The first language challenge came right away: using a foreign payphone to contact our guy, Markcus. Thankfully, Adam could help and he said he'd meet us in an hour. Within minutes the second serious challenge loomed: finding a taxi for five without enough language (my mind completely blanked, thanks to fatigue, I think). In Spain, the largest taxi holds four. Once we understood that, we were on our way to Calle Torneo 40 2D Puerto B. The first floor really is up one level from where we Americans consider it. That's more confusing than it should be.
Our Spanish apartment is beautiful. [I'll post pictures later; challenge number three is technology!] It's in a great location, large enough for all five of us, and clean enough to delight me. We left our luggage in the room while the owners finished cleaning it and took our first walk through our neighborhood. And let me say, it's gorgeous here! We found our first tapas bar, and couldn't really understand how it worked at first, but Jakob and I dug in. After we ate, the barkeep counted our toothpics and charged us for them and our drinks. We then navigated a Spanish mercado, purchasing some food for our cocina. We dragged our butts back to our apartamento and most of us slept for a few hours. Joe and I headed out for dinner together, finding a delightful restaurante and enjoying paella. I'm determined to like paella, but I ate too much of some sort of potato salad we had as a first course. Oddly, it was made with tuna, but I found it rustic, refreshing, and delicious. Not so delicious? Spanish wine. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Jakob opted to sleep through dinner, but spent a large part of the night Facebooking with Caitlin.
Today, our second day here, we journeyed again through la ciudad. I was nervous this morning when Joe said he wanted eggs and pancakes, knowing the typical Spaniard chooses bread and cafe, but we found a delicious, and somewhat more American breakfast at our paella restaurant of last night. Jakob and I had tortillas huevos, Joe had eggs and bacon, Adam enjoyed scrambled eggs, and Mariah ate something sandwichy off the menu. A plus. I might spend way too much time at that restaurant. I took a picture of it, so I could remember the name. There are lots of words on the window, though, so I'm still not sure what it's actually called.
We walked through our neighborhood, shopping and watching a variety of entertainments. It's not clear whether there's something special going on - like maybe the end of 2011? - or if this city is always this vibrant, but it delights on many sensory levels. Joe negotiated a tour in a horse-drawn buggy (coche de caballos) and Mariah had the opportunity for tons of picture-taking. After the tour, we ate at a restaurant in that plaza, and found out that "set" tables with tablecloths, place settings, and bread require ordering full meals, while the "bar" tables allow for snacks, tapas, and drinks. Good lesson, and from a camarero simpático - he took pity on our poor American blank looks and allowed us to order three items from the tapas menu and a postre (Mariah loves tiramasu!).
Joe and I made our way back to our apartamento for our siesta by way of the supermarket. It's a challenge to be on foot and carrying groceries for five, but Joe never complained. I hope I won't be complaining when I'm carrying my food for my solo meals to my next apartamento after my family leaves! The kids shopped more and then returned so Adam could take his siesta. Jakob and Mariah continued their excursion, finding some interesting souveniers; Jakob has a Sherlock Holmes pipe and a mini blow torch, but continues his search for a cane (the little House wanna-be) and a top hat.
The kids opted to say home in the evening, having discovered how to change the language on the tv to English (damnit). Joe and I had a date during which we discovered a new favorite restaurant. Our delightful little waitress suggested food we found delicious and filling. The only thing we didn't consume was something Joe thought was a really oily peanut butter. It was, in fact, pate with sardine oil. I don't know who would want to eat that or exactly how many date nights it's ruined after someone has consumed it, but ewwww. After thanking our delightful little waitress with a hug that resulted in my first Spanish kiss (both cheeks with full contact and a smacking smooch!), we walked across a bridge and saw the Isla Magica, a local theme park. Returning, we continue down our street until we found a place for some dessert. When we returned to the apartment, we realized we only covered a little less than six miles today. It felt like more.
My complaint remains: it's freaking cold here. I'm going to have to send home some of my packed luggage and purchase a few things so I can manage the cold better. I'm even suffering some kind of lung thing, despite my continued litany: "I am well...i am well... iamwell
My biggest challenge remains as well: techology. I had no idea - maybe a little idea :) - how often I rely on my smartphone in the course of a day. I feel a little I'm navigating blind! Next week I pick up my rented Blackberry. Ha. I'm guessing I'll still be challenged by techology since I've never used a Blackberry.
I'm off to bed a little later than average (it's 2:15 am), but this whole siesta thing is delightful! Joe found the Timberwolves, so he and the kids are watching that. I'm hoping they sleep long enough so I can have a guilt-free run along the bridge and through the park I can see across the river.
Keep us in your prayers! I think there are some big challenges yet to come... I don't want to be alone in this city yet. I'm nervous about this lengua. The rest of the family has a big trip to face to get home. Jakob and Joe have to navigate the return to his strict diet. And I think Jakob's concerned about me not going home (Surprised? I am!).
We've made a decision to suspend his challenging diet for the duration of the week, though he'll still avoid some of the worst of the allergens. It's nearly impossible to be in a foreign country without a smart phone translator and eat hypoallergenically.