Authentic Spanish Style vs. Modern Comforts

Newlyweds Nathan and Sarah Smith always wanted to live in Europe, they just didn’t expect to do so during their first year of marriage.

But an opportunity for him to do graduate work at the Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain, sent the Highland Park High School graduates abroad, where HGTV’s House Hunter’s International assisted with their apartment hunt.

(ABOVE: Nathan and Sarah Smith enjoy living abroad. Courtesy photo)

Available on YouTube, the episode “Following the Beat to Valencia (June 30, 2018),” chronicles their search for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit, close to school, and with a balcony good for people watching.

He wanted an authentic experience with an apartment that feels like living in Spain, while she preferred something more modern with a nice kitchen.

Longtime fans of the show, they thought the experience would be fun and soon located an affordable, even spacious apartment that met their needs.

“It is a strange experience to watch yourself on TV,” Smith said.

“Homes here are generally smaller, and most don’t have air conditioning. That was probably the hardest thing to get used to.” -Sarah Smith

Their agreement with HGTV and its parent, Discovery Channel, prohibited them from discussing the production process, but they did talk about what they’ve learned.

Accustomed to a Texas lifestyle, they were surprised there weren’t more challenges finding a fitting home abroad.

“Homes here are generally smaller, and most don’t have air conditioning,” Sarah Smith said. “That was probably the hardest thing to get used to.”

Most homes do not have microwaves or even ovens, and because electricity is expensive, she said, “you learn to use less.”

They found grocery shopping a challenge but took it as an opportunity to hone newfound language skills.

“We love the laid-back European culture,” they said. “We also love not having a car and how much we are able to walk.”

After a year in Spain, the couple left Valencia in August and now spend time between Paris and London, utilizing Airbnb to find “home.”

“So many of our friends in Europe have taken time off between school and careers that we have been inspired by them to do the same,” Nathan Smith said.

(The couple lived on the second floor of this building in Valencia, Spain: perfect for people watching from the balcony. Courtesy photos)

Everywhere they have stayed has been comfortable with the uniqueness of each country’s culture coming through in the architecture and design, she said.

In Paris, they landed “an amazing place right in the city center, so we really lucked out,” Nathan Smith said.

She holds a master’s in contemporary British history from King’s College in London and is exploring her many options, while he hopes to teach music to upper-level students.

From Spanish lessons and late night tapas, to the 2-euro glass of wine, and the Fallas Festival (five days of fireworks, parades and burning effigies) in Valencia, from the fresh macaroons and baguettes of Paris bakeries to the free museums and friendly folk of London, immersing themselves in each culture has been satisfying.

But no matter where they travel or live, Texas still holds a special place for them, the Smiths said. “We definitely miss barbecue and Tex-Mex, and of course our family and friends.”

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