Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gönn-dir Wochenende: Bar Jaica, Tapas, Gelato, Puppies & Beach Time!

This was my most relaxing weekend in Barcelona yet. After coming home from my jam-packed week,  a meeting with my professors that went surprisingly well (they are so relaxed here!), and my tutoring job Friday night,   I did no work at all!  I spent the weekend hanging out with Ayana and Reuben (friends from Spanish class) and Ayana's roommate Mariana.

Ayana taught me a German expression - Gönn-dir -  which (as I understood it) loosely translates as "do it for yourself, because your heart desires it, without worrying about the money/time, etc...". Ayana and her friends have extended the expression to Gönn-dir Tag, a day devoted to "me time" and fun.  Hence, my extension and blog title of Gönn-dir  Wochenende!  

Here is what my weekend was comprised of:

Puppy Daycare!

On Saturday morning, we took the train to Residencia Hostal Mascotas, to check out the daycare where Kiara will be spending 10 days while I go to the Dominican Republic for Pam's wedding. It took us forever to get there, only because there was no clear tube map (surprise!) for the suburban lines, some of which don't go to Santa Colomba on the weekends! We made it though, and it looks like Kiara will have a massive room, park to play in, and doggie friends. Now, we just need to go to the vet (en español, naturalmente) to get K's annual vaccinations...

Beach time with Kiara

After the daycare, we headed to the beach to meet up with Ayana and enjoy the sunshine. Kristina, Cosmo and Lily met us's so funny to watch puppies in the sand. Kiara was a bit tired from the morning, so she was very chilled out on the beach. I love my pup! Every time I go to the beach, I am SO happy that we live here. (Apologies for the terrible photography; it is SO difficult to see the mobile phone screen in the sun!)

Ayana and Kiara
Kiara Chilling at the Beach
Cosmo chilling at the beach
Kristina, Cosmo and Lily

Bar Jaica - My Favourite Tapas Place

As I mentioned in my Barceloneta post last weekend,  Bar Jaica has the best tapas I've tried so far. Ayana had never been, so Ayana, Kiara and I went there after the beach.  We enjoyed a glass of wine (Ayana had beer with lemonade (that's Sprite to North Americans), which I will definitely try next time). We shared the patatas bravas and I had my usual - pimientos padron and tortilla (Spanish omelette).  I loved it!

This is how exhausted Kiara was on Sunday morning:

Exhausted Kiara
She slept until 1:00 pm, but was perfectly happy and excited to go for a run at 2:00 pm. What an energetic girl :) After my run with Kiara in beautiful weather, I went  back to the beach to read my Cosmo magazine in Spanish, and meet up with Ayana, Reuben and Mariana.


Gelataria Italiana is a chain here in Barcelona (much better than the chain called Dino's!).  There's one on the main street in Barceloneta (I can't find their webpage, for some reason). The ice cream tastes like it does it Italy. Mmmm...what a marvelous Sunday food! We have found the Italy in Spain :)

Cafe Alsur

Ayana, Mariana and I topped off our Sunday with a coffee and a shared piece of cake at Cafe Alsur, a beautiful venue in El Born, the Gothic area. Actually, they have locations in many places, but I think this one seems like the perfect spot to catch up on PhD readings next weekend (when I actually do some work...)

Having said all that, I do need to spend the few remaining hours of my Sunday lesson-planning, to avoid an incredibly stressful week ahead. Since the majority of my teaching experience has either been one-on-one with kids or teenagers that listen to me, or full classes of respectful adults, I have my hands full with 4 hours per week of school-aged children. 

Stay tuned for next week's posts --Kat and Philipp will be in Barcelona next Saturday for a week, so be prepared for some touristy fun!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How (Not) To Get Robbed in Barcelona

So, you've probably heard that Barcelona has a huge petty crime problem, right? Hang on to your wallet, clutch that handbag, keep valuables in a zipped pocket, wear your backpack the wrong way around...

So, anyone who gets their phone stolen from right in front of them must have been really stupid, right....

Well, um. That was me. 

Thieves are incredibly tricky here.  Micke and I were studying for our Spanish A1/A2 exam (two weeks ago) and we decided to study at a Subway location (yes, the American sandwich store). We chose it because it was COMPLETELY empty, near the university and had free wifi and a corner on the top floor where we could study in peace. 

Here is what happened:

  • We were there for 3 hours, studying in peace
  • A man suddenly rushed up the stairs and pretended to be a beggar "por favor, por favor...." blah blah
  • We shooed him away and tried to yell at him to leave.  
  • I grabbed onto my open laptop with one hand, and my wallet and bag with the other, thinking he may be a thief.
  • Instead of leaving, he shoved a piece of paper in front of my face, and, without me or Micke noticing (Micke was sitting RIGHT in front of me), he swiped my phone, which was on the table, since we had been using our phones as dictionaries.
NEVER EVER PUT YOUR PHONE ON THE TABLE. Even though you are sitting right there. Even for a second. The Vodafone guy the next day said the same thing happened to his friend, so this is not only advice for foreigners.

Luckily, I managed to speak in Spanish the day next and get a new phone (and convince the Vodafone guy to give me a good deal on the phone and adamantly explain that I was NOT going to change my number, after having just sent out CVs and posted my tutoring ads everywhere). I ended up with a Samsung Galaxy Express 2, which isn't quite as good as my S3, but almost. The battery is different in every phone (seriously, Samsung, WHY?!), which means my amazing external battery charger does not work (and I can't find one that fits here in Spain).

Graphic credit:
Can you believe Vodafone wanted me to cancel my contract, switch to a different company for one week, and switch back, to get a cheap phone as a "new" customer?  With all the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with everything way!

On Friday, I found out that the  thief racked 65 euros in charges in the half an hour before I  notice it was gone and blocked the number  (and the fifteen minutes it took me to explain the situation in broken Spanish to the Vodafone customer service team).  I wish I could have elbowed him in the face. I was SO angry. (However, I calmed down after I told my story to many people and found out that I know people who have gotten a much more expensive phone, or their passport, or their wallets or purses stolen). That would have been a nightmare, especially with Canadian, British and Spanish cards in it.

 Of course, as this is Spain, Vodafone can't refund me over the phone, and although my case has been opened, I need to wait 7 days for the billing team to call me back.I really hope 7 days is 7 days, and not the same "7 days" (ie: 30 days), it took to install my internet.

Anyhow, other than the bureacracy, this has been the only negative aspect of Barcelona so far. It's not violent, but it's full of pickpockets. It makes me SO glad I live 7 metro stops away from the tourist centre!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Barceloneta Park: Homemade Tapas & Our New Puppy Friends!

On Saturday, we attempted to visit Canino Resort Can Jane Aquapark for their last day of the season (and so I could scope out their dog daycare for my upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic). Dogs are allowed on the metro (yay!), but only with a muzzle (boo), a rule which they actually enforce. I had some fun yesterday trying to keep Kiara from ripping off her muzzle every five minutes! 

However, it turns out dogs are definitely not allowed on the buses, or most taxis. Uber, the new taxi company that allows you to book and pay via their app, does, but the estimated fare for a 20 minute ride turned out to be between 21 and 25 euros. Eek! 

So, we headed to the beach. Technically, dogs are allowed on Barcelona's beaches now (October is low season), but as this is Spain, the rules aren't always reality. 

We weren't the only ones that thought the muzzle rule was ridiculous....thanks to Kiara (and her lovely backpack), I got into this discussion with Albert and Christina, a German and Equadorian couple who had come to the beach with Cosmo, their puppy, hoping he could swim, too. We ended up following them to a lady's house where they were picking up Lily, another puppy!  Cosmo looks like he could be Kiara's son....I didn't manage to snap a photo of Lily (a brown and white cutie), because she was running so quickly!
Cosmo (reminds me of mini-Kiara!)
Kiara at Barceloneta Park

Other than that, my intensive (20 hours/week) Spanish class at Speakeasy Barcelona is going really well! Thanks to Janice, for helping me make the connection between Spanish's mysterious "fourth past tense" and French ----it turns out the Spanish actually speak using the tense that the French only use in literature or very formal speech (passe simple, or preterito indefinido in Spanish).  There I was becoming paranoid that I had somehow missed out on a tense on all my years of French grammar classes.... Ha! I get it now! 

Oh, and I've been attempting to make tapas at home....pimientos padron and a feeble attempt at patatas bravas...
My attempt at pimientos padron and patatas bravas

Also, I've been lucky enough to find a tutoring job, work as an English teacher for companies (business people come to work an hour early to learn English), and have an official contract with a language school that both contracts me out to a primary school 4 hours per week, and allows me to work at their tutoring centre.  I only need a few more hours a week (hopefully editing university papers) to be good to go! Speaking of which, I should head back to my lesson planning (I'm trying to make a schedule for the month to help make my daily lessons flow a bit more smoothly).  

Hasta luego, blog readers!  Stay tuned for next weekend's posts on Bar Jaica (my favourite tapas bar so far), beach time, and hopefully an artsy venue or two!