Friday, September 19, 2008

Barcelona, Here We Come

We were not sad to leave Toledo this morning. One interesting thing we found out was that cabs could make it to our hotel door, which was infinitely better than us dragging our suitcases up the hill and trying to load them on a busy street. However, curbside pickup required the inventive driving skills of our cab driver, who backed down the equivalent of about four blocks of the steep street, dodging parked cars and pedestrians. This is a picture of the street from the top of the hill:

After being whisked to the estaciĆ³n, we went through security and boarded our train.

It is noteworthy that there is significantly more room than an airplane plus we each had an arm rest.

We had a brief layover in Madrid and then we boarded the high speed train to Barcelona. The trip was uneventful, but long. We decided to wait until everyone in our car had disembarked before we attempted to exit the train with our copious amounts of luggage. Little did we know that at the back of our car was a mother with two boys, one in a wheelchair. As we tried to move past her, she started to push the chair into the aisle. Ken and Mother of Ken tried desperately to exit quickly while the “assistants” yelled at us to get out of the way so they could put the handicapped lift in place. We were puzzled as to why they were trying to do this before everyone else had exited the train as the platform outside of the door was only three feet wide and could not accommodate all of us and our luggage.

After squeezing into an elevator and going up to the main floor, we exited the train station and got in line at the taxi stand. Mother of Ken looked around and there behind her was the woman with the two boys (the one in the wheelchair). A few minutes later, as we were pulling away from the station, Ken noticed this family in the cab right behind ours where they remained for several blocks. We told our cab driver, “step on it!” Ha ha—we are just kidding.

We arrived at our apartment and found Joan Ramon, our contact person, waiting for us. To Ken’s great relief, he was not some kind of creepy person, but a very nice man. He showed us up to our apartment and boy were we impressed! The apartment has a complete kitchen, including a washing machine, a lovely living room/dining room area, two bedrooms, and a full bath with no bidet. We have a flat screen TV, a CD player, and good air conditioning.

The kitchen:

The cabinets (this one conceals the dishwasher):

The dishwasher:

The living room:

The bathroom:

The bedroom:

Our first order of business was to go to the supermercado to procure food and laundry detergent. Side note: in the produce section of the supermercado, we were accosted by a stranger who noticed we were looking at the peaches and started screaming at us in English, “Peaches! Those are peaches! Spanish peaches!” Needless to say, we became very interested in the potatoes on the other side of the aisle.

When we returned to our apartment, we immediately began sorting our laundry (two weeks worth) and trying to figure out how to use the machine. Soon, the washer was whirring away and we were preparing a snack of Catalan bread and cheese. Later in the evening, we prepared hamburgers, oven fries, and a salad for dinner. Surprisingly, Spanish hamburger meat isn’t too bad.
Mother of Ken's "apron":

Ken cutting potatoes with the one knife that we found in the drawer:

Ken taking the pan out of the oven:

Hamburgers cooking:

The dining room table:

Mother of Ken had been disappointed for the past two weeks because there is no decaffeinated coffee in Spanish restaurants. She and Ken were able to procure some decaffienated coffee at the supermercado, and enjoyed several cups after dinner. This was the highlight of her week.

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