Mary’s Travel Blog

Last issue we left you in southern France, where we were spending two months at our home in St. Jean de Barrou. My husband (Dr. Ken Green, UFred Provost) and I often spend our falls in this small wine producing village in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, enjoying the beehive activity of the grape harvest. Upon receiving our fourth annual Titre de Sejour in mid-November, we drove the 13 hours to our home in Santa Lucia in the very south of Spain, stopping halfway for a couple of days in the lovely seaside village of Peniscola north of Valencia.

House Exchanges to Blame

I promised last issue to tell you how in the world we ended up owning and living in houses in three countries. It all started with home exchanges. We’d heard about Home Link years ago in France, where for about a decade we traveled to in the fall to escape. During one of these sojourns, someone in St. Paul de Vence mentioned loving the home exchange experience.

Five years ago when we decided to take a mini-sabattical in February and March to shorten the infamously long Canadian winter, I looked into home exchanges further. We booked four swaps and off we went to the Pelponese in Greece, and three locations in Spain (Costa de Sol, Andalusia, and Cantilabria). Our hosts were beyond gracious and generous and we loved each experience. After our first exchange in Greece, I was making arrangements with Spanish realtors online to view homes for sale, when a French house came to my attention. We made an unplanned detour north and purchased the French maison in the Aude!

Too Many Friends AND Houses

After that first year of swaps we decided not to do it anymore because we ended up with too many friends and too many houses!  We continued to visit back and forth with the two French couples we met through exchanging, usually when they stay at their second homes at the Atlantic seaside village of Les Sables d’ lonne in the Vendee region or in the French Alps. We also see a lot of the German couple we stayed with in Atlantera, because we bought our house close to them in Spain while staying at their house as second time!

We would highly recommend house exchanges for singles, couples or families. You generally tend to swap with people with similar interests and family structures. It’s a great way to enrich your life and experience economical vacations.

Historic Vejer de la Frontera- A Bit About Our Travels

Vejer de la Frontera

The village where our home in Spain is located sits in the shadow of one of Andalusia’s most historic and beautiful white hilltop villages, Vejer de la Frontera. Since it is only 12 miles across the Straits of Gilbratar to Morocco, Vejer de la Frontera occupies a strategic frontier location. It was instrumental as a frontier outpost for ousting the Moors in the 15th century, and later for spotting the marauding Barbary Pirates who would sail across from Morocco to kidnap people for slaves and/or ransom in the 16th century.

Santa Lucia Campo

Our village, Santa Lucia, is a small pueblo blanco of 250 people mostly multi-generational Spanish families with a few part-time expats from Britain, Holland, Germany and Canada mixed in. The Spanish call this area the “campo” (rural camp) and lots of Spanish have second homes “in the country” here and a house or apartment in a nearby village.  The agrarian roots run deep here with farming all around us. This small microclimate valley is full of bamboo hedges, fruit trees and flowering shrubs. It is teaming with chickens, geese, ducks, cows, donkeys, dogs, cats and owls. The water flows year-round here since it also is the site of a still-functioning Roman Aqueduct (that at its heyday until the 16th century operated 7 grain mills). Hence, we and our agricultural neighbors enjoy free abundant water from underground springs year-round, an extremely valuable commodity here in the sun parched south.

Santa Lucia

In our small garden, in addition to a swimming pool, focal fountain, numerous patios, and outdoor kitchen, we have Ken’s prized Napoleon Barbeque (made in Canada!). We enjoy many fruit trees including lemon, grapefruit, lime, avocado, clementine, orange, walnut, sugar apple, plums, and plantains along with several exotics like nisparo (loquat).  The only road into Santa Lucia is flanked by colorful groves of bamboo, bougainvilla, and angel trumpet trees, plus every hue of flowering vine. I spend my leisure time taming the garden and also painting watercolors, learning Spanish, and visiting nearby towns. Cadiz, Jerez and Seville, Ronda, Granada, Malaga and Marbella are all a short distance from home. Even Portugal is just 2.5 hours so often our guests fly into Faro due to better ticket prices.

UFred Leading Edge         

There are many exciting features in this issue of UFred Leading Edge that I look forward to sharing with you. We spent time catching up with UFred faculty member Dr. Mona Engvig and learned about her passion for teaching in her new book, Teaching Online: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Advice, and also have a new alumni story featuring Jesse Risser, graduate of numerous programs at UFred, including the Sandermoen Executive MBA program. Don’t forget to take a look at the conferences and trade shows we’ll be attending in the coming months as well; we’d love to catch up with you in person!