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Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Home in the City?

Okay, I am going to try to make this a quick update, as Matt and I began an Intensive Spanish class last week, and now what ever time I spend sitting down and not studying feels like procrastination. However, it is exciting to be learning a language that I really do need to know. Trying to explain the nuances of a medication, dosage, side effects ect. with a pharmacist, and we are both using hand gestures and making little diagrams, well, it is good for a laugh, but not for getting the medication. So, the class meets 3 and a half hours, 5 days a week in the city.

I want to make sure that all of you loyal followers who remember my last blog, relaying my rather clumsy adventures on the metro, are aware that I have rapidly transformed into just another blasé commuter.

 See here how I am absorbed in my study of Spanish, not nervously checking the metro maps above the doors to figure out where the heck I am. And notice how competently I guard my purse with my arm, another sign of an experienced metro commuter who has been warned countless times about the “gypsies” who are like magicians in their ability to purloin possessions.  

There are, however, advantages to stumbling about and actually looking around. On my first day to class I took a wrong turn and found myself in a tunnel with the following, rather good graffiti:

While I am at it, here is more art created in the metro (Ebs, this is for you). I had to get to several far flung places on the metro on Friday and kept myself amused by drawing people's feet. Much as I prefer to draw faces, I have found that people are distincly more comfortable with someone staring at their feet than at their faces. 

And here is a photo of our language school that I took from their website:

I guess they do not want it to be too widely known that a quarter to a third of the student population is actually well out of their 20's.

However, it is also true that most of the students are college age. They come from all over the world and their common language is English. While ostensibly they are united in their goal to learn Spanish, like students everywhere the real object is to enjoy each other and have as much fun as possible. As a result, once out of the classrooms little is heard but English and for those who did not grow up speaking English, I am guessing that they learn more English than Spanish in the end.

After Spanish class we return to our little hotel apartment. Here we are in the “office” before Adele and Iris get home:

There are, however, distinct benefits and pleasures to life at NH La Florida as well. Here we are again finishing a Spanish style lunch, (which is to say large and late) in the restaurant downstairs. The food is excellent and surprisingly inexpensive, which is common of Spanish restaurants.  Please stay tuned for a blog post dedicated to eating in Spain.

But the real news is……….. last weekend we decided for sure that we would take the house in Pozuelo that you can see pictured in the blog post “Finding a Spanish Home”.We negotiated on the lease and took measurements of rooms. All week we have planned what furniture we can fit in the house from our shipment, and what we need to buy.

But the real REAL news is, on Thursday our realtor informed us that the current tenants have decided to renew for a year. So, we don’t get the house after all.

After a brief sense of shock and disappointment, we decided – hey, fine, maybe there is something better. Maybe we did not want to live in walking distance to the school in a house with a great art studio and nice eat in kitchen anyway. Hmmm.

Matt and I had always been interested in living in the city, and Adele and Iris were actually not as opposed to it as previously. So, with the help of our loyal real estate agent, Chris, we took a look Friday evening at the neighborhood of an apartment in the city, and just this afternoon we looked at the apartment itself. AND, baring any unexpected obstructions, we have decided to take it.

Here is an abbreviated version of the description that Matt sent to our parents:

  Hi everyone,

We've made a pretty radical shift in our rental plans. Instead of renting a large but anonymous row house in the suburbs, we've decided to rent a spectacular but small apartment in the city. If you would like to look at it with Google streetview, send us an email and we will send you the address.
Corner of a buildingnear ours, Friday night.
We'll be on the top floor (7th counting the Spanish way, 8th counting the US way). The living/dining area has a 25-30 foot wall of windows on the west side, facing the Parque del Oeste.

Since the park itself slopes down from where it starts across the street, it's as though we're 15 stories up, looking out over the western horizon. Beyond the park is the Casa de Campo, a 4,000 acre forested park with a lake, amusement park and zoo. A gondola two blocks away takes people on a horizonal journey above the trees to the center, about a mile or two away.

On the wide sidewalk just below the apartment is a creperie and a cafe/bar, with several others along both sides of the street going either way.

Two restaurants in front of the apartment building

Matt and girls checking out the menu at the Creperie
The park is full of joggers, people walking their dogs and a few bums as well. The word is it is quite safe, at least during the day.

 There's no terrace, but a four-meter-wide section of the windows opens up floor-to-ceiling right in front of the dining area, leaving just a wrought iron railing between you and the open air. It's basically dining al fresco without going outside. There are roll-down awnings all across the front glass wall to protect from the afternoon sun.

The kids' bedrooms present a major challenge, because it'll be hard to make them feel anything but cramped. There's also no dedicated studio space for Margot. Finally, we have to severely cut back on the stuff we were planning to ship, now that we'll be in an apartment half the size of our house in Concord. We've pored through the mover's list of boxes and furniture items, and it's nearly impossible to determine what's what. Picking the right stuff off of the list will be a major gamble.
Here is Iris demonstating the very small but lovely elevator.

What an adventure! This should be a fun place to visit, if we can figure out a place for guests to sleep. We'll probably end up with a sleep sofa in the living room, and have one of the bedrooms available at least until Claire arrives next year. If all else fails, there are hotels in the neighborhood.

Margot here again,
And the neighborhood is great. Ironically, though we will be in the city, there will actually be much more green space available for a walk from home then there would have been in Pozuelo, or from our house in West Concord.

And that has got to be it for the night. It is just 6:20 pm on the east coast of the USA, but it is 12:20 am here. And this was supposed to be a quick update!

As always, please feel free to comment or send me an email:



  1. Wow! Exciting developments! I know I'd rather be in the city. And I know you'll find ways to make the size work. I wish I could just stop over for a weekend!
    Hugs to all of you.

  2. Hi guys, That's the one - don't think twice! It's the spanish way of life to live in the center where you can get to the neighborhood bar and cafe easily(daily activities if not twice daily). When you travel through Spain, you will see vast areas without a single house and then pass through a little village with highrise apartment buildings and wonder why they don't live in a house with some land. Rémy and I lived in a penthouse
    apartment in the center(fabulous like yours is) and we loved it. It's the best way to be immersed in the culture.
    Hope to see you soon, Michelle and family

  3. Hi Michelle,
    Yes, we are excited that the girls seem to be all right about living in the city. It will be a bit of a shock for us after our American-style house, but good for us to.


  4. Hi Marlowe,
    I sure hope you get here. I would love to see all 3 of you, but come with or without the boys! You would love Madrid.