Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Moving On Up...To A Deluxe Apartment In The Sky

Getting married hasn't been the only recent major change in my life. Just a few days after the wedding and my family went back to the U.S., Diana and I moved from our old apartment in the Vall d'Hebron area of Barcelona to a new place over in Poble Sec. We'll definitely miss living with our good friend David, who's one of the best roommates that you could ever wish for, but the landlord decided that she wanted to move back in to the apartment so we had to go.

Our old place was on the far northwestern edge of the city right up against the mountains that separate Barcelona city from the suburbs beyond. As far as the crow flies, it's not far from the center of the city-maybe just a few miles-but in terms of super-dense Barcelona, it might as well be the moon. Our new place, on the other hand, is only about a five minute walk from both the Mediterranean and La Rambla. This map shows the relative location of both apartments:

The old place was nice and affordable. We had great metro access right in front of our building, which meant that we could get almost anywhere in the city in about 20 minutes. Another positive was that the area was quiet. But...if you were to guess that being in a "nice and affordable" apartment "on the edge of the city" in a "quiet area" probably isn't the coolest place in the city to live, you'd be correct. This is what the street in front of our building looked like about 99% of the time (cue the crickets):

Not much there but it was a great place to live, believe it or not. A note on the construction you see in the photo. The metro station at Vall d'Hebron has been under construction for about 350 years now according to local legend. I wrote a story about it in July of 2010 and they're still working on it!

Anyway, the timing couldn't have been more perfect as it turns out. It just so happens that Diana's past roommate and long-time friend Vladimir heard that we needed a place and offered us the extra bedroom in his recently remodeled apartment. The only's a sixth-floor apartment in an old building that doesn't have an elevator. Yep, moving our stuff in would require us To.Carry.Every.Single.Thing.We.Own.Up.Six.Flights.Of.Stairs:

But, as with most things you have to work a bit for, you appreciate the climb once you're on Vladimir's rooftop patio. Like the theme song from the 70's television show The Jeffersons, we're moving on a deluxe apartment in the sky:

The patio is huge and has a great view of the city. In the photo below you can see in the distance Tibidabo mountain and Collserola tower to the left and the Sagrada Familia to the right:

Right out front of the building is the Plaza del Molina (unofficially) named for the Teatro El Molino (The Windmill Theater), which is a local landmark:

It's a nice little park that was recently built when the city blocked off part of the street and turned the area into a pedestrian plaza (Note the difference in the number of people walking around the neighborhood as compared to the photo in front of our old building above.):

Vladimir's apartment is located in the middle of an area that is called Parallel (for the main street that runs through the area) on one side and Poble Sec (which means "dry area" or "dry town" since water wasn't plumbed in for many years) on the other. The area was one of the parts of the city that was originally developed after the defensive wall surrounding Barcelona started to be knocked down in the mid-1800s. I personally think they should change the area's name to "Internet Sec" since they still haven't plumbed in high-speed internet yet. We're still on DSL here folks!!! :-)

Most of the population was made up of the working class people of the city and it still seems to be that way today with working-class immigrants from all over the world. From what I've seen and experienced, you can hear almost every language spoken today if you wait long enough outside our building. Just this past Sunday, through a bit of good timing, Diana, Vladimir, and I ended up out front of the building at the same time and decided to do a little "comiendo pueblo" (a expression from Colombia meaning "to watch and talk about the people in the area"). Yep, we were people watching for about 30 minutes and loving it...

I absolutely love the neighborhood. Everything that we might need is within a couple of blocks. I can't even begin to count the number of restaurants that are on our block alone much less within walking distance. I'm guessing that there are four different hardware stores and maybe 25 fruit and vegetable stores within one block. It's a huge change from our old place where we only had a couple of supermarkets nearby. I really like the variety and have set a personal goal (it's good to have goals...) to try at least one new local restaurant each week.

Did I mention the patio? One of the things that I wasn't happy with in our old apartment was that there was no outdoor space. We had a small balcony that was mostly taken up by laundry and storage but there were still windows and it never really felt like you were outside. Our new patio, on the other hand, is huge and lovely. In this view, you can (just barely) see the water, which is only about five blocks away, right in the center of the photo:

We're definitely enjoying both the apartment and all the outdoor space and have been using it as much as possible. In the couple of weeks that we've lived here, I think there have been three barbecues and at least two other dinner parties. Thanks Vladimir for inviting us into your home and making us feel welcome!

(Thanks Pau for the local history info.)


  1. The last photo will forever be my favorite photo of you and Diana ever! Total bliss.

  2. It's a happy time in a happy place with happy people...and the door's always open for you cyberHag!!!


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