Living abroad in Barcelona: The good, the unexpected, and the 28 different ways to leave your comfort zone.

In September 2016 my husband and I sold almost all our belongings, packed up 12 suitcases and moved our lives to Barcelona.

Over the past 11 months I have emailed friends and family our experiences:  the unusual, the exciting, and the mini meltdowns adjusting to a new a culture and way of life.

With the suggestion of my Uncle Leo I have decided to turn the emails into a blog.

Thank you Uncle Leo.  This is dedicated to you.  XOXO

Chichester, England…. (Howell – Sep. 11-12, 2017)

It has been exactly one year since we said goodbye to our friends and family and moved to Spain.  Our welcome mat is always out for guests, and for those that can’t make it to Spain, we offered:  ‘If you come to Europe..anywhere in Europe, we will come to you’.  And we did.

Jody and her husband Mark, went to England to visit family so Charlie and I made a trip to see them.  They were in a small town an hour train ride outside of London so we went a few days early to do our own sightseeing in London before spending two days with them.  

Airfare around Europe is so economical.  We are not used to it in the States so it is hard to comprehend.  But over here you can travel to most cities for less than $100.     A three-day sightseeing trip in London and then a 1.5 hour train ride to Chichester and I was back with my friend and it felt as if no great time had passed.    We strolled the small town streets shopping saying to each other ‘Can you believe we are in England together!’   


The husbands kept busy while we went shopping down main street:


We all dined together in a 16th century pub where the doorway was a little too short for me.  They give you warning: 21751407_10208075136514539_6415433341427316246_n (1)

We stayed in a charming Inn:  The George and Dragon.  The main front area is a pub and stables out back are now converted into 10 rooms.  20170912_092635

They serve a traditional English breakfast:IMG_2267

We all travelled down to Southampton and went up into an observation tower above the rainbows and port:20170911_144031



and back to Chichester to visit a 1000 year old Cathedral: IMG_2271 (1)


At the end of the afternoon, we had lunch together and then we all had to say our goodbyes.


London: Look Right….Look Left…. (Howell – Sep. 8-10, 2017)

We are in London!

And what do we hear?  English.    When we moved to Spain, it took about a week to get used to not hearing English.  Not understanding the language being spoken quickly turns into background noise on the subways, trains and sidewalks.   But in England,  I can understand the language being spoken, the street signs, menus and train announcements.   I can actually make small talk once again!  

On every cross walk you will see a reminder that they drive on the opposite side: 


and since this is London, it is raining: 


We hit the streets exploring the city soaking our shoes, socks and the bottom of our pant legs.  We have lists of things to see and do and rain is not going to get in the way.   Today we explore the British Museum and Westminster Abbey.

Westminster AbbeyIMG_2192

 Big Ben is under construction…. and not as big as I remember.  IMG_2195

 Saturday the 9th, we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  If you can, take the 528 step climb to the top to get the best view of the city.  



We are at the top of the dome:


Spectacular 360 degree views:



Later in the afternoon we explored the city with a 3.5 hour bike tour and we even rode across Tower Bridge:20170909_174926


Sunday the 10th, we were able to tour Buckingham Palace.  It opens to the public three months a year when the Queen is away.  It is a really great 20 room tour. No photos allowed inside, but we took a few photos out front and in the private gardens (with the Queen’s ducks) after the tour.  20170910_152159



Tomorrow we head down to Chichester England to visit friends.  


House guests not welcome here…(Howell- Aug. 24, 2017)

Okay… let me be more clear:  house guests with more than two legs are not welcome here (unless they are furry and cute).

The other night I got a lovely wake up call from a very ugly flying cockroach that decided to join me on the couch.

 After spending a few nights with the back door shut and not being able to take advantage of the cool evening breeze, I knew I had to come up with something.

I don’t know why the Europeans have not discovered the joys of screens on windows and patio doors, but they have not. Since this is a rental I had to get creative.

 Meet Mr. $5 mosquito netting normally used for those that have troubles with mosquitoes during the night.   We don’t have a mosquitoes in our apartment, maybe because it is the cockroaches keeping guard on the rooftop are dining on them.

 I found a $5 mosquito net and was determined to make that work. I tried it last night and it worked like a charm.  Since it is designed to hang over the bed, it has a hoop, lots of layers and would require a lot of work to get through. I hung it up in the doorway of the patio door, fluffed out some of the netting and used clothes pin to attach some of the netting to the door frame:  and viola, instant tacky looking bug barrier.

But it let in the cool breezes during the night and came down easily this morning.


Update:  in the daylight hours I was able to make a few modifications and hopefully go from ugly to some-what dreamy/romantic….and it still keeps the bugs out. 

How to come unglued in three easy steps…. (Howell – Aug. 14, 2017)

Step 1:   Warm evening.  Not warm enough to turn on the air, but warm enough the bedroom seems stuffy and you just can’t sleep.

Step 2:  At 3AM take pillows out to couch, open patio door and enjoy the cool breezes wafting over you.   Ahhhh…….  start to doze.

Step 3:  Twenty minutes later become alert over the sound of a fluttery moth coming in the back door and hitting the wall.  Not a big deal, I’m not afraid of a moth.   Listen to the moth hit the wall a few times and then the room gets quiet again. Curiosity gets the best of you:  Where did he go?  Hmmm….   You want a little light but you are determined not to leave your comfortable spot.  Your laptop is an arms reach away and you know if you open the lid it will give you a little light.    Open the screen and turn it outwards giving the room a soft glow.

Step 3.5:   Look over and see a 4 inch flying cockroach sitting on the back couch cushion with you.   Come unglued.  I flew off the couch across the room shrieking  ‘Ohmygod…Ohmygod….Ohmygod’  and started digging in the cupboard getting out the vacuum.  Charlie shouted out from the bedroom ‘Everything okay out there?’    When is a woman shrieking digging out the vacuum at 3:30 in the morning ever a sign that everything is okay.

Charlie came out of the bedroom as I was fumbling getting the floor attachment off the vacuum.  Plug that sucker in!   Okay…where is my house guest?  Still sitting on the couch.  He started to move.   Ohmygod..ohmygod…  don’t let him go back behind the couch. I started plunging the vacuum wand in his direction and Mr. Cockroach panicked so I panicked and he started to dart all over the couch.   Eventually success, and he went up inside.   Well…now what?   I did what any sane woman would do at almost 4AM. I put the vacuum on the back patio and put plastic wrap with a rubber band over the wand attachment.

I can’t have him live through that experience only to crawl back out of filter bag.

 Here is the home of his final resting place:  Sweet dreams cockroach.

20170823_102913 (1)

Travel from Krakow to Warsaw… (Howell – Aug. 10, 2017)

Today we travel from Krakow to Warsaw…. via train.

The day started off raining (it was pouring at times) and Charlie sported his best  yellow poncho walking from the airbnb to train station. He let me have the umbrella.


I love to travel by train.  It is comfortable, scenic and you only need to show up just before the train departure time.  You are not sitting around for hours, like you do in an airport.

Just get a ticket and GO!

We splurged for the first class seats since they were only a few dollars more on this 4.5 hour journey.   There were six seats per compartment (vs eight) so we had lots of room to be comfortable.


This is an older model of train.  Mitch said the Polish have a few different varieties and this is one of their older trains.  We still found it very nice.  

Warning: the bathroom toilet:  it really does just flush out to the tracks because you can see the tracks flash by when you press the flush lever.

Since Mitch had us up at the crack of dawn and out the door to sightsee in Krakow, we arrived Warsaw a little tired.

                                                        It was time to caffeinate:                        

Now we are ready to explore this beautiful city.

I went to Poland thinking I would enjoy Krakow more, but it was the opposite:  I liked Warsaw more than Krakow.  It is just slightly more expensive, but still one of the cheapest cities I have been to, but it has a completely different feel.  Krakow had lots of party tourists:  young people in the streets whooping it up day and night and the people of Warsaw were more serious tourists.

I also found the entire city of Warsaw was beautiful where I found just the main square area of Krakow beautiful.

                                   The colors are a watercolorists dream come true:f4a50-20729534_2119252528100305_6594241902784056101_n

The street names are a little tricky to get used to:31b72-20729187_2120645864627638_472877744699891165_n

Charlie sold his Fiat when we left the States and we found this little small Fiat gem on the streets:57c3a-20770308_2120640207961537_1597769259351971904_n

Warsaw was almost completely destroyed in WW2.  The Palace did not survive, but the fountain in the gardens did.  20170813_185259 (2)



Krakow (Howell – Aug. 9, 2017)

We did a lot of walking today (and every other day we have been here).   Today is our last day in Krakow and tomorrow we head off (without Mitch) to Warsaw.

I found a new friend today in the stores:  I don’t think I can get him back on the plane.  🙂355e8-20728277_2115132838512274_7756646824062664410_n

                                                           The food here is really good!

                and bread the size of wagon wheels: (price is about $6.50 for the large loaf)d9805-20664421_2117766208248937_7372803112080400864_n

And the trip couldn’t be complete without exploring more of the original city fortress walls:cropped-20664986_2117480188277539_7854925487582037790_n-11.jpg                                    

                                              Ice cream and sweets are everywhere!d705d-20170810_202620

Krakow, Poland (Howell – Aug. 8, 2017)

We made it to Krakow, Poland.

My son Mitch has been vacationing in Poland for the past two weeks and I made a promise to him:  if you make it over to Europe, I will meet up with you…anywhere.   And so we did.  In Poland.   Here we are in the market square as dusk.


This is his second trip to Poland and it was like having our own personal tour guide.  He is already familiar with the sites we need to see, and how to navigate the streets and he speaks a bit of the language.

Since we arrived late in the day we went to the town square area and then out for a traditional polish meal:  potatoes and pierogis.

Krakow is beautiful….and cheap.  The local currency is the Zloty and it is about 4 Zloty to a USD.  A hearty full dinner will only cost about $5 including drink.

The evening we arrived the weather was cool, however the next day it warmed up to 98 degrees.  We kind of melted, but Mitch and Charlie are both good sports and we spent the day at the Wawel Castle (built in the 13th and 14th century).


The next day was just as hot and we spent it in a very cool Wieliczka Salt Mine. 800 steps down gets to you another world.   The sculptures, floors, walls, are all made from salt:

Over 20 guided chambers to explore and at the end of the main tour, if you take the museum exit route, you get another hours worth tour through more chambers and exhibits.

Mitch letting us take a break for a few minutes:20170809_102745 (1)

Second verse, same as the first…..(Howell – Aug 8, 2017 early morning)

Yesterday we were denied boarding.  Today we will try it again to get from Barcelona to Krakow.  Originally we had a nonstop flight, only that nonstop flight doesn’t exist today so now we are to fly: Barcelona-Berlin-Krakow.

So now we are in Berlin, and what else do you do while waiting?:  Have a beer and a pretzel.  Charlie had Pho…because when you think of Berlin, you think of Asian food. 


This is the look of denied boarding…. (Howell – Aug 7, 2017)


Today we were to fly nonstop Barcelona to Krakow.    Instead we are camped out at the airport waiting for Vueling to make other arrangements for us.  

  It seems Vueling has sold more seats than they had available and we were two of the chosen ones to be denied.   We did everything we were supposed to do:  check in early, get boarding passes and seat numbers, get through security early and sit at the gate for hours killing time.  When it was time to board the plane we handed the gate agent our boarding passes and she stopped us:  ‘You have to wait’.       Well..that can never be good. 

We stood off to the side and watched everyone else board and then watched the agent shut the door and shake her head ‘No’. The gate agent sent us to their customer support desk to make alternate arrangements.  

The customer support agent told us they could get us on another plane the following day and that they could put us up at a hotel.  They had a hard time understanding why two Americans didn’t need a hotel room.  We kept explaining to them:  ‘We live here’.  We said it in English and Spanish.   After realizing that we didn’t need a hotel room, they gave us taxi vouchers to get back home and then return the next day.    

We returned home….  only to try it again the next day.