Even though nothing is really 'normal' about our life right now, some things don't change no matter where in the world you live.
Kids get hungry.
Groceries must be purchased.
Transportation is useful to get from Point A to Point B.
Families need a place to live.
Here is our week in photos (with commentary) to share our new normal.
I promised myself that this year I would learn to make 'fancy braids' and that Little Angel will never leave the house looking unkempt, as she often has done when I've been working full time. Here is one of my first attempts at a braid. Yes, I've been watching YouTube videos... I'm sure my hair-braiding genius will kick in anytime now. LOL.
Even after we buy a car, we will still mainly travel by foot, metro and bus. It's cool, coming from Southern California, to live in a city where you don't actually need a car to get around. The kids are experts on public transport at this point. Soccer Dude routinely stops us from hopping on the wrong metro line and The Scientist greatly enjoys mapping our daily routes.
Gracia is preparing for a big week-long 'festa' next week. There will be much decoration, live music, food and merriment. Despite how eager Señor Aventura is to get out of town, we agree that we look forward to seeing at least a little of this fun event! In preparation for the big week, many wires have been strung across the tops of streets and we see that they are starting to hang plastic flags and many other interesting things from them.
Earlier in the week, we made a big shopping expedition for groceries.
In Spain (and in Europe) there are many ways to buy groceries. Many shops are very small and specialize in just a few things - like "Frutas y Verduras' (fruit and vegetables) or meats and cheeses. There are an infinite number of small bakeries where you can purchase freshly baked breads along with croissants, rolls, small pizzas, and much more.
There are some larger 'supermarket' type places though, one of which is the incredible department store, "El Corte Inglés".
I get the sense that for many native Catalan people, this store represents a necessary evil - something that exists against the traditional way of life but which is very convenient.
As a foreign guest in a new land, I never cease to be amazed by these vast stores. El Corte Inglés is way more than a supermarket or a department store. It has everything!
The Corte Inglés stores consist of many levels, some of which are subterranean. They often take up an entire city block! The stores carry anything you could think of. I can purchase a dress, school supplies for my kids, electronics for my husband, household appliances for our kitchen, new furnishings and remodeling materials (tile, paint, fabric, etc.). Also airline tickets and vacation packages, One of the downstairs levels holds a full grocery store, along with several specialty shops that carry high-end luxury groceries and also body-care products.
Their basic grocery store is vast, and as you can see in these photos carries things one would definitely not expect to see in an American supercenter type store, for example, Walmart. Our jaws dropped when we saw the fish counter, for example, which took up half a city block and was staffed by multiple professionals. For San Diego locals, it made Pt. Loma Seafoods look like child's play. Since Barcelona is a beach town on the Mediterranean, the fish here is very fresh.
One interesting thing is that in European stores one must usually weigh the fruit and vegetables (or have an attendant weigh them) and receive an official price sticker, so that the check-out clerks won't have to do this. You can see with the photo of the orange (Top-L) that the fresh foods are sorted by type and weight and then given a price, but only after you select them.
Of course, the best thing about grocery shopping is enjoying what you can create with delicious, fresh food back in your kitchen! We've enjoyed making our own (green) smoothies, salads, sandwiches and fish over the past week. It turns out you can take the family out of California, but you can't take California out of the family!
In addition to grocery shopping, looking for cars and working on the empadronamiento, we have spent a lot of the past week apartment hunting.
Señor Aventura and I have weeded through 112 possible properties, narrowing our list down to 17 apartments that we called about. We've visited many with realtors.
Then, something magical happened.
About a week ago we'd walked by two tall buildings right next to the Jardins de Villa Amelia (that park we love).
"This seems like it would be a nice place to live," I'd remarked in passing to Soccer Dude and Little Angel.
Two days ago after leaving one rental appointment, we happened to walk by these same buildings again.
"Hey," I said to Señor Aventura. "See those tall white buildings across the street? We really like those. Maybe you could stop in to speak to the doorman, to find out if anything is for rent, while Little Angel and I go get some bottles of water?" (It was 92F.)
"Por que no?" he replied.
Little Angel and I went to the little fruit and vegetable shop to get some nectarines and bananas, plus water. Ten minutes later we met up with Señor Aventura and the boys. The Scientist and Soccer Dude were almost screaming with excitement.
"WE HAVE TO LIVE HERE!"
"Mom, it has it's own soccer field! And two pools! And a tennis court! Mom, it's like paradise!"
My husband was dialing a number on his phone. "There IS an apartment available. The door-man gave me the number. I'm calling!" He smiled at me. We called twice - left one message, and finally spoke to a representative, who arranged to meet us to show us the apartment the very next day.
Later that night, in an amazing coincidence, another agent wrote to us a message about the exact property!
After reading your e-mails once again and knowing the location, budget and rest of your needs and wants, let me insist in the following flat. The exact address is Francesc Carbonell nº **. This is touching Santa Amelia Park...ideal location. Further, it has been renewed amazingly...you will be impressed by the quality of it all."
We toured it yesterday, and were definitely pleased by its size, location, lovely views and amenities. I'd say there is a good chance that this could become our new home in Spain!