In her book 'Inés y la alegría', the much-missed writer Almudena Grandes left a wonderful phrase: "Immortal History does strange things when it crosses paths with the love of mortal bodies". If anyone can confirm that maxim, it is Patrick and Linda Minter, originally from the New York area and now living a full life in the mountains of Leon.
Nothing in immortal history foretold such a fate, but you know: the love of mortal bodies has the ability to change any design.
The beginning: a trip through Spain
The story that has brought Patrick and Linda to Vegaquemada, some 40 kilometers from the city of León, is a series of coincidences and romances, like almost everything. It began when Patrick, still a young man at the time, went on an exchange trip to Madrid. In one of his escapades he traveled all over northern Spain: Euskadi, the Picos de Europa, the coast of Galicia. And at that moment, it was clear to him: he had fallen in love with that green and wild land.
The second love that changed everything came years later, thousands of kilometers away from the Cantabrian Sea: in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Patrick, marked by that seminal experience, had become a consummate Hispanophile in New Jersey. He read every Spanish book he could lay his hands on. Miguel Delibes, Benito Pérez-Galdós, Karmelo C. Iribarren. Almudena Grandes herself. And willing to continue immersed in that world, he decided to travel to the Guadalajara Book Fair in Mexico.
There he met Linda.
The meeting: Guadalajara Book Fair
Linda had lived in the New York area since childhood, just like Patrick, but she had to move to another country to meet the man who would become the man of her life. It was 1999 and Linda, tired of her job at a New York advertising agency, decided to take a long vacation. And she, a convinced Hispanophile, said to herself: what could be better than a good trip to Mexico to recover her happiness. Of course, one of the stops on that trip was the Guadalajara Book Fair.
There, among stands and booksellers and the hustle and bustle and smell of food in every street, Patrick and Linda met their eyes. First it was a few words, then a lot of laughter. And there began a relationship of years in which they always had one goal: to go to the north of Spain that Patrick always talked about, evoking memories of his youth. They dreamed of a small farm, of a place that was close to the mountains and the beach, if that was possible. And for a long time it was all just that, a dream that held them together. At least until 2020.
In the early days living with the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that were imposed, both Patrick and Linda realized that they already loathed the big city. That New York was not for them. They felt the call to get away from the hustle and bustle of New York. And that's when that dream became an option. Why not escape, now and without turning back, to Spain?
They spent days checking property prices and, with legal help, saw that it would not be a huge financial strain. They discovered an opportunity to apply for a non-lucrative residence. They got it. And this is what we learned from their journey.
The search: affordable opportunities in northern Spain
The first thing that Patrick and Linda Minter realized when they started looking for an affordable rural property in northern Spain is that, first and foremost, these can be divided into several categories.
On the one hand, there are the traditional houses in the center of a town or village. Spaces of one or two floors, inserted in the picturesque narrow streets, bordering wall to wall with other houses. There are also the old, isolated farmhouses, located on farms far from the center of town, with their own piece of forest or land to cultivate. Closer to the cities, one can also find large, suburban-style single-family houses on rural roads. These are known as chalets. And, finally, in parts of inland Galicia, Asturias or Leon one can even acquire an entire village for the price of a down payment on a house in the USA.
The choices, Patrick and Linda realized, were almost overwhelming. However, one thing made their job of looking for a property in Spain easier: the general rules of American real estate also applied in the country they wanted to move to. The farther away from places of economic or tourist importance, the cheaper the property. But moving too far away means isolation. And it is precisely in places in between that one can find the opportunity to build a small rural paradise for as little as $100,000.
And so they did.
The decision: summer 2020
Linda and Patrick traveled in the summer of 2020 to Spain with a clear idea: they had to finalize their home search in those months. They applied themselves to the fullest, and spent weeks scouting properties up and down the north coast.
First in the northeast of Asturias, an area known for its pristine beaches and the Picos de Europa National Park. That was the combination they were looking for. "The first morning, we followed the real estate agent along the mountain road from Cangas de Onís to Ribadesella," explains Linda, who concludes: "And we fell in love.
There they had it all. Mountain and routes to get lost in the Picos de Europa in Cangas de Onis, beach, surf and atmosphere in Ribadesella. Dozens of villages lost between the two points. Even a remarkable community of expatriates who had decided to establish their lives there. They were about to stay, but, as you know: "Immortal History does strange things when it crosses the love of mortal bodies".
Patrick received a call on August 12. They had gotten approval to participate, as a volunteer, in several cultural heritage conservation projects in the interior of León. And off they went.
The end: the purchase
León is one of those intermediate areas that are neither very touristic nor isolated. In this province where the mountain is religion, almost everything is affordable. In fact, many things could be described as very cheap.
Patrick and Linda's first home in León, while they were fitting out their new house, was a furnished apartment in the heart of the historic district. Its price: $750 a month. There they indulged in the pleasures of a Spanish city: drinking a glass of wine in the patio of a restaurant for less than $2, eating for less than $10.
Finally, the couple, who had left New York less than two years ago, moved to their acquired plot of land overlooking the mountains in a village about 16 kilometers from León. And there they continue, today, their story of happiness, falling in love and coincidences.
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