||[ Friday, 24 Dec 04 | 16:40 ]
That's Catalan for Season's Greetings.
I arrived in Barcelona and was greeted by a thunderstorm, just like last September. There was a lot of traffic and it took a long time to reach the hotel from the airport. The taxi driver and I had a lively conversation in Spanish about the weather, housing prices, Aznar and Bush, and the war in Iraq. I felt back "home" again.
Tuesday I spent recovering from jetlag and doing odd errands like collecting my mail (no junk mail to my relief) and buying my first European electronic product, a Sonicare electric toothbrush. When I was here in September, Philips was not marketing Sonicare and was marketing a different type of electric toothbrush. Now they also offer Sonicare Elite which is made in the USA, has a Euro plug (220-240V, 50Hz), a worldwide guarantee, and an instruction booklet in 6 languages.
Wednesday I went out to El Masnou and walked the entire length of the town on the beach walkway. I was trying to figure out where various flats I had seen on the Net were located. I then returned by way of the street with shops and residences and viewed the ads of about 5 real estate offices. I found one open and they did have a place that I was interested in available. I will try and see it in the next few days. I also picked up 3 magazines that have listings for fincas and have already located additional candidates. There are at least a half-dozen places that meet my criteria.
My friend iberianbear who comes from a small town about 90 minutes from Barcelona arrived Wednesday night. He has lived and in worked in the Bay Area for 4 years and doesn't feel like it is "home" to him. We went to a bar called Punto BCN around 9 pm and it was packed. (Remember that this is just before dinner time in Spain.) I ran into 4 or 5 people that I know, which is about the same as going to some place in San Francisco. They all remembered me and I chatted with each one for a while. iberianbear knew some of the same people that I did, and we both ran into people the other didn't know.
Thursday iberianbear showed me where to buy electronics at low prices in Barcelona. The places were packed with last-minute Xmas shoppers. I was surprised at how low some of the prices on computers wereÐI think they were cheaper than in the US. iberianbear left in the afternoon to spend Xmas with his family.
It´s now Christmas Eve or Nochebuena in castellano. This morning I went to my bank (La Caixa) and asked for a debit card. They gave one to me in a moment. I asked how to change the PIN and they said just use the ATM. So a little bit later I changed both language and PIN at an ATM. In the US that would have taken at least a week for the card to show up in the mail, a phone call to activate the card, and a trip to the bank to change the PIN. And I don't think that we can change the default language for the card, i.e. the ATM will automatically switch to the default language when it reads the card. I also found that I could print my bank statement from the ATM (as well as buy theatre tickets and recharge my cellphone.)
They ordered pizza (free) at the hotel and several of us sat around eating it for lunch. We also had some Italian sweet bread that I think is called pannetoni. One of the guests said that he prefered Italian food to Italian people. Of course he was Spanish. :-)