LIKE many of those who end up living in Spain it was after enjoying a holiday with friends that Jennifer Cunningham took the decision to relocate from London to sunnier climes for a quieter life.
“My late husband was much older than me and, after suffering a cardiac arrest, he wasn’t expected to live long, so we took a snap decision to move over to the Costa Blanca where the climate suited him and in fact he thrived and lived another 12 years,” she tells The Olive Press from her home in Javea where she has lived for more three decades.
“I was suffering from diabetes so the move gave us both a new lease of life, swimming every day in the sea and the Mediterranean diet really helped me,” she continues.
“The Spanish way of living, taking time to enjoy family and friends, also really gave me a new way of looking at life.”
But Jennifer wasn’t ready to retire. Instead she started up what has become one of the most successful expat businesses in Spain.
It began with one small office in Javea and has now grown to seven branches across the Costa Blanca and one in Lanzarote.
“I never tire of Javea. I can sit on a terrace and gaze at the sea day after day. It’s wonderful at sunrise, spectacular and sunset but it’s when the bay twinkles in the moonlight that Javea is at its most beautiful,” reveals Jennifer.
“Sitting with a coffee or a glass of wine and watching the world go by is one of my pleasures in life. Even in early March you can enjoy the warm sunshine on your face, look out over at Montgo, and see waterskiers in the bay.”
Javea occupies a special corner of Spain with its own microclimate that makes it a firm favourite with expats and Spaniards alike.
“It’s a wonderful place to live and while it has changed a lot since I arrived, it still has the old town with a marvellous market that still retains the feeling of the fishing village it once was.”
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The seaside town has become one of the most fashionable destinations during the summer months with crowds of Madrileños descending from the capital to holiday homes during July and August.
“Those of us who live here year round breathe a sigh of relief when September 1 comes and the multitudes go home. But in truth, the tourists are needed to keep the local businesses, the shops and restaurants alive,” explains Jennifer.
The pandemic was particularly hard on local businesses with many pulling down the shutters forever.
“Unfortunately, a lot of restaurants were forced to close with Covid but thankfully not as many as feared. Some of our favourite places managed to survive and things are picking up again.”
In fact, Javea is thriving. “There are new apartments going up everywhere,” says Jennifer. “Little teeny patches of scrubland suddenly get snapped up and then there’s an apartment block.
“This isn’t a good thing. Parking is a huge problem in Javea even outside the summer months but in peak tourist season, it’s impossible.”
She believes the town should introduce a ‘park and ride’ type system so visitors can leave their cars outside the town and catch a bus in.
“It’s hard seeing the town I know change so much and I wish there was more thought going into its development,” she admits.
But on the whole the love affair with the town she first encountered on a holiday in the 1980s continues.
She recalls the snap decision she made to move to Javea all those years ago.
“Here I was on holiday having a lovely time and I did everything you shouldn’t really do when making important life decisions. Just like that I saw a property I loved and put down a deposit, then went back and sold up in the UK,” she laughs.
“I was ruled by my heart and not my head and that isn’t something that I would normally do.
“But if you asked me if I would do it all again I’d say yes, I absolutely love Javea and feel very safe here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
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