Friday, July 24, 2015

The Cost of Living in A Coruña, Spain (As of June 2015)



For the 2014-2015 school year, I lived in A Coruña (Galicia), Spain for 9 months. It wasn't my first time living on my own let alone in another country for that matter. However, it was my first year as a language assistant through the North American Language and Culture Assistant program. And it was also my first time living on my own in Spain without the help of a study abroad program or friends. The year brought a lot of changes and challenges but it was one of the best years of my life. I didn't necessarily fall head over heels in love with the city of A Coruña like I did with Sevilla (Viva Andalucia! ;) ) but I did love the natural beauty surrounding the city and the kindness and generosity of the Galician people who welcomed me into their lives. A Coruña provided a lot of opportunities for me to experience the local culture and language, have a few nights out on the town, beach days and take advantage of one of the lowest costs of living in one of the greenest and most beautiful regions of Spain. If you are planning on living or visiting this city soon, you will be in for a pleasant surprise and you will definitely not have to break the bank to enjoy yourself. 

I've gathered up receipts and scoured my mind for all of the possible expenses, prices and information you will need to know before moving to or visiting the beautiful city and beaches of A Coruña and now I'm ready to share it with you. I hope this will help give you a picture of what the cost of living is like and why you should visit this city at least once if you make it out to Spain one day! (or are leaving to fly there tomorrow)

Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty and talk numbers, shall we?


Rent and Utilities

The room of the apartment I lived in. I loved the big bed and all the space!

In the City Center/Ciudad Vieja: 150-225 euros/month +utilities per person
Outside the City Center/Ciudad Vieja: 110-170 euros/month +utilities per person

As far as the living conditions in Galicia go, there are some really nice options for you in small town (and cities too) for a cheap price but there are also plenty of old flats that haven't seen an update in a long time. Mine was a mix of those two options and I loved the room I found -the flatmates not so much- despite not having a functioning gas oven and having to get used to cooking with gas in the first place. These things were not hard to get used to and I adapted pretty well. And, luckily I met some nice girls who would let me come over and use their oven to bake. This almost always turned into a baking party and we got to know each other well. However, I would like a working oven next year (hint, hint, Santa, if by any chance you're reading this, haha).

Renting an apartment or room in Spain is fairly easy to do provided that you speak at least intermediate Spanish, you bring someone with you who does or your potential landlords speak some English (the latter is not too likely in Galicia). There is no background or credit check like there would be in the US but you will have to pay a deposit which is usually equal to the first month's rent. And you will probably have to sign a contract that will require to live there and pay rent for 6 months to one year.

Read those papers very carefully as two friends' contract (both auxiliares) stated that their landlord did not allow them to have boys staying the night in the apartment  or to be there very late. I'm not even kidding but I do wish I had thought to take a picture of their rental contract when they showed it to me. Plan to expect the unexpected and respect your landlord's wishes. It will make your experience living there that much more pleasant and enjoyable.

Getting on your landlord's good side is always recommended unless your landlord happens to be crazy or really mean and shady. These things unfortunately happen no matter where you are around the world. If you have a problem with the landlord or one of the roommates and you can't put up with it, I would look for a new place, ends things on good terms with your landlord and then leave quickly.

Utilities (gastos) are usually separate and deal with your water, butane (gas) and electricity bills. They won't all come to your house (in paper form only) on the same day or even in the same month and you may have to leave money for the last month's cycle of bills for after you leave. Electricity bills seemed to come every two months and water, every three months. Some landlords will add this total up and divide it by the number of people living in the flat and write it on a piece of paper for all of you. But, chances are you will be responsible of this yourself so make sure you keep track of it.

Make sure it has a decent clothesline. Warning: you may get envious of your neighbors' pretty clothes and linens 

My experience: 

I lucked out and found an affordable room in an apartment outside of the city center and about a 25 minute walk one way to my school. Though it was quite far from the center, it had plenty of other perks.

Perks such as: it was just a 15 minute walk one way to Playa de Riazor (one of two main beaches) on foot and my neighborhood was surrounded numerous stores, supermarkets and a couple of cultural centers (like the Agora) nearby. What's more is that it was an entirely pedestrian street and no cars -except delivery trucks or those with parking spots at a couple of garages- could drive on it. It was also the street where a lot of immigrants lived and a lot of people from the city mentioned it in so many jokes. I learned to live with it and laugh it off. 

I paid cash each month for the room and paid around the day I moved each month that followed. I would text the landlords or they would text me and once we agreed on a time to meet at the flat, they would come over and I would pay them 170 euros. No more, no less. I didn't have to sign a contract but I did have to live there for at least one month and promise to clean up after myself in the kitchen and clean periodically. They only had two rules: you had to clean and no guys were allowed to live there. A guy could sleep over but no guy could move into one of the rooms...which was fine by me. Guys can be messy! (Hindsight: I would recommend finding an apartment that requires you to sign a contract as the landlords that don't are less likely to pay taxes on the rent money that they receive from tenants. Lesson learned!)

My total: Gastos: included; Deposit (fianza): 50 euros; Rent: 170 euros. (220 euros for the first month)

Side note: Don't be the flatmate who leaves the kitchen sink looking like this and never cleans.

Food

The price of food at the supermarkets and fruit shops was very affordable in my opinion. So affordable, in fact that I would rarely spend more than 20 euros per shopping trip. If I did (and it usually happened at Mercadona, a Walmart-like supermarket but not quite as big), I would stare blankly at the number at the register or on the receipt a little shocked. My next thought would be, could I eat all of this food?! The answer was typically yes and eat I did some days. :P This one tidbit alone should give you a very good idea of how inexpensive food is in Coruña and Galicia as a whole.

These prices are ones that I have personally seen thanks to countless shopping trips to the various supermarkets, fruit shops and butcher's shops around the city. 


Dry goods
1 loaf of bread: 
Pasta (500g): 70-1, 40 euros (more for higher quality); or cous cous (what I bought): 1,50 euros/1 kilo
Rice: 1-2 euros (depends on type, white, brown, basmati, etc)
Dry Lentils: 99 cents
Dry Chickpeas: 99 cents
Maria/Digestive cookies (4-5 packs in a large package): 1-1,30 euros or less
Bread: As low as 30 cents per loaf!


Make sure you pick up a pair of plastic gloves in the store before
you touch anything here! 
Produce
(The following prices are per kilo; 1 kilo = 2.2lbs)
Apples: 80 cents to 1,45 euros (depends on the type)
Bananas: 99 cents to 1,50 euros (mostly from Las Islas Canarias)
Tomatoes: around 1 euro or less
Potatoes: 49 cents or a little less (potatoes are so cheap!)
Carrots: 70 cents
Strawberries: 2-2,50 euros
Oranges: 80 cents to 1,40 euros (depends on type and if it's for juicing or not)


I think I loved pushing one of these cute carritos around more
than I did the price of food in the Familia store! haha

Animal Products
Milk: 1.25 euros/1.5 liters (Milk from the region next-door, gorgeous Asturias!)
Eggs: 1.35 euros/dozen 
Chicken breasts: 3,99 euros on average
Chorizo/per link: 
Local cheese: 3-4 euros
Other Spanish cheese (ie: sheep/manchego/oveja) around 5 euros and up (depends if it is freshly cut a the counter-or not)


Beverages.Alcohol/Spirits
(The following prices are roughly close to 1L which is equal to 33 oz)
Wine - Boxed: less than 99 cents ; Drinkable: 2-4 euros ; Fancy: 6 euros and up
Beer: as cheap as 20/can or 
Liquor: (about the same as the prices in USD; Mexican and South American liquors were a little more in price)
Tinto de verano (cheap wine mixed with seltzer water -Gaseosa- and lemon juice or lemon Fanta; my go-to drink): 1.25 euros/1.5L of a quality brand, Casera.

Water bottle (500ml): 17 cents
Water jug (5L): 59 cents [Go for the big water jug! It's hard to carry more than one at a time but the price is SO worth it and almost all the water is natural mineral water, not just spring or tap water.]
*Bonus*:
Gaseosa - This drink tastes like seltzer or club soda but it is so much more than that. Shout out to my brother for getting me hooked on this very simple yet refreshing drink for only 0.25 cents/1.5L bottle! Sooo good :)

Cooking one of many tortillas (in Málaga 2013) in Spain!

My experience: I already knew how to cook a few things before I arrived in Coruña as I have already lived on my own for a few years. I can't cook a fancy Thanksgiving meal (but I'm grateful for the fellow expats in Coruña who did that for me, though!) but I can cook enough things to where I won't get bored for awhile. So I cooked a ton at home and was always coming up with new creations and trying out new recipes. My inspiration didn't necessarily come from Pinterest as you would think but rather Instagram. And, the last time I lived in Spain for a longer period of time (for a whole semester in 2010), I wasn't allowed to go into my host mom's kitchen for any reason so being able to cook here was something I longed to do! Imagine that.

My total: Between 80 to 100 euros each month. I spent about 20 euros weekly on average but sometimes I bought more (or less). I could fill a whole small basket of groceries at Mercadona and only spend about 22 euros or so. It was crazy. Getting all that food home wasn't too bad as I lived just a 5 minute walk from the store or even less for other grocery stores. I had a lot of options and so do you! :)


Eating Out
O Recuncho de Maite: the 1 euro hot spot tapas bar. You will go here at least once for lunch/dinner. Promise.

Hot Tea: 1,10-1,90 euros


It's too bad my favorite cafe, El Hacedor de Charlas, closed. They served you tea like this!

Cafe con leche: 1,10-6 euros (depends on where you go and the location- touristy or not-)


For an artisan (6 euros) coffee drink head over to Cafe Vecchio on Calle Real. They have good ones!

Water (cold): 1 euro
Water (room temperature and from the tap): Freeeee!
Espresso: 1,20-1,40 euros
Wine (glass): 1,50 to 4 euros
Caña: about 1,50 euros
Cerveza (small bottle): 1,60 euros+ (price depends on whether it's local Estrella Galicia beer or craft beer)

Tapa (high end/near tourist sights): 2.30 euros

Tapa (low-cost or student geared bar): 1 euro to 1.70 euros, sometimes free with your drink but that depends on the establishment

Everything at this table cost us under 7 euros. And we left feeling full.

Average price for Menu del Dia: 8-10 euros for a first course, a second course, bread, drink/wine and dessert or coffee. That's a very nice deal!

My experience:

An example of one of the menú del días that I had during my first week in Coruña at a restaurant near the train station. You get a lot of food and sometimes can't even bring yourself to eat dinner in a few hours you get so much! (The dessert is actually from a different restaurant and time. It was when I went to a Mexican restaurant for the first time there and really loved it. I've been back half a dozen times since because it was also very affordable. )



Don't forget to treat yourself to dessert once in awhile (pictured: chocolate lava cake with dulce de leche and ice cream)

As I mentioned above, I personally cooked and ate at home a lot during my 9 months living in Coruña. Other people that I've talked to who've lived or currently live there have said that you can eat out all the time it's so affordable. You could but it would get a lot costly when some foods and drinks can be purchased at the supermarket for a fraction of the restaurant price. Also, if you go out all the time and just order from a familiar menu (or get stuck in a rut and order the same thing each visit), you are more likely to get tired of the food quicker than most people. The restaurant options in Coruña are very diverse but after awhile -especially if you're not used to eating out a lot like me-going out to eat can get boring. You won't have to worry about tipping the waiter (they don't do tips in Europe, unless you feel that the service was spectacular and so you are welcome to tip) but the menu items don't change very often and you can get tired of the food.

Also, if you're sensitive or allergic to certain foods or need to be on a specific diet (example: I needed to switch to a high unsaturated fat diet this year for health reasons), cook at home. Produce is SO cheap in Galicia (see prices above). Take advantage of that and turn yourself into a master chef or take a cooking class! There are many options available so don't limit yourself to just eating out. :)

My advice: Split your time between cooking at home and going out with friends. Spain is all about enjoying food and drinks with friends and family so take advantage of that and jump into their dining culture. If you want to try out a new restaurant, maybe wait to do it with a friend or two to make the experience more enjoyable on a weekend or weeknight so that everyone can go. It's fine to go alone (as I have done countless times) but there are some food experiences that are meant to shared with others.


Bonus: If you're an American or you like American style breakfasts, visit a little place called Migas Dulces Bocados, an American inspired cafe and bakery on Calle La Torre 102 Bajo. The owner started the cafe about three years ago and she makes the best American style pancakes and pastries in the city! She grew up in Washington DC but moved to Galicia over a decade ago because her parents are from this region and most of her family lives over there too. She speaks perfect English and perfect Spanish as she was raised in a bilingual home. Normally, you can put maple syrup and butter on the pancakes but ask her if she has any fresh fruit that day and she will be glad to top your pancakes with whatever she has on hand! One of my friends even asked for whip cream and luckily she had it the night we went. Head on over there on a (rainy) Saturday or Sunday morning to get your American breakfast fix all for under 4 euros (includes coffee or tea and a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice). You won't leave disappointed!


Two Americans and three Brits visited Migas for England's Pancake Day in Marrch
My total: Around 40-50 euros/month; less during the winter months and less when I was about to travel at the end of the week.

Transportation

Single ticket (bus): 1.30 euros
Price/ride with regional or city bus card (which works for the airport and city limit buses too!): 85 cents! (student price: 35 cents!!!
Taxi (starting price): 4,40 euros (approximately) + extra mileage; taxi from airport: about 15-20 euros


Many people will tell you that A Coruña is a very walk-able city and it is. However, if you live in Riazor or Los Rosales (the furthest point from the city center), you will need to take the bus to get home and also to work/school. Most places are about a 20 minute walk (or even less if you live in the city center (downtown) but some places are very far and a bus makes things that much easier. And if you factor in the rainy fall and winter (and sometimes spring or summer haha) days, walking will appeal to you even less. The weather is known to change often here so be sure to check the weather report before you go out and take your umbrella even though some of the rain will be a light mist. (Or it could hail in February so be prepared for anything! haha)

My experience: I was fortunate enough to be placed in an elementary school that was 25 minutes away on foot and 50 minutes round trip. I would always take the bus to/from school if it was raining, especially on the days when it rained very hard (and a temporal --storm system-- or a ciclogénesis was passing through the area).

My total: 10 euros every two weeks on average. I would load this amount in cash onto my card at an Abanca ATM on Calle Barcelona or Calle San Andrés. On drier weeks, the 10 euro credit (saldo) would last me almost 3 weeks. On rainy weeks where I would take the bus to/from school each day, it would last just about a week (1,70 euros/day) and a half. About a month before I left, a friend of mine gave me her Transporte Galicia card that's good for travel around the whole region. You will get the bus card price -which is usually under 1 euro per ride- in any city in the region of Galicia when you use the card and you can even use it on the airport bus in Santiago de Compostela (where Ryanair is based) and only pay 85 cents to go to the airport! All of these savings will add up, especially if you find that you're going to Santiago a lot for flights. (The normal RT price for the airport bus is about 5 euros!)

Pro tip: Just last month another friend of mine told me about a trick with using the city (or regional) bus card. If you scan your card on the bus and then catch another bus within a 30-45 minute time frame, your next bus ride will be free and counted as a transfer (just like on a subway or underground system). I learned about this two days before I left the city but better late than never, right? I'm glad I can pass on that tip to others and use it more myself when I go back to visit.


Shopping

Make sure you have enough of the right currency before you go (pictured: birthday money
that I couldn't exchange. :P)

Pair of shoes: 10 euros+ (more for real leather of course)
Shirt: around 10-15 euros
Jeans: 20-30 euros+
Dress: starting around 15 euros +
Accessories: reasonable; buy ordinary items at places called bisuterías (costume jewelry shops) and fancy nights out -if you have any- at joyerías but don't break the bank!


My experience: Though I lived on a shopping street with dozens of stores around me, I didn't do much actual shopping. Most of my shopping was grocery shopping and window shopping when I did shop, I chose to stay close and went into several of the small stores around my flat. A lot of my friends frequented the big and flashy Marineda City mall (that was also next to IKEA and Lidl) but I did not. The short answer is, I didn't come all the way back to Spain to go to malls every week. There's nothing wrong with doing so but I wanted to get a break from malls for a few months. I also wanted to experience the local culture firsthand so I opted for smaller shops. I even made friends with two ladies who own two different stores and have some more people to drop in and visit when I go back to visit Coruña. Isn't that nice?

My total: Averaged 20-30 euros per month. I took advantage of going to a few of Coruña's thrift and resale stores in and near Riazor and bought (and replaced) things during rebajas -winter/summer sales- which saved me even more money. I also brought a lot of practical and re-wearable clothes for a couple different seasons that held me over for quite awhile before spring and summer hit. I'm a smart shopper as well as a bargain shopper but I really focused on price and quality this time around and was pleased to find both in many of the stores in Coruña. :-)


Social Life

Cinema (regular theater): about 6-7 euros; (Forúm Metropolitano): 1,50-2 euros per international film showing
Musical/drama: 23 euros+ (based on a visit I made to the Opera House to see Los Miserables)
Concert ticket (average): 10 euros+ (depends on how well-known the artist is)
Club entrance: average 6 euros (free for ladies often and on student nights)
Soccer/Football game at Riazor Stadium: 25 euros + (depends on the fame of the away team; FC Barcelona tickets were starting at 95 euros one time!
Basketball game: around 5-10 euros (but I got in free thanks to two players coming to my friend's school haha!)
Gym Membership: 10-15 euros/month, sometimes more


Casa del Agua (multi-purpose center aquatic sports, classes and sauna and steam rooms): see website for all the info


Make room in your budget to try the most famed places in the city like
Bonilla a la vista which has some of the best churros I've tasted to date!

Food-related activities

Frozen yogurt (Medium bowl, two toppings): 3 euros
One scoop of ice cream in a bowl or cone: 1,60 euros (average)
Churros con chocolate: 1,20-1,50 euros (for a medium cup of chocolate and two churros)

My experience: I can count how many times I've gone out (as in go to clubs or bars) on one hand in Coruña. The city has great nightlife especially around the beaches (Riazor and Orzan) but some nights it's hit or miss. I also had to walk quite a ways home and winter in the city was pretty dreary (though it definitely could've been worse) with plenty of rainy nights. I wanted to focus on getting healthier (read: not staying out all hours of the night) and I did a lot of stuff during the week (like go to cultural events, conversation nights, etc) and used my weekends to relax, write and travel. I had done my fair share of going out when I was a young 21 year old student and didn't really feel like repeating the same routine this time around in Spain, although I was in a new city.

Everyone is different, however, and if you're under 25 (unlike me at 26 as I write this), you may just want to stay out all night and go dancing. Go for it! Just make sure you do things you want to do and not be forced into doing things you'd rather skip out on. Your social life is important but your own personal happiness while abroad is a whole lot more important! ;-)

My total: About 10-20 euros per month. 

Cell/mobile phone plans

Orange: about 15 euros a month (on a pre-paid plan) for 1GB of data, 1000 messages and 50 minutes of calls (check the website for more information and to be sure the prices for the plans are current).

I heard the best things about Orange and their coverage and data plans so that's the only one I can really recommend. Pepefone was also another one that was very cheap and good for people who mostly used data for Whatsapp or other low data apps.

My experience: I brought two phones to Spain with me last fall. One was my locked Verizon iPhone 4 with no SIM card slot (go, Verizon! :P) and the other was my cheap 9 euro prepaid Vodafone flip, no T9 phone that I used as a study abroad student. (The kind where it takes you forever to peck out one message...you know what I'm talking about, right?!) I used my house phone to make local free calls, the prepaid phone for calls to mobile phones when I needed to and then my iPhone on Wifi for everything else. I went whole days without Wifi and was sometimes better off for it. I had some communication challenges here and there but after awhile I got used to it. It was good to disconnect so to speak while I lived here and I would recommend others try it if only for a month or a couple weeks.

My total: 5-10 euros on my prepaid phone only - and for the entire 9 months I was there! (I spent about $2/month adding money to my Viber app to make calls home to US cell phones and talked to everyone else via Skype or Viber itself (if a friend/family member had it too).


Available Stores and Malls

Grocery/Supermarket
Gadis (there is literally one on every corner there are so many!)
Familia (a mix of Dia and Eroski but the stores tend to mark down items a lot and they sell Eroski products for less than the actual cost -even if it's just 10 cents less- so this quickly became one of my top places to shop. I LOVE finding a good deal!)
Dia (also Dia Market and my favorite grocery store in Spain; I even have their Dia Club membership card!)
Eroski
Mercadona
SuperCor (more expensive but open as late as 2am (most days) which makes it a good supermarket to "fall back on" when you're in a pinch or can't go shopping)
Retail Stores
El Corte Ingles
H&M
Pull N Bear
Mango
Bershka
Yves Rocher
Desigual
....and most other big name stores you'd find in big cities or internationally including all stores are part of the Spanish clothing conglomerate called Inditex


Why go all the way to the mall when you live next to a bakery that sells these delicious treats?!



Malls


Marineda City (the biggest mall in Spain)

My experience: I spent most of my money in grocery stores when it came to shopping in the city. I didn't even go to the huge mall (Marineda City) until May 2015. Confession: I didn't come all the way to Europe to go to huge malls when I could just go to them in the US. It was fun not to go to malls and be able to visit as many local shops as possible to get the real feel of the city. Everyone's different and comes to Coruña for different reasons so don't feel obligated to do what I did. Alhough I would recommend it every once in awhile. :)

My total: (See total underneath shopping)

Miscellaneous Items/Needs

Important Spain residency related expenses
TIE Fees: 15 euros
Renewal Fees: 15 euros
Autorizacion de Regreso (Permission to return while renewal forms are processing): 10,30 euros
Photocopy (per page): 10-15 cents
Passport size photos (per sheet of 6): 5 euros


Other Services
Haircut (female): 7-8 euros+ (more for shampoo, drying and styling)
Haircut (male): 6 euros+ (more for shampoo and drying)
Manicure: 7 euros+
Pedicure: 11 euros average
Eyebrow wax: 3-4 euros
Upper lip wax: 3-4 euros
Highlights: 15 euros+, sometimes more/less


Medicine/Pharmacy Needs
Cough syrup: 7 euros (which lasted me one cold and two rounds of allergies)
Prescription pills: (see the pharmacies when you arrive; less than 5 euros per pack usually)

Other Items
Tissues (per pack): 10-20 cents (Scottex brand was so smooth, like Puffs in the US)
Toilet Paper (per 12 pack): 6-8 euros; store brands will be cheaper but I liked Renova
Shampoo (300ml to 1L): 1,50-6 euros (American brands like Garnier and Pantene will be more)
Conditioner (200ml to 1L): (about the same as shampoo)
Body Wash: 99 cents - 4,00 euros (store brands are the cheapest of course)
Shave gel: (about the same as the US, though I didn't buy any and just used conditioner)
Soap (bathroom, 500ml): 99 cents - 1,25 euros (get the olive oil based soap from Mercadona! ;)
Soap (kitchen, 1,5L): 1-1,99 euros
Candles: 1,50-2,50 euros on average
Air Freshener: about 1 euro for a store brand (more for Glade or other name brands)
Flowers: 3 euros+
Houseplants: 5 euros+ (depends on the type of plant and how nice the pot is; I bought spider plants.)


My experience: What's not on this list is cosmetic procedure costs and by that I mean laser hair removal. I was in need of several sessions of it (which my insurance plan MAPFRE offered a discount on sessions which helped a lot) during these past few months. It was about 60 euros per session (for 3 zones at 20 euros per zone) and I did those for 7 of the 9 months. I bought a lot of the miscellaneous items above in the very beginning but most of them lasted for a long while (or were one time purchases like the TIE paperwork fees) so I didn't need to buy them every month. The laser hair removal appointments that I had were usually scheduled for the end of the month. I only have a couple of sessions left and I'm excited about that! I may go into detail about the area of my body I'm treating another day for another post but I haven't decided yet. If you were wondering where all my money goes each month, it was usually to rent, food, travel and laser hair removal appointments.


My total: It was about 70-80 euros each month including the laser hair removal appointments. I did less traveling than most people I met as I had to be able to afford these treatments each month and stay on track with them and the hair growth. The good news is that I'm almost done and can then save or put this money towards more trips next year! :)

GRAND TOTAL:  1100 euros (700 monthly stipend, 100 euros in private English classes, 200 euros in steady freelance translation and marketing projects <--more in busier months)
                                 -1000 euros (I spent anywhere from 50 euros to upwards of 250 euros for 4-7 day vacation trips)
                                   +/-100 euros leftover each month (which was then spent on tickets to the USA)

And there you have it! I hope to save more money next year so that I can have a bit more of a cushion but as you can see A Coruña is NOT an expensive city at all. You can live a full and active life here just as you would in your home country and even save a little bit of money too. How much you want to spend is up to you and your hobbies. Just make sure that YOU are happy with your spending here and you will have a great time, whether your visit lasts one day or a full year!


Be sure to enjoy Coruña in all its seasons:


Fall

The leaves change all over different parts of Northern Spain - make sure you're
there to see them!


The ocean will be chilly but a nighttime beach stroll is a must in the fall!
Winter



Facing the city (to the left) in nearby Santa Cruz on a rare sunny day in winter.

Spring

Be sure to walk by and through the plaza near the Puerto on sunny days!  
Summer


Rent a bike or use the city bikes to take rides around the coast in the summer.


Don't forget to see the city's sights - both during the day and at night! (Not a complete list at all but something to get you started.)



Torre de Hércules (Hercules Tower)









Plaza de María Pita (María Pita City Square)



Eating a filloa (traditional pancake) during Carnaval in February behind
the plaza at night!



Parque de Monte de San Pedro (San Pedro Park)





And leave some room to try the famous pulpo a la gallega (polbo a feira -Galego-) at least once!

Even if you're not a seafood lover or have an aversion to it, this dish is a must try. Even if you just take a bite off of someone else's plate and don't eat anything else. The flavorful olive oil, slightly spicy paprika and salt sprinkled on top of the succulent pieces will send your taste buds into shock. It's a seafood dish unlike any other you could possibly taste and it is worth the try. It's also a dish that originates only in this region of Spain and they have perfected the recipe over and over again. And hey, wouldn't it be cool if you could add octopus to your list of weird foods you've eaten? Be adventurous - you came all  this way for an exciting experience didn't you? ;-)



This was my second plate of octopus in 5 months. It's so good!

Have you visited or lived in A/La Coruña before? What did you think of the cost of living? Are there any things you would add to my list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Give These 3 Types of Fruit A Try When You're in Spain

Spain is known for its world-class cuisine and mostly Mediterranean style diet but there is much more to the country than its typical ham, tortillas and patatas bravas.

Another way to experience the culture is to go to an open market, supermarket or fruit shop (fruteria) and see what kinds of exotic or new-to-you fruits and vegetables you can find. A lot of the produce and bread sold in small shops around the country do not travel too far and a lot of it comes from local sellers. I noticed a difference in the taste and quality of the fruits and vegetables after the very first bite. They are so fresh!

I've known about some of these fruits on the list for a couple years while others I just discovered a couple months ago! I hope you will put these on your list the next (or first) time you visit the country. You may return to your home country with a new found craving or hankering for one of them so stock up while you can!

1. Nísperos



(Nees-pehr-rohs). The English translation of this word is loquat or Chinese plum. It doesn't sound too appealing based on the first word, I know, but it is a fresh and sweet fruit that is a must try! I first discovered them at a friend's house in Seville about two years ago. I had been in Seville during the spring a few years earlier but since I did a home stay with a local family through my study abroad program, I didn't go shopping for produce. I never set foot into a small fruit store until last fall when I moved to Northern Spain on my own. I may have seen them in the supermarket when I would occasionally stop into one for a snack or to buy some chocolate or tea. All I know now is that I love when springtime hits in Spain because nisperos start appearing on the shelves and in window displays at the fruit stores. It's a magical time of year in my opinion! (And that means that it will rain less in Northern Spain but holding your breath is not recommended because it will still rain some more, haha.)

What do they look like?

They are small and rounded orange colored fruits that are the size of a very fat egg more or less. They usually have some dark spots on them and will have a lot more on them if they are rotten - stay away from them if they have too many dark spots and go buy them somewhere else.

What do they taste like?

Nísperos have their own unique taste so it's hard to describe it let alone compare it to another existing fruit. The best I can do is that it tastes a tiny bit like a peach mixed with a grape but it is not nearly as juicy as either one. The taste is not as overpowering as other fruits but it's light and refreshing in its own way.

What time of year can you buy them?

Typically late April - August. They are a spring and summer fruit.

How much do they cost per kilo (2.2 lbs)?

They tend to cost anywhere from as low as 1 euro per kilo to as much as 2.29 euros per kilo. Prices vary depending on if you purchase them in a supermarket or at a small fruit store. The price in the picture above is for just half a kilo (one pound) and it's a bit steep. I didn't pay that much for them and wouldn't recommend that you do either. They will drop in price if you just give it some time.

2. Paraguayos




(Pah-rah-gwuay-ohs). I first discovered this delightful little fruit in early May one night when I was shopping around for a picnic lunch. About 7 months had passed since I had arrived to my new city in Spain and I was already very familiar with the produce aisle of the various grocery stores within a one mile radius of my apartment. However, once I saw the word paraguayos I instantly thought of the country Paraguay (haha) but more importantly, I knew that I had to try these little guys. I didn't know if I would like them but I bought about four of them right off the bat thanks to the encouragement of a Gadis employee who told me that they were "muy rico." (What she didn't know that she already made the sale the minute I laid eyes on the sign and thought that the fruit looked exotic, haha.) I was hesitant at first but I bought a few and even shared them with a friend later that night! And my taste buds have never been the same since. Yum!


What do they look like?

These are the red and yellow light colored little flattened circles that you see in the middle of the above picture, next to the kiwis and the tomatoes. (Because that seems like the most logical place to put them, right? haha) They look and feel similar to peaches (think peach fuzz) but don't have the same rounded shape and dark red (or yellow) color that peaches do.

What do they taste like?

A paraguayo is basically a peach-apple fusion and it tastes wonderful. It's a very juicy and sweet fruit but the sweetness is not too overpowering. The inside is a clear yellow color but it's not as crisp as an apple is. You can eat them just like an apple, though, by washing the outside skin and then sinking your teeth into it. It also has a pit (or seed) in it so don't bite down too hard and make sure to eat around it as much as you can before you throw it away.

What time of year can you buy them?

May and on into the summer months. They are are a particularly refreshing snack for a summer picnic or beach day so I would suggest you eat them on a hot day during the summer.

How much do they cost per kilo (2.2 lbs)?

I have seen them priced as high as 1.70-1.80 euros/kilo but the price varies with location. In late June, I was seeing most paraguayos priced at 0.98 euros/kilo by the time I left Spain for the summer.



3. Albaricoques




Ahl-bah-ree-coh-quehs. English translation: apricots. I was first introduced to these delicious sweet fruits on my last Monday at the colegio I have been working at in La Coruña for the past 8 months. We had had two more fruit weeks (semana de la fruta) at the school before but having one that coincided with my last week was pretty special. Just before English class with the 3rd graders ended, the secretary came in and gave the main teacher a bag of tiny round orange fruit. They weren't mandarin oranges or peaches but apricots. In the US we usually only eat them dried but never fresh like they do in Spain and perhaps other parts of the world. Either way, I was very pleased to try them and was even more amazed at the children's reactions and how quickly they gobbled them up. These kids are getting a great education in life by being able to learn so much about the world around them!

What do they look like?

They are round and typically orange (or yellow or white) and have a smooth outer skin. I have seen them in both small and large sizes but find the small apricots to be adorable. They look like big grapes but have a similar curved shape to that of paraguayos.


What do they taste like?

Apricots are unique just like loquats so describing the taste is a bit difficult. Fresh apricots taste a little like grapes but with a peach flavor to them. They aren't exactly a citrus fruit but they have a lot of vitamin C packed into them. They also have a pit that comes out pretty easily so keep that in mind when you take a bite into your first fresh apricot. They are also very juicy and refreshing so I would also recommend eating them on a hot day. Beware that they tend to spoil very quickly especially when it's warm so plan to eat them 2-3 days after you purchase them.

What time of year can you buy them?

May to early fall (September). I arrived in Spain last fall during late September and did not remember seeing them in the stands at the fruit stores. If you want to try fresh apricots for a cheap price per kilo, summertime in Spain is the best time to get your hands on them!

How much do they cost per kilo (2.2 lbs)?


Albaricoques are the most inexpensive fruit that I've discussed on this list so don't expect to pay more than 1.25 euros per kilo. By the time I left in late June, they were even priced as low as 0.88 euros per kilo! You pretty much can't get a more fresh fruit any cheaper than that, folks.


And there you have it: my list of three quirky, must try fruits in Spain. They're only available for a limited time like most produce around different parts of the country so plan to try them if you're there during the spring or summer. You won't regret it!

What other types of fruit have you tried in Spain or another European country? Are there any must-haves you'd like to share? Add your thoughts to the comments below!