Week 8 -- Bargaining
October 10, 2007. When you think of Spain, in the characature, you think of a place where payoffs are easy and it's more or less third world where rules don't apply. This is inaccurate. First, the place is fairly wealthy overall and there are plenty of middle-class folks around in addition to rich and poor. Second, the idea of payoffs, at least so far, is not something that has presented itself. As for rules, they apply but don't seem widely enforced. The one problem is that the rules or laws are enforced very subjectively. Some friends of ours had their visa denied very capriciously and when they asked why, the reason was essentially "because". I guess there are no rules.
After finishing another day in my retarded class (where I've voluntarily put myself, much like someone checking in voluntarily to the Betty Ford clinic), it's an near total waste of my time now. Ninety percent of the time is spent listening to others make mistakes, one of which is a 60 plus year old American woman who speaks the same level of Spanish and has the same accent as Anne's mother, i.e. None and American, respectively. I don't know what to do next week because I don't want to give up, so I'll probably go for private lessons.
September 11, 2007. Tomorrow is a holiday, which apparently occur every two weeks, so no school (same fee though). It’s my last week at language school, probably. I’m sorry to go because it was fun in terms of the people. The learning part was not so good, at least for me. Maybe I should study – I know that would help. So I’ll try some private lessons.
Then lunch with Dan and Amy, which wasn’t planned but happened when we saw them and the waitress told the couple in the next table to move over. That was nice (well, not for them).
Then off for a run with Kevin H., who is taking a year off after leaving Microsoft. Like almost all the Americans here, we’re on sabbatical, whatever that is. Unfortunately for me, he’s a practiced runner getting ready for the Athens Marathon and of course we ended up pushing the pace, probably to faster than 8/min/mile for an hour twenty minutes plus with hills and fast flats. Anywho, when I recover after a week-end of massages, hot baths and physical therapy, we might do it again. Just kidding, but we are off to Girona tomorrow to see what gives up there. I’m bringing my bike since it’s famous for its riding. As for Girona, I know there are some baths, but they date from Roman times so I don't know if they still operate. Girona is supposed to be very historic and we're staying in the country to get a change of pace from city life.
I wrote a few lines on Girona for Spanish class:
Informacion para visitar Girona
Hay dos partidos de Girona: el viejo and el nuevo (viejo pero no esta viejo como el viejo partido). El viejo Gerona es un des los más viejos cuidades en España. Lo tiene un barrio con stylos de architectura differente. Hay un Rambla al lado de rio con tiendas y restaurantes y edificios interesantes.
El calle Via Forca estuvó el camino que punta a Roma. En El Barrio Call vivió los judíos, pero ellos partieron el año 1492. Hay un Museau Judios allí dondé podemos apprender esta historia. Tambien el catedral tiene muchos differentes stylos architecturas: Barroco, Gótico, Romámico y néoclassico. Es en el mismo sitio donde son los baños árabe.
Un restaurante possiblemente intereste is Boira, cerca del Rio. El ensalada de lechuga y Jamon, con almondes, y frutas como fresas y naranjos es muy bien. Si tenemos tiempo, podemos visitar el Costa Brava con muchas cuidades más bellas en el mundo.
Esperamos que nos tienen bastante tiempo para vamos a visitar El Museau Salvador Dalí en Figueres.
September 12, 2007. We are on Spanish time, it appears. We meant to leave relatively early to go to Girona but given the time required to rent a car at the train station (I got the car upgraded for free, and in Spanish), and our new late hours, we were on the road with everyone else in the crack-of-noon club. Also, I rented a crazy Citroen and of course, nothing is even close to what I’m used to so it took 20 minutes just to start the car. In any case, as a result of our late start an hour drive turned into a two-hour drive.
We got to Girona, which I wrote about already (see yesterday) and walked around on the town wall, which must be about a kilometer long (hey, I’m talking in kilometers, I’m so Euro). After walking around and looking at the buildings, trying to find evidence of the Jewish quarter or Lance Armstrong, we took off to find our hotel in the country. All week-end photos are here to avoid page clutter.
We arrived at the Moli del Mig Hotel and it was great. The receptionist/bell person/Internet Support helper/room service order taker/concierge was a super helpful doe-eyed tri-lingual English receptionist in painfully high heels, which probably helped aerate the grass. Everything we expected and more. Located out of the way but convenient to everything, it was a flour mill or some such from the 1800s and then was converted into a hotel and restaurant beautifully. We were sneaking Rocket in, so that made it a bit awkward, but the room was fantastic – super quiet, new, interesting and beautiful. It turns out that this area and the Costa Brava in general has a huge network of walking, mountain biking, hiking trails that are mapped, marked and very well done. The property is in the midst of tons of apple orchards, so its free eats for all.
September 13, 2007. Remember Peter Mayle. He was the guy who wrote “A Year in Provance.” It was a book about his adventures when he moved to Provence with a bag of money and wrote about how cute and charming it all was. You know, he needed an electrician to fix a lamp or something, it took two weeks to find someone, and then the guy took another six weeks to fix the lamp. All at a cost that was ten times the cost of a new lamp. Kind of like Aspen, but without the malicious intent.
Anyhow, if someone were to write that book today, all they have to do is live in one of the towns or generally in the area we saw today. Although the Catalans are definitely more efficient, the area is incredibly charming, quaint and the people are very nice and want to please. They don't like to speak Spanish and the real Catalans, like some hotel guests we befriended, don't speak it very well.
Using the car, we went first to Peratallada, then to Palau sator, then Pals and then to the beach at sa Riera. The first three were very old, incredibly well preserved, with super cute restaurants set into the stone walls and castle parts. Lots of really old stuff. It was like a movie set, but real, and with some anacronistic electrical lines added. The last town was the beach town, in a cove, not crowded.
That’s the difference between these towns and Provence. It was only after Peter Mayle published “A Year in Provence” that it got touristy and overcrowded. Our sense is that we are here in off season and in summer the place is basically a traffic jam. In any case, it sure beats the pants off other Europe beaches we’ve seen, especially Positano. The Costa Brava (“Wild Coast”) is pretty amazing and it’s not all ruined yet by English package tours and overbuilding, although some parts are not worth the visit.
After spending a few hours walking over ancient ruins, and checking out the beach, I took the car and Anne took the boys. I drove over to Banyoles so I could bike to Olot, about a 35 minute drive and a 30 kilometer bike ride (each way). I rode it in about 2:15 minutes; it is one of the rides that Lance Armstrong used for training so I thought I’d check it out. It was similar to Castle Creek but a bit longer, beautiful, lower altitude, steeper hills, rolling terrain, between larger towns, on narrower roads with some fabulous downhill turns – okay different. Anne and the boys used the pool (super cold and not heated) and the ping pong table.
September 14, 2007. We drove to the beach after checking out from the hotel and found a nice one, after finding some not so nice ones. The nice one was called Sant Marti d'Empuries and is just north of L'Escala. South of L'Escala is where all the "camping" (read Dutch people with trailers) is located and is not a great place. In any case, Sant Marti is next to an Archeological site/museum and is nice with a boardwalk that probably goes for miles. Then, an uneventful drive back to Barcelona that went very quickly (other than trying to find food) now that we've figured out that it's easy to outsmart the Spanish drivers, just drive at between 2 and 4 in the afternoon when they are lunching, especially on Sunday. We saw some more of the coast and it's varied between tacky and full of camp sites to beautiful and wild. One interesting note here, on the way back we saw three girls sitting on chairs on the side of the road dressed like they were at the beach trying to attract attention -- I guess it was a full-service road -- strange to see here in Spain on the secondary roads.
October 15, 2007. I returned the rental car this morning and it was such a hassle, next time I won’t bother “saving the time” and will just rent at the airport. It’s a lot faster and easier. Today I spent the time finally (I hope) getting the Aspen house leased. It’s a LOT less than when we started (thinking we could get $20,000/month and advised that we were correct by realtors), but it will help pay some bills.
October 16, 2007. Went to my first private Spanish “getting to know you” meeting and it seems to be fine. It’s actually cheaper than the school! I’m looking forward to learning and hopefully this teacher will motivate me. I’ll miss the social aspect of the school–the crazy and fun teenagers, their endless smiles, the all-consuming laughter, the smoking breaks, the drinking and late-night parties – all that. In their place, I’ll have a hopefully not too boring profesora that will possibly help me speak Spinach – a goal I have.