Discovery trip – day 2

Well you know how day 1 ended, with me almost puking my guts out the window of the cab.  Thankfully day 2 went quite a bit smoother!!  While I woke up after 12 hrs of sleeping still with that hangover type feeling I definitely felt significantly better than I did on Mon.

We met up with Mele around 10AM to start the viewing of the next 10 apartments.  I’ll upload pics probably when we get back because for some reason I can’t get the photo upload on Facebook to work and this program only allows me to upload one image at a time and it takes a good 10 mins per image – I just don’t have that kind of patience at the moment!

Anyways, we have been pleasantly surprised so far with what we have seen.  We had looked online at many apartments and they were just ok.  Maybe their photos weren’t doing them justice but I have to say, and I think Josh agrees, that every single apartment except for 1 had the potential to be a winner.  They all met just about all of our criteria which I have to give kudos to our realtor, Mele, she really knew us well!!  Thanks Mele!!

I’d love to describe the ones that we saw to everyone but you know what, you’d probably be bored out of your mind by the third one.  The general gist of it is, we looked close to the water which is also by Josh’s work (means an hr commute to school for Aidan across the city) and we looked close to Aidan’s school (again, an hr commute but this time for Josh).  And we also looked in the middle of the city.

We finally went with the one that was our 4th one of the day.  There was just something about it…ok it was the outdoor space.  As you can imagine in a city, outdoor space comes at a premium.  Every place we saw had a balcony or terrace – it was a requirement of ours. We’re going from an acre and a half, dammit, we need to be able to at least have a little table or something outside to eat on!

So anyways, all had some small outdoor space, and I want to reiterate…small.  I think the balconies here are probably comparable to the ones in the US that you would see in a city – enough to put a small table and that’s about it.  Maybe a little more.  So this place that we went with had all we wanted – it’s right in the middle of Josh and Aidan’s destinations.  It’s close to shopping (as in grocery, you all know I will be devastated by lack of target, gap and toys r us!) which is essential since I won’t have a car (I’ll tell you about the driving in a bit).  There is a park and dog park nearby.

And honestly, while we saw places in much nicer areas, this place gave us the best feel for city life – we are on a side street so it’s not loud by any means but we are truly in the center of the city.  What is the point of moving to the city unless we are going to be near the hubbub of city life right??  Though I have to say, it was hard to pass up the 8th floor huge apartment with 2 balconies overseeing the Mediterranean (you’ll see those pics once I upload) but again, must think of family… that was a tough one to give up though!!!

So back to the apartment, it’s more of a townhome since it’s 2 floors.  It’s newly renovated so everything is new.  But like I mentioned before, everything is MUCH smaller here in Europe.   We will have approximately 115 square meters, which is something we anticipated (though we saw some closer to 135 sq meters) but equates to approx 1200 square feet.  Our house now is close to 1900 sq feet plus a finished basement so we are losing A LOT of space.  But the plus to this place beyond all these other features that met our criteria – it has an outdoor space of approximately 60 sq meters – almost 650 square feet!  Now it’s all concrete and stone but I’ll put some pics up of what a normal terrace looks like and what this one is like and you’ll see a BIG difference.  A HUGE difference.  This space was worth the sacrifice of space inside.  We won’t have to walk the dogs to go to the bathroom (obviously will need to improve on our poop pickup though since we kind of slack in that area), we can just let them out.  The kids will have an area that’s contained and  private that they can play in (wish there was grass but beggars can’t be choosers) which is a huge relief as well.

Not that I wasn’t looking forward to the park but it’s nice to know there is another alternative if I don’t want to hit the park every day (which I don’t).  So anyways, after much back and forth (and there was a lot of back and forth making a decision), we chose this one.  Oh and it’s in the neighborhood called Eixample (pronounced E champ le which is nice sounding.  Almost sounds french to me).  Just to give a price comparison – these spaces we saw were all in the city borders of Barcelona though some were closer to the outskirts than others.  They were all in the range of 100 – 150 square meters.  And their prices ranged from 1600 – 2000 euros per month.  With the exchange rate for dollars, this equates to $2300 to $2900 USD per month.  A big chunk of change for a small place.  I’m not sure how Boston proper compares, but my guess is it’s probably relatively close???

So we made our decision last night around 6ish – after we saw our last apartment with Mele.  She knew we had it narrowed down to 2 but we made our decision and sent her an email to find out what is next.  We had a vague idea.  She emailed us that we would meet at 10AM the next day and to get some rest.  Hopefully at the end of day 3 we would have a place to live!!

The outside of our building
Kitchen view #1 – that is pretty much my one lonely cabinet at the top.
Kitchen view #2 – that is my washing machine that holds about 3 shirts.  Above that is not a cabinet but a door that hides the hot water heater.
Patio view #1 (notice my dryer on the left…insert sarcasm here)
Patio view #2
Family room / dining room (most of this furniture is going)
Upstairs bath (there is one downstairs too but this one is nicer)
Aidan and Josh are very excited about the bidet!
View of our street.  It’s a small side street with pretty much no traffic or noise.  There are pics of the bedrooms but they were kind of messy when we were there.  I’ll add them once I’ve added my own touch!

So that night we went to dinner with Josh’s co-worker, Nick and his wife Brenda at a fabulous restaurant called Da Greco.  Best Italian food (Josh disagrees).  It was to me what European life is all about.  It was a family owned restaurant, everything made fresh on the premises.  And at the end of the night we walked out and the family and head chef (obviously part of the family) were all sitting down to their own dinner together at the front table in the restaurant.  Very cool experience.  What is interesting about dining in Spain (I can’t say if the rest of europe is like this or not because I haven’t been) but restaurants here don’t open until 8 for the most part and they only have one seating per table – so there is relatively no turnover in a good restaurant.  If you book that table, it is yours for the night.  I have no idea how these people make money.  They do not push you to order and you actually have to ask for the check at the end of the night.  It was a wonderful experience and one I look forward to having again.  Got in from dinner around 11:30 BCN time – LONG day.

In addition to going to dinner, it was great seeing Nick and Brenda.  Brenda and I have been emailing for months yet had never met in person.  She’s been my inside guide to BCN since she’s been here a year now.  Their kids (4 of them) are ages 10-14 and all attend the same school that Aidan will be going to in January.  They live just outside the city so they have a car unlike us – it was kind of fun to watch Nick drive in the city.

Driving in Barcelona is like NOTHING I have ever seen in  my entire life.  I LOVE to drive as you know.  And rarely am I intimidated by anything related to a vehicle.  But man, I will NEVER drive in Barcelona – I can promise you that!  First of all the lanes here are significantly more narrow than lanes anywhere else I’ve been.  I’ve heard that is typical of Europe but again I have personally nothing to compare against.  These people drive within centimeters of each other and drive fast – yes Michele, Tracie and Deb – faster than me.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone drive this fast on inner city streets and not constantly slam the breaks.

To use a comparison of Josh’s they were like a bead of water just flowing along a river and moving around the rocks (other cars) with ease.  I am amazed there are not more accidents.  I kid you not, we were going 50 at times.  Can you imagine driving 50 down Newbury Street or Atlantic Ave?  With the traffic lights and cross walks?  These people can do it!  And you have to add in the scooters.  Never in my life have I seen this many scooters – I have a pic or two of that as well.  Mele told us that Barcelona actually has the highest percent of scooters compared to any city in the world, even more than Rome (I wasn’t aware of Rome’s population of scooters so I will take her word on this one).  And the scooters drive like absolute manics weaving and bobbing in between the cars.

But interestingly, it seems that both cars and scooters are very respectful of pedestrians unlike many cities.  The crosswalks are all automated and you would have major guts to try to cross when there is a red little man there – wait for the green man, trust me.  Mele also said it is a sign of respect to use the crosswalks and they are everywhere so we really had no need to jaywalk like we normally would.  But she did advise to still look twice because the occassional scooter will still try to fly thru a crosswalk.  Good to know!!!

A few more Barcelona / Spain traditions and then I’m done with Day 2 recap!  First of all, they take their siestas very seriously here still.  The majority of places, especially the mom and pop shops, close down between 2 and 4 (some even 4:30) every day.  Their hours are extended at the end of the day til around 7.  But it’s very odd to walk along the streets and see all of these metal doors that close off the store fronts (like you would see in any city but usually it means the place is out of business) in the middle of the day.

I keep thinking wow, these must all be out of business, but nope, just closed for siesta.  Apparently they all go home for their big meal of the day, must be how they all stay skinny because they are eating big meals early.  Mele said there are very few fat people in Barcelona, they are very concerned with their appearances and that many will have plastic surgery and tummy tucks because they are so concerned with their weight!

Anyways, I digress… back to traditions.  Get all your errands done during the week because most stores close on Saturday by noon or so.  And they aren’t closed on Sunday.  I’m not sure about the big congolomorates on some of these things and some of them stay open during siesta but I’m pretty sure they close early Sat and all day Sun too.  It is supposed to truly be a day of relaxation here!  I look forward to one of those someday soon!!!


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