Isabel Batlle Rocha.
A land of opportunity
Why did you leave Catalonia?
We left Catalonia twice. The first time was in 2008, and we did it because we thought that our kids should get to know and learn about my husband’s culture. My husband is English, although he never lived in England, as he was born and brought up abroad in different countries. The second time was in 2014 and was for two reasons: our economic situation, and because I really preferred to live here due to the opportunities it offered.
What did your choice to go to the UK and the place you live and work in now involve?
We sent our CVs to a Steiner school for young people with learning difficulties and we were accepted to work with them, so actually the place choose us.
How long have you lived there?
With all the ups and downs, for six and a half years.
Are you happy with the job opportunities you found in your adoptive country?
I’m happy. I did jobs that I never thought that I could do, such as teaching Spanish to children.
What do you think is the best thing about living there?
The best things here are the opportunities for me and my family. We also started a business importing organic fruit and vegetables from Spain to the UK. In Catalonia, we had a fruit and veg shop, but being self-employed in Catalonia is very difficult and expensive! Here we only pay 19 pounds a month. We liked the primary schools in Catalonia, but the secondary schools and colleges are great here, so that is one of the reasons why we are here still. Sometimes I wonder why I am here, but then the sun comes out and I look around and I find the answer in that moment: because it is BEAUTIFUL!
What would you most like to change?
I could say the weather but that is impossible, so to be honest I’m not sure if I would change anything. I like having the best of both cultures.
What do you miss most from home?
I miss my family and friends, of course. I miss little things, like going for a coffee or a walk with a friend, celebrating the Castanyada, Sant Joan, and so on.
What do you take with you as a present from your new home when you go back to your own country?
We used to take tea with us but these days you can buy it everywhere in Catalonia. We sometimes take shortbread, lemon curd, crumpets [a small unsweetened cake with holes in it]. But the funny thing is what we bring from Catalonia to the UK. I’ll bring fideus [noodles], ColaCao, breadcrumbs and Aneto stock! Ridiculous but true. And talking to other Catalans, I know that I’m not the only one bringing over those goodies.
What characterises your local neighbourhood?
We live in the Cotswolds countryside, in a village called Horsley. Our neighbourhood is a mix of local people and people from London who decided to swap the big city for the country. London is an hour and a half away by train, so there are lots of people who commute.
What is the best experience you’ve had in your adoptive country?
The best experience was having the opportunity to start our lives over again here, and to meet some amazing people.
Do you plan to go back to Catalonia?
Not at the moment; we need to stay in the UK as our children are in secondary school and college. We moved them from Catalonia to the UK when they were two and a half and seven years old, and then from the UK to Catalonia when they were six and ten. After three years we moved them back to the UK, so no more changes until they finish school.
CATALANS ABROAD horsley, Gloucestershire (UK)
Where are the best places for visitors to stay?
That depends on what you like. If you like peace and quiet, I’d say Horsley, Tetbury, or Painswick. They are little towns in the Cotswolds with stunning views of the countryside, but if you prefer cities then Bristol, Bath or Oxford are busier and more lively.
What do you consider the highlights for any brief visit for the first time?
Stroud Market on a Saturday, Gloucester Cathedral, Stonehenge, and all the charity shops (second-hand shops) around our area; you can find some real treasures.
And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
If they have more time then Oxford is a really nice city, The Arboretum in Westonbirt, or a day out in London is always a good plan, too.
Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends?
Zaza’s Bazar in Bristol. It is an old warehouse next to the river. It’s like a market with different stalls, and each one has food from a different country, such as India, Mexico, China, Italy, North America…
Where would you have a special dinner for two?
The Olive Tree in Nailsworth (Mediterranean food).
When is the best time of year to plan a visit?
Not so much in winter; any season is beautiful.
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