advice

Adventure Time: Barcelona, Spain

sagrada familia

The third and final stop of our Semana Santa vacation was Barcelona. We were only in Barcelona for a day, but since we’ve actually been to Barcelona once before in February with my mom we had already seen all the big sights Barcelona has to offer (Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi Architecture). So we devoted our day to seeing the part of the city we hadn’t seen before.

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We found a fantastic AirBNB right in the center of the gothic part of Barcelona, so it was super easy for us to spend the whole day exploring. Logan and I started our day with a rooftop breakfast at our airbnb (he made us tiramisu). With our bellies full of dessert for breakfast (what’s better than that), we set out for Parc de Ciutadella.

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One of my favorite places in Madrid is Retiro Park because it’s big and beautiful and has a little pond with rowboats in the center but, goddammit, Barcelona’s park wins this one. Parc de Ciutadella has a giant fountain plastered with gold, a man-made pond with little rowboats you can rent, and palm trees!

Arch

On our way out of the park we saw the Arco de Triunfo, we’ve seen a lot of arches (seems like every major city has one), but Barcelona’s looks a bit different because it’s made of red brickwork which I had never seen before. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to wandering the streets of Barcelona, and wander we did.

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We made our way to the beach, where people were delightfully playing in the sand while only wearing bikinis (it was a whopping 68 degrees outside). We had some tasty coffee at a hipster cafe, then we made our way to the market. This market, La Boqueria, is the coolest market I’ve ever been to. It’s littered with fresh fruit stands, treats, and Spanish meats and cheeses. But, hands down, the best product at this market is the freshly made juice blends that they sell for a bargain of 1 euro. Logan had a strawberry banana, and I tried the blackberry coconut. LIFE CHANGING I tell you.

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By this time we had walked about 156 miles and were ready to catch our train back home to Madrid. Throughout our entire spring break we had ZERO mishaps. While I can’t wait for our next mini vacation, for now we are ready to chill at home for a few weeks until our next adventure!

P.S. I forgot to post this and we are leaving for London on Friday…

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5 Mini Cultural Differences

Who doesn’t love cultural differences?! I do! I’ve been living and working in Spain for almost 5 months now; and while there are obviously some huge cultural differences between the states and Madrid, there are also some little differences that I think are pretty funny.

1. They always use gridline notebooks

Notebook

You know those notebooks you only used for AP Calculus, yeah they use those for everything here. Another weird school supply I’ve noticed is that people don’t use mechanical pencils they use the wooden ones, but these pencils don’t have erasers attached to the end.

2. The ground level of a building is 0.

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If you push “1” you will go to the floor we usually refer to as “2.” I feel like their way makes a little more sense, seeing as how the ground floor is the 0 floor, and the first floor is the first floor up. Come on, America.

3. No coffee creamer.  

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Say goodbye to your beloved Sugar Free Hazelnut coffee creamer. Coffee con leche is the only way to dilute your favorite brew here.

4. Wine is cheaper than water.

Menu

If you go to a restaurant, or if you’re at a bar don’t expect to get a free glass of water. Un vaso de agua will usually cost you around 2 euros, whereas a copa de vino will only cost 1.50 euros. No complaints over here.

5. Spanish people eat 5 meals

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Yes, the meals are smaller, but I’m referring to them as meals because, unlike snacking in American, these tiny meals happen around the same time every day.

  • The first meal is breakfast and they usually have a pastry or piece of bread with coffee,
  • The second meal is around 11 where people have another coffee with a small sandwich, a piece of tortilla, or a pastry
  • Around 2:30 they eat lunch which is the biggest meal of the day,
  • The fourth meal is around 5pm and I’ve noticed people eating mainly small sandwiches, salads, fruits, or yogurt
  • The last meal is dinner (a light meal:soup, salad, sandwich, etc) around 9:30-10pm.

Our new home

 

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Looking for tips on how to find an apartment in Spain? Check below the photos for a step-by-step guide! 🙂

For months before we left, Logan and I had to answer the question “So where are you going to live in Spain?” with a blank stare. We had no idea where we would end up living because BEDA doesn’t arrange housing for their Language Assistants, much like your grown up job wouldn’t find you an apartment. So instead of wiring money to a complete stranger for a piso we had never seen, we reserved an Airbnb for the first week with the hopes we would find an apartment before our reservation was over.

After lots of failed calls (apparently no one wants to take a couple), we finally found one we loved. We were already convinced this was the apartment for us, so we brought our deposit (finanzo) with us! Luckily the landlords are sweet abuelos (he showed us the apartment while towing around his two young granddaughters), they were very accommodating and already  had all the paperwork ready for us to sign the lease.

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Luckily Logan’s Spanish is mega good so he was able to ask all the questions we had about the apartment, as well as translate the lease for me (thanks babe). Our apartment is home to five people: Logan & I along with 3 Spaniards we haven’t met yet (they move in next week).

ClosetCollageAs you can see we have a very spacious room, with our own bathroom (complete with shower). We also have a walk in closet in our room – ironic, seeing as how this is the one time in my life where I will have the least amount of clothes, but the most amount of space. Our bedroom has giant windows (withoutscreens: I learned screened-in windows is only an American thing) that let in amazing afternoon light and a cool breeze.

OtherRoomsOur apartment is built around a courtyard (bottom left picture), and we get amazing natural light all day long (yay for not living in a cave)! You can see the view from our bedroom (top right) I love that it just looks so quintessential Spanish: clothes blowing in the wind, rust-colored clay roofs, and lot’s of balconies.

Overall, our piso is a dream come true: truly amazing. We are super close to plaza de sol (the metro hub of the city), so we can get pretty much anywhere really fast. We are surrounded by shops, bakeries, and most importantly, cheap tapas places. Mom & Dad: FYI this is a mega safe neighborhood; we even have a doorman!

S/O to Kayla for embroidering this amazing art for me, it really does make our room feel more like home

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There are definitely some key considerations you have to think about before you even begin looking for an apartment.

1. What neighborhood do you want to live in?

Madrid, like Chicago, is divided into neighborhoods or barrios. Each barrio has their own personality: hipster, college, party-centric, etc. Logan and I definitely wanted to live in a hoppin neighborhood full of restaurants, night life, and things to do, so we chose to look for apartments in Sol & Centre & Cortes.

2. Commute

This part was especially difficult for us because we had to consider each others’ commute before deciding on a neighborhood to live in, if you were here alone you obviously wouldn’t have to worry about that. I would suggest living near the metro line that goes by your school so you don’t have to do a shit ton of transfers/rely on buses. Luckily, both of our commutes are about 30 min from our piso, Logan’s is even less.

3. Scour the web

Now it’s time to look at the Spanish apartment hunting websites. We found ours via PisoCompartido, but other popular ones are idealista, and easypiso. These sites are great because you can narrow down the apartments by using their billion filters.

4. Call/Look

When you are looking for apartments in Madrid people usually won’t answer email, so you’ll need to either call or send a text (via What’s App, that’s what most people use instead of texting) and set up a time to look at the apartment. Pisos go fast, so the sooner you can see something the better. Make sure you bring the deposit and first months rent with you so you can start the process right away. As soon as Logan and I saw our apartment, we knew it was the one and had brought the money with us. We signed our lease that day, and moved in the next day.

Besos y abrazos,

Shannon