Back to Spain, Part 1

Unless your world was already desperately small, the global pandemic whittled it away until all that was left were furtive trips to the grocery store. Donna and I planned on an ongoing ninety day rotation between Oliva, Spain and Seattle. Tickets had been purchased. We were scheduled to arrive in Oliva in April of 2020. A trip to Utah in March was cut short by the upcoming toilet paper shortage and imminent lockdown. Our plane tickets were put on indefinite hold. So were everyone else’s. The global pandemic had its way with us all.

Getting back to Spain involved getting a non-lucrative residency visa. It’s an open ended invitation to stay in Spain as long as we like, if we continue to do the required paperwork. At some point we’ll sit down and share the steps involved in getting a passport with “Residencia” plastered on it. There’s a fat folder waiting around for that occasion. I don’t want to go near it.

I will say, no matter what anyone tells you the residency visa process is… it will change. It will change, and anything anyone tells you will be specific to a particular consulate. The American expat sites are full of delightful bickering. They are also invaluable tools to help you navigate the necessary paperwork, timelines, and pitfalls of getting your residency visa. Or, you can dip into your savings and have a professional guide you through the maze. Donna’s advice is to take it one step at a time.
The beach in Oliva.

Once our Residencia was approved getting back to Spain meant navigating the Hunger Games lottery system established during the early days of vaccination. Countless hours were spent searching for appointments that disappeared as soon as you found them. Finding two appointments at the same time at the same place was impossible. We eventually found appointments two weeks apart. One was an hour south of Seattle. The other was an hour and a half to the north. The northern version came with its own snafus. Fifty two phone calls and hours of being put on hold sorted them out. We were fully vaxxed.

I haven’t said anything new here. The point is once we had our vaccination cards filled out no one at the airports in SeaTac, Amsterdam, or Valencia cared to see them. Getting on a jet to anywhere was dependent upon having a negative Covid19 test that hadn’t expired. No one took our temperatures. We didn’t have to take our shoes off. Short lines and damn near empty planes await as long as you have your test results in hand.

Your travel window starts dwindling the minute someone swabs your nose. We had 72 hours. This is important. If you get your PCR test done the day before flying, results aren’t promised until midnight the following day. That is too damn late. No one is going to let you board a plane unless you have test results to show them.

If you get the test done two days before you travel, you are burning up your travel window. I did some quick calculations in line at the testing site. We could have easily been one flight delay away from being stuck at the airport in Valencia. We opted for the RT-PCR test that delivers results in an hour.

Suited up for travel.

Getting tests that promise rapid turnaround seems like common sense. They cost more, but frustrated travelers in Seattle and Amsterdam were stopped at the gate over and over again. People who relied on emailed results were scrambling too. They were also responsible for holding lines up. A paper copy of results was more reliable.

Once we arrived in Valencia a survey we filled out and printed at home was presented. Our QR codes were scanned. We picked up our luggage and headed out the doors. Two security guards directed us to the proper line. In twenty feet we were officially back in Spain!

The view from our terrace.

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