Journey to Our House Sit in Spain

Our journey from Switzerland to our house sit in Spain was an adventure in itself. Once again, the flights were a little overpriced, so I put my crazy planning skills to work and found us transportation for a fraction of the price. But the road was long and more than a little bumpy. Only days before we set off on our 1,000 mile journey from our house sit in Mannedorf, we received a sad call from our host. But I’ve skipped too far ahead. Let’s start at the beginning…

Travel Expenses

This may be a bit unsurprising, but our biggest monthly expense is transportation. It’s relatively inexpensive when compared with the US, but still an obstacle to overcome when working with a budget of less than $30 per day like we are. Our house sit in Spain was in the small village of Freila, located in the heart of Andalusia. There are no airports in the village and very little public transit (as in one bus, once a day). So, I set to work looking for an airport that wasn’t too far away nor too expensive to get to, as well as the best option for car rentals.

Mannedorf to Freila.jpg

After days of research, I was flummoxed. I tried every conceivable angle. I put together numerous departure and arrival combinations, using plane, train, and bus schedules. All were expensive. After a few more days of trying, I finally cracked the code and found the perfect solution, and managed to cut our travel expenses from a minimum of $250 to a total of $110. Oh, the things I do for the pleasure of finding the perfect price! Haha!

Männedorf to Freila House Sit

Finding travel arrangements for over half the price of a direct flight or train isn’t easy, nor does it come without some extra discomfort. This time around we had some strange layovers and two extra travel days, but we made it comfortably, happily, and with $100 extra in our pockets. I still call it a win.

Switzerland - The Places We Live
View from the bus window: Zurich to Milan

From Männedorf, we took the train 12 miles to Zurich. Next, we hopped on a bus and enjoyed a stunning 200 mile bus ride to Milan, Italy.  We stayed one night in a surprisingly nice hotel near the Milan airport for only $45. Then from Milan, we then flew via RyanAir to Alicante, Spain for $13 each. That whole journey, including the hotel in Milan cost only $110, including food (breakfast was free at the hotel).

In Alicante, we hired a car and booked an AirBnB on the beach while we waited for our sit to begin in Freila a week later. But before we even left Switzerland, we received some troubling news.



Change of Plans

Our house sit in Freila, Spain was booked months in advance. We had been chatting with our two hosts (sisters) throughout our European journey. Shortly before leaving Switzerland, we got an update that broke our hearts.

My sister had a heart attack last night and is in the hospital in Granada (45 minutes away). She is booked for surgery in a few days and I have been visiting her as often as I can.

– Host in Spain (highly adjusted)

Josh and I began making back-up plans in case the sit was cancelled when Josh mentioned how hard it must be to drive back and forth so far with a diabetic cat. I wrote our host back and offered to come earlier if she needed some extra help with the cat, but half expected she would cancel the sit entirely. To our surprise, she welcomed the help and asked us to come early. We cancelled our hotel in Alicante and instead went straight to her house upon landing.

An Unusual House Sit

Although understandably blue, our host was extremely welcoming and kind. We spent our time taking care of the house and pets as we usually would, but with the added benefit of chats over tea afterwards. Josh was able to provide our cat, Smarty, with her twice daily insulin injections so that our host could travel freely between home and the hospital.

Injections at our House Sit - The Places We Live

Unfortunately, less than a week into our stay, her sister passed away. We did what we could to try and make the situation a bit easier, doing extra little chores around the house, baking cookies on our day off, and making ourselves available to talk. We also did our best not to complicate the situation further by being too “present”. After all, it’s a difficult enough situation to navigate without having guests (near strangers, no less!) in the house.

On the day of the funeral, we assisted with the post-service gathering at the house. We cleared our schedules and helped clean up, fried up some potato pancakes (which turned out delicious), and welcomed the guests while our host was taking care of some final details in town. Circumstances aside, it was a surprisingly enjoyable occasion. We got the chance to learn more about our hosts, met an expat from Idaho(?!), and ate some tasty finger foods. I’m not sure if fun is the right word, but it was far from melancholy and we really appreciated the chance to mingle with the local expat community.

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Fried German Potato Pancakes topped with horseradish and smoked salmon

Looking Back

Although our usual social awkwardness made us a little extra edgy during this sit, we actually had a wonderful time. I loved the area and came to truly love our host and her nephew. The experience made for a very unusual sit, but it was also positive in a lot of ways. It wasn’t just a first day meet and greet where everything goes perfectly to plan and our best “meeting-the-hosts” outfits stay crisp and clean. It was real life, day after day, getting to know each other in our pajamas, with laughter and tears. This was an opportunity for us to step up and be there for someone in need, a goal we hope we achieved. I learned a lot on this trip and am so glad that we went, and can’t wait to get back to Freila to visit our new adopted aunt.


Adventures in Switzerland

Our adventures in Switzerland lacked for nothing. We explored our old town, visited the even older town of Rapperswil, the city of Zurich, and we of course ate everything we could get our hands on.

Living in the beautiful country of Switzerland has been a dream come true, albeit a very expensive one. As Switzerland is ranked as one of the most expensive places to in the world to visit, we ended up staying closer to home and spent most of our time hiking and visiting local shops. However, our adventures in Switzerland lacked for nothing. We explored our old town, visited the even older town of Rapperswil, the city of Zurich, and we of course ate everything we could get our hands on.



Exploring Our Town

Our little village of Männedorf was so adorably Swiss. It was clean, green, and walkable from end to end. We visited nearly every inch of the village from the farm lands on the hilltops to the factories on the lake. Even on a cloudy  day (of which there were many), Männedorf seemed to be alive with vibrant color.

Rapperswil

At only eight miles south of Männedorf on Lake Zurich, Rapperswil made for the perfect mini adventure in Switzerland. It is the perfect blend of new and old. Dominating the skyline, Rapperswil Castle was built in the 1200’s. Now, the town is home to one of the most significant transportation junctions in the region. We rode in on the ferry and enjoyed an evening of exploring the castle exterior as well as the modern shops that lined the major roadways.

Zurich

Even though the train ticket was a little on the spendy side, we did eventually opt for a quick trip over to Zurich. It was a beautiful sunny day and I wasn’t going to waste it. Our adventures in Switzerland’s major financial city took us through old town, new town, and any shop that smelled of bread.

All of the Food

Our adventures in Switzerland would not be complete without taking a moment to taste as many things as we could afford. My favorite treat was a pretzel sandwich with prosciutto, butter, and cheese. It was heavenly! The beer wasn’t too bad either 😉

Moving On

Our stay in Switzerland was not nearly long enough. At only ten days, we were just barely getting the lay of the land. As we left the country for our next house sit, we promised each other that we would return as soon as we could. I think I would like to try kayaking through some of the many lakes and rivers. Or maybe do some skiing. Either way, we will be back to see more of this colorful country and its natural beauty.



House Sitting on Lake Zurich, Switzerland

While house sitting on Lake Zurich, we had the pleasure of staying in a stunning, hill side home with two adorable dogs.

After an amazing house sit in Germany, it was time to move south to Switzerland. For our next European adventure, we spent a little over a week house sitting on Lake Zurich. We traveled 200 miles in a little less than four hours by bus to get from Karlsruhe to Zurich. Then another 20 minutes on a train (that cost about the same amount as our four hour bus ride!) to get to the lovely Swiss town of Männedorf.

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Männedorf, Switzerland

I’ve always boasted that my home town in Idaho is the most beautiful place on earth. Upon arrival in Switzerland, I was forced to rethink my stance on the subject. Switzerland is hands-down the most stunningly beautiful place I have ever been. It is a country packed with tall mountains, lush hills, and crystal clear lakes. The streets are clean, the food is delicious, and the people are model-level beautiful.

Switzerland - The Places We Live

Switzerland is located in central Europe and bordered by Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France, and Italy. Because of this, the country actually has four national languages including German, Italian, French, and Romansh. While in Zurich, we mostly heard German, but even then there was a local dialect that is spoken among more than half of the population called Swiss German.

Mannedorf, Switzerland Sign - The Places We Live

Männedorf is the most adorable little village, nestled on the shores of Lake Zurich about 13 miles south of the city. Scientists suggest that the area has been populated since the stone age. However, the first official settlement was established in the 700s! Now, the small village of around 12,000 people is one of the many agglomerations of the grand city of Zurich.

Our Home

While house sitting on Lake Zurich, we had the pleasure of staying in a stunning hillside home. The main house (there was also an on-site office and a cottage apartment) had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, kitchen, large dining room, living room, gym, and an office. My favorite part of the home, however, was the deck and infinity pool overlooking Lake Zurich.

House Sitting on Lake Zurich - The Places We Live

Our hosts were a married couple, a doctor and a photographer, and both of their personalities came through in the house. It was beautifully decorated with an artist’s eye for colors and negative space. Much of the space was dedicated to physical and mental health, including a meditation room, sauna, and an organic vegetable garden.

Our Family

We had the privilege of meeting the hosts both before and after the sit. They were a remarkable couple that really inspired us to live healthier lives and use our strengths to do some good in the world. We were served a delicious local meal upon our arrival and shared some great conversation over drinks.

Pet Sitting on Lake Zurich - The Places We Live

Charlie was a doll who became instantly attached to Josh. I once tried to take him on a walk without Josh but Charlie just refused to go. He was loyal and loving. His favorite things were sleeping near the windows and following Josh. Charlie slept under Josh’s feet while he worked, next to him on the floor when we watched tv (specifically, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo), and even snuck upstairs to sleep on the floor near the bed. Those two were inseparable.

Dog Sitting on Lake Zurich - The Places We Live

If Charlie was “Josh’s dog” then Tiffy was definitely “my dog”. She was the cutest thing and would tip tap behind me everywhere I went. I’d like to think it is because she liked me as much a Charlie liked Josh, but I think it was more because she knew I was the one who served dinner. She enjoyed snoozing on her bed and treats. Tiffy didn’t beg for pets very often, but when she did, I loved the way she would squirm and wiggle to get every little bit of attention.

Our Lives

Like most of the places we visit, we made some adjustments to our usual schedules to better fit our new home. For this house sit, we added a lot more health-focused activities to our daily routine. We did meditation daily and found it to really improve our productivity and happiness. Josh used the gym regularly and I could often be found relaxing in the garden.

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Josh demonstrating his “pet sitting” skills

Although the weather was a bit off and on, we walked and explored each day. We loved the area and the kindness of the neighbors. Our favorite bakery was only a few blocks away and it didn’t take long for the cashiers to begin to recognize us. We toured just about all of the area and even made a couple of trips up to Zurich and south to the old town of Rappersville. There was so much to see and we made every effort to see it all. We didn’t, of course, but we still had an amazing time.




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