Do you ever feel as though your life is constrained by your calendar? That every day and every weekend books up faster than you can imagine with meetings, personal appointments, birthday parties, playdates and more? One of the so-called “freedoms” I’ve had here in Spain is to take a step back from my over-scheduling (and believe me, I can over schedule with the best of them) and really play things day by day, even hour by hour. Don’t get me wrong, Liam and I are starting to establish some routines as far as when we go out, when he has a nap, picking up Aidan, etc, but for the most part we start each day new and don’t really have a game plan. It’s been rather liberating!
However, as liberating as it has been, it’s also been a bit lonely not having as many plans as we are used to. I’m craving more adult time – just general interaction with adults would be fine at this point – having a quick chat with the waiter/waitress somewhere, talking to my hair stylist, asking someone’s opinion in a store about if they have purchased this product before. But alas, I don’t speak Spanish fluently and to do this is a struggle. So some of my new free time is time that is spent in isolation – not necessarily isolation from the outside world because Liam and I go out and about pretty much every day, but isolation from people. It’s not a great feeling but it’s a feeling I’m bound and determined to change in someway.
One way to make those changes would be to join some groups. I’m ambivilant about the groups even though I know they could be useful to me. I think it’s because I just want the friendships to happen in an organic way – thru introduction of others, casually at a playground, at an event, walking around the neighborhood – you know what I mean. The same way you meet people at home. I don’t want “forced” friendships and that’s not to say they would truly be forced because no one HAS to become my friend but I don’t want to base my friendship with someone just because we happen to have children the same age – I’d like some common interests too. So I’m working on getting over this need to “survive” on my own and just jump in and join a group.
Overall this week has been relatively non-eventful. Not necessarily a bad thing. The weather was kind of crappy here on Mon and Tues. Now by crappy I mean 50s and rainy. Not crappy like the East Coast getting battered with not inches but feet of snow. Though the last two days have been only 40s and I can’t get rid of the chill running thru me – I think I’ve acclimated to this climate already – not sure I can bear a New England winter again!!!
Monday morning I hired a babysitter! Yes!! And she was the one that was 25€ but no, I promise you, I’m not paying that rate. We compromised with 12 for Liam and 15 for both kids. Very comprable to home as long as I don’t do the conversion of dollars to euros (which I’m trying really hard not to constantly do these days). She then came by on Wednesday for an hour and a half to just hang with Liam and get to know him. I really like her and am hoping she will connect with Aidan as she seems to have connected with Liam. She’s also offered to watch the kids on the weekends so we now have a date night planned for next Sat night (she’s not free this weekend) and then the following Fri for a tapas/wine tasting at a new friend’s tapas bar (more on that a different day).
Monday night we had a little impromptu gathering with Cristy and Shawn. I’m so glad Cristy called to see if we wanted to get together and they were so fine with coming to us since the kids were in bed. We drank lots of wine and cava (kind of like a champagne) and laughed A LOT. We watched Couples Retreat on demand which didn’t get the best IMDB rating but I have to say, it was hysterical to watch with a group of people and we had some much needed good belly laughs! It was really a great way to start off the week. And something we hope to do more often!
On Tuesday I met up with Brenda and we headed over to L’illa Mall on Diagonal (http://www.lilla.com/en/index.html). Malls are a relatively new concept here in Barcelona (and I think in Spain). The setup is interesting because often times it combines the inside and outside together. Picture the Wrentham Outlets but semi-contained – so there may be no roof over the common areas or it may be a combination of indoor outdoor space but done very differently at home. This could also be because of the more favorable climate here in Barcelona as opposed to Boston where you can really only shop outside 6 months of the year.
The downstairs floor had an amazing food court – since there really is no “fast” food here unless you find a McDonalds or BurgerKing (which are both plentiful here but not in the mall) the food court was really lots of little restaurants and food shops. We actually ended up having Mexican and after eating pretty much the same thing day in and out lately, it was nice to have a fajita for a change! The stores themselves were very ecclectic which was nice – the clothing here as I’ve mentioned is a mecca of change – you could literally throw on the first things you see in your closet and you know what, it will work even if you think it doesn’t match – it really doesn’t matter. But the store that interested me the most was Zara mainly because I can see that as a store where the close most appeal to our sense (or maybe lack thereof) of style from the US. http://www.zara.com/. I would say it most closely resembles Banana Republic as far as fashion but more like Gap or Old Navy as far as quality. But it works…and I bought each of the kids a shirt. Ahhhh to shop again…what a great feeling!!!!
Once again ambivilent about the public transit, I decided to hoof it home by foot despite the rain. I made a poor choice of jacket that morning with no hood so it meant carrying an umbrella while pushing the stroller (one of my purchases while in the mall was a 30€ rain shield for Liam’s stroller (my hope is for that money it would be made of gold but alas it was made of plastic and hopefully will outlast my stroller) which came in very handy given the long hour plus walk home.
But hey it meant I got to explore a little different part of the city while walking. Why did I walk in the rain instead of attempting to the take metro you ask? Well, basically I was too tired to try it. Ok, so that doesn’t make sense does it? But it does. I was too tired emotionally to be let down one more time when I have to struggle to figure out where I need to stop and switch lines (I would have had to change trains, buses, etc at least 3 times). It’s not that I can’t do it – I’m sure with a little focus I can absolutely do it.
But it’s that somedays you are just too emotionally exhausted – your brain is tired from constantly trying to remember words in Spanish or interpret what someone else is saying. You actually get tired from overthinking all day. When you talk to someone in English, you just do it – you don’t have to think about what it means. Here I must actually think thru the process if I even want to just order something at a food counter. After a while, your brain just goes on meltdown – that’s my brain after a day of shopping here – I just didn’t have the strength to figure it out and so it was actually easier to walk the hour than attempt to interpret the metro and bus maps.
On Wednesday my landlord returned with new heat repair people and SURPRISE, our heat still doesn’t work. Ahhh Spain! Given the very chilly last few nights this kind of sucks. But the kids still have a space heater in their room though Josh and I do not have one in our room. They think it has something to do with a pipe upstairs (our downstairs heat works fine) and so they will come back in 10 days (why 10 I have no idea, this is just what he told me and I figured I probably couldn’t argue it) to drill holes in the ceiling to figure out which pipe is causing the problem – it will be a day long process. They will then repair the ceiling and paint it. Good times. With spring just around the corner why am I stressing about getting this done? Because that heating unit is also the AC unit and I’ll be damned if we are without AC in the spring/summer!
While this was an uneventful week I’m realizing as I write this that it was busier than I realized. This is great since really none of it was preplanned. On Thursday Liam and I had a scheduled playdate with my new friend Mim and her two boys (Mani 3 1/2 and Rishi 1). She and her husband, Sanjay just moved here from London and Sanjay works with Josh at VP. Liam and I hopped on the metro over to Mim’s flat – she lives overlooking Parc de la Ciutadella and has just a totally different living space than here – a much more open floor plan than what we have an compared to most in Barcelona (Barcelona most definitely has living spaces that are more compartmentalized). Mani and Liam had a nice playdate which ended at a little restaurant where I had a fabulous veggie lasagna – I never would have found this place- totally obscure place and construction around it. Loved it because even though it was a nice place, it had bins of toys for the kids to play with and the patrons didn’t mind the kids playing around them. It’s called Bar del Convent. It’s a place I would definitely go back to with or without the kids. Apparently on the weekends they have live music and sometimes storytellers for the kids.
Thursday night I have to say was probably the highlight of my week. While it was our usual girls night out – we managed to put a little twist on it. Normally Cristy and I will head out for some dinner and drinks but last night we also managed to go the Joss Stone concert! Totally a spontaneous thing that Cristy happened upon while searching the web yesterday – we made these plans around 3 or 4 Thurs afternoon! We met up near the concert area and ended up at a creperie for dinner. OMG, the most fabulous crepes I have EVER had in my life! http://www.crepsabarcelona.com/index.htm – for some reason I think they changed their sign but this is the place.
We of course had to have each a savory crepe and a dessert crepe. I had the spinich, goat cheese and honey crepe and it was the most fabulous thing I have ever tasted with the cheese melted just perfectly, the spinach cooked but not wilted and the honey gave this little bit of sweetness so that the goat cheese wasn’t too overpowering. I have to bring Josh here even though he’s not a huge crepe fan. And for dessert was the Dulce de Leche crepe which had just a hint of cinnamon and I think some nutella as well. Cristy and I split the desserts so I also got a taste of her strawberry & nutella crepe. Also super fabulous!!! Definitely a place to return to!
On to the concert. First off, it was 18€ which is a bargain anywhere! Secondly it was held in the most beautiful theater I have ever in my life seen (http://www.palaumusica.org/). And third, she’s an amazingly talented singer and performer. Though our seats were slightly obstructed we were able to see Joss perform and just chill out to some great music. What interested me was that music is one of those things that transcend culture – people shouted out to her like they would here in the US, they sang along, and at the end they cheered and cheered til she came back for her encore. It made me feel like I was home for just a little bit and it was a good feeling.
Today is Friday – we have no plans yet for the weekend. Kind of a good feeling as well. We’ll play it by ear. It’s supposed to be chilly (upper 40s is chilly here!) but nice. I’m still on a hunt for a tennis court here – I’ve come to the conclusion that you need to pay to use any tennis court in or outside the city – there are just no municipal ones that you can go to. This afternoon I’m picking Aidan up from school. They have their Carnaval parade this afternoon which will be great to see. The kindergarten classes were making their own costumes and I can’t wait to see them! I’ll post more later once I’ve been to the parade! Carnaval, like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, is a ginormous party here with eating, drinking and lots of festivities before the beginning Lent (http://www.barcelonayellow.com/content/view/185/1/). We have friends going to Sitges this weekend for some of the festivities – not sure we are ready for that with the kids but you never know!
Have a great Friday!