Thursday, April 14, 2011

IKEA Furniture Testing With Pau

When I left Barcelona last year to go to visit China, Philadelphia, Colombia, and California, there were three of us living in the apartment here in Vall d'Hebron. A fourth roommate moved in so now that I'm back, there's that much less space. It's not that it's bad, just that we need to be super efficient with the space we've got. What's a boy to do when he needs to get organized? Head to the local IKEA, that's what!!!

(Quiz: Why is the word IKEA in all capital letters? Answer below.)

Just like apartment dwellers in every country in the world (or at least in the 38 or so that IKEA has stores in) who feel compelled to buy home furnishings that come disassembled in a box, I decided to head to IKEA to pick up just what I needed. Before I left, I made a quick call to my friend Pau to see if he wanted to join me and he was game.

There are two IKEAs in the Barcelona area, one's in the south part of the city by the airport (L'Hospitalet) and another to the north (Badalona). Pau thought that the Badalona location was easier to get to and better so we went there. The Badalona IKEA has underground parking but otherwise it looks just like every other IKEA I've ever seen including those in Japan and China; they're huge industrial-looking buildings that are blue and yellow just like the Swedish flag. Once inside the front door, this one's the same too right down to the ball room for the kids as well as the yellow shopping bags.

If you look closely in these photos, all the signs are in Catalan. I guess I had assumed everything would be in Spanish but was pleasantly surprised to see that IKEA had taken the time and expense to translate everything into a "local" language that's probably only used in two or three of their stores. I think it's super cool that they'd take the time to cater to a hyper-local market like that. Nice.

So what else was memorable? Well, about half way through the showroom part of the store there's a cafe that you can stop and get a snack. They've got the classic Swedish meatballs, Lingonberry cake, coffee, and miscellaneous other stuff. Well, surprise, surprise! Pau had some sort of discount card where he gets free coffee on each visit while I had to pay 0.80 Euros for my coffee. I was a little sad until I saw that REFILLS WERE FREE! I could go back to the automatic espresso-based coffee machine until I had the shakes if I wanted to. In this photo, you can see my coffee cup waiting for its next couple of shots:

Once Pau and I were sufficiently jacked-up on IKEA coffee, we charged off to get to one of the purposes of our visit. Pau and Pili (his lovely wife) live in a very nice apartment that, like lots of the apartments in Europe, is the size of your bathroom and they need more space. One of the options they're considering is to raise their bed up high and use the newly opened area for a work space. Not being a fearful chap (and possibly unable to read the sign that was in Catalan) he jumped right up and got to testing the raised beds. Here's Pau in action:

We didn't have much luck on the bed front because I believe that they're really designed for kids and only one at that. Pili and Pau both are fit but I don't think that they want to wake up by falling to the floor when the bed collapses one night.

With bed testing behind us, we finished walking through the showroom and headed down to the warehouse area where I got to testing the storage capacity of different cabinets. This one might just fit but, even on sale, 169 Euros seems a bit high to me.

Even though we didn't end up buying any furniture that we tested, the trip was a success because I picked up a new frying pan, a set of shower shelves, two new pairs of 2 Euro slippers, a set of fluorescent light bulbs, and some other odds and ends.

Thanks to Pau for the fun day. I enjoyed our furniture-testing trip to IKEA, the stop at the overlook of the city (don't worry Pili, we didn't make out), and our drinks at the local watering hole later that night. Swedish furniture, Catalan company, and Irish whiskey make for a great day!

Quiz answer: IKEA is an acronym for the name of the founder (Ingvar Kamprad), the farm name (Elmtaryd), and village (Agunnaryd) where he grew up .

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