Exploring Barcelona

The plan for the week was exploring various parts of Barcelona to prepare for renting a flat. Overall it went well. We also learned a lot about our family limits for tramping around in the unaccustomed heat!

TwentyTú

That first afternoon we taxied to the hostel we’re staying at, TwentyTú. This has proven an economical way to settle for a couple weeks while we sort out the flat.

The staff has been super friendly and helpful. There’s TV we can hook our new Nintendo Switch up to, much to the children’s joy. There’s free WiFi, much to the adults’ joy. It’s walking distance from a major shopping center, which has proven key for obtaining the stuff we didn’t pack. It’s even a long walk from some of the neighborhoods we wanted to visit, and a shorter walk to the Metro (aka subway).

Nearby is the Torre Glòries (formerly Torre Agbar), a convenient landmark to navigate by. Cora calls it the Tile Tower because although the picture doesn’t capture it, it’s quite colorful.

On the walk to the store we found a cool playground space. Because of course, what you need when on foot is a way to run around more.

Playground near Torre Glòries

The hostel has also let us start acclimating to a smaller space, since the room is basically a hallway width in front of bunk beds 😉

Gràcia

Gràcia is a neighborhood north of the city center. We explored it on our first full day out. It’s got a lot of the classic feel of Barcelona, without as much bustle and traffic as the city center.

A long walk through the neighborhood, and we could easily see ourselves living there. The number of parks around impressed us. In particular we relaxed in Parc de les Aigües. Not only did this have shade and multiple play structures for the kids, it also sported green parrots chattering wherever we went!

A green parrot in Parc de les Aigües

We stopped for food along the way, some basic cured meats. It was there Asher discovered he loves boquerones (anchovies) with vinegar. Really he just gobbles them down! He’s not keen on his pictures being public, but there’s a great video on Facebook if you want to befriend either of us.

As our first full day exploring, we overdid things significantly. The kids were done by about 3/4 of the way through the 5 miles (8 km) of trooping.

El Poblenou

The next neighborhood was El Poblenou, aka the new village. Further east of the city center, it’s out of comfortable walking distance of New Relic’s office in Eixample, but a quick Metro ride away. Learning our lesson from Gràcia, we planned out a much shorter walk.

Poblenou definitely maintains the feeling of a smaller village in the big city. We walked down the lovely Rambla del Poblenou, a calmer alternative to the larger Les Ramblas in central Barcelona. One flat we’d seen online was right on the ramble, and it was easy to imagine ourselves living there.

Cora en la Rambla

“That is hard work for me to hold it that long.”-Coraline

El Poblenou’s other big attraction is the beach. The Rambla runs right down to the Mediterranean sand, a mere 5-10 minute walk.

The kids absolutely loved the beach. The water was cool, but comfortable to play in for a long time. Such a change from the Oregon coast! It also afforded our first major sunburn of the trip.

Eixample

In the latter half of the week we dropped in at New Relic’s Barcelona office to say hello and check out the area right next door. Emerging from the Metro, Amber immediately ooh-and-aah’d at the surroundings. This was all the charm, architecture, and urban feel she’d been imagining in Barcelona.

This being our third neighborhood exploration, we tightened up the routine. Basically we were sold already, so we just visited DelaCrem, an exceptional gelato shop our friend Aitor had recommended (heartily agreed!) The only question with Eixample is whether finding the size and noise profile we want in the hub of the city.

“Ew, tourists”

Bussing from Eixample home proved a good plan. Although I find it less direct than the Metro, it helps the kids engage more seeing the city versus cruising through dark tunnels.

Three Neighborhoods, No Answers Yet

This week has yielded a better feel for our new city. All the neighborhoods we visited definitely met the criteria we’re looking for… now to visit some flats and actually find a place to live!

(Small administrative note… we’ve been using Marco Polo to keep up asyncrhonously with friends. If you’ve on there (or want to be!) send us a message. It’s like Snapchat for families and grown-ups)

PDX 🛬 OAK 🛬 BCN Tweetstorm

While heading to Barcelona, I decided to tweet a few things out. Rather than venting frustration or weariness, of which there was plenty, I highlighted good things that happened. Enjoy!

Reaching Barcelona

Well, after that last post you’d have expected that we had things all locked up before we went to our farewell picnic on Saturday night.

Hahaha…

The picnic was a huge success. We saw people from many different aspects of our life and shared food, memories, and hopes for the future with them. The event drew quite a crowd, as you can see from this lovely group photo:

We left with huge warm feelings our hearts… and packing to do. Back at Anthony and Kat’s (our friends who graciously loaned up their basement since leaving the house we’d been renting), we got the kids down and got to work on those last couple loose ends. Our flight was early the next morning, so we planned to leave at 4:30. Any guesses how much sleep we got?

Zero!

Yep, we worked the night through, stumbling and tired, but determined to get all the things packed up and buttoned away.

Our beloved friend Kat got up with us in that dark morning hour and took us in our van to the airport. (We’ll be finally selling the van in September when we’re back around in Oregon while getting visas finalized). Tears and hugs were shared, and then we were off to get luggage checked.

Did I mentioned we had a lot of luggage?

Huge pile o' luggage

Amber did a spectacular job of keeping the bags under weight, evenly spread, and tightly packed. But moving your entire world still amounted to an impressive pile. Thank goodness for curbside check-in at PDX!

TSA Pre also paid its way handily. Even with the kids in tow, we slid past security with only one forgotten pocket knife to slow us down.

The first leg was a short hop to Oakland. By a miracle, we ended up in the first row behind business class, which meant the under-seat space was larger than average. Good thing, because our carry-ons pushed the limits of what many would willfully lug down narrow plane aisles. Before we knew it we were landed in Oakland, off the plane, and picking up our luggage.

Picking up luggage? Why couldn’t they just check through? As you may have gathered from our earlier discussion on plans, things have been rather fluid around when we’d actually leave. We’d bought cheap OAK -> BCN tickets, but had been expecting/hoping to already be in San Fransisco getting our visas issued. Hahaha, nice try. So at the last we bought tickets on Alaska Airlines to cover the PDX -> OAK leg. Did those end up being on a shared airline that could check through? Nope! Thus we found ourselves back in possession of the mountain of luggage in Oakland.

No problem, we’ll just wheel over to the Norwegian Air desk, check in most of it, and cruise on through the all those services behind security, right? Nope. Turns out, the front desk for Norwegian only opens 4 hours before their first flight… the 4pm to Barcelona we were on. It was roughly 9AM, we we had hours to sit with our train of luggage carts out where only one restaurant greeted us. We shuffled bags around and made use of the time, but everyone was tired, hungry, and ready to leave that airport by the time we actually checked in.

We were excited to have upgraded to the Premium Cabin on the long leg of this flight. To get the flexible scheduling and baggage we needed, Premium was only a few hundred dollars extra per person, so we splurged. Norwegian is a budget line and the equipment was clearly second hand (from Arik Air apparently?) Many of the integrated controls didn’t work properly, the reclining seats clattered relentlessly when in motion, and the crew handed out iPads for the in-flight entertainment as the screens were mostly inoperable (3/4 of ours wouldn’t respond to the remotes at all). But, and it’s a huge but, the space was AMAZINGLY WORTH IT! I actually slept 5-6 hours on a plane y’all! That never happens, and sure helped smooth the remainder of the day after landing Barcelona.

Since our flight left Oakland at 4pm, we ended up in Barcelona about noon. Customs was a breeze, and we found ourselves grabbing a taxi in the heat of the day to the high-tech hostel we’re spending our first couple weeks at while we hunt for a flat.

As it was the middle of the day we did a little exploring, but I’ll save that till next time and rest content that the Clarks have arrived in Barcelona!

A Plan Emerges

Way back when we started this process, the immigration services New Relic contracted with told us to expect the paperwork for residence + visa to take about 30 business days. So earlier this summer, when the documentation was ready for everything to kick off, we bought a cheap flight on Norwegian Air for July 22, a good couple weeks past that 30 day processing time. Smooth right?

Hahahahah-:gasp:-aahahahaha.

It turned out we needed to physically show up at the Spanish Consulate in San Fransisco to request the visa process start. That required an appointment, which was backlogged almost two months beyond the “normal” timing the immigration service was expecting. Our appointment date? September 4th.

This development left us in limbo. We’d unsuccessfully petitioned the consulate for an earlier appointment since my visa was supposed to be fast-tracked, but as June closed out, July departure was looking less and less likely.

Complicating that further, we needed to leave the house we were renting toward the end of June. We had enough trips, family, and friend visits to pack out until our July departure date. But “hanging” for all of August? :massive-sigh:

Our residence paperwork completed, so we had the necessary numbers to rent a flat in Barcelona, open bank accounts, etc. A plan emerged. With those cheap flights, it wouldn’t be outrageous to take our July 22 flight out, then come back in September to settle our visas. We can live in Spain for August as visitors, get a flat, start sorting out the new shape of our life there, then come back for the visa.

Apart from expense, the only other hang-up is around my eye condition and insurance since I won’t be working for New Relic Spain until the visa is through. “Luckily,” my eye is at a stable (if crummy) stage. We’d only see the retinologist once during that month–a lot of wait and see–so I’m trying to schedule with my referrals in Barcelona. At worst I’ll  just postpone a couple weeks to see the doctor stateside when we’re back in September.

All this to say… it’s T-minus one week until the Clarks leave for Barcelona and our new adventure!

¡Adios a los Clarks Fiesta!

At long last, the day has come… the Clarks are leaving for Barcelona (more on that in a bit)!

To celebrate and connect with folks one last time before we go, we’re throwing a potluck picnic at Columbia Park. We’ll bring soft drinks, some beer, and a fried chicken main dish. If you’re inclined bring something to share, but please come hang out with us one last time!

There’s a water feature and playground for kids, along with plenty of shade. We recommend bringing something to sit on.

https://www.facebook.com/events/236046683671015/

Saturday July 21, 2018
3PM-7PM

7701 N Chautauqua Blvd
Portland, OR 97203

Goodbye Portland, Hello Barcelona!

Through a series of wildly unexpected occurrences, the Clark family is moving to Barcelona, Spain! New Relic has an office, which made obtaining work in another part of the world so much easier.

Why are you going you might ask?

  • Both of our kids have been in Spanish immersion at school, which has been fantastic. We want to see that immersion deepen and include us too, so moving to a Spanish speaking country seemed like just the ticket.
  • Amber and I have both had wonderful, life-shaping experiences in living overseas. This was an un-missable chance for us to give our kids the same opportunities.
  • A variety of tough circumstances around our house have left us in a spot where we had to rent. Ask me about it over beers/whiskey sometime and I’m happy to share… bottom line, we found ourselves needing to rent, so why not rent in Barcelona.

There are a number of common questions that come up too:

  • When do you go? Hopefully July 22. Look for more news in this space.
  • Where will you live? We don’t know exactly–we’ll be finding housing in the first weeks after we get there, but we’re aiming for walking distance from New Relic’s offices downtown in Eixample.
  • What about schools? That’s still also up in the air, but with the kids already speaking Spanish we’re confident we’ll find a good place for them, even if it entails ramping up on Catalan.

We’ll be using this blog for posting some stories and pictures from our travels since not everyone shares the same social networking sites these days. I hope you’ll join us!