Saturday, November 9, 2013

La Vida Nueva

Our balcony view - a world away from Vauxhall...
It's been a criminally long time since my last post, and that's mostly because we've been embarking on the aforementioned new life. But I just looked out of the window here and had a moment of catching up with myself, and knew it was time for an update.  Next week it will be four months since we moved into our flat in Barcelona, fondly referred to then as 'the beautiful wreck'. We've spent that time trying to make it habitable and a profitable sideline as a holiday guest room. That's what has consumed our days these past months, meaning we're well behind on our Spanish language learning (please, don't even mention our lack of Catalan)...

During that time, we have painted, plastered, learned how to fix ceiling cracks, scrubbed, bought beds, secondhand sofas, tables, and found chairs on the street, hauled all our furniture up 57 stairs, done 3 mammoth ikea trips, learnt to barter in the markets, started to use the dictionary a bit less, started intercambios, freelancing, a radio station, in the case of my other half
 (!), held our first dinner party and tried to keep up with the conversation, welcomed friends, family, paying guests, been to the beach a handful of times, thought very seriously about getting a little dog; and started eating dinner much, much later. It's adventure we wanted, and we're having it. And I wouldn't change a thing. (Except obviously having a teleportation device for our friends and family). But they've been coming to visit. And we've loved having proper quality time with them, away from the London hustle we'd become so accustomed to. 
Before, during, after: our living room
Looking back at my notebook from the summer, I can see how far things have come (you get an idea from the photos above, too). In August I was writing on the train en route to the airport to meet my mum, and panicking a bit: 

On my way to pick up mum at Barcelona airport. It's her first visit, and we have been rushing to make the flat appear more finished than it is; having had workmen in for the past couple of days doing everything from changing taps and painting ceilings to industrial polishing of the floor tiles. Just having the floors really clean makes a huge difference, but then so has 30 litres (so far) of brilliant white paint. We started in the huge living room (the ceiling cracks still need fixing) and worked our way to the guest bedroom via the horrid, ugly blue and green kitchen. I don't know how anyone could have countenanced preparing food in that dark, disgustingly dirty room, but it's bright and clean now. The guest room is looking great with a coat of paint and shiny floors; it really will be the jewel in the crown of our little holiday let.

The best thing we have done this week really is ask the upstairs neighbours if we could use their wifi for a week. This has meant we have met them all but also that we have managed to do some research on the building we are living in. We had been given hints of its stature by the owner, who is clearly very proud of the history of the building, but it wasn't until I googled the name of the building's architect that we realised that not only was it famous for housing the Picasso family when they first arrived in Barcelona, it was also the building that the very first photograph EVER taken in Spain happened to portray. And add to that the fabulous setting opposite the Llotja de Mar, Barcelona's centre of trade and industry, plus in later years the art school where Picasso himself trained, and you have a location so incredible we were sat open mouthed whilst reading. It's also wonderful news for our business. I hope these nuggets of history excite and tantalise our guests as much as they do us.

But first : let's hope it passes the mum test!

I'm smiling as I read that through again. Firstly because of the energy it took to be undertaking all of that work, and because we've over the worst of it now. But also because it was still so optimistic, and although I had no idea how things would turn out, or whether we'd ever manage to get the guest room operation off the ground, I put every ounce of faith I could muster into the plan, the one we'd been talking about for years, the one we'd worked so hard to leave our comfortable but ultimately unfulfilling London lives for. Watch this space, as there are undoubtedly more updates to come... and in the meantime, if you're wondering how the beautiful wreck looks now, have a look here. You can even come and stay with us here. I'd be delighted to meet you.