By Paul M Allen
If you're considering joining the hundreds of thousands of people that up-sticks each year for a life overseas, then Spain could be the ideal place. Here are 10 reasons for making it your destination of choice.
A plentiful supply of sunshine is always more appealing than endless days of rain (unless you happen to be an Australian farmer). That's especially true if you come from northern Europe, with its dark winter days and erratic summers. By contrast Spain is, by and large, well-endowed throughout the year with those golden rays. Plus there's no more need to fret about where to go on your summer holidays - simply stay home!
2) Outdoor Activities
With the sunshine and warmth come ample opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy the Great Outdoors - sailing, diving, hiking, climbing, cycling, golf, or simply paddling around at the beach. And in the winter there is decent skiing at both ends of the country, in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the south, or the Pyrenees in the north.
3) Natural Beauty
In many minds Spain has become synonymous with tawdry beach resorts that blight its once pristine coastline. But that is by no means the whole story. Yes, parts are overdeveloped nightmares. But there are still plenty of beautiful stretches of coast to be found.
And once away from the main tourist areas of the Mediterranean shore there are an array of natural wonders to explore, including the wild coastline of Galicia, the lush forests of the Basque country and the majestic Picos de Europa national park.
4) Cost of living
Since the introduction of the euro in 2002, Spain has become noticeably more expensive than it once was, as businesses over all descriptions took the opportunity to round up their prices. Nevertheless, the cost of items such as food, alcohol, petrol and property still compare favourably to those in many other industrialised nations, particularly the UK.
5) Food and Drink
Spain may not have the culinary reputation of France or Italy, but there is more to the local menu than just paella and tortilla (although both are delicious). And as you would expect from a country of such size, there is a great variety of styles between the different regions (with Basque cuisine of particularly high repute). Likewise, while a nice glass of cava or a Rioja red are not to be sneezed at, Spain's wine industry has far more going for it.
6) Pace of Life
Spain is renowned for its siestas and mañana approach to life. The pace may be picking up, especially in major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, but generally there remains a more relaxed approach to the clock, with people taking the time to chat with neighbours, or to linger over coffee at the end of a meal.
7) Health Care
The Spanish state health care system is among the best in the world. Indeed, the World Health Organization, in comparing countries' health systems for its annual report in 2000 (World Health Report 2000 - Health Systems: Improving Performance), ranked it seventh overall. And in my experience (of which I've had plenty) the facilities are modern, well-equipped and clean, the staff are well-trained, and treatment waiting lists are short.