It’s taken a few days, but I think we’re starting to settle into our new schedule here in Barcelona. Since RF and I are both working for US companies, we’ve needed to find ways to cross schedules, at least part of the time, with our coworkers. Barcelona is 9 hours ahead of Seattle, which means that Spaniards are typically ending their work days when the West Coast is starting theirs. I originally thought we might work a bit in the morning, take a midday/afternoon break to explore, then spend a few hours at our computers around 4-8 pm. However, since we arrived completely sleep deprived and jet lagged, we’ve ended up sleeping in almost every day, and reinforcing that habit by working well into the night.
Depending on how you look at it, Barcelona’s late night dinner schedule does/doesn’t help. This week, we’ve slept much (if not all) of the morning, taken time for lunch and a little bit of exploration, then worked from 3-4 pm until 1-2 am (or, in RF’s case, 5 am!) with a short break around 9:30 or 10 for dinner. It’s definitely not perfect, and I hope that we can get ourselves shifted a bit earlier next week, but so far it works.
Our apartment is in the Eixample District, bordered by Sants, El Poble-Sec, and El Raval, right on Grand Via de les Cortes Catalanes. “Gran Via”, the longest street in Catalonia and the 2nd longest in Spain, stretches 13 km from the northeast to southwest corners of the city. After our search for an owner-managed rental came up short, and we found that agencies only post beautiful pictures to lure in contacts then offer far less appealing options, I turned to booking.com where I landed on Eric Vokel boutique apartments. They are not only nicely styled and in great locations, they also accept pets. I’m a fan!
We selected the Gran Via suites, just a stone’s throw from Plaça d’España – site of the former bull ring shopping mall. At the center of the same traffic circle also sits an ornate fountain, and several intriguing buildings. So, we were curious to go check them all out. We stopped en route for lunch at Galicia, the Spanish version of a Brooklyn diner. Two old school guys were running the place, one behind the bar and one hastily shuffling around taking orders and delivering food. Based on the enthusiastic greetings and lively conversations, I’d say that most of the patrons were regulars. After using our Google Translate app to come up with some humorous menu interpretations (what exactly is a rooster’s portion??) they brought us English menus. First lesson, ask if they have one when you’re seated – most do.
We ordered salads, torta de patates to share, and vino tinto. I mean, when in Spain…right? Futbol was on tv and little old ladies chattered with each other. The food was solid but not outstanding, exactly what you’d expect from your corner diner. We lazed a bit in true Catalan style, but were outlasted by several tables that had arrived before us.
After lunch, we strolled on to the Plaça. It was a foggy morning, but the sun began to peek out just as we got to Las Arenas, the bull ring shopping mall. You can pay 2€ to ride to a viewing platform at the top, but we decided to wait until an even more beautiful day – or night – for maximum visibility. We stopped in to see what kinds of stores were inside…Nespresso, Desigual, Mango…a food court…pretty much, a mall.
As we rounded the other side of the square, we noticed that there was an event at Fira de Barcelona, the local trade show organizer and venue. Avenue Reina Maria Cristina was blocked off and filled with vintage cars for the Salón Internacional del Automóvil Barcelona. So many fun, quirky, and beautiful old cars in the shadow of the Palau Nacional (home to MNAC) was quite a sight! Honestly, kind of surreal.
I still don’t always believe that we’re actually in Spain! That we really made this happen. Of course, it’s a hard fact to avoid when you run into sites like these (above), and this even more unusual one (below). Much like RF, I am obsessed with Spain’s obsession with Christmas poop. Where on earth did this come from?! In addition to Caga Tió, these caganer are everywhere! As the Catalan would say, “Déu n’hi dò!” No literal translation, but from what I gather…awesome.