August 21 we arrived in Barcelona and hit the ground running. This was after four flights, lots of lost sleep, etc…Went directly to our apartment, which predictably was dirty. We got the concierge’s wife to clean it, checked into a hotel, and went to IKEA. If the IKEA shopping experience is any indication, this country is thriving. It was so crowded, we could barely move around. Given how tired we were, we called it a night without buying anything but got some good ideas.
August 22, the next day, we spent thousands there, to be delivered Thursday. Jet lag is keeping us from sleeping through the night.
August 23, and we’re trying to settle in. I finally built my bike (and some IKEA furniture) and our delivery made it exactly on time. We had to go to IKEA to fill a few holes on our purchases, but we have two couches, a bunk bed, our matrimonial bed, tables, chairs, kitchen items including flatware and dishes, etc… Anne and I are trying to get our bearings, which is a challenge. Business here must be booming. Basically every store is either self-service (IKEA, electronics, sporting goods) or it's really good service but only in certain ways. You can try to put your rooms together at IKEA (No help) but you can buy everything and have it delivered and built the next day. The supermarkets here deliver the same day, so you can buy all the heavy stuff and get it delivered.
Friday, August 24, and I finally went for a run. There are actually some good running tracks about 20 minutes away, which makes for an hour plus run. We also took a bus tour on the "Bus Touristic" which takes about two hours and has a top deck to see the sights. We're done these tours in New York City and Granada, Spain too and they are usually good. It was a chance to see the main attractions and the city. We also dismounted for a visit to the Parc Guell, featured in the movie Barcelona, and the FCBarcelona football stadium that holds 100,000 people -- we even saw their locker rooms and a sign (removable probably) that said "antidoping control."
The language is a challenge, the people are pretty nice, and there are just tons of people everywhere. It's really something. Catalan is the first language and anything but Spanish seems to be a second language for some (including our neighbors, apparently who speak French and Catalan). People seem pretty nice here and appear to speak Spanish too. Catalan sounds like Portuguese to me.
We haven't gotten a car yet but have one reserved as of Oct. 1. Parking is such a hassle that we may wait but will probably end up renting in the interum. Taxis are relatively cheap here but we want the freedom of a car. We went on a bus tour to see the sights, do the tourist thing and get an idea about how the city works. It's pretty hot and humid, something we haven't really experienced for a while. The boys have been great, getting dragged along and enjoying the experience. Of course, we toured the soccer stadium for David and went to the beach for both boys. As we approached the beach, David told us he was "so excited."
I'm afraid I'll be completely out of shape in a month. I haven't found anywhere to ride so I've been running out of desperation. The good news is I've taken up smoking (albeit second hand) and probably will take up drinking tomorrow.
Other than that, we're trying to settle in. We got a load of IKEA stuff, all purchased, delivered and assembled in 24 hours. They have great names for their stuff, like snuf, scum, smak, phükme, and more. The delivery system here is great. We had our groceries delivered too.
August 25, we all woke up to discover that Anne, myself, David and Joshua speak fluent Spanish and passable Catalan. We discovered this about half an hour into breakfast and suddenly realized we were all speaking Spanish. Mission accomplished! This emersion thing really works.
Today, Sunday August 26, 2007, we went to the beach at a town about 20 minutes away from Barcelona called Casteldefells. We discovered the wide city beaches which are covered more or less with people about three deep. The beaches are huge, so it really doesn’t seem that crowded. They are clean mainly since they take a zamboni and groom on a nightly basis.
About one-quarter of women are topless, which would theoretically be nice, but in fact as a general rule, it isn’t (unless for some reason you’ve decided to do a study of areolas). Essentially, people are almost as much out of shape as in the US, so there’s nothing to see or less (or more but you still don’t care to look). Some people are very out of shape but not fat and just look like they have no muscles or muscle development and could be knocked down with a feather -- it's as if they are 10 years younger than they are.
Everyone takes the nudity in stride. One woman had a boob job, which was pretty obvious. Good for her.
One other thing, we've changed our schedule and stay up late every night -- until almost 9:00 p.m.! Just kidding -- it's almost 12:00 as we're writing this with the boys -- okay, the boys have been asleep for almost 30 minutes.
Monday, August 27, 2007 was a day like any other. We woke up late, got the boys dressed and out the door by the crack of 1:00 for a 1:00 appointment. This was for health insurance, which is a much better deal than in the US. You get full coverage, no deductible and you can go out of network, for example to the US, and get reimbursed for 90 percent.
By 2:00 or so, we went to a lunch place, which was across the street from out appointment. The place we found was “all you can eat” and pretty good food. This gave me the opportunity to discard all my civility newly learned and show my American grossed out. I left feeling that I got a large meal with no portion control. Nice.
Then off in the heat for errands to find household appliances and fill needs. We were totally unsuccessful here. By the way it was about 35 degrees Celcius, whatever that means – to me it means it’s hot. We decided to join the local pool and like almost everything here, there was a time investment of close to an hour. Probably not worth it but we only joined for a month. Longer would have required some sort of medical certificates—we wondered how many of the Spanish people at the pool/gym acquired their certificates, but assumed someone felt that were free of infectious diseases or whatever it needed to say.
August 28, started off like any other. Getting up early at before 10:00 and eating a breakfast until 11:30. Reading a few choice articles on the New York Times website. Finally buying some plug converters for our computers and phones. We now have two computers and our US phone number (970-920-9520) which is a local call from Aspen. It happens that it’s cheaper to phone from this line to Spain than from our cell phones here.
Then off to the pool that we joined yesterday. More areolas here. What's funny is that neither boy has noticed all the women without tops--I guess I got them used to it by not wearing a shirt at home. The pool is huge and very busy with tons of human traffic. It seems everything here is big and highly trafficked. I finally got a weight work-out in, which was nice and the kids were at the pool cooling off. There is a 50 meter lane or two, which is usually crowded with kids but is supposed to be a lap lane or two. It’s an experience to swim that long a distance in the pool. One end is so shallow that you touch the bottom doing freestyle.
Since it’s hard to describe all the food and meals and that’s what we’re been up to mainly—along with getting situated, we promise photos of interesting food to come. One place we’re eaten at twice and is popular is Cervezaria Catalana, which serves tapas. Tapas is the only food you get before 9:00 at night so eating early, like 8:00, requires the abbreviated eating experience of tapas (small portions). We forgot our camera but the Japanese people next to us all took photos so that should be enough.