We've welcomed a new member to the Aventura family - a 2014 Volkswagen Touran! It's a zippy, tiny 7-seater that they don't sell in the USA for some unknown reason.
Our new car is small in stature but has a decidedly masculine vibe and so we've decided to call it "Chico Suave". Like his name, Chico Suave is smooth. Riding around in the car feels exciting! He's essentially our tiny James Bond mobile... if James Bond was a married man in his 40s, with three kids :)
Chico Suave gets 36 mpg - about 20mpg more than most American SUVs - and Señor Aventura is already talking about how much he wishes we could take this fun diesel car home with us to the USA someday. Apparently it's really hard to do that though, due to rules about emissions and other car import regulations. It would take mucho dinero to convert Chico to the American way. Bummer!
The car is perfect for our needs. It's very compact yet still has seating for the full family plus friends (or luggage). Taking both friends and luggage would be a squeeze... but with creativity, not impossible.
We didn't happen onto such a cool ride through blind luck... we were actually given one of these models as a rental car two years ago when traveling in Italy and we drove it around for about eight days. Even back then, we knew it was love... which made looking for a used Touran an easy decision once we decided to live in Spain.
As it turns out, Chico Suave was also a rental car in his pre-Aventura life... but the car is in seemingly good shape with no prior accidents, and had only 52,000 KM on it; which equates to roughly 32,000 miles. Not bad!
In order to buy this special car, we first had to find a car dealership that carried used Tourans in our price range. None of the dealers in Barcelona had any in stock... so we ended up heading out to a nearby (more industrial) suburb called Sabadell using the S2 metro train.
The Sabadell car salesman, "Vito," picked us up at the metro station. He wasn't too different from most car salespeople we've ever worked with... although there was perhaps a bit less "shmooze." Vito is a native Catalan in his 50s or 60s with graying hair and a gray beard. He was professional and informative, if not exactly warm and friendly. He shared with us that his wife is originally from Mexico, and also made a few off-the-cuff remarks about nearby St. Cugat being a more self-important town than Sabadell which is a working-class community. Vito clearly took pride in his blue-collar roots.
Unlike US car salesmen who rarely stop talking or leave you alone to inspect a car, Vito went off to help another customer and left us alone with Chico Suave for about 20 minutes to sit in the car, open up all its compartments and panels, check the engine, etc.
Señor Aventura test drove the car and I test drove the passenger seat :) The kids really liked sitting in the back and The Scientist especially loved that he will still have his own small row in the very back of the car, rather than being crammed into the middle bench with his younger siblings and their mandatory car seats.
In the end, Señor Aventura provided Vito with his passport, his empadronamiento paper, and a copy of his brand-new NIE (more on this soon) and then completed the transaction with a bank transfer. Car dealers here are not allowed to accept cash for a car, which we thought was interesting.
"You obviously must have a bank account to buy a car here," mused Señor Aventura. We decided it must have to do with the Spanish government keeping track of its residents for both taxes and national security.
Before we could take the car anywhere though, it was crucial to get the mandatory car insurance. If you're caught driving without insurance there are heavy fines (many thousands of euro!) and you could even go to jail. Totally not worth that risk. Señor Aventura and I began to search for a good insurance company right away.
We thought this would be easy/fun as Señor Aventura has much expertise in the field of auto insurance.
It was harder than expected!
Señor Aventura and I had to call around and do a lot of online research to figure this part out. Most insurance companies would not accept us as clients because they require their applicants to have a Spanish driving license to purchase insurance. Señor Aventura holds an International Driving Permit (from AAA) that is valid for our first 6 months here. He will ultimately get a Spanish driving license but it will take time to achieve, as that will include scheduling, taking and passing the Spanish driving exam.
Ultimately, Señor Aventura discovered that a major Spanish auto insurer called Genesis would allow him to apply for insurance using a combination of his valid US driver's license and his International Driving Permit. He was so relieved!
Now that we have car insurance, we are free to hit the road!
To celebrate, we took our first "road trip" from our possible new apartment building to the kids' school. We wanted to time the trip, to find out how long it would take to drive there from door-to-door. We haven't signed our lease yet... but hope to do so today or tomorrow!
(Answer = about 16 minutes, without traffic.)
Their school, Agora Sant Cugat, is outside of the city on the outskirts of St. Cugat, and to drive there you have to go through the Túnels de Vallvidrera - a series of long tunnels that pass through the mountains around Barcelona.
We were driving at dusk, so the light in these photos isn't that great... but essentially this is what the school and the drive home look like in the early part of a summer evening.
Our boys will attend school in the stone building with the flags (top photos) and Little Angel will attend the 2nd grade in the brick building located nearby.
Beyond the outstanding education we hope they will get this year, the real selling point for our young gentlemen when we toured the school was this large turf fútbol field right here. Por supuesto... A boy has his priorities!
Their play area also includes (not pictured) an adjoining basketball court, a paddle tennis court, and a forest. Yes, an actual forest! (You can see its trees in the background of this photo.) They will have 2 full hours of playtime in the middle of each school day.
We are so happy that they will be able to run and play in fresh air all year, in a way that would be impossible in the city. In the winter, it may even snow at their school for a few scattered days... which will be an incredible new experience for our sweet SoCal beach kids!
After cruising swiftly back to town thanks to Chico Suave, we picked up more groceries (so easy to do when you have access to a car) and the children were thrilled to discover a chocolate paradise at the grocery store.
We celebrated a very good day!
Noteworthy Info When Purchasing a Spanish Car: