Safe, Sound and Tired!

Ah, jet lag! While the flight LAX to London was the easiest, we were looking forward to a nice rest and meal in the Norwegian lounge, we were turned away at the door. “We are a contractor for Norwegian and other airlines and do not honor your Premium ticket while traveling from London to Barcelona because this leg of the journey is not Premium.”

“But Norwegian does not offer Premium on its flights within Europe,” we replied.

“Tough noogies…” or something to that effect was muttered (in a British accent).

After spending five hours in a loud, bustling Gatwick airport, we headed to Barcelona, arriving at our hotel around midnight. We had a restful night’s sleep and awoke at 11am, hurrying back to the airport to pick up our car rental, load our 120 kg of bags and onward to Valencia.

The trip was uneventful…one promise we made to one another years’ ago when traveling in strange places was to remain cool and calm…despite the fact that we often get lost and end up taking roundabouts numerous times before succeeding. It’s kind of a joke now to see how many times it takes us to find a destination—all in good fun. I often chant, “serenity, now.”

Our accommodations for the first 30 days in Valencia are very comfortable. Using the service @PerfectSpain, and working with a fellow ex-pat Anthony from NYC, we rented a small two-bedroom flat in Barrio del Carmen. It is a charming neighborhood with cobblestone streets, just a few minute walk to the Central Market and top tourist sites such as Plaza de la Virgen, Iglesia de San Nicolas and Torres de Quart.

                        Home Sweet Home for the Next 30 Days

Once we settled in, we were afraid to nap in case we’d never wake again, so we kept going until we headed out for dinner around 10:30—which as many of you know, is prime dinner hour for the Spaniards. The late evenings dinners began when Franco wanted to be aligned with Hitler’s Germany. Recently, the government has tried to return to Greenwich Mean Time, putting Spain on the same time as Portugal and UK (along similar longitudinal range). However, the working class has strenuously objected, afraid the government will do away with the afternoon siesta from 2-5 pm.

We found a small local restaurant run by two women and enjoyed tapas and drinks. Actually, all the cafes and restaurants here are small and local…no Olive Garden or Starbucks for Spain!

The Berenjena Montaña was a layering of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini “scalloped” with delicious Spanish cheese and topped with fresh herbs. Champiñon Rellanos con Gambas were mushrooms stuffed with fresh shrimp, cheese and herbs. Their best wine…$2.80€ (around $3) a glass!

While Barrio del Carmen is a lovely, charming area, being in the old part of town in an older apartment has its drawbacks. Noise is one of them. While it wasn’t terribly noisy, we are used to absolute quiet in our Phoenix home, so it will require adjusting. We are not expecting our lives to be the same as back home and welcome learning and adapting to our new life.

This morning we strolled to the Central Market to pick up fresh fruit, cheese and bread and returned to the apartment to meet our relocation assistant, Linda from @MovingtoValencia. We reviewed available apartments, discussed neighborhoods and mapped out the next few days of house hunting. The jet lag hit this morning around noon—I could hardly keep my eyes open during our meeting and took a wonderful two-hour siesta this afternoon. It was followed by a stroll through the neighborhood to check out the shops, cafes and attractions. Along our journey, we found some great street art!

 

Our top priorities—continue studying our Spanish, find an apartment.

While we’d like to adjust to the late night meals, we’ll be showing up at 9 tonight to eat. We just hope there are a few local spots that will serve us this early!

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The Beginning of Goodbye

We adore our friends and families. That being said, I believe the next few weeks saying goodbye to those we love will truly be the most difficult. Both Craig and my fathers are 89 years old. Fortunately, Craig’s dad is active and in great shape, playing golf and living quite well. My father has gone down hill since my mother’s passing in September—he misses her terribly.

Craig returned to his birthplace in Michigan to visit his father and other family. This weekend I returned to the town where my kids grew up and I lived for 20 years before moving to Phoenix in 2008 for my farewell to a few of my dearest friends.

The girls planned my going-away dinner at one of Prescott’s best restaurants, El Gato Azul. Owned and operated by phenomenal chef and restaurateur Barry Barbe. Gato is a crown jewel in the small town of Prescott, AZ. For more than a decade Barry has featured scrumptious tapas and Spanish-inspired, fusion entrees created for adventurous palates. The tiniest of eateries, tucked along-side Granite Creek and a huge office building, Gato is always packed to the hilt with locals and a few visitors lucky enough to discover this gem.

Round I – fresh, specially prepared tapas por mi y amigas.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

As we ordered our drinks, Barry returned to the kitchen to get creative with a Cinco de Mayo-inspired menu. He proceed to serve us four specially created tapas. The first was a duck taquito with a cilantro crème fraiche, mini chicken mole enchiladas that were savory and scrumptious. Barry filled a margarita glass with smoky and spicy colossal shrimp, and completed the first round of tapas with gazpacho-inspired salsa and chips.

We sipped our refreshing sangria and continued to enjoy our meal as we reminisced about all the special meals Barry created for us over the years including both my sons’ high school graduation parties, numerous holiday events and more.

Even though Gato was packed to the gills, Barry took the time to create three more personally inspired tapas. The next by far was totally Spanish and by far one of the extraordinary flavor—saffron croquette with a mushroom ragu and rosemary cream. OMG! The flavors melded together in delight!

Saffron Croquettes – LOVE!

Next was a roasted duck breast with goat cheese crostini with a Jezebel sauce. This sweet and spicy sauce gets its sweetness from apricot preserves and a spicy kick from mustard and horseradish.

Roasted duck & goat cheese crostini…it kept getting better!

The second round was topped off with a crab Caprese salad with fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella pearls.

Chunks of fresh crab meat melded beautifully with the mozzarella pearls and sweet tomatoes.

Stuffed to the gills, we had to finish our meal with a shared crème brulee that melted in our mouths.

The rest of the evening was spent walking around the quaint Courthouse Square and sharing stories of the past 25+ years and thoughts of what Craig and I will discover in Valencia. My friends reminded me at I would not have any trouble finding new, wonderful friends in Spain. (It’s my reserved and quiet personality that keeps me from meeting people…not!) I can only hope and pray they are as dear as the friendships I have developed here in Arizona.

 

Countdown…

A quick update on our move to Spain—

Countdown. . .eight weeks away from our move to Valencia. Since returning from Spain last fall we have been on a mission to make this dream a reality. The past three months have been spent cleaning and clearing things out of our 3000 sq ft home to get it ready to put on the market that was listed in mid-Feb.

Getting prepared for our trip to the Consulate in LA on March 27 to apply for our non-lucrative visas consists of a ton of hoops to jump through, paperwork and translation services. We are hoping that we will receive approval quickly and easily as we feel we have dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s on every item they are requesting.

Our departure date is June 4 with arrival in Barcelona for a night’s sleep before heading to Valencia. We have a short-term rental for the first 30 days, with hopes of getting our National ID card, bank account and apartment rented by mid-June. Our relocation expert, Linda Svilane of Moving to Valencia http://movingtovalencia.lbiz.es/ has been a huge help!

IMG_2885.JPGNow that we are getting closer, it is apparent that everything seems to be moving like clockwork… and believe this move is meant to be!

Onward to Valencia!

By noon Sunday we headed to Valencia to begin our weeklong Spanish immersion classes and investigative journey. We zipped into Valencia only to get lost multiple times—first, trying to find our AirBnB, which fortunately, Google Maps had no trouble locating and routing us. Having to park illegally, again, bothered me immensely, but it was the only way we could drop off our belongings (and boxes of wine and oil) before returning our rental car at the central train station!

Our hosts recommended heading down to the beach to join all the Valencian families who dine at the local beachfront restaurants for Sunday lunch. The restaurants, boardwalk and beach were packed with locals. We chose the restaurant of our host’s recommendation. Enjoying our first paella of the trip, we delighted in watching the huge Valencian families having a joyous time together—three and four generations gathered at long tables filled with laughter and joy. Family is a big deal here and Sunday is the day to gather and enjoy breaking bread.

After our meal, we quickly dipped our toes into the Mediterranean Sea and headed back to our rental car to return it at the Norte train station. But quick note to self and others—mark your car’s position on Google maps BEFORE you leave it parked! Always trying to enjoy our journey, we discovered a few extra areas before arriving back at our car.

Our experience with EuroCar had been great, with the gentleman who checked us in days ago in Barcelona quite helpful. Unfortunately, finding our way into the rental car area at the train station was a different story! After six attempts (I am not kidding…six!) we finally entered the proper area. Mind you, if you miss an entrance, you must follow the main artery down and around numerous roundabouts to try again. My guess is we added an extra 20 km just trying to find the drop off point!

We mapped our way home and decided it would be great to walk back to get the lay of the land. Unfortunately, Sunday evenings are barren wastelands of questionable streets, although we felt a bit uncomfortable, we never felt threatened.

From the outside, our AirBnB wasn’t much to write home about. Our “penthouse” apartment was however modern and clean with a beautiful terrace. While the weather was perfect, our first night in Valencia was not very restful. With families gathering for their Sunday dinner well into the morning, there was lots of noise…open windows makes it feel like the entire neighborhood is in our bedroom! We decided that moving forward we would use the A/C for a few hours, then after things quieted down after 1am, we would turn it off and open the windows. We enjoyed beautiful sunrises and sunsets across the rooftops dotted with antennas.

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