Where do I even start with our first several days living in Barcelona? I swore I would get online and post all the goodness that happened to us as it happened. Then we just went and enjoyed all that was thrown our way…. so here I finally go.
We arrived Monday without issue. Flights were on time (early), all 8 of our checked bags arrived, van was there to pick us up and had us at our new apartment ahead of schedule. David and I had seen this apartment in person in early March and luckily it didn’t disappoint. Besides being vastly ill-equipped (think no strainer, sheets or even one sharp knife) it is just right. We set out to visit our first retail store in 5 months. And why not start with the very best – El Corte Inglés. Nine glorious floors of an old school department store – think travel agency, restaurant, groceries, food court, furniture, electronics (electric scooters too) and all the perfume, shoes, make-up and clothing anyone could dream of. Kids got to pick out their own sheets and towels (they enjoyed this much more than I thought they would), picked up some groceries then headed back to the apartment. Dropped our haul and sought out the gourmet shop around the corner. We were the only guests and had them surprise us with a specialty ibérico ham tasting, our favorite local delicacy. We were walked through the flavors and differences and sipped local red wine, nibbled on olives, cheese and pan con tomate (bread with tomato). We were in heaven!! A perfect first “meal” in Barcelona. We chatted at length with the manager, Marta, who let the kids and I go behind the legs of ham and try our paper thin slicing skills. We didn’t do so bad for our first try and were even invited back. Here’s an article about a gentleman famous as a cortador de jamones. Read about him! Today I looked to pick up some jamòn at the grocery store and Lilly just looked at it in disgust and said, “I just want to go see Marta!” That kid cracks me up.
We were pretty excited about our new home and took us a while to wind down. We didn’t even take a nap once we arrived and the adrenaline was pumping. Our apartment has large giant glass doors that lead to two terraces but luckily have wooden doors behind them to block out the light completely. Sacked out until about noon on Tuesday. Guess we were tired after all.
Tuesday we set off to explore a couple of neighborhoods we like – The Gothic Quarter and El Born. Saw some ruins, wandered the streets, nibbled along the way. Covered about 8.5 miles on foot. Back to El Corte Inglés for more groceries. It’s an easy 7 minute walk from our pad. The organic food market is on our block for more basic needs.
On what was only our second full day in the city we wandered up to another great neighborhood, Gracia. I think if we were not living smack dab in the middle of town this would be the area for us. Great markets, lovely independent shops, lots of young families out strolling. There is an annual street festival that would have been happening here now- but COVID. Major bummer since the neighborhoods decorate above the streets and alleys in elaborate fashion in the middle of each August. There were a couple folks who still made an effort but nothing near the creations I have seen from past years. So, the pandemic really has changed things around the world. What I will say is this – I would much rather there NOT be a pandemic and huge economic problems in Barcelona (and around the world, obviously). However, the lack of tourists around the city is AMAZING. Traffic is down, you are not shoulder to shoulder at street crossings, people are respecting your personal bubble in a big way, virtually 100% mask compliance, hand sanitizing stations at the front of every store, extra cleaning measures, a ban on smoking when 2 meters distance cannot be maintained. It’s really the perfect time for us to start our adventure. We hope that world travel will again be possible, but we are making the most of having the city to ourselves. Since we didn’t want to stray from tradition too much we made tacos for dinner – a familiar taste of home. Again, too excited to sleep and up until about 2:00 am.
Yesterday we did more to make our apartment feel more like a home and picked up some much needed supplies. I sort of feel like I’m outfitting a college dorm. Cameron had me get the fixings for his lemon chicken – lemon and chicken! He was the master in the kitchen and sautéed up a tasty little meal for us complete with fried rice and broccoli. The kitchen has room for about 1.5 people so it was crowded with the two of us side by side, but we made do.
The vast majority of the locals speak English and quickly switch to it to help us. I usually make it a point to tell them I’m practicing my Spanish and they gladly swap back and offer to teach me. Everyone is grateful I’m making an effort and are very patient. It will be slow going since there are not a ton of human interactions. I suffer from a major lack of confidence with speaking Spanish. Luckily I understand most of what is said TO me. Today was a first for me when the plumber showed up to assess the repair needs for our two showers and a door. I was able to explain in Spanish what was wrong (yes, I was pointing a lot and letting him fill in the blanks) and communicate our needs. At least I think I did!
Oh, one thing that cracks me up is that we are now the proud owners of one of those rolling carts so we can haul our groceries across town. So even if I can’t speak the part, at least I can look the part.
Cameron bought a new skateboard on DAY 1 with birthday money from the grandpas and has been riding it daily on a pedestrian promenade around the corner. I’m in heaven on a bench reading my book, people watching and keeping an eye on my guy and his improving skills. Lilly is my shopping partner – she is willing to hoof it to get groceries and helps pick out new things to try. David is working from our apartment and one of several WeWork offices a stone’s throw from home. So far we’ve been able to find a nice balance and sneak in dinner at home with him in between meetings and calls. He never ceases to amaze me with how he gets it all done. Tonight he’s having a traditional campout on the family room couch with Cameron like they do back home complete with late night TV watching and making a bed on the couch with all the blankets and pillows. The only thing missing is the popcorn I failed to buy at the grocery store. I know this must be so emotionally stressful for the kids. Although we are packing the days with fun it is all so new to them. Since they have not be allowed out much at all in the last five months they are getting used to a new normal.
We are recycling even more than we do at home (we faltered at times in all candor). The kids are in charge of bringing down the trash and recycling and getting it into the color-coded bins on the corner. It’s kind of nice not to have to wake up Cameron on Friday mornings and tell him to hurry up and get the recycling bins to the corner because he failed to put them out on Thursday! Now I can nag him EVERYDAY.
Last night after David finished work up around 11:30 pm we meandered to the corner restaurant for our first pitcher of Sangria (this trip, not EVER). 🙂 I think we will become regulars. While we were chatting and catching up outside there was a table of police officers eating and another with sanitation workers drinking coffee in the middle of their night shift. We are pleased to find a local joint we can frequent.
Will continue to wander the neighborhoods and explore as we can, including the beach about 25 minutes away on foot! Maybe it will even cool down and we can get in an early morning run or a little hike to cover more ground. For now, we will be content fiddling with the 3 different AC units in our apartment in an attempt to regulate the temp. So far we love all the quirkiness this new urban living has presented. The kids are taking it all in stride and embracing the change. Tonight we made burgers and dined al fresco on our little terrace. We love the sound of the cars buzzing below. This suits us.
Well, that’s a blow by blow of the first few days in country. Nothing too exciting as of yet, but we are loving every minute of it. Will try to engage the kids to share their thoughts in the coming days on the blog.