurants. However, I shall not be quoted on that, thankyouverymuch.
Bathing options: we have two showers, a bathtub and a bidet for that freshen-up feeling. And the master bathroom has a urinal. OK!
Central location: we are right off a main road (minimal traffic noise is a downside) so we are very centrally located to Marbella and other nice towns nearby including Fuengirola, which connects to Malaga by train. We can walk 5 minutes down to the beach, using a very nice overpass over the main highway. The kids are happy to go rock hunting daily.
Internet: 50 Mbps download and upload, baby! Say no more! We did a speed test at every apartment and this one blew the others away. The apartment that listed internet on a SIM card did not get a follow up call from us. No gracias.
There are downsides, of course. The traffic noise, although very white-noise-like, is unfortunate. It’d be nice to have silence sometimes. We had hoped to be in a very urban area with no car, but our desire for comfort and space did not seem to align with that possibility. We had hoped to be in a neighborhood where the kids could organically meet other kids but that also did not seem to play out. So we will work harder to overcome those downsides when we can. We’ve had two day-long social engagements in less than a week and they are going to a Halloween party on Monday so I think we are doing OK in the social category so far. We also have a view of the community pool for this condo development. There are not a lot of vacationers but on day 1 Zoe was in the pool meeting an 11-year old girl from England. So when there are family vacationers, we find them quickly.
Our first visitors arrive soon. They are some great friends we met in Panama who now live in Portugal. They are making their way here in their RV and will be parking outside our apartment for awhile while we we explore the area together. I think it’s no coincidence that they decided to come visit after they heard about our internet speed. I don’t blame them, I would do the same.
If any of our loyal followers, strangers or friends alike, would like to visit, we’d be happy to host you. Don’t dawdle, though. We are here until mid January and then our time is up and you’ve missed your chance to witness this great internet first hand.