It has been a fast and furious thirty days in Barcelona, preceded by an extremely busy September through December, evaluating neighborhoods, selling most of our earthly belongings, estate sales, obtaining our visas, getting our vaccines, and so much more. We have not stopped for five months—no wonder we feel exhausted. When we settled into our temporary apartment on Dec. 7, we received a message that our furniture would be here six weeks earlier than we thought. So, just as we arrived, the scramble began to find the perfect permanent home.
Our real estate agent, Eva Gonzales from Engel-Voelkers, was a delight to work with. She charted out our “must-haves,” “nice to have,” and “deal breakers” and soon began to understand our style and desires in a home. Even though, at first, like most immigrants, we did not think we wanted to go out from the city center, she ultimately seduced us with the desirability of the beautiful Sant Gervasi/Sarria area. After seeing almost twenty flats, we found the best option in a delightful and scenic neighborhood called Turó Parc. We have been in our new home for six days and love it. There will be more details and photos in a post to come.
NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. This phrase has crossed our lips countless times since we arrived. The many bureaucratic requirements (NLV resident visa, Certificado de Empadronamiento, NIE number, NIF tax number, IBAN account, TIE card, to name a few) combined with the difficulty of obtaining appointments, the many holidays in December, and the language barrier have been daunting.
Few business people and virtually none of the government employees speak English. We are confronting the fact that we must learn not one but two languages (Spanish and Catalan) to adapt and truly savor life in Barcelona. Any effort to speak the language is appreciated and rewarded by the locals. This trail by fire helped us learn much faster than we anticipated. But there have been some extremely frustrating and discouraging days.
WE WOULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. We anticipated the frustrating days and have determined to show composure and maintain a sense of humor, so we accept difficulties as challenges and with patience. Yet there have been far more rewarding days when we look at each other in wonder and know we have done the right thing, mainly as we read the grim and troubling news (particularly the political climate and seemingly daily mass shootings) from the Estados Unidos.
The overall atmosphere here is peace, joy, and camaraderie, and the Spanish people are a delight. At first, we thought several salespeople were being rude, only to realize they were embarrassed that they could not speak English. When we were patient and used our broken Spanish, they lit up and went out of their way to help us. It has been a huge learning process but a stimulating one.
Moreover, our overseas moving company notified us that our furniture was NOT arriving early, it has been delayed. We are still determining if this is due to the unrest in the Red Sea. Fortunately, we planned to buy a bed, mattress, dining room table, and chairs once we found our permanent home. We have more room than anticipated (our apartment is more extensive than our Dunedin home and studio combined!), so we ordered outdoor furniture for our amazing terrace and purchased comfortable chairs for our theatre room. The apartment is virtually empty and hollow sounding, and we are waiting for our furniture to arrive from overseas—when we have no idea. But the dining room table and chairs, bed and mattress, linens, pillows, and two small but comfy recliners are helping us survive until it comes.
We are grateful for Amazon (we bought a fantastic memory foam mattress for only €280, and store delivery from Ingles Cortes and Ikea have been lifesavers. One needs to realize all the things you cannot order and bring home when you do not have a car. We take SO MUCH for granted. Another huge benefit of our new apartment is our concierge, Julian. He accepted deliveries for us before we moved in and when we were away and is helping us learn the ropes of our new home and neighborhood. But he does not speak English, yet he said he would like us to help him learn English, and he will help us as we learn Spanish.
THINGS WE MISS. Whiskey, especially Rye, is hard to find and very expensive. Chile powder, miso, “normal” bread crumbs, and sausage are virtually non-existent, and there are no water or ice dispensers in the refrigerator, no garbage disposals, and no large sinks and showers.
THINGS THAT ARE DIFFERENT. Gina says, “Everything!.” Ha! Nespresso not Keurig coffee makers. Emergency vehicle sirens are much less invasive and strident. Routine is probably the most dramatic, especially the late eating times and the restaurant and store closings at 4—8 pm. We sleep much later in the morning and are usually not in bed until midnight. By contrast, in America, I was usually up by 7 or 8 am (sometimes earlier) and in bed by 8:30 or 9 pm. Vermouth is enjoyed instead of cocktails at 4 pm. In general, Spanish people drink high alcoholic spirits far less than Americans.
THINGS WE LOVE. Gina says, “Everything!” The weather is perhaps the most unexpected gift. The cloudless blue skies and low humidity. Yes! The culture: people, art, architecture, food, wine, festivals, local farmers markets, and bars. The sidewalks are primarily pavers that symbolize the Quest quaternity of the mandala and self. They are a constant reminder of the importance of wholeness and essentials. Sex—I think Barcelona has natural Viagra in the air, water, or both. Wow! It was funny to rewatch Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona last night and hear the artist’s character say the same thing about sex and Barcelona.
Finally, we have decided to name our new home, Montecino. I have a lot more to say about that later. Enjoy the photos!