Thursday, January 15, 2015

Settling In.

Our street.
We've been living in Spain for 1 month now.  It actually seems much longer as we are getting into a groove.  We've found places to shop, open markets, got our internet set up, visited Movistar to get our iphone set up, the police for our NIE card, the hardware store, the electronics store, the climbing gym, the best place for bread and fresh eggs, the best beach to run the dogs and us, our favorite pintxos bar in Girona, IKEA (2 locations near Barcelona), a few great trails to walk the dogs, a good vet for the furry kids, a great climbing store, a mexican restaurant and a dentist.

I don't eat cow cheese....but I do eat sheep cheese!

We're hanging pictures on the walls and sorting through boxes, there are still a few in the garage we haven't unpacked, but we'll get on it soon.

We're really happy here.  The people are so friendly, the gas is cheaper, the food cheaper and the sun has been shining almost every day.  It's so nice to wake up to blue skies instead of mist, damp and clouds, which is what happened in France our last 2 weeks there.  But then there is the language.  I don't speak Spanish or Catalan.  I realized how good my French was when I moved here.  We are going to take lessons and will be heading over to the school to meet with them on Tuesday, we'll each take a test and see what class we should be in.  Everyone we meet here tells us "you must learn Catalan", that is because they are Catalan.  But I'm not sure that would be the best for us.  Spain is a big country and we'd like to go to different areas in Spain and if we only learn Catalan it limits us when we travel, if we learn Spanish first, we can communicate with anyone in Spain and then we can start to pick up Catalan words.
The beach...15 minutes from our house.

Tomorrow we are heading back down to Barcelona as I have another dentist appointment.  I wanted an english speaking dentist and found a really good one in Barcelona.  Husband and wife team.  Both educated in the states, husband is from Spain and wife from New York.  Modern and friendly and I can understand them.  I went last week because I have had a tooth that is very sensitive to hot and cold.  I had a little cavity and they filled in without any problem.  Tomorrow I'm going for a cleaning, as I haven't had my teeth cleaned in a long time.  Bruce is coming with me and after my cleaning we' are going to the Picasso museum and then have lunch.  Should be fun.

I'm excited to be here and to explore this beautiful area of Spain.  I love change and moving, learning new things, meeting new people, mixing life up.



Cool old place in Bascara.

Visiting the climbing gym in Girona.

I'm not the only one who loves the beach.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Another Day of Climbing

Our friends left on Saturday morning.  We spent the day cleaning the house, doing laundry, going grocery shopping and getting into bed early.

On Sunday we decided to go to a new climbing area about 40 minutes from us.  It's called Bellavista. Normally we don't climb on Sunday because it's usually crowded, but it was a beautiful day and we hadn't been climbing in a week, so we took a chance.

Our cliff is the one way at the top left.


It's about a 30 minute hike up to the cliff, not too bad and really pretty.  There weren't many people there, we got lucky.  We met some climbers from Girona, they spoke english and were really nice telling us which climbs were good, hard, etc.  We climbed for most of the day, leaving at about 4:00.

1 old, 1 new

This was our view

Shirtless in January

Our new friend Serge trying to send his route.  He fell at the last move.

It was really hot at the cliff too.  60 degrees at home and probably 70 at the cliff, since it's south facing and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  No complaints from me though.

The weather for Girona for the next 10 days is sunny and between 60-68.  I'm a very happy girl.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Our First Guests - Day 3

Our friends had never been to Barcelona.  So on their last day that's where we went.

This church has been under construction since 1882!
We drove in and found a parking garage that was right by La Sagrada Familia Basilca.  We walked around it and took pictures.  We didn't buy tickets on-line and the wait was huge, so we'll go back inside next time.

The we walked up to Park Güell, a beautiful park designed by Gaudi.  Last time we visited it was 15 years ago...you didn't have to pay to get in.  This time you do if you want to visit the area called the Monumental Zone of Park Güell.  The next available time to enter was 2.5 hours after we arrived, so we passed on that and spent about 1.5 hours just wandering around the rest of the park, which is beautiful.  Next time, we'll make reservations and buy tickets on-line.

View Park Güell


After we left the park we wandered down and visited some of the neighborhoods and then headed down to old town.  

The "one eyebrow up" shot
We stopped at a little cafe for some tapas and a glass of wine before dinner.




We took the advice of Anne, who commented on my Barcelona post a week or so ago and went to Cuines Santa Caterina.  It was fantastic.  Great service, good location, huge menu.  Bruce and I had sushi, Mike had fish and Nicci had fried rice with shrimp.  Wine was good, price was good, meal was fantastic.  Thanks for the recommendation Anne, we'll be going back for sure.



We left Barcelona about 11:30 pm and arrived home about 12:30 am.  It was a long day, but super fun to explore the city with friends.

Here we are....happy.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Our First Guests - Day 2

The next day, we all slept in a bit, since we didn't get home until 2:00 am.  We decided to head up to Olot, about 1/2 hour west of us to hike in the Garrotxa Volcanic Park.  The Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park is a natural park area covering a Holocene volcanic field (also known as the Olot volcanic field) in Catalonia, northeastern Spain. The volcanos, of which there are about forty within the park, are no longer active, with the last eruption (Croscat) occurring about 11,000 years ago. However, the region is still seismically active, and a large earthquake in 1428 caused damage to buildings and twenty deaths in Barcelona, 90 kilometres (56 mi) to the south.

We took all the dogs and headed out.  It was sunny and a lovely day.  We hiked for about 4 hours. First we hiked up and then down into the Santa Margarida Volcano crater.  The volcano has a perimeter of 2 kilometers and a height of 682 meters. The hermitage of Santa Margarida, after which the volcano was named, is inside the crater of the volcano. The building was destroyed in 1428 during the 1428 Catalonia earthquake and rebuilt in 1865.





Then we hiked back up and down and around to visit La Fageda d'en Jordà, which is a forest of beech trees.  We stopped and had lunch in the forest and then continued our hike back to the car.  A perfect day.






Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our First Guests

Our good friends from France, Mike and Nicci came down to visit us and see our new place for a few days.  It's their first time down to this area, they have never been to Girona or Barcelona.  They stayed 4 days and we had a great time.

The first day was beautiful (well actually all the days were beautiful).  We took the dogs to the beach for a long run.  Mike and Nicci brought their dog Skipi, who gets along really well with all our dogs. It was so great to be running on the beach in December/January.



We then headed to the ruins of Empúries.  Empúries, formerly known by its Spanish name Ampurias, was a town on the Mediterranean coast of the Catalan comarca of Alt Empordà in Catalonia, Spain. It was founded in 575 BC by Greek colonists from Phocaea with the name of Ἐμπόριον (Emporion, meaning "trading place", cf. emporion). It was later occupied by the Romans (Latin: Emporiæ), but in the Early Middle Ages, when its exposed coastal position left it open to marauders, the town was abandoned.




It's hard to get excited about an excavated site, but the location was beautiful and we tried to imagine what the buildings looked like and how they lived their lives.

Then we came back and took a long siesta as we were going into Girona to celebrate New Years Eve. We had a great dinner of fresh llobado (a spanish white fish), grilled calamari, potatoes and asparagus.  We have decided to start eating more fish since moving here, it's so fresh.



Our night in Girona was so much fun.  We arrived about 10:30 and went to an Irish pub (there weren't many things open).  The pub was packed and really fun.  Then at 11:45 we headed over to the steps of the church to await the stroke of midnight.  Catalan tradition is that each time the bell rings you must eat a grape - 12 grapes total.  You have to finish the first grape before the 2nd bell rings and so on.  If you can do it, you get good luck all year.  We all did it!


Nicci and I

Heading up the steps

Mike and I - Happy New Year

A bit dark....but celebrating the New Year
  There were so many people there and a band with live music.  Everyone was singing and dancing.  We had a fantastic time.  Actually our best New Years ever...normally we stay home and are in bed before the clock strikes midnight.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

The memory jar


For the past 3 years we have had a memory jar.  We start it January 1 and during the year we add little "memories" to it.  We opened it this year a bit late, since we had guests, but it was great to remember some of the fun and exciting things that happened in 2014.

The first one I pulled out was this one.  Back in the spring when we we were thinking about moving to Spain.



We also had some of the teens who came to visit over the summer for an art retreat write some of their memories too.  We loved reading things that they remember of the time with us.



Yes in 2 weeks 12 girls went through 10 jars of Nutella.

This wasn't just a little note...it was a letter and so lovely.
We have 2 cars, mine only holds 4 girls.  I had the same group each time in my car.  We would sing songs (most from the movie Frozen) and laughed a lot.

Bibi is from Russia, this was her 2nd time come to us during the summer.  We love her.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sunny but the winds!

Yesterday we lost power.  It was about 5:30 pm and everything went black.  Right now our house is on the same electricity as the castle.  Yes, the castle.  We are part of a 1,000 year old castle, we are only connected by a small terrace, other than that we are separate.  But we are still on their electricity until our new meter box comes, which should be next week.  Because of that we have to be careful not to load it too much.  I forgot yesterday and had the dryer on and then I turned on the electric oven to start dinner. That's all it took.  Our landlords who live in the castle are so lovely, they tried to get it working, but couldn't. The electrician couldn't come until today, so we decided to jump in the car and go into Girona to our favorite pintxos restaurant.  We came home to a very dark house.

This morning still no power and it was starting to get a bit cold.  Our landlords told us the electrician couldn't come until 4:00 pm.  We wanted to go climbing, but it has been very windy the last 2 days, so not ideal for climbing outside.  So, we jumped in the car and went into Girona to pick up our NIE card, which is basically our residency card and then we headed to the inside climbing gym just outside of Girona.  For 5,00 euros we could climb from 11-5 pm.  What a deal.  We spent about 3 hours there, climbing and getting a great workout.

We came back around 4:00 and still no electrician.  But at 4:30 as we were sitting in the house with coats and hats on, the electricity came back on.  YAY.  The house doesn't take long to heat up, so we'll be good in a few hours.  I just need to remember that if I'm going to use the dryer, nothing else can be running.  Once we get our meter, everything will be fine.

Little things like this can either be a huge hassle or a "oh well".  We choose "oh well", such is life. It's not a big deal.  You've got to learn to just let things roll off and not stress.