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Kiwi Expat Tales: What it’s like living in Denia, Alicante, Spain

With three kids who have flown the nest, Robyn and Adrian Mourie swapped their farm in Horowhenua for Spain, where they’re loving the weather, lower cost of living and travel opportunities.

Robyn Mourie Denia Spain

What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?

We lost a couple of dear friends way too early and they inspired us to get out there and follow our dream of living in Spain, and not wait until retirement or later. It hits home when you lose someone close to you of the same age.

I have also wanted to walk a Camino for many years. I met a friend, Yvy, in Oviedo, Spain in September 2023 and we walked the Camino Primitivo 350 km over the Asturias mountains, which are very similar to the Tararuas.

For Adrian, an inspiration to travel was to attend matches of the Rugby World Cup – what a buzz with the All Blacks getting to the final.

We’ve been based in Spain for seven months.

Did it take long to settle in?

No. We’ve settled in a town called Denia, halfway between the better-known cities of Alicante and Valencia.

We were only here two days before we started our Spanish language school. We have signed up for 20 weeks and are doing 20 hours per week. Going to the school has made it easy to meet lots of people of different nationalities.

We are also integrating into Spanish life by finding hairdressers, pubs, local cafés, and walking groups Most Spanish people here have a bit of English as it is compulsory at school so between our beginner Spanish, their English and Google Translate, we are managing to work things out okay.

People here are very friendly and accommodating and also often comment on how far we are away from home. We are living at the exact antipodal to Aotearoa.

What do you do there?

We obtained Spanish non-work (non-lucrative) visas before we left home. They allow us to live in Spain for one year, but we are unable to work at all and have to prove we are getting regular income into our bank accounts back home. After one year we can apply to extend them for another two years.

The rental of our home and cottage on our farm is fulfilling the visa requirements and also funding our trip while we are not able to work. Adrian has leased our beef farm and I closed my physio practice.

It took us 18 months to sort out our businesses and get our visas ready to make the move. We nearly gave up a couple of times and I had a panic attack a week before we left, thinking what were we doing leaving our kids (now in their 20s) and family and friends?

I thought to myself that I would regret it more if I didn’t go than if I went and didn’t like it and had to return.

We go to Spanish language school in the mornings and have afternoons and weekends free.

What are the biggest advantages of living there?

The proximity to other countries for travel. And the weather. It’s winter here at the moment and, when we biked home from school today, it was 28 degrees. This is not normal for January though.

Any disadvantages?

In summer, it was so hot it was unbearable. We had to close the shutters and live inside between the hours of 11am and 8pm in July and August.

We experienced the heat wave they named Cerberus. Temperatures were in their mid-40s and it was dangerous to do anything in that heat outside. Everything is still tinder dry and brown here, even though it’s winter. There has been no rain to speak of. It’s very worrying.

How expensive is it compared to New Zealand?

The cost of living is very cheap compared to Aotearoa. We are paying *$400 a week for a two-bedroom modern apartment with a pool in the complex and just it’s one block from the beach. *$1,733 per month or €980 per month

Our weekly food bill is about a third to a half of what we spend in NZ for the same things.

I can get a coffee and a six-inch bocadillo sandwich for $8. A pint of beer at the pub is $6. A menu del dia (menu of the day) at a local restaurant away from the tourist area costs about $16. You get three choices of entrée, four choices for a main, a dessert and one drink of choice.

Public transport and travel are also very cheap. We’ve just booked return flights to Morocco for €45 ($80) each.

How do you spend your spare time?

We don’t have a car here so we are biking and walking around all the nearby towns and villages to search out different weekend markets and activities.

Denia is the unofficial cycling capital of Europe in winter so we have been watching the professionals out and about on their bikes. I’ve also just joined a yoga class.

What is the local food and drink and would you recommend it?

Horchata de chufa

Horchata de chufa is one of Robyn’s favourite Spanish drinks, tasting ‘like an almond smoothie with spices’.

A local drink I love and recommend to try is a non-alcoholic drink called horchata de chufa, one of Spain’s most famous non-alcoholic drinks. It is originally from the southwestern region of Valencia. It’s made from ground chufa nuts (tiger nuts in English), which are the roots of a wetland plant called a sedge. It tastes like an almond smoothie with spices – very healthy and very yummy. The best place to buy it fresh is from a horchateria.

Easiest way to get around?

Bike and walk. It’s flat here and the cycle and walking paths are good. The buses are a bit unreliable.

Best after-dark activity?

There are so many festivals in Spain. There’s pretty much one festival every two to three weeks. And the Spanish party hard and until very late! Everyone gets involved from grandparents to school kids and pets.

Best time of year to visit?

Probably the most ideal times would be spring and autumn – not too hot and busy. Don’t come to Spain in July or August!

What are the top three things you recommend visitors check out?

Try and time a visit with one of Spain’s famous festivals. They are spectacular and so much fun.

Robyn Mourie Denia Spain 2

Visit Toledo, a Unesco-listed medieval city less than an hour on the train from Madrid. It’s so pretty walking through the streets of the old town – you feel as though you are in a fairytale.

Robyn Mourie Denia Spain 5

Visit any of the beaches on the east coast. They have golden sand and good surf. Or take a two-hour ferry over to the islands of Ibiza or Majorca.

Robyn Mourie Denia Spain 4

Family and friends aside, what do you most miss about home?

Good coffee. The coffee here and pretty much right through Europe is disgusting. We are very spoilt in Australasia with our awesome baristas and flat whites. It’s the first thing I am going to get when I arrive back in Wellington.

I really miss the colour green. I call it Aotearoa green. The Pacific lushness and green of gardens and forests that I will never take for granted again.

Article source: Lorna Thornber

Expat Tales is a Stuff Travel series featuring Kiwis who’ve made new lives for themselves overseas. If you’d like to take part, email

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