We bought this lovely 128-year-old cottage seven years ago, when we moved from an apartment in the trendy Inner-West to less trendy, Penrith. We wanted a house with a garden, and a dog. We acquired both!
Penrith, sitting a the foot of the Blue Mountains, used to have the dozy air of a country town. It was quirky, quiet,and you could get a park on the High Street even on a Saturday. Our new neighbours were friendly locals, and we fitted right in. We joined the bowling club, the RSL Club and the Panthers Leagues Club.
The commute to the city to work each day was longer, but only by 30 minutes. It previously took 45 to travel the 8km by bus from our suburb in the Inner West, into the CBD. Such was the traffic congestion back then. It is worse now.
Seven years on, Penrith has exploded. 200.000 people call it home. High-rise apartments are replacing the cute cottages with the 1/4 acre gardens that we came here for. It’s impossible to get a park anywhere on weekends, and the commuter car-park is full by 7am each morning. The streets are grid-locked during peak hours. The avenue at the end of our street has become an unofficial commuter car-park. The 6.45 train is also now half-full leaving Penrith station, and is chock-full by the time we reach Mount Druitt, just a few stops away.
The charm is gone. The people who are coming in are different. They want different things. They want Penrith to be different. It will be. Re-zoning for high-rise has already happened, and a new airport at Badgery’s Creek, once farmland, will bring more than 40.000 to work in the area. NSW property prices are insane, with cottages like ours, sans charm, fetching $600.000-plus, we know that it is time for us to go.
We are over the commuting, and full-time working hours. We are over being exhausted by Friday, and busy all weekend trying to get things done. We are over the crowds and the noise, the crime and the traffic. We want to live somewhere with a sense of its own history, where local festivals have not been replaced by faceless, meaningless “harmony days”, and where local character remains.
We like Europe. We have lived there, and in the UK before. So we researched some of the countries that we thought we could live in comfortably, not as “ex-pats” but as new locals. We found Galicia, and we fell in love before even getting there.
And, so, our journey has begun. Our cottage is sold, we settle in July. We are in the process of buying a house in a hamlet near the village of Ferreira de Pantón, in Lugo province, 11 kms from Monteforte de Lemos, a spectacularly lovely large town of 20.000 people, with every conceivable amienity. It has the sense of community, and history that we long for. It is cohesive as a culture, and not bending over backwards to erase itself. It is firmly in the 21st century, but respectful of its own past and ways. It relishes it own identity, and isn’t trying to become some homogenized Euro-entity that just tacks on “traditions” not its own.
We are, of course, learning Spanish, and will learn Gallego when we become more confident. We hope to fit right in, and look forward to our first “Navidad” in our new home in the hills of Galicia.