Friday, June 29, 2012

Castle and Choir

The most famous thing to see in Figueres is the Dali Museum but I visited it once years ago and for me, once was enough.  I’ve been enjoying just walking up and down the streets, seeing what the city -- my new home -- has to offer.  I’ve found where I will be taking my knives for sharpening, I’ve found a good wine shop that will offer wine tasting coupled with food in the fall, and I’ve found a few secondhand shops – one where I bought my new secondhand stereo that has made the apartment much more like home – and another where I might buy a couple of badly needed wooden bookcases.  Then there’s a “vintage” shop that has the look of pricey about it, but it wasn’t open when I first went round, so I’ll find out more on Saturday, when hopefully they will be open.  “Vintage” implies treasure hunt to me, and even if I don’t buy anything, the search is usually fun.
Last Sunday I took off for the Castell de Sant Ferran which is less than half an hour walking from the apartment, although a good stretch of it is walking uphill.  I expected to find a medieval castle but instead arrived at an 18th century fortress.  I’m not much for military history, but since I had climbed all the way up there, I decided I might as well pay the price of admission (reduced for people of the third age such as me).  And in fact much of the architecture was pleasing and overall it was worth the visit.  This was the site of the last meeting of the Catalan Parliament before it went into exile during the Spanish Civil War.  Taken over by Franco’s army, the Republicans later bombed its perimeter heavily and that damage remains to this day.  The castell can house up to 6,000 men, occupies a space of 32 hectares within a perimeter of 3,120 meters, and is the largest 18th Century fortress in Europe.

Stables (troughs on the right, toilet down the center)

Tilework surrounding a small garden

This last Wednesday there was a free concert at the Esglesia de Sant Pere, Figueres’ patron saint and its main church.  The performance was given by a children’s choir come all the way from England.  Their voices were lovely.  I didn’t know most of the repertoire except for a choral version of Let It Be that worked well, and the heavenly Panis angelicus by Franck, the solo sung by a young boy with a heavenly voice.  It was music for the soul.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Arrived in Figueres

I arrived in Figueres on Monday and Andrea, my real estate agent was right there waiting for me in front of the apartment building so that I could just drive up, park illegally with lights flashing, and unload my precious cargo of the two cats and the rest of the stuff that I hauled with me.  The cats spent the rest of that day crouched under the bed, but eventually they tiptoed out for a little look around in the evening and the next day they were even more relaxed.  They aren’t used to their new home yet, but they seem to like it better, at least the balcony, than the one in the apartment in L’Ametlla where we were for a few weeks.  This balcony is more open (I covered it with plastic chicken wire first thing the afternoon we arrived, otherwise I would not have opened the windows fearing that the cats might jump off) the view is of garden patios below rather than the port off to the side.

Tuesday was my birthday and is the day I bought the apartment.  It’s the biggest birthday present I’ve ever received and surely the most expensive.  After going to the bank and then signing papers at the notary, I took myself out for lunch to the Restaurant l’ou d’or (the golden egg).  Lunch was terrific: cheese canalons with a pesto sauce, baby squid cooked in their ink, and tiramisu for dessert.  Washed down with a cold white wine, it was a fabulous birthday lunch for the astounding price of 13 euros.  For supper I had some very tasty Basque tapas.  It was a good day.

I think I am going to like Figueres.  It’s not perfect and neither is the apartment, but I don’t think there is anything perfect in this life (and not too sure about the next).  Overall I like the apartment and I like the town.

One thing I like a lot about the town is that I can take a short 10-minute walk from the apartment and find myself in semi-country.  I drove the route when I came to view apartments because the real estate office is out that way in a mixed light-industrial commercial zone and I noticed people walking alongside the road on a path.  Yesterday when I drove that way again I noticed that someone was harvesting hay and it looked so inviting that I decided to walk out with my camera this the morning before it got too hot and take a closer and longer look.

I somehow don’t feel safe on isolated country walks alone, but urban and semi-urban walks suit me fine.  I also walk to do all my errands and go exploring around the city so that I am getting far more exercise than I have in years, in fact, since I moved from Tarragona where I walked everywhere to L’Ametlla where I went everywhere by car.

Yes, I think I am going to like it here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bye Bye L'Ametlla

Wherever I live, I tend to shop in small, owner-run businesses.  This isn't new, I did it even when I lived in California where big business outnumbers small.  Here in Spain, it's the other way around and so it's easier to do.  Also, wherever I live, I tend to be a loyal customer of the people I do business with, people such as

Montse, the fruit and veg lady

Lourdes, the baker

My butcher

He's not in the village.
Llorenc is the owner of Chez Lorenzo, my favorite local restaurant which happens to be in nearby Miami.

Gertrud, the real estate agent who did not sell my house.
She was my first real estate agent (I bought my house with her).
She's been ill for a while, but hopefully is on her way to good health.

Maria Jose, the real estate agent who did sell my house.
I listed with many agents.  Maria Jose did far more work on my behalf than any other.

Ramon, my electrician, plumber, a big-time Barca supporter, and  generally good person

Trini, la noia multitasques de Casa Ramonet.
While her brother Ramon is out being electrician, plumber, and talking about Barca,
Trini is running their shop in the village.
Smart, strong, and warm-hearted, Trini is my best friend in the village
and the person I will miss the most.

Friday, June 8, 2012


My house is sold.  We (the buyers and I) signed the papers at the notary this morning.  I have no more keys, no more mortgage debt, no more worries about expenses I can’t afford, no more pretty house.  I’ve waited for this a long time.

I’m free!

As I was walking back from this morning’s business to my rented apartment I looked at my bank book and almost had a heart attack.  With all the proceeds from the sale, there wasn’t enough to buy the apartment in Figueres and pay all the buyer’s fees.  I had withdrawn money from my IRA, but apparently I hadn’t thought it through well enough and hadn’t withdrawn enough. Oh my God.

But before fainting onto the sidewalk I realized that I have already paid the deposit, so there is that much less remaining to pay.  Gracies a Deu.  My math was correct and I’ll be OK.

The cats are not happy.  They have a balcony but they want to go out.  They want to scratch trees.  They want to explore.  Mostly they want to sleep in the garden.  Instead, they are prisoners in this little apartment.  They don’t know anything, nor do they care about mortgages or house expenses.  I’m hoping that a nice, tall cat tree when we get settled will mollify them a little.  I’d like them to be as happy as I am. 

Friday, June 1, 2012


Today I moved out of my pretty house.  Bye, bye house.  I could have delayed it a few more days, but it had to be done.  I rented the same apartment as last summer starting 1 June, so why wait?  I’m sorry that the cats have to move twice.  It’s hard for kitties to adjust to new places.  And on top of that they will no longer be able to go outdoors -- not here nor in their new permanent home. 

In fact, I was looking forward to this move.  Not that I wanted to stay in this apartment or the village particularly, but it’s the first real step towards the next phase of my life and I wanted to get started. 

This mini-move was a kind of practice for the bigger move up to Figueres.  I packed up all the things I will need in the next three weeks (the movers will take the bulk of all my glorious stuff), plus the two cat carriers and all their food and toiletries (cats also have stuff) and saw that yes, it did all fit into the car.  The big difference is that the trip from the soon-to-be-sold house to this apartment was 15 minutes driving, whereas Figueres will take at least three hours.  That drive will be harder on the cats.  And on me.  Felix meowed most of the way here.  Three hours of that will do me in.  Hopefully they will both just nap the whole way.

Also, I will have to somehow meet up with the real estate agent to get the key to the apartment when I arrive.  And that building has no elevator so I will have to carry the cats and the whole car load up the stairs (maybe the agent will help!). But at least after this trial run, I’ll be in practice for the real thing and the cats will be seasoned travelers, eager to explore their new home.