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You know you’re in Spain when... - Chuck Fisher's LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
From Bay Area to Barcelona

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You know you’re in Spain when... [ Wednesday, 09 Feb 05 | 15:48 ]
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You know you’re in Spain when...

  1. It’s Friday night after midnight and they show hard-core porn on one of the TV stations. And no, it’s not “pay-per-view.” I guess this a marketing gimmick for raising viewer ratings.

  2. You have an appointment at 3 p.m. and that could mean 1:30 or 4:30.

  3. “Morning” means up to 3 p.m. and “afternoon” means from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. In general, you greet people with buenos días before you have lunch and buenas tardes before you have supper.

  4. It takes two weeks to get the gas turned on. And it also takes two weeks to get a phone line and two more to get ADSL installed.

Báscula de baño (Bathroom scale)
I bought a bathroom scale to monitor my weight. One of my goals this year is to get down to 160 lb. The combination of the Mediterranean diet, eating less, and walking more has been a success so far. And at this point I see no reason why I can’t reach my goal.

One of the surprising things about this German-made scale is that you can choose to display stones as well as pounds or kilos. My current weight is 12 stones 9.

On the down side, I will have to buy more pants when I return to the US next week. For those of you who care, I will arrive the 16th of February and leave the 27th. I can be reached at +1 510 409 0343, my US cell number.

Lavadora (Clothes washer)
Also called a lavaropa, the clothes washer is somewhat a surprise as well. My clothes washer, dryer and dishwasher are made in Germany by AEG, which is owned by the Electrolux Group. There are several “programs”, what we would call cycles, from which you can choose:

  • Resistentes color (think cotton) from 40°to 95° C

  • Sintéticos/Mezcla (think permanent press) from 40 ° to 60° C and easy iron

  • Delicado (delicate)

  • Lana/Seda (wool/silk)

  • Aclarado (rinse only)

  • Almidonado (starch only)

  • Centrifugado (spin only)

Plus you can also select short program for relatively clean clothes and stains for really dirty clothes.

Since the tub is inoxidable or stainless steel and the water here is moderately “hard”, you have to use salt tablets along with detergent.

The washer can have its “programs” or software updated as well.

Secadora de condensación (Clothes dryer)
My piso doesn’t have a vent to the outside like most dwellings in the US. For this reason I had to purchase a dryer that traps the moisture from the clothes in a container and has ultra-fine lint filters.
Instead of having a dial that you can set the dryness, you can choose from the following settings for cotton:

  • Húmedo — damp

  • Seco plancho — ready to iron

  • Semi seco — semi-dry

  • Seco armario — ready to hang in a closet

  • Seco — dry

  • Extra seco — extra dry

There are less choices for dryness of permanent press clothes. On the other hand, you can choose some special cases such as a 30-minute cycle, wool, easy iron, “thick” clothes (think jeans), and “express”. You can also set how wet the clothes are when you put them in the dryer.
In general I am very pleased with the performance of the clothes washer/dryer pair. It seems to get my clothes cleaner than my Maytag Neptune machines did, and they are quieter as well. Virtually all the appliances here are front-loading and of a standard size.

Lavavajillas (Dishwasher)
Also called lavaplatos in the Américas. Again, no dial, just buttons. As in the case of the lavadura, salt is necessary because of the hard water. In my case I am using 3 en 1 or 3 in 1 tablets that contain detergent, salt, and “sparkling” agent. A little more expensive, but easy to use.
There are six “programs” from which to choose:

  1. Automatic (50°-65°C) -- standard cycle

  2. 30 Min (60° C) -- I use this because I rinse off my dishes first.

  3. Intensiv Care (70° C) -- think very dirty

  4. Eco 50° -- environmentally friendly

  5. [wine glass] 45°C -- stemware and other delicate items

  6. [rinse] -- rinse only

I had a Whirlpool brand dishwasher in Richmond and it was so noisy I had to turn up the volume of the TV set. This AEG model is so quiet that I didn’t think that it was working at first! What a pleasant surprise.
OK, you know this as Mardi Gras, or pre-Lenten party time. Here in Spain this is celebrated over a week. There are major contests that are held in different parts of Spain that are televised. Lots of Brazilian-looking costumes and skin.

This year Carnaval culminated Tuesday, 8 February. The best fiesta in the area is in Sitges, about 40 km (25 miles) southwest of Barcelona. It’s about an hour train ride and costs 2,30 € from El Masnou.

On the spur-of-the-moment I decided to head on down for an evening of adventure. (I now carry train schedules with me to plan my activities.) The train filled to overflowing in Barcelona. Mostly young people and they were eating, drinking and having a good time on the train. Many wore costumes, some as “groups” with similar looks.

There seems to be more opportunities to “dress up” here in Spain, and not just at Hallowe’en and New Year’s. There were also costumes at Fiesta de Reyes last month.

When I got to Sitges, the parade was already in progress. Tiny floats drawn by farm tractors. This is necessary because of the narrow streets. After they finish the parade route, they loop around la primera linea de mar or road next to the beach. It was interesting, but I guess I am too old to really enjoy a parade and a night of drinking.

I headed back to the Renfe station just after 4 a.m. to make sure I had a good seat for the first regularly scheduled train at 4:49. Because of the crowds, they were running extra trains during the night, so I caught one at 4:30. That way I could snooze at the Sants train station in Barcelona while waiting for my connecting train to El Masnou.

Some more observations... There were a number of Guardia Civil police there for crowd control. Dressed in green fatigues and berets, they looked the part. In general they stayed on the side-lines. The crowd was boisterous, but I saw no fights, which can occur in similar venues.

On the trip back, several Brits from Manchester sat with me on the train. They commented on how the Spanish trains were cheaper, more frequent and more punctual than in Britain. I’ve heard similar views from other Brits as well. They “missed” the parade and were thinking up excuses of how that happened. They ended up with saying that because of the rain, the parade on “the loop” ended early. I think that they just had hung out in a bar instead. :-)