What a coincidence: The woman featured in my Women-Wise article this month is called Wise; Carolyn Wise – that is. I met her at restaurant Rincón de Peña Parda, in La Herradura and was curious to hear her story.
Carolyn told me that she came here 27 years ago for a one-week holiday. During this week cupid intervened and she met Juan Barbero Martin. She went back home to Lancashire, England, only to be wooed back here a few months later for yet another week. It didn’t take long for Juan to convince Carolyn to move here altogether. Of course, she couldn’t just leave her hairdressing job without having another in sight. Juan was so motivated to have her come that he found her a job at a local salon.
Carolyn recalls that it was a 2-year nightmare to get all the paperwork and work permissions in order and this was before Spain joined the EU (hmmm some things never change). It was also difficult in the beginning because she didn’t know Spanish and had few friends. Nevertheless, love blossomed and four years later they married. She then opened her own salon and credits this business as one of the things that helped her to integrate into the Spanish way of life. It certainly forced her to learn the language. She has never attended classes but has simply learned by listening and talking. Naturally, having a Spanish husband and Spanish relatives helped immensely.
She decided to close her salon a few years later, when it came time to start a family. Ariadna was born followed by Selina, five years later. Carolyn subsequently became a stay-a-home mum for 18 years.
She recounted how hard it was when the first daughter was born. Things were very different back then and there wasn’t much assistance to get. Carolyn said, “After the birth, they basically handed you the baby and said there you go.” For the first few years she felt very overwhelmed and isolated and being far from home didn’t make it easier. But as she says “You either sink or swim.”
According to Carolyn, there are more services and help available for first time mothers today. Their daughters are now 19 and 14 years old respectively, so Carolyn decided to return to the workplace because she likes being busy.
She now helps Juan during the daytime at his restaurant Rincón de Peña Parda. This was a logical move, especially since Juan’s partner, Gregorio, has retired (although still partner) and no longer works there. Furthermore, she knows the business well, having already worked there every summer for many years lending a helping hand. The restaurant, Rincón de Peña Parda has actually existed for 35 years – first as a chiringuito but turning into a restaurant 21 years ago. It is equally popular with the Spanish as with the foreigners. The restaurant is well known for their roast lamb, pork knuckle and paella and especially their homemade deserts and sweets such as mousse, flan, rice pudding and tiramisu.
I was impressed by how ‘Spanish’ Carolyn had become and asked her if she had any regrets about moving here. “No regrets whatsoever!” When asked if there was anything she missed from the UK she promptly laughed and said, “Good shopping!” It was a rare treat meeting a woman who has so fully adapted to the Spanish way of life and adopted the culture as she has.