I have been at work for two weeks. How different is Barcelona from Lexington? There is defiantly more of an office buzz or energy you might say. It reminds me of the startup days in lex – which is a good thing. I have been lucky enough to participate in growing the company from 16 employees to a little under 2000. The Lexington office is probably in the mid 400s but the BCN office seems alive with much fewer employees. It could be the environment as there is definitely the work hard play hard mentality – again back to the start up days. It’s hard to leave work at night – much more than I thought it would be. Lex gets online about right after lunch here 2 or 3. From that point on the emails and meeting madness starts. By the time 6 or 7 comes around I am wondering where the day went and when I will get some time to work on some non transactional items – usually in the morning in BCN. The transition was pretty easy as I was mid was through a project when I left with the team divided between lex and BCN. It’s a challenge managing remotely but totally doable if you have a clue. I am starting to get better traction on some other work items but that will come shortly into the new year – when everyone gets back to the office. It also seems a lot of the work I put into a project to determine how my department could scale globally got a good response – a fun side project. It will be fun and challenging realizing that vision. Enough about work what about play….
Casinos are really different here and small. I went to go play some black jack before a dinner but I forgot my passport and I refused to pay an entry fee to lose money. I learned you needed to get coupons for the casino to skip the entry fee so I went back. The top half which was really really small was free and only had a few machine games like slots and the like. The tables were down stairs so that is where I went -with coupon in hand. There were maybe 4 or so black jack tables and under 10 poker tables from what I could tell. There were a few other tables but overall very small. I had 200 Euros and headed off to black jack. I quickly noticed most folks at the table or casino for that matter had no clue how to play. I saw several people go through somewhere between 500 -1000 Euros in 15 minutes at a 10 euro black jack table. They would bet 50 and lose, bet 250 and lose and kept at it until their money was gone. One of these people was a totally hot prostitute (I think ) that sat beside me for the first hour. She either chose to ignore me or spoke no English – she knew a lot of the dealers and help. Later I watched her go through another 600 Euro or so. My first 120 or so lasted a little over an hour, not bad. I also learned drinks are not free as my one jack and coke cost me 14 Euros- highway robbery. I took a break and walked around. I learned the drinks from the free section up stair were about half the price – why rob your best customers? After a break and reassessing the crews at the table I sat down and got up about 200 Euros after another few hours. I took my starting pot put it in my jacket with another 50 or so Euros and played the night out with the remaining money until I only had a small amount at the table. I got up and left up for the night which included paying for some very expensive jack and cokes but it was a good night – Wednesday night poker.
Have I mentioned the seafood here is fabulous! I have now been to a few places where you pick out the raw ingredients like at a fish market and then they take it back to cook it. I have even found a place for lunch that does this with an all you can eat buffet. You pick the seafood and veggies and pile it high then put it in line to get cooked. Then you head over to the sushi section for your apps while it cooks. If you are lucky you can finish the sushi before the rest of the meal is cooked so you don’t have too many plates of food at the table. I have been averaging about one meal a day given the portions and generally cheap pricing.
The cheapest lunch has been Chinese so far at 6.5 Euros for three courses. There is usually a fixed lunch menu with an assortment of apps, main course and dessert to choose from for one price at most places. I usually know the main ingredient in any dish such as meat or chicken but I really have no clue about anything else on the dish when I look at the menu – still working on my Spanish. Sometimes even if you know your Spanish you still might not have a clue on what exactly will show up for you to eat. The Chinese food restaurant had several chicken or steak entries with deliciousness listed as part of the dish. You have no clue nor does anyone with what deliciousness will come with your dish. In this case it was various vegetables though that might change tomorrow. This will drive Julie nuts….picky eater.
We went to Alcampo in the Diagonal Mar mall to get Yankee swap gifts for the office. Alcampo is best described as a somewhat rundown super wall mart. If wall mart could get a location in BCN they would clean up. I first noticed this would be different when I saw lockers for personal items right outside the store – hmmm what’s that for. Then I saw people enclosing their bags or other like items into another plastic bad and then heat sealing it. For some reason women did not have to heat seal purses into another plastic bags but any other bag, backpack, etc needed to be heat sealed. Obviously, if you did not want to heat seal your items you could rent a locker. Please note the pure electronic stores here do not have this security – they have much smaller and costly goods but a somewhat rundown super wall mart did. I knew we were in trouble at this point as one of guys had a big bag with a big box that would not fit in a locker or the heat sealed plastic bag. As he tried to make his items fit in the heat sealed plastic bags security started watching us. After few minutes of attempting this security came over. They were nice and agreed to put his box in their little area. The conversation took a bit longer then I expected but he knew Spanish well – not sure how I would’ve faired. So now we were ready to enter the store and go through the electric screening. Of course the alarms go off, we turn around and meet our security friends again. We walk through one at a time until the person setting it off was identified. The hand held wand came out and his jeans were the culprit. Security started to drag him off somewhere – luckily the one guy that really knew Spanish stepped in. Security was trying to bring him to a room where he could take off his jeans to find the offending tag. He did not want to go but this confused security – does this happen all the time. He wanted to stay outside the store and wait for us to get the items we needed -again confusion with the guards. Finally, they just escorted us through the electronic screening and waved us on. None of us quite knew what when down but we were finally in the store.
We decided to go see Avatar on opening weekend and then head out for paella. There is an original version ( VO ) theater so we could see it in English. Luckily, one of the guys ordered online and noticed limited seating was left. I jumped on and was surprised you needed to pick your seat – cool and a nice surprise. I arrived about 15 minutes early and then got the calls that everyone was getting there at 8 – right when it started. It took me a little bit to find the theater in the mall – different mall then before. Malls have odd layouts over here with no rhyme or reason. It’s hard to find the mall maps, usually the maps are just limited to the floor you are on and they lack a you are here marking. I found the theater after 5 minutes and luckily there was an Irish bar right there – 10 minutes to wait. I grab my tickets and then a Guinness. I could buy 3 Guinness for the price of my one jack and coke at the casino, they were still a little pricy. Everyone arrives 5 minutes after the movie is suppose to start and we should still be fine but upon entering we realized the movie started 5 minutes ago and they don’t do previews – lesson learned. It took a little while to get use to the 3D. Not sure why as I had no problem with other 3D movies but settled on the fact the Spanish subtitles projecting out at you in 3D was probably the cause. The movie was in English but apparently that means you get Spanish subtitles throughout. The movie was great and like all movies these days the good guy lived instead of dying. Why do you always need the happy ending….We head off for paella in the marina after the movie and got there about 11 PM. The place and the marina in general was hoping even though it was close to freezing – on our walk back to the metro after dinner the fountains were frozen. We sat down and on the other side of us through a pair of blinds that acted as a wall was a futball team doing awards. They even had a mega phone – please note this place is pretty decent and pricy for paella. It was noisy but fun – even got some second hand smoke from the hash the futball team was smoking – yes in the restaurant. The place was pretty rockin and included a bachelorette party kickin back the tequila, a group with santa gear on, etc. Did I mention there were also kids in there, perhaps as young as 3 up to 12 – some things are just so different over here. This was my second time to this place, very different on the weekend then the weekday. One of the best apps I have had over here that we got is fried green peppers with smoked sea salt. I could eat those all day. At the end of the meal two free bottles of hard booze was dropped off at the table. The labels and what was inside clearly did not match up. One bottle had clear liquor and the other bottle chocolate. Neither was good but the clear one was horrible – you have to at least try it. On the way back to the metro we walked past the night clubs in the marina and they were hopping. We found the one that tried to recruit us in the restaurant. They were guys that came in dressed as doctors with no top under their doctor gear trying to give us passes and candy – something else was probably in the candy. We saw the bachelorette being wheeled into the night club on a gurney. About half the nightclubs had women in scantily clad clothing on stage or some cage like contraption. We all agreed the summer must be nuts down in the marina. We had a great time that night even through it was low key.
When I have not been out playing or working at the office I have managed to get the house pretty much set up for when the family arrives. Checkmarks: phone, cells, cable, internet, house is generally livable, grandma cart to put groceries in that you tote around, etc. The guy that came to install the phone/cable/internet package was not the brightest bulb even though he only spoke Spanish and I did not understand anything he was saying. It took him almost 3 hours to get everything set up with about a dozen calls back to the main office for assistance. I have yet to successfully get voicemail set up on any phone as it’s all in Spanish – simple things can just be hard.
I found a big farmers market in the area that has pretty much everything you would expect to find from an episode of Bizarre foods. I think I will try pigeon soon, you can even buy live ones to bring home to execute yourself – have to make sure it’s fresh. Some of the seafood was alive and half the meats I could not indentify on first glance. I caught a glimpse of some octopi trying to escape the counter. Just about every native fowl was available and hanging from the ceiling. It was interesting and I found some great exotic food.