Tag Archive | "summer in Spain"

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It’s August in Barcelona

Posted on 25 August 2014 by American expat!

It’s mid August, and the city feels lopsided. The center is crowded, the tour buses full, but the outskirts are eerily empty. Beaches are packed and bicycle paths are full of strolling tourists blocking riders (THIS is why I have a bell on my mountain bike…), yet my usual haunts and regular activity groups host sparse numbers. This is because August is when residents of this fine city take their month long vacations away from jobs, businesses, homes and the visiting masses.

Most of my neighbors are gone, though the apartment below me is occupied by a group of young Russians instead of the couple who usually reside there. This group sits out on the balcony for hours each day, speaking in booming voices that echo through the neighborhood and permeate my apartment. It isn’t so much as talking as it is yelling – the men can’t seem to speak without projecting their voices in shouts. The women are quieter. I call to them to keep it down – though it doesn’t last for long.

The cafes and restaurants around me are mostly open, though a few have closed their doors for the usual three week break.  An underground business near me seems to be thriving however -a lone warehouse on the 5th floor of a building a few streets over that evidently hosts after parties. Every Saturday, from around 9am until the afternoon, a constant techno beat reverberates out of that high window and flies around the barrio, across opens streets and a park until the sound hits (or enters) the next nearest tall building, which is mine. The place has a small balcony with a windowless door opening onto it. This balcony exposes the crow inside, a few bodies or limbs at a time. Rope, spiderwebbed from the balcony railing to the top of the door, secures the party goers from relaxing to their deaths as they lean out for air. The constant, thumping beat drives me out of my house until the late afternoon, until the allnighters finally exhaust themselves and go home to sleep for a day and a half.

Offices are largely empty and the blocks of scooter parking expose line after white line of parallel paint spaced two feet apart. In a weeks time, these spaces will be overflowing with dark two wheeled forms, spilling up onto the street sides of the facing sidewalks, twisted front wheels touching. But until then, the feet of visitors on their way to the beaches, numbers which I haven’t seen before, are the only thing touching those white stripes.

My emails to view apartments, usually returned via phone within a day, sit unread in mailboxes. My calls meet automated messages telling me business will resume at an early September date. Agenda items that involve business with any Spanish company are forcibly postponed (while, in stark contrast, my phone rings nearly daily with calls from US recruiters, and clients ask me for referrals for all kinds of talent. Business is full speed ahead in North America).

In one more week until things will be back to normal. Calls will come in, the neighbors will quiet down, I will get things done. But I’ll no longer spend afternoons on rambling bike rides along the coast and 8pm will no longer be the hour that sunbathing stops. Summer will be over.




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Summer is underway.

Posted on 16 July 2013 by American expat!

The weather is heating up and the days are long, which means frequent trips to the beach. During the week, you head there after work to cool off and to give in to the gravity that has been pulling at your eyelids every afternoon at your desk. On the weekends, you spend entire days–6 to 8 hours or more–by the sea. You arrive by foot, bicycle, metro, train or scooter (rarely ever does anyone head to beach by car here in Spain) and stake your claim in the sand, as close to the water as possible. If you are lucky, you’ll have a bit of shade from a palm tree. If you are smart, you’ll have brought an umbrella. If you have neither, you’ll require a lot of sunscreen and frequent runs into the sea to cool down.

This is the time of year where the beach offers fantastic people watching, especially in Barcelona. You’ll hear languages from all over the world, and depending on what kind of travel specials are being offered by airlines and hotels, any given week you will hear gaggles of French girls speaking through pursed lips, American accents and laughter ringing out across the sand, or Italians speaking animatedly over one another. Congregations of English and Germans have their regular times too, and while they are immediately recognizable (read: sunburned) they are less audibly observable

The chiringuitos are in full swing, offering shade, views, music and the worst service you will ever experience. Perhaps they do not have enough room in the tiny, temporary kitchens to actually produce more than two dishes at a time, or perhaps they only hire servers based on their ability to speak multiple languages, or perhaps, like all Spanish companies, staff are just expected to figure out a process for how things should be run on their own with no way to work together to get things done. Fortunately, you are in the shade with your friends and music and breeze off the sea make it OK that you will wait forever and your order will always be wrong. Sometimes you will even be told that they are too busy to make food for you, which is why you always bring snacks and drinks in your beach bag.

As always, that amazing cultural, lingual and racial mix that is the Brazilian manifests in a grip of hard bodied expats who occupy the volleyball nets from morning until dark. It is a wonder to observe them, not only because they have invented new ways to play volleyball because normal volley is too easy (a common one is using only feet, heads and chests for example), but also because they maintain their beach dress codes from home, sporting the tiniest swim trunks (not speedos but still tight and lycra) and bikinis as they jump and sweat at the ball. 

It is often that your evening plans go unrealized, as your day at the beach spills over into the evening. The sun moves lower in the sky, and the chiringuitos bring in DJ’s, or sporting events are displayed on flat screen tvs hung off the ceilings as there are no walls. It’s easy to plan to pop in for one drink before leaving the beach and stay until way past sundown, which comes at almost 10pm. Those afternoons you planned only a quick snooze and a swim can easily turn into tapas and drinks until midnight. It is easy to forget time when you don’t have to worry about clothing.  

Soon, the visitors will overrun the beaches, and you too will need to get away from your city, to change your routine and see something different, just as the visitors are doing in your city. But for now, every hot, still morning holds the promise of the salty breeze your afternoon could hold (if you make the time). There is still some peace and space on the beach, still the chance to find your friends walking down the boardwalk. You still wish it was summer all year long. So you step out onto the balcony to collect your towel and swim suit, both baked and stiff from the sun. 



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An open love letter to Barcelona

Posted on 26 February 2012 by American expat!


Barcelona, I really hate that you insist upon construction work dragging on every day until what most people consider to be nighttime. For example, it is now 8:30pm and there is some ridiculously loud drilling going on in the flat above mine. I suppose the hammering will follow next, as it did last night until after 9pm. Did I mention I work at night, from home?

But I am not going to turn this into a criticism session. Because for all your faults, there are so many things I really love about you.

First, let me tell you how much I appreciate your Greater Middle East area of Raval. You’re hosting some damn fine Indian, Pakistani, Afghani, Iranian and Armenian restaurants and bakeries. Fort super cheap, I might add.

I love the unexpected art I come across every day. I found these little gems when I walked out on a jetty to greet a fat puppy sniffing around at the cats who live in the jetties.

Speaking of the beach, now that Spring is here, the Chiringuitos are all out on the sand, playing music and serving up drinks. Love. Them.

chiringuitos on the beach in barcelona

And though I may not be able to find cottage cheese anywhere within your city walls (except for Carrefour Express on La Ramble, but it’s horrible UK cottage cheese), anything resembling real Mexican food, or convenient food like pre-shredded chicken in bags that I am accustomed to preparing for myself like a good American, I do love the entertaining variety of foods I can find in the larger supermarkets.

Yes, the name of those cookies translates to “Nun Nipples” and that’s an awfully hoochie looking nun pictured on the box. And you being Catholic no less.

Which brings me to the naked people. God how I love seeing your naked citizens walking around, riding bikes, or otherwise remaining undisturbed in their nudity. I especially love seeing the British tourist and their children stop in their tracks to stare open mouthed, while your Catalunyan grandmothers pass by arm in arm without a break in their conversations.

naked people in barcelona

But the thing I probably appreciate the most is your lack of airport security. I know, I know, I’ve said it before. But that fact that you don’t make me take off my sweatshirt, shoes or earrings and that you don’t blink when I put this in my carry on and pass it through security X-ray:

Barcelona airport security is lax.

It just makes my life so much easier.

Oh and also when I misspell my own name on my boarding pass. Thanks for letting that slide, too.



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Summer in the city

Posted on 29 August 2011 by American expat!


August in Barcelona feels like it’s three months long

Muggy, still days with the sun burning into the evening hours, until it finally relents and turns into the most gorgeous evening light you have ever seen. A glimmering soft pink that is a photographers dream, hanging in the air for far longer than should possible, making you check your watch over and over to see if time has actually slowed.

Laundry takes ages to dry in the humidity, unless you are lucky enough to live high enough that your clothes hanging off your balcony get a few hours of direct sunlight. Each day is much like the next, hot and as slow as the street cleaners shuffling off to a bit of shade for a siesta. I work in the mornings, then later take dips in the buoyant Mediterranean, too salty to hold in your mouth but far more easy to float on than the Pacific Ocean, to periodically cool off while slowly broiling on the beach. Or I find some shade in the park and swat at the bugs while I read. It’s far too hot to bike ride, other than to get somewhere to cool off, until the sun is close to setting, which seemingly takes hours for it to do.

I feel like the fact that I even go to work makes me strange. My friends have weeks and weeks of time off. Half the businesses are closed for nearly the whole month, and shorter work hours are in place for those businesses that remain open, if it wasn’t for the hoards of tourists week to week, the city would feel empty.  This is when all the Spaniards leave the city and go spend the month at their small cabins on the Costa Brava and the expats residents, like me, go home for a  visit.  Which is what I want to do, should be doing – but work prevents me from taking enough time off to make the expensive and extremely long flight worthwhile.

Closed for August

So this summer I walked through the streets, studying the “closed for August” signs and wondering where these people might spend each August, and where I might spend mine next year.


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