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From Bay Area to Barcelona

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Finding a flat... [ Sunday, 02 Jan 05 | 16:33 ]
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I finally got a little more adventuresome using the ticket machines for public transit. I knew that you could purchase Metro tickets as well as for the Cercanias which I use to go out to El Masnou. Previously I had always bought a single round-trip ticket for 2,40 €. I decided to try and buy a BonoTren ticket that provides 10 trips during a 30-day period. (Bono means bonus in castellano.) You get to choose the start date of the valid period. When the fare was displayed I was happy to see that it was 7,95 €. That’s only 0,80 € a ride out to El Masnou, a one-third savings from the single-fare price.

There are other fare discounts available from the same ticket machine, such as daily, monthly and quaterly passes. Can someone remind me about the discounts available for BART? :-)

On New Year’s Eve day I went out to El Masnou to see if I could visit a piso or flat which I had seen and liked in September. I knew from earlier trips in the past two weeks that the property was still available as I could see “en venta” (for sale) signs on it. This particular property meets my primary “wish list” requirements:

1. Located in El Masnou

2. Situated on la primera linea de mar (the first road next to the sea)

3. Tipo atico (top floor) with terraza (terrace)

4. Located close to transit and has a parking space

My Internet and magazine searches have indicated that this maybe the only available property that I can afford which meets all my requirements. There is another piso that is larger and more expensive, which would probably be fine as well.

But first I headed up to the mercado publico or public market. It is a relatively new building with the market on the ground floor and ajuntament (city government) and Generalitat (Cataluña government) offices on the upper floors. I picked up a map of the city and some other pamphlets. I was glad to see that they had an undergound garage for parking.

I then went over to the real estate office that listed the property. While I was looking at the ads on the window, a woman came out of the office and immediately recognized me from September. It was the same agent that showed me the property before. She chided me for not answering the phone in California when she had called...

I asked to see the property again so I could take measurements. I had brought along an electronic measuring device to make the job easier. We took a 10-minute walk to the piso. When we arrived, she opened the garage door to show me the parking space. (She couldn’t do that in September.) I was surprised to see the garage floor coverd with tile and the parking spaces demarcated with contrasting tile. This makes me think that this is probably not a poorly finished bulding.

We then went inside. There’s a video camera system so you can view visitors before buzzing them in. The entrance and stairs are finished in white marble and the elevator, though small by US standards, was nicely appointed. (I think the building only has three or four units. Poco vecinos as they say in Spanish.)

After taking the elevator up two floors, we got out and entered the flat. There is another unit on the same floor. The flat I am looking at is on two floors (dos plantas) with bedrooms and shower on the lower floor and salón-comedor, kitchen, full bathroom and terrace on the upper floor.

Once inside, the piso was a little different than I had remembered. The larger bedoorm (doble), although very small by US standards, can accommodate the European equivalent of a queen-size bed (190cm x 150cm) (l x w) and a dresser. No “wasted space.” But then again I don’t “live” in the bedroom, I just sleep there. :-)

The second habitación (individual) is even smaller, but I think would make for a nice home office. It also has a built-in closet and is next to the first bedroom. The aseo or bathroom has a sink, toilet, and shower, in a long and narrow space. I could put linen cabinets in the available space.

The lower floor connects to the upper floor with a hallway and stairs which again is finished in white marble. The rest of the flat has tile floors, terra cotta in color, which is very typical. At the top landing of the stairs is a door to the full bathroom, with sink, toilet and bathtub. Compact, but not tiny. I think this setup would be fine for visitors as they can have their “own” bathroom. Both bathrooms are finished in white, floor-to-ceiling white tile. Not exciting, but not ugly.

The salón-comedor (living-dining room) is a long and narrow room. I can split it up into two obvious zones. I would prefer a wider space, but nearly 20 feet of sliding glass doors that open to the terrace help make the space appar larger.

The kitchen was better than I had remembered. Again small by US standards, but there are enough cabinets. What I remembered as Formica counter tops turned out to be black granite. The white cabinets and black trim are “classic” and won’t go out of style. There is space for and I would have to buy electrodomesticos or appliances such as microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator, and clothes washer/dryer. On the other hand, *I* get to chose them.

So most of the flat is quite small by US standards, but with efficient use of space. The one open area is the terraza which is about 275 sq. ft. in area, roughly 12’ x 22’. It’s plenty big enough for a dozen people. There’s also an awning that can be cranked out to provide shade over part of the space. Since the bulding is on a croner, there is an unobstructed view in two directions: the puerto or marina and the beach with the Barcelona skyline. I can have a table and chairs where I could sip my morning café con leche and read the BBC news online. I also would have citrus trees in containers for color and fresh fruit.

One reason I like this particular property is that it is located across the street from the RENFE train station. On the other street corner there’s a pedestrian subway to the station and to the marina and beach. The metropolitan and local city buses also stop there making this very convenient for both me and visitors. The trains are electric and very quiet. There is no freight traffic that I have noticed.

The property is vacant and the real estate agent said that buying it would take about 5 days to conclude. We'll see what happens. I want to look at a couple more places before I make an offer.