Apartment apartment apartment…. Tuesday September 5th

Steps: 17,020

Stuff: Second day of school, Vietnamese food (need spice!), Apartment hunting!

More and more discussions about the penthouse on Rambla Catalunya. Looks like we’re heading more and more in the direction of applying to rent it.

Went to see another place, a beautifully decorated 2,000sf apartment with gorgeous furniture and design. But it was literally 10 meters off of Las Ramblas.

I just can’t see us opening the door every morning to a solid crowd of tourists. And I can’t see the girls coming home in the dark through throngs of merry makers. So as much as we loved the space, it’s out.

Talked to the girls about the apartment process, and heard their grievances. It’s interesting that Alexis is most concerned about the cost and wanting to not spend a ton of money. Emma is different in that she most wants to be close to Turo Park to be near friends. So we took them for a stroll to the Rambla Catalunya and they were jaw dropped impressed! We couldn’t take them inside but they loved the location!

 

Full speed apartment hunting! Monday September 4th

Steps: 10,742

Stuff: First day of school, MW results, Apartment hunting!

Wow, so much going on today! I could barely sleep with anticipation of the MW results that were to be released in the morning. Great news from my friends Nigel and Nova, who were part of the 14 who became MWs! And a mix of good and bad from the Napa group. So bummed for those who didn’t pass, but so happy for those that did.

The girls were excited as well … for their first day at school.

They managed to not fight before they left, but who knows what happened on the Metro there! They came home fairly happy, which is more than one should be hopeful for. Going to a new country and a new school is definitely not the easiest thing in the world. Thank heaven they’re not crying.

We had good news on the apartment hunt front. The one place we found on the weekend that we were super excited for turned out to be a dump. But Christian found us another one that is fantastic. A great location right in the middle of Rambla Catalunya, top floor (penthouse!) and floor-through. From the back we can see Montjuic and from the front 450sf patio we can see Sagrada Familia! But the downside is that it’s got “grandma” furniture. Really boring stuff. But at least high quality. We’d have to see how to spruce up the decor a bit. But it’s a high potential. Part of the problem is that it was the very first place we ever looked at. Can we really rent a place without seeing at least a dozen?!

And oh, its our anniversary! Happy 18th, honey!

Playing tourist – Sunday September 3rd

Steps: 9,750

Stuff: Hop-on/Hop-off bus, A stroll through the Gotic and Born areas.

Tourist time!

Took a walk down Ramblas …

Unfortunately not all was joy and bliss. The terrorist attack on Barcelona was just a couple weeks old and there was a large memorial at the top of Las Ramblas. Cowardly fuckers.

I love love love Hop-on/Hop-off buses! Anywhere in the world! They’re a great fast way to see all the highlights of a city. We’ve done them everywhere, even in San Francisco!

And it’s good to embrace your inner tourist. There’s no way to “blend in” or “not stand out” on a Hop-on/Hop-off bus. You are 110% tourist on these things! Embrace the suck!

This time it made it very clear to us that we need to see the Sagrada Familia. And the Park Guell. Big tourist spots but they look like they’re going to be awesome to explore in more detail.

We only hopped off a couple times – once was for lunch in the Born. What a cool neighborhood, with “streets” that are as narrow as 5-6 feet! Awesome! Gotta poke around here more. Especially at night, when it must be magical!

Happiness, and some crappy wine… Saturday September 2nd

Steps: 20,121

Stuff: Neighborhood exploring, Back-to-school shopping, Rented the house, Natural wine

We rented out our house in San Francisco! Final negotiations have panned out and we’ve got a signed lease from two guys relocating from Seattle! Woohoo! What a stress off our minds. It’s only a 6 month lease, but maybe it goes longer, who knows. But we’ll deal with that in March! For now it’s one more thing off the list, and allows us to focus on Barcelona!

So we went out to celebrate with some Natural Wine.

Um, what s natural wine?! Yeah, wine bars focusing on natural wine are super hot here. What’s natural wine? It’s a non-defined term describing a wine made with limited intervention, in particular limited SO2. I came here to Barcelona dedicated to giving these wines an honest evaluation.

My honest evaluation: What a mess! Who likes these wines?!

I won’t bore my non-wine readers with the details of this but wow, what a disappointment. And at Bar Brutal …

… when I tried to return a corked wine, I was told “all the staff tastes each wine and we’re all sommeliers.” Well, my dear, I’m a Master of Wine, so, um, give me another selection!

Shoulda stuck to Champagne!

LICE!!! Friday September 1st


Steps:
15,421

Stuff: LICE!! Nothing else matters when there’s lice!

Oh god, just what we need, a discover of lice in Emma’s hair! Shit shit shit. Thank god lice cleaning services have landed in Barcelona too! The best 160 Euros I’ve ever spent. Oh, cuz two members of the family had them, not just Emma! (No, I won’t tell you who.) My head is itching right now as I type this, isn’t yours?!

Emma saved the overall mood of the day by securing 3 bar seats at Tapas 24, a notoriously difficult place to get into. (Alexis was at her first Barcelona high school party!) Thanks Emma!

And as a thank you to Emma for scoring us seats, we went out for a (midnight) gelato!

Yum, yum, yum!

Stress! Do we need to go home?! Thursday August 31st

Steps: 10,728

Stuff: Stress, Everyone on vacation and businesses closed for the month of August, Stress, Department stores, Stress

A really brutal night sleep with three huge stressors – we don’t have an apartment yet, looks like we can’t get any private Spanish health insurance because no-one will give coverage to a Type 1 Diabetic, and we don’t have a tenant yet for our house in SF. Worst night of sleep so far, for sure. Ugh.

Our fixer, Christian, told us that there are really no apartments on the market right now. He feels like if we wait until everyone is back from vacation next week then we will see more hit the market. Can we really wait another week until we get a new place? An apartment lease gates so many things: cellphones, residency permits, everything. We can’t even start settling in until we get an apartment. Stress!

Having full private health insurance is a firm requirement for residing in Spain as a foreigner, even if you’re a EU citizen. But not a single company will cover Alexis, even with pre-existing condition exclusion. How is this possible?! Fucking “health” insurance companies. But we think we have a work-around, albeit an expensive one. We can Cobra Alexis into my old Pfizer health insurance and go month to month until we can figure out how she gets covered here. But that’s at a cost of $800 a month! Yikes. But it will also help our return to the US, in case The Donald and the GOP eliminate pre-existing coverage that was part of the ACA.

The house renting situation is showing a little light at the end of the tunnel. Two guys from Seattle are relocating so that one of them can take a job at Google and they need a temp house for 6 months while they look to buy a permanent home. But good luck finding a house and closing on it in 6 months, so we might have them there for longer. Fingers crossed! They seem like a nice couple of guys, with a small dog, and we’re hoping the negotiations work out!

Less stress!

We’re also trying to settle into a normal life, eating at home and such!

I sunburnt the crap out of myself and I liked it! Wednesday August 30th

Stuff: Hangover, Banking, Heat, Traffic, Mediocre dinner at Paco Meralgo, crappy gelato

Steps: 9,661

After the late night before with Michele, it was all I could do to survive the early morning banking meeting and make it through another new parent orientation and get down to the W Hotel pool.

Thank god for that pool, and the pool-side service! Really, it wasn’t “thank god”, but rather “thank Michele”, who was staying there, and offered to host us. After so much stress the last few weeks it was nice to just chill for the afternoon!

After a couple beers, I fell asleep on my chaise and sunburnt the shit out of myself. But it’s all good – I need a little local colour!

We ended up at tapas place called Paco Meralgo later that night …

… with Michele, and had a hilarious dish called “Obama balls” which were croquettes dyed black with squid ink. Yes, seriously. Racist in that oh so clueless way that only the Europeans can seem to get away with! But I’ll give them credit, they were at least very tasty!

Oh, and we ordered a wine that I just happened to have judged at Decanter! Emma was so impressed that she marked the bottle, for those who were interested!

Diving in with both feet! Tuesday August 29th

Steps: 16,137

Stuff: Exploring neighborhoods, School Buddy Day, Alcohol Free Parents BBQ (wtf?!), crowded bars on a Tuesday at 2:30am!

After a morning walking around potential neighborhoods to live in (Eixample looks great!), a quick brunch …

… we hopped a cab up to the kids’ school where they were meet with their buddies for Buddy Day. Everyone was really on edge. We’d been in-country for less than 24 hours, we pulled up to the school and it looked like a prison (turns out it was a hospital and a nunnery in previous life, so the prison look makes sense!), the girls were nervous (understandable!), it was 80+ degrees and I was very very close to nuclear meltdown with heat! But it was all for naught! The heat issue went away when I got into the air conditioned library, and the girls made instant friends with their buddies and the groups they went off with. These kids were predominantly kids who have bounced around a lot to different schools in different cities and countries. It makes sense that they are more empathetic to new students. And anyway, Alexis and Emma are pretty cool kids so what’s not to love!

Melinda and I headed back to the Gracia and stumbled upon this cool looking bar/tavern called La Pubilla – our new favorite spot! They had just finished lunch service but that was fine for us as all we wanted was a drink. One vermouth (vermut here in Barcelona) for me, and one glass of wine for Melinda. Grand total – 3.80 euro. For both. Tax included. Wow. Just wow.

Oh, and there’s all this talk about how stores here are closed for like 3 hours every day, mid-day. Yes, it’s true. But people don’t mention this!

That’s a Bar/Restaurant with the roll-up doors shut for a month! From August 8th to September 3rd! WTF?!

Melinda and I went back to the school to pick up the girls and to meet other parents at the BFIS new family BBQ. Not what I expected. No alcohol at all. Shocking. Bad food, like iceberg lettuce level bad. But met some nice parents, including Maurice and Sophie, who just moved from Muir Beach, that enclave of like 150 houses on the coast near Muir Woods.

After a (shockingly alcohol-free) new parents BBQ at school, we all headed back to the Gracia and dinner at La Pepita. Got there and was told it would be a wait, about 30 minutes, but the hostess said we could go down the street to Cava Bar and have a drink while we wait. And get this, she would come get us when our table was ready! Fantastic!

And the food matched the service level. This is definitely the land of “YES”.

But that wasn’t the end of the night. Michele Bronson called us (she was in town for a conference) and said she was having cocktails at Dry Martini in Eixample.

Two cocktails with her coworkers later we stumbled across the street to Solange, an entirely forgettable and disappointing cocktail bar.

Well, the setting was nice, with elegant design and staff, but the cocktails were atrocious!  

Though it is definitely amazing how many people are out partying on a Tuesday night at 2:30 in the morning! Off to bed with all of us!

Landed! Monday August 28th

Steps: 5,752 steps

Stuff: Hassle free immigration(!), Loads and loads of bags, Great first impression!

We were sort of panicked as we waited in the immigration line. It has been nagging on us that they might not let Melinda through. The girls and I all have EU passports, so we were going to be fine, but would the customs folks let Melinda in? The European Union government websites said she was allowed to be a (non-working) resident, but it’s always up to the immigration official. Well, our worries were for naught as it took 15 seconds for us to go through. Stamp stamp stamp stamp!

After our cigarette smoking driver Tetris’d our bags into the (large) cab, we were off to our short term VRBO.

The apartment (VRBO) turned out to be as billed. Clean, great location, fairly high floor (second above ground) so quite light for the Gracia neighborhood, where the narrow streets can make lower floor flats quite dark.

Lots of hustle and bustle in the streets. It’s all really beautiful. We took a medium size stroll around Gracia and had a quick drink in the square at Placa de la Vila de Gracia – nothing like a quick acclimatization to the local environment than by having a drink in a public square. Then an early (which for here is 9pm!) dinner at a local tapas place – Cafe Godot. Our first experience with a classic Catalan restaurant was great, though we would later come to notice that there weren’t really any vegetables on the menu!

Sleep came hard and fast – a solid 8+ hours! The previous month of sleep deprivation seemed to have caught up with us!

Our last day in San Francisco! Sunday August 27th

Steps: 6,635

Stuff: Running around, Sorting out the house, Selling the car, Blissful Negroni, Off to the airport!

Woke up at Sara’s after a fantastic party the night before. So beautiful of Sara and Jim to throw a party for us.

Slightly hungover but really just a continued feeling of sleep-deprivation! It’s kind of weird though, because it still hasn’t sunk in that we’re leaving. We’ve been so busy and stressed and crazed that the realization isn’t there. So it was hard to differentiate between a normal Sara and Jim party and one that was dedicated to us. A little surreal.

It was a mad dash day though still, with Melinda and I racing back to the city to finish up the last bits of the house. Then back to Oakland to sell the car! Paperwork done, in and out in 20 minutes and back to Sara and Jim’s.

Sara and Jim continued their lovely hospitable selves and laid out a big spread for a late lunch before our evening flight. Jim even made one last Negroni for us. I’ll miss Jim’s Negronis!

(In case you’re curious, we are travelling very light to Barcelona. The total for the 4 of us is 4 duffle bags, 4 carry-ons (sized for the small maximum allowance of European budget airlines), and one cardboard box filled with diabetes pump supplies. That’s pretty light! But it took some shenanigans and maneuvering to get it so that every checked back was max 44 pounds.)

After a tearful goodbye with Sara and Jim and Jack and Finn …

… we headed to OAK, where after one last airport-beer-selfie-social-media-post, we boarded our flight to BCN.

Much to our surprise, the Norwegian Air plane and flight was lovely! New Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with new everything. Sure, everything cost money, as is normal on budget airlines, but whatever – it’s cheap, and when you land there’s no connection, you’re in Barcelona! And we got luck that we all had an empty seat next to us – four people for two rows of three! I was lucky enough to get 6-7 hours sleep on the 11 hour flight! (Melinda, not so much, maybe 1-2 hours.)

We got lucky on the (surprisingly modern and comfortable) Norwegian Air flight, with empty seats between all of us! But as the plane took off from Oakland, Melinda and I looked at each other wide eyed. Are we really doing this? It’s really happening? Yes, yes it is!