El Cuarto Mes

I’ve been told by other expats that have started blogs about their adventures that around November they pretty much give up keeping track of their experiences. I can totally understand how that happens, but I’m determined to keep plugging along so that at the end of this journey, I will have a decent record of our life this year in Granada.  That being said, so much happened this month that this post is rather long!

The first notable adventure we had this month was a hike with students and parents of Matthew and Gabi’s school, Gomez Moreno.  AMPA, the school’s parents association coordinates hikes just about every month, and we joined the first one.  We were given information on the distance and where we would stop for lunch, but it was still pretty surprising to discover we hiked about 8 miles in six hours.  If Jason and I had tried to do it on our own with our kids, it would have been non-stop complaining, but with this big group, the kids rose to the challenge.  We had some amazing views along the way, and at one point we even had to “ford” a creek sans shoes!

As we have established more of a routine, Jason and I have decided Thursdays would be our day to explore Granada as a couple, while the kids are in school.  Often times, it just involves long walks around the city.  One day we walked all around the  Realejo neighborhood and discovered its unique graffiti and another day we found ourselves visiting the Casas del Chapiz, which houses the School of Arabic Studies here in Granada.

If you are wondering what the rest of our “schedule” looks like, currently Jason is training daily for a Spartan obstacle course race in Valencia on December 3rd, the two of us are taking Spanish classes three afternoons a week, and we volunteer at Gomez Moreno on Tuesdays helping the English teacher in one of the 6th grade classes. To help with our Spanish immersion we are both taking “continuing-ed” classes through the University of Granada at Casa de Porras. Lori is taking Pilates two mornings a week, and Jason is in a meditation and mindfulness class on Wednesdays.  Lori also meets once a week with a native Spanish speaker to practice her Spanish and help Mari practice her English.  We notice that things seem to take a bit longer in Spain as well, so our days fill up pretty quickly just running errands. Our grocery shopping here is completely unlike it is in Seattle.  In addition to the heavier items like beverages and cleaning supplies that we order online and have delivered, we shop at a local panaderia for fresh bread, salty rolls and pastries, and a spice shop for dried fruits, nuts and my favorite olives.  Another stop is the fruit and veggie vendor and usually a deli for speciality meats and cheeses.  Every once in a while we go to the large grocery and department store, El Corte Ingles for more familiar items like ranch dressing and tortilla chips!  Extra-curricular activities for Gabi have started as well; she is taking cooking, science and circus classes after school at Gomez.  Matthew continues to play basketball four days a week, so getting the kids to and from their activities also takes more time as we walk them everywhere.

This month the family also took a couple of quick trips.  The first was just Lori and Robbie taking the bus to Madrid to see a concert featuring the music from the video game Zelda. In addition to the fabulous symphony performance, Lori dragged Robbie to the modern art museum in Madrid, Reina Sophia. One of the best parts of the weekend was a last minute meet-up with a family from Seattle who is spending the year in Barcelona.  It was great to get Robbie together with kids his age and compare stories of life as an expat teen in Spain.

Our second trip as a family was a weekend spent in the beautiful city of Seville. We spent time walking around the city center, touring the Cathedral (the third largest in Europe) and taking a carriage ride through María Luisa Park and past the Plaza de España, built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.

 

While in Seville we all participated in The Color Run, a fun 5K where every so often people douse you with paint so that by the end of the run everybody is a walking rainbow.  Gabi enjoyed it so much she wants us to do it when it comes to Seattle after we return.

In between these two trips we celebrated Halloween in Granada.  While not nearly as big of a deal here as it is in the states (and especially in our neighborhood of Magnolia back home in Seattle), kids do dress up and go out to “truco o trato” but mostly to local businesses and a few neighborhood houses.  We made a plan with about a dozen expat families and created a map that showed all our houses where we would be handing out candy and then went out in various groups to trick or treat.  With our old neighborhood already a perfect “spooky” backdrop, it was a fun night of traipsing through our narrow streets to find the houses that were handing out candy.  Robbie stayed back at our house to pass out candy and we got word back from various families that he was perfectly scary as Samara from the movie The Ring.

Speaking of Robbie, he had a big change this month, as we ended up switching schools and putting him in our neighborhood secondary school, Instituto Albayzín (the school we had originally intended for him to attend when were planning this trip to Spain). I spoke with the director and clarified some of the questions we had had over the summer that had caused us to change our minds in the first place.  (The concept of “lost in translation” is a real thing!)  Our neighbors have a daughter that attends Instituto and was willing to let Robbie tag along with her for a day.  After that visit, Robbie decided it would be a good change.  While Granada College is a great school, it really caters to local families who want their children to learn English.  There was no way for Robbie to get the extra help in Spanish that he needed.  However, the kids at Granada College are great, and Robbie has enjoyed staying in touch with a few of them and spending time with them outside of school.  At Instituto he is being pulled out for extra help with Spanish, but is expected to do the same work as the rest of his class, so despite the shorter day he is actually getting more class and homework.  He walks to and from school and is home around 3 p.m. rather than 6 p.m.  There are actually more expats at Instituto, but not all from the States. At this point he is getting Spanish help alongside a boy from France and two sisters from Syria.  It looks like this is going to be a positive experience that will really broaden his world view.

The end of this fourth month found us visiting the Alhambra, the palace and fortress we have been viewing from our home every day since we moved to Granada.  I can’t do justice to the history and beauty of the buildings in this post or in pictures, but I wanted to note down that we finally visited.  We received free tickets as residents of Granada, but plan to go back one day for a detailed private tour because there is just so much to learn about the history of this city from the Alhambra alone.

This month has really solidified the fact that we truly live in this magical city.  It is wonderful to walk around and run into people we know, or to have Omar at my favorite heladería know exactly what ice cream I want without me having to tell him.  We are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with some of our new friends and will be heading to Valencia and Barcelona next month to see some more of España.  There will be plenty more to share next month … I promise!


The Third Month

Jason and I started off the third month finally celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary about two weeks late.  We spent a lovely morning at the Arab baths (I think we will be visiting them often while we are here in Granada), and that evening had a fun and different fondue dinner at El Agua a restaurant just down the street from our house.

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The children have been in school for about a month now, and I have to say, I really expected more tears and frustration on all of our parts.  Robbie definitely doesn’t like the very long day he spends away from the house, but he’s pretty resigned to it now.  He leaves about 8:30 to catch the bus every morning, and arrives back home at 6 p.m.  It would be more of a problem if he then had a bunch of homework, but I’m not sure his school knows exactly what to do with him.  We had assumed they would just give him the same work that his classmates were doing, and we would need to struggle with him at night to

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Robbie’s school, Granada College on the outskirts of the city.

help him translate all the things he supposed to be doing, but that’s not the case.  He rarely brings home any work, and it sounds like he is being  given special assignments in most of his classes.  We’ve met with his tutor, and explained what we are hoping Robbie will get out of this year, but we will have to give it another month or two to see how it pans out.  He has made some friends at school, and is enjoying playing basketball during break times, but since he’s already a pretty shy kid, he’s definitely not experiencing a busy social life as yet.

Matthew seems to be taking everything in stride, and is the most “immersed” of our kiddos.  His teacher, Diego, doesn’t speak any English at all, so he is hearing Spanish non-stop for 5 hours a day (yes, it’s only a five hour day for Matthew and Gabi right now…more on that later!).  Three days a week after school, he heads across town to basketball practice at another school in Granada, Maristas. IMG_1702.JPG One of his coaches and a couple of the kids speak English, but overall, he is learning all the basketball terms in Spanish, and it’s pretty cool to watch him interact with the other players.  A benefit for Jason is that there are a group of dads who play basketball on Thursday nights, and he has enjoyed playing with them, and practicing his Spanish as well.

Gabi is doing well.  After the first day of school there were no more tears and she really loves her teacher, Laura.  She’s made friends with kids in her class, both fellow expats and locals, and has also been playing with other kids in the neighborhood.  Just last week she started some extra-curricular activities offered at her school including a cooking class and a circus class.

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Matthew and Gabi’s school, C.E.I.P Gomez Moreno

This is probably a good spot to jot down some of the big differences we’ve notice about schooling here in Granada.  First of all, all teachers are called by their first names.  Second, teachers are much more demonstrative in both positive and negative ways.  On the first day of school at Gomez Moreno we noticed lots of hugging between the students and teachers.  On the opposite side, Robbie has said that a couple times a teacher has pulled a kid by the ear or swatted him on the back of the head for doing something wrong.  We assume this is a cultural thing, and one we have told our kids to just get used to.  It’s not like in the states where teachers can’t comfort or welcome a child with a hug or a kiss on both cheeks (typical greeting here in Spain).  But, our kids report, the flip side is that  while there are teachers out on the playground during breaks, they often let kids “work it out” themselves, without getting involved. Not a bad thing in our opinion.  Finally, the actual school day schedule is quite different.  Matthew and Gabi start school at 9 a.m. and have classes until about noon, when they have a recess and a short break for a snack.  Lunch is served at 2:00 p.m. in the comedor, or students go home for lunch. If they eat at school, they then can stay until 4 p.m. with lunch and a long recess.  After that, there are optional extra-curricular activities from 4 until 6 p.m.  If they go home for lunch, they can come back to school for extra-curriculars.  Apparently the comedor at school is competitive and not everyone who wants to eat lunch at school is able to do so.  Priority is given to working parents, etc.  We have Matthew and Gabi on the waiting list, but aren’t holding out much hope that they will actually get spots, although we’ve been told usually everyone gets in by the end of October.  We’d like them to take lunch at school because, and this is the same at Robbie’s school, children are required to eat what is served to them, and finish each course before they are allowed to start on the next.  Robbie was NOT happy with this at first, but by the second week he realized that he can eat just about anything that is put in front of him, and it’s done wonders for one of our picky eaters.  Anyways, at this point in time, Matthew and Gabi come home from school at 2, have lunch with Jason and I and then go to their extra-curricular activities later in the day.  Robbie’s school schedule is similar to Matthew and Gabi’s, except that after his hour-long lunch at 2 p.m., he still has about 2 hours of class time to complete.

Most of this post seems to be about school, but that’s probably because that has occupied a lot of our time this month.  Getting into a routine, attending class meetings (all in Spanish, of course…I was afraid to raise my hand in case I accidentally volunteered for something!), and getting activities organized has been time consuming.  But we’ve still been able to explore a bit, make new friends and continue to practice our Spanish.

I have been hiking with a group of women a few times, and one of my favorite hikes was Los Cahorros just outside of Granada.  Hanging bridges over the river, rock faces jutting so far out onto the trail in places you need to use handholds to get past them and a great spot for a cerveza after! Liked it so much, I dragged my boys back two days later. Two weeks ago, Jason and I took Matthew and Gabi to the caves in Nerja and then drove to Salobreña where the two of us had spent a week five years ago.  Jason and I have enjoyed our latest set of Spanish classes with Susana at DeLengua, and we both have met locals for language exchanges, which I think is going to be the best way for us to improve our Spanish.

This coming month is going to be busy, with a couple of trips planned and organizing a Halloween event with many of the expats and few locals we know.  Those of you who know us know how much we love hosting for Halloween in Seattle, so we are going to keep the tradition up and share with our fellow Granadinos a little bit about Halloween in the states!


The Second Month

*Author’s note:  Because this is first and foremost a personal journal of our family’s experience, I’m trying to record events as accurately as possible, including the difficult or boring stuff.  Thanks to those of you who read this blog, but I won’t be offended if you decided to skip around or stop reading all together!!! LLW

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I feel like this second month in Spain has been all about building…building resilience, building relationships, building memories.

While Granada, and specifically our neighborhood of the Albayzín is still magical, this month we have had to become more resilient in the face of various challenges.

Challenge number one:  the language.  If we were to go back and do something different about learning Spanish, one thing I would have done was NOT take a week off between classes, and possibly not changed language schools quite so quickly.  After our week’s vacation at the end of our first month, we returned to Granada and began classes at another local language school, Castila.  While the school itself was great, having a week off between classes made it hard to get back on track, especially because Castila had a different way of teaching Spanish than our previous school, and, for Jason and I, they didn’t have a class that was right at our level, so we were put in a B1 class that was pretty challenging.  Those of you who know Jason can understand that he took this challenge and ran with it, while I floundered and became overwhelmed.  The kids had mixed experiences.  They all felt they had learned more at Delengua, but Matthew and Gabi enjoyed Castila much more because there were more kids their age taking Spanish with them. After that first week of our two week session, I was able to move down to a different class, but I still didn’t progress as much as I’d hoped.  After the two week session and because we’d already scheduled it, we took a break to go to the Canary Islands, tried to come back to classes for the last week before school started for the kids, but ended up just keeping Matthew and Gabi in language class that week. Now that the kids have all started regular school, Jason and I have decided to start private lessons, three days a week for 1.5 hours per day.  We’ve also been told about free language exchanges that we can do with locals…you meet for an hour or so and talk to someone who wants to practice their English while you practice your Spanish.  Resilience lesson number one:  keep plugging along with Spanish.

Challenge number two:  health concerns.  During our first week of lessons at Castila, I ended up experiencing severe back spasms, which made it extremely painful to sit through the language classes and may have had a little bit to do with my difficulty concentrating. Because of the language barrier, I didn’t feel like trying to find a doctor or physical therapist. Luckily, my niece Holly who is a chiropractor in Kansas City, gave me advice on some stretches, the local farmacia gave me some meds and I started to feel better after a few days.  I think the absolute cure though, was an afternoon that Jason and I spent in the Arab baths at Hamman Al Andalus.  Experiencing various baths at different temperatures, plus a steam room and a massage at the end seemed to be the magic bullet for healing.  The following week, Jason ended up with a painful canker sore that made it painful for him to talk, eat and drink.  Pretty frustrating when you are trying to learn a new language and when you are surrounded by amazing and cheap food and beer!  Lastly, just as we were both feeling better, we ended up getting food poisoning or some type of gastrointestinal virus on our trip to the Canary Islands.  It took a good 10 days for us to feel normal again.  Resilience lesson number two:  this too shall pass.

Challenge number three: school.  Poor Robbie.  While Matthew and Gabi’s school Gomez Moreno had us register them back in March, IES Albayzín told us to wait until we arrived.  Through various emails and my attempts at translating their website, we were under the impression that Robbie would be able to take most of his classes in English and even do some film work as an extra curricular activity.  Well, when the school office reopened after the August break, we went to visit and register.  From that visit, we gathered that classes were taught in English maybe once a week, and a student had to be 16 in order to work with the film program.  There was also some confusion as to whether or not Robbie would be able to take any math or science classes that he needed in order to graduate on time from Ballard High School when we return to Seattle.  We spoke with our landlord and another family we’d met whose children go to Granada College, a private international school about 25 minutes outside of Granada City and decided to look into that option.  With just a few days to go before school started we visited it.  While it was going to cost us some money, it would be a super long day, and various other challenges, it seemed to be an easier way to transition Robbie into school in a foreign country.  As of this writing we are only a couple days in, so the verdict is still out.  Gabi and Matthew also started school last Monday, and overall have had a good experience, but I’m sure after a full month in, we will have a better grasp of what the year ahead holds for all of them.  Resilience lesson number three: go with the flow, and don’t be afraid to change your plans.

This second month hasn’t ONLY been about challenges however. This month we found ourselves building relationships as well, and that has been a wonderful thing.  In just the past few weeks we have met a number of families with kids the same age as our children, embarking on the same or a similar adventure.  We’ve met people from all over the U.S. (including TWO families from Washington), Australia and Canada.  We have had dinners together, pool parties, “mom walks” through the grounds of the Alhambra, traded childcare and basketball practice duties and are slowly building that “village” that is necessary when raising kids, no matter where one is living.

Building relationships and continuing to explore this country we live in has allowed us to also build memories.  Our trip to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands was just one of the highlights of this second month.  We won’t forget the fun we had parasailing over the bluest ocean we’ve ever seen, or the torturous hike across the burning hot sand dunes, only to end up on a nude beach (yes, many women go topless at beaches in Spain, but this was actually a completely clothing optional beach – I think we may have scarred Robbie for life!).  Little memories of tapas nights, discovering favorite helado shops, hanging laundry to dry on our terrace, chasing strange cats out of our house, and finally picking up our residency cards are all part of building this life of ours here in Granada.

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The First Month

Hard to believe we’ve already been in Spain for a month. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. Our first weeks in Granada entailed a lot of just figuring out day to day living and getting to know our new city.

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A view of the Granada Cathedral from the Albayzin neighborhood.

When we first got to Granada, our landlord, Carmen, met our taxis near the Mirador San Nicolas, a few “blocks” from our house. I say “blocks” because the streets in our neighborhood of the Albayzin are in no way straight or grid-like. It truly is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets and high white-washed walls. Therefore, many of the streets are just small paths or even staircases and there is no way to get any kind of vehicle to our house, let alone two taxis holding a family of five and ten pieces of luggage. So, Carmen met us and we walked down the hill towards our home.

We settled in over the weekend, finding our way to various markets, restaurants and just getting our bearings. Our landlords had us over for dinner (paella!) and gave us all kinds of tips and tricks for living in this unique neighborhood. (For example, the grocery store with on-line shopping that delivers to your front door! After using our backpacks twice to haul groceries back up the hill, this was welcome news!)

Our first priority was applying for our residence cards. It only took three trips to our local Oficina de Extranjería to be given our NIE numbers which are extremely important here in Spain, because you can’t open a bank account, get a mobil phone or (usually) register the kids for school without them. One funny example of how things work in Spain: we needed a bank account to get local cell service. However, when we went to open our bank account, we were told we needed to provide them with a mobile telephone number in order to open an account. Apparently this type of conundrum is quite common in Spain!

Our second week in Granada found us attending a half of a Mass at the Granada Cathedral (apparently Mass times listed on websites aren’t always accurate). It was nice to feel some familiarity in church, since Roman Catholic Masses are the same all over the world and even if we couldn’t recite the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish (yet!), we could at least follow along. That Sunday was a big Spanish immersion day for us as we also spent the afternoon at one of the local movie theaters watching Mi Amigo Gigante (The BFG). Since it was also Robbie’s 15th birthday, we let him pick our lunch spot, and we ended up at Burger King, enjoying a taste from home. (Although we never actually go to Burger King in Seattle!)
The following day we started two weeks of Spanish language classes at Escuela Delengua, just a short walk from our house. Matthew and Gabi were in a private class together, Robbie was in a beginner adult class, and Jason and I squeaked into an A2 level class where we focused a lot on verb tenses and grammar. We had classmates from Holland, England and Mauritania in West Africa. I’m amazed at the language teachers and how they can teach Spanish to people who speak all different languages. Language classes are intense, three hours a day, with a 30 minute break in the middle. We all were mentally exhausted after the first week, but I’m really proud of the kids for all their hard work.

The following week brought our first visitor!  Ciara works as a nanny in Seattle for our friends and is spending the majority of the summer traveling solo around Europe. She stopped by (if traveling by bus for 14 hours can be considered “stopping by”) Granada a little over halfway through her trip, and it was great having her with us! We still had classes during the mornings, but had a fun time in the evenings, bar-hopping for tapas, attending a flamenco show with our language school and introducing her to Game Night in a Can during one of our nights “in.” Gabi especially bonded with her since they were roomies for the week, and she really missed Ciara when she left. You can check out Ciara’s adventures at her blog Willfully Wandering.

With the end of our first month nearing and a week break in our Spanish lessons, we decided to head to a beach for some cooler weather and a change of scenery. Guess what?  So does every other family in Spain. We really wanted to head to the beach areas in Andalucia, as we had heard lovely things about Cadiz and liked the idea of a short car ride to the beaches near Marbella, but we could not find a suitable place to stay. We ended up about four hours away near Cartegena, which turned out to be pretty great. Not only did we find a nice resort with wonderful beaches nearby, Cartagena is an historically important city in Spain, full of Roman ruins and tons of history.  Highlights included a visit to the ruins of a Roman theater, era 5-1 BC, and the Spanish Civil War Museum, housed in a former bomb shelter.

On the drive home, we ended up finding “Texas Hollywood” near Almeria, which happens to be the location for numerous Spaghetti Westerns, including The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and A Fistful of Dollars.

Overall, this first month has gone well.  It’s definitely challenging not being able to communicate easily with most people we come across, but we are figuring things out.  Everyone we have met (with the exception of Jason’s new “friend” at an internet cafe/copy place) has been super helpful and kind.  We are getting into a nice routine, but still have lots of time to explore and just enjoy Granada.  It’s pretty magical, and it’s still hard for me to believe that we actually LIVE here and we aren’t on vacation.


The House

So we’ve been in Granada a little over two weeks now and have settled well into our house.  I really can’t believe our luck in renting this little gem.  Again, so many thanks to Jed for getting us in contact with his landlord! The house has turned out to be the perfect size and in the perfect location for our family.

A little more detail:  the house is a traditional casa in the Albaicin neighborhood.  White-washed walls, tiled roof, heavily barred and shuttered windows.  It shares walls with a couple of other homes and is three stories tall.  The ground floor contains the kitchen, a half-bath, and a small dining/living room combination.  Up one flight of stairs are the bedrooms.  There is a master bedroom with a bathroom connected, and two other bedrooms and shared full bath on this floor.  Up one more flight of (very steep!) stairs is the best part of the house.  It is a “bonus” room with a terrace and a view of the Alhambra palace.  It’s a large enough room that all five of us can be in it comfortably, which is a good thing, since it is the only room in the house with air-conditioning.  Actually, the entire house, with its thick walls, stays pretty cool during even the hottest part of the day, as long was we remember to open all the windows up at night, and close them tightly by mid-morning.

Robbie and Matthew are surviving sharing a room so far. And while it’s not pleasant for anyone else to be in there if they haven’t opened their window in a while, neither of them seem to mind.  Gabi has her own, much smaller room, but it does include a trundle bed so we have at least one extra bed for visitors! Since she doesn’t have ALL her stuffed animals here, it’s not surprising that her room is staying quite neat.  Jason is little tall for the double bed in our room, but whatever sleep he’s been missing at night, he is making up for during his siesta time.  I’ve definitely had to consolidate my bathroom supplies, but it seems to be working for now.

One thing about the house that is quite different from what we are used to back in the States is that there is no clothes dryer.  Or rather, our clothes dryer is the hot Andalusian sun.  However, at least in the summer, I would say our clothes dry even quicker than in our dryer back home.  I’ll be curious to see how this works out in the winter.  (Do we dry our laundry inside?)  Right now we hang our clothes out on the little terrace off the third floor.  It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee in the early morning, or a glass of wine late in the evening, when it’s cool.  Jason and I are looking forward to being out on the terrace more as the weather changes.

All in all, we are learning to live more simply, which was one of our goals for this move. For video Robbie took of the house, follow this link.

 

 


The Journey

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Leaving Seattle.

Our actual journey to Granada was a bit extended. On July 4th we took an early morning flight out of Seattle to Minneapolis and drove the three hours to Jason’s hometown of West Union, Iowa. We spent a great week there with Jason’s family, catching up with his mom, sister, brothers, and their spouses. Walks around the park behind Grandma’s house, daily visits to the town pool, and golfing on the “exclusive” course in town were highlights for all of us, but the best part was relaxing with family and catching our breath for the next big step.

On July 11th we drove back to MSP, and caught our flight headed to Madrid after a four hour layover in Frankfurt. We are a little concerned because we were supposed to enter Spain by July 15th, but since we ended up going through customs in Frankfurt on July 12th, our passports were only stamped there, not when we arrived in Spain.  We are hoping that because Germany is an EU country it will count (which is the very reason we didn’t have to go through customs again in Spain), but we will find out more this week when we apply for our residence cards.

After a delay receiving our luggage and two subway rides later, we made it to the center of Madrid, with just about a kilometer walk left to arrive at our apartment, home for the next couple of days. Coming up out of the subway tunnel on to Puerta del Sol in Madrid was a great introduction to Spanish culture.  Gabi wanted to know if it was a holiday because there were so many people about and everyone seemed so happy.  It was just a regular Tuesday night.  Jason’s response was, “Welcome to Spain!”  We had no problem finding dinner that first night, even though it was 11 p.m. before we even began searching for something to eat.  Chocolate and churros the next morning, then a trip to the local waterpark, many meals, much helado, the Prado museum (kids could have skipped that one!), and dinner with a former co-worker of Jason’s and his family, kept us busy until it was time to leave for Granada on Friday morning.

Carting our luggage up and down subway tunnel stairs first thing in the morning was tough, but we were able to make our 8 a.m. bus to Granada.  It was actually a nice bus ride, with screens in the seat backs for entertainment, and with very few passengers on board we were able to spread out.  LOVELY views of endless olive tree orchards, then a winding road up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains led us to the bus station in Granada.  It took two taxis to take us all and our luggage to the meeting place with our landlord, Carmen.  After leading us through some very narrow streets that don’t allow car access with each of us dragging our luggage and backpacks down numerous cobblestone stairs, Carmen showed us our home.  It’s as nice, if not better than we expected.  As I type I’m sitting in our third floor (air conditioned!!!!) bonus room looking straight across at the Alhambra Palace.

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Now that we’ve made it to Granada, we hope to spend the next week getting settled in our new home, learning the neighborhood, completing all the rest of the necessary paperwork and just enjoying our new city.

PS:  Robbie has created a YouTube channel to document our adventures on camera.  Search for Wilbur Travel Forum (WTF, get it?  Robbie’s dig at his parents and this whole adventure…).  You can find the first video at this link.


The Preparation – Part 2

Preparing for this trip has also meant saying a lot of goodbyes. This week has been especially emotional, saying goodbye to friends, delivering the pets to their new homes, and packing items away. Boating on Lake Union, watching our friend play drums at a pub, sleepovers for the kids, friends having us over for dinner because our cupboards are bare – all of these occasions have made leaving a bit harder, but have certainly made these last few days in Seattle memorable.

Since my last post, many of you have been asking if we found a home for our cat. Thanks to a wonderful school family, the Van Hollebekes, Raider was moved to his new home just this morning. He seemed to settle in nicely, and when I left he was being petted by four teenage girls all at once. I think he’ll get enough attention this year.

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With just two more days in Seattle we have pretty much packed up the house, and set aside what we plan to take with us to Spain.  We have limited everyone to one travel backpack and one suitcase each.  Gabi had a pretty tough time deciding which three of her stuffed animals she was going to take with her, but even that is settled at this point.  Robbie’s video camera is charged and ready to begin recording our adventure (whether Robbie is ready is a different story!).  Matthew’s favorite item, our Xbox One, is unfortunately staying in the States, so he’s had to satisfy himself by appropriating Jason’s old iPad, and downloading all the Harry Potter books.

These last few weeks have been a great reminder of the wonderful friends we have made here over the five years we have been in Seattle, and while we are a little sad to leave, we are happy knowing that we have so many wonderful people to return to.  Hoping to get a few of you visiting us in Spain too!


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