January 24, 2011

Vagabond sunbirds

We in New England, like folks in many parts of the US, are having a rough winter. Snow that won't quit and brutal, sub-zero temps. ("These are good days to teach kids about negative numbers," said Joan, a yoga-mate and retired math teacher.) Meteorologists tell us we're looking down the barrel of our fourth major snowstorm in as many weeks.

Ever since we began traveling Mike and I have made mental notes of cities, towns or villages that would make nice havens in winter, knowing that at some point we'll want to flee Boston's cold for somewhere else's relative warmth. Every once in a while -- including recently, with cheap foreclosures flooding the market -- we've been tempted to buy a place in Florida. But we'd be tied to it, and that's not what we want.

Our plan is to spend the coldest months of our retirement years in various places, renting our way around the world. No mortgage, no furniture to buy, no taxes, no maintenance, no feelings of obligation to go or guilt if you don't. We'd rather find a beachfront cottage or apartment in some pretty place, pay a few months rent, and settle in for an extended stay, immersing ourselves in our temporary neighborhoods and living like the locals. Then, the next year, put down seasonal stakes in a new place.

The Mediterranean and Aegean will no doubt figure in our future sunbird plans. We've scouted beautiful, quiet places like Albufeira, Portugal; Menton, France; Italy's Ligurian coastline; Chania on the island of Crete; Nafplion in Greece's Peloponnese; history-rich Antalya, Turkey; and fishing villages like Spain's Calella de Palafrugell, pictured above.

It's February in Calella in these photos, yet warm and sunny enough for a stroll on the beach or a relaxing rest on a bench overlooking the harbor. It may not be sunbathing weather, but it sure beats shoveling.