This week, Laura Dibben sits in the Expat Hotseat. Canadian Laura lives in Málaga and we met her through a mutual friend, Michael Soffe. If you would like to be featured on the site, scroll down and click the link to fill out the questions.
When did you move to Spain, and where from?
In 2003, from Canada
Who came with you?
My brand new Spanish husband! A couple of weeks after our wedding, after honeymooning around the Rocky Mountains and Vancouver, came the most exciting yet difficult good-bye-for-now-airport-scene of my life. Thank goodness I had a hand to hold for the journey to my new life! For the record, we celebrated our 10th anniversary last year!
Where in Spain do you live now?
Málaga Capital! ¡Viva Málaga!
Do you work? As what?
Yes! A lot! I am Co-Owner and Co-Director of 3 companies with my amazing business partner, Michael Soffe. We give Gourmet Tapas Tours in the historical centre of Malaga; we are Wedding Planners; and we have a hotel reservations website dedicated to Boutique Hotels in Spain (and a little bit of Morocco and Portugal), all personally inspected by us.
How are you with speaking Spanish?
I am fluent – I think, speak, dream and live (for the most part) in Spanish. Such a beautiful language!
If you could change one thing about Spain… what would that be?
I would change the government (no explanation necessary!), I would make it mandatory for all Spanish students to study abroad for one year, and I would encourage more ex-pats to learn Spanish and get more integrated in the wonderful Spanish community.
What is the best thing about living in Spain?
Do I have to choose? Let’s see…in no particular order; the climate, the people, the food, the wine, the history, the architecture, the diversity of Spain’s landscapes….to name just a few things!
What is your favourite Spanish dish?
I have to choose again? I have favourite dishes in a smattering of different places, but to sum up: tapas of all kinds, pulpo a la gallega (am back to searching for the best pulpo a la gallega since the owners of my go-to pulpo place retired a few months ago and closed up shop – boo hoo am I in withdrawal or what?!), cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig), salt-baked fish, my mother-in-law’s “verdura” (I’d have to give a culinary chat to explain this one)…to name but a few. Oh did I mention tapas?
What is the predominant nationality of your friends in Spain?
If you won the Euromilliones – would you still live where you currently are?
Definitely – Malaga is a fabulous place to live, and keeps on getting better! But for weekends away and holidays (not that I have many) I would have some property in the hills near Antequera, a holiday home somewhere in Asturias, a flat in Paris, and some property in Canada….then divide my free time accordingly :)
If a movie was made about your life – who would play you?
Gosh that’s a difficult one. Whilst I would love to go for someone “classic”, I am going to go with Jennifer Lawrence. Although she is only 24, and apart from the fact that I still feel like I’m in my 20s most of the time, I really like the the playful (if not clumsy) elegance and no bulls**t attidude about her.
If you had to describe yourself as a sandwich filling… what would you be?
Savoury and sweet! Blue cheese for strength with caramelised onion for sweetness and balance. Leafy greens for added texture and maybe some roasted red peppers and roasted garlic for extra pizzaz!
Right – now is the chance to tell us all about your business/website/blog if you have one (or more of course). Go for your life!
My first two years in Spain I worked for a small and magical award-winning Boutique Hotel. The Director of the hotel (who hired me) is now the amazing business partner (and also my dearest friend) whom I mentioned earler. In 2006, Michael and I set up our own company, www.anamazinghotel.com. We’ve travelled through most of Spain, inspecting and selecting the hotels we wanted to work with and that met our high standards. Apart from reservations we arrange personalised itineraries for independent travellers from around the globe, and we are rather proud to say that 50% of our business comes from word of mouth and repeat clients who use our services year on year.
Shortly after, we launched into Wedding Planning, after being contacted by a lovely couple who wanted to get married at one of our hotels, and who were also looking for a wedding planner. Having arranged weddings in our “hotel days”, we offered to meet with them, show them around and plan their wedding. They accepted, www.andaluciaweddings.com was born, and it has gone from strength to strength. We arrange a handful of exclusive events each year, and by arrange I mean we do everything; aside from organising and overseeing all suppliers, etc, we decorate, we do the floral arrangements (we love letting our creativity loose!), as well as act as “maîtres”. Hard work (20 hour days over a wedding weekend!) but great fun and truly rewarding work it is indeed!
Our most recent addition to the business (now going on 3 years) is Gourmet Tapas Tours in the historical centre of Malaga. Our beloved city had gone unnoticed for too long, meanwhile it has actually undergone the most incredible renaissance over the past decade. Too many people were unaware of this, and still flying into Malaga, yet skipping it completely and heading to Nerja or other areas of the Costa del Sol. Since 2007 we had met with clients staying in our featured hotels in Malaga and taken them on tapas tours (with fantastic feedback), but there were still masses of people who were giving Malaga a miss, and this had to be stopped! Working in the travel industry and hearing/reading comments about how one cannot eat well in Malaga, or that it has nothing to offer, we realised that we must continue to SHOW people that nothing could be farther from the truth. It is such a delight to see how people react to Malaga and all its gastronomic offerings; so much so that many of our Tapas Tour clients from around the world have booked return visits (short stays, and even long stays of a month or longer) after just a few hours in the city with us.
We also have a blog www.tapasinmalaga.wordpress.com which is still in its early stages, and we are in the midst of putting together a fantastic package for “Foodie Weekends in Malaga” later on this year which we are really, really looking forward to!!
In addition to all of the above, I have just been appointed as the newest “Ambassdor” for Malaga with www.internations.org – a global forum that simplifies the process of meeting and networking with other “Global Minds”. Together with my Co-Ambassador we arrange monthly events in Malaga (Marbella also has its own community and events take place there monthly as well) – a fantastic way to meet other ex-pats or locals, looking to network, be it for friendship or business!
Elle, along with Alan, is the owner of Spain Buddy and the busy web design business – Spain Web Design by Gandy-Draper.
Born a “Norverner”, she then spent most of her life “Dann Saff” before moving to Spain in 2006. Elle’s loves are Alan, the internet, dogs, good food, and dry white wine – although not necessarily in that order.