Spain has long been one of the lowest-cost countries in Western Europe, which was just one of the reasons it was my destination of choice when I decided to spend a month overseas. I had the pleasure of living in the sherry-capital of Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain, where $2,000 covered all my living expenses—including rent.
I made myself at home in an old palace that had been converted into apartments. Located right in the historic district, it had French doors that led out to an interior patio, which was all marble, with a tinkling fountain in the centre. Including an agency fee and tax, it came to just over $1,100 a month. It was my biggest expense since it was a holiday rental—a similar full-time rental would cost half or less. But I had no complaints. My rent included all utilities and my internet was fast and reliable.
More and more expats are choosing to live part-time in Europe, just as I do. Some of them book short-term house or apartment rentals, as I did in Jerez. Others end up buying a home that they can rent out when they’re not there.
In Jerez, for instance, one- and even two-bedroom apartments in the city centre can be found for under $132,500. In the popular seaside city of Alicante, on Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast, you’ll have numerous small apartments to choose from at that price, even in the historic centre.
Just up the street from my apartment was a tabanco, one of Jerez’s traditional sherry bars, with tiled floors, a beamed ceiling and a long, polished-wood serving bar. Like many places in Jerez, it had a cheery, casual air, with outside tables that were always packed with locals enjoying a drink and the sunny weather. A fino—dry sherry, which is what’s most commonly drunk here and my own long-time favourite—costs about $1.50 and accompanying tapas were about $3. The tapas were delicious and generous—one was big enough to spoil my appetite for lunch and two were my lunch many days.
The Plaza de Arenal, a huge square lined with cafes, restaurants and shops, was also just a few streets away. Jerez’s traditional market, right by the square, was where I did most of my shopping. I’d happily pass an hour here selecting what I wanted from the fresh produce on display…ripe tomatoes, big bunches of fresh greens, tender artichokes and juicy oranges and plums. The seafood from the fish hall was incomparable—a pound of fresh red tuna cost me $7.50 and a pound of tasty prawns could be had for $4.
Food was so inexpensive, in fact, that I doubt I spent more than $200 on groceries the entire month…and that included wine. I discovered an excellent wine shop around the corner from my apartment, and the owner kindly advised me on various brands and types of sherry. There are many treasures on offer here that are never exported. And with prices per bottle starting at about $4.60, I didn’t mind tossing one if I didn’t care for it.
Besides sherry, Jerez’s two big claims to fame are horse breeding (the horses are magnificent) and flamenco. During my stay, I was lucky enough to catch a performance at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. And for flamenco singing, I could go to the many tabancos that host free sessions on Sunday afternoons. You just buy a drink, find a spot to sit or stand…and enjoy…
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