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.
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.