Monalia's World

Observations on a New Life in Spain

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Our New Reality

7 August, 2015 (23:00) | Living in Europe | By: admin

1 – view of our new apartment. 2 – View FROM our new apartment.

Moving into this place feels like winning the lotto, although we did work hard to get it. A lot of luck and good timing has landed us here, living right on the beach, with open horizon views and an elevator.

1- Photo of Mark standing on our balcony. 2- Photo of Mark sitting in our living room before we furnished it.

View of our building taken from the gondola that goes from our beach to the top of Montjuic.

We’ve had 2 oversees visitors since moving here; Mark’s nephew Anson who came to celebrate his 16th birthday with Uncle Mark, and my lifelong friend, performance artist Elia Arce.

The first thing Mark did was to buy a big, comfy couch to make the place comfortable for his nephew, who arrived just a few days after we were handed the keys to the place.

1 – The Lewis boys enjoy our new couch. 2 – The Lewis men enjoy our new balcony views.

This is my new, tinier but much more comfy studio, better known as MLV Headquarters. From my room I have surprising views of both our “old” hood (1/2 block away, behind the new building where we live now). The unexpected bonus is that from my bed I can look out the window to a harbor view! Icing on the cake!

Since moving into the place on July 5 we’ve had several spontaneous housewarmings and a birthday party for Anson, who stayed with us for 2 weeks.

1 – Handsome Anson 2 – Handsome Anson and his handsome uncle Mark heading home after body surfing all morning, as viewed from our balcony using a telephoto lens.

The city has all sorts of fun events that take place in our new front yard, Plaza del Mar. Twice a week they host a free movie night, old film classics, projected onto a screen on the beach.

Classic movie night on the beach every Wednesday and Sunday night. Its fun to watch it all from our balcony seats. I thought we were happy before, but now we’ll never be bored again. We’re beyond happy, we’re elated!

Good morning!

My life is presently a living dream, where I get to swim every morning during the “sweet spot” of the day, between 8 and 11 am, before tourists and party people show up. This is when the water is flat, its before the wind kicks up, and you can swim naked if you want. (In Spain its actually written in the constitution that citizens have the RIGHT to be naked.) The evenings often bring a surprise, like last week, when they broadcast a live opera performance of Verdi’s La Traviata, from the famous opera house, El Gran Teatre del Liceu, on Las Ramblas. We have front row balcony seats, heh heh heh.

I can’t believe we no longer have to descend and later ascend the 88 steps to go anywhere, even to the beach only a half a block away. I thought I would miss our little quiet treehouse, but instead I’m just relieved and happy we sold it in time to cinch the deal for this new place.

La Traviata, simulcast LIVE from the Opera House.

On Sunday the city celebrated by throwing what I call a Holi party (like in India, where they have a holiday named Holi in which they throw paint around and on each other) The intense afternoon sun beat down while people danced profusely for hours on end while shooting colored powder everywhere, jumping and laughing exuberantly while music was pumped out by a DJ with a mega sound system. The music went from techno to rockabilly to pop to rock, but always with a strong underlying beat. I think its odd so many kids stayed for the whole day. In Hollywood ¨back in my day¨ kids would pretty much seek and dance to only one genre of music and would tire easily if lame music would come on. But here, its everything goes, as long as you can move your feet to it. I love that about this city. I also love the multi-generational approach to fun. If it weren’t such a messy ordeal I would have gone down to join them for a spell and felt perfectly at one with it all; I love to dance!

It was intriguing how those kids could keep it up for so long in the hot July sun. Even when I was ¨young¨ I would not have been able to dance wildly in such shadeless heat for hours on end like that. I was told that throwing paint while wildly dancing is a new exercise trend in Barcelona, though its the first I’ve heard of it. Of course, after 6 years of living in a tree house with 88 stairs for 6 years I probably missed out on a few trends…

I’ve never seen so many people having so much fun getting dirty with colors! Right in my front yard! These events probably took place while we were living in the beach house 1/2 block away, but by the time things start I would normally be up in my treehouse waxing poetic about the quiet.

Fun in the sun Barcelona 2015.

Giving all those dancers a place to safely chill, the city followed this big paint throwing party with a mellow film on the beach afterwards. I must say, the city workers are really efficient in their clean-up. Less than an hour after the all day event was over, barely a trace of colored powder could be found on the plaza ground.

The crowd needed something cool (and free) to do afterwards, so they were encouraged by the clean-up crew to go down to the beach to wait for tonight’s classic movie. What a great city to be young in! (its also a great city to be old in, heh heh heh). After dancing their bazookas off all day everyone goes to sit in the sand to wait for dark, when the Sunday night movie begins.

I am pinching myself that all this stuff probably was going on while we lived in the treehouse, but we were not aware of it. Occasionally we’d hear live music and crowd cheers for whatever reason, but we never associated any specific activity with that.

Movie night again.

August 2, 2015

All the things that make us happy as a couple somehow all happened in one beautiful relaxed day.
Hanging on the beach
Bike Ride
Watching Fareed Zakaria together
Having lunch made by a good friend
Working on my video project with Mark’s help
Playing music
Watching a good movie
Staring at the full moon
Laughing and smiling a lot.

Balcony Life

7 August, 2015 (18:28) | Living in Europe | By: admin

We sold our modest beach pad with the 88 stairs in order to buy another one, only a half block away, directly on the beach and with an elevator. The last two weeks before moving I did a photo essay on the mellow, quiet life of our neighborhood as seen from our street, Calle del Mar. Here are some photos I’d like to share, of the quiet neighborhood life as seen from the attic apartment where we’ve lived the last 6 years:

The above thumbnails are of the terraces across from us.

Almost all our neighbors use their balconies to dry their clothes. But they also use their balconies to read, to write, to smoke cigarettes, talk on the phone, get some fresh air, ponder, or chat with their housemates.

I notice most balconies have a basket of clothes pins and many have shoes or slippers out to dry.

And this guy uses his balcony as an office, multi-tasking with his smart phone and laptop:

We got to know our neighbors across the street from the waist up. We know the whole story of how the mother, Silvia supports her whole family, which includes twins, an ailing mother and an obese brother. Unfortunately I began this essay too late to get busy Silvia´s photo, but I did get a couple shots of her mom, with whom we’ve have friendly chats about the twins, the neighborhood, the recently divorced and unemployed brother, of Silvia’s really grueling two jobs, etc. The twins were 11 when we moved in and they’re 17 now. One gets good grades, the other has a flair for cooking. They both are soccer addicts.

I would have liked to get a family portrait at the window, but I didn’t think of it in time.

We put our place for sale in June, and made an offer on a new one right on the beach, and with an elevator. In many of the above shots you can actually see the back of our new building, which is on the famous Plaça del Mar. In the stressful period between then and now we actually sold this place quickly and as I write this we’ve been settling into our new pad for almost a month now. And I will write a bling blog next…

But now we say goodbye to our quiet little treehouse, in which we have been so happy, by taking a couple selfies. If it were not for the 88 steps (6 flights) to get to our home we never would have sold it. But considering the 88 stairs, we were very lucky to have sold it so quickly.

Yes, I’ll miss the quiet of the back streets, but to be honest, this is how I feel:

P.S. I did a much better, more complete photo album called ¨balcony life¨ on facebook. Check it out if you like these.

New Years at Casa Füster 2015

21 January, 2015 (03:48) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Happy Birthday Mark

Because Mark’s birthday is 2 days before New years Eve every year, I try to make it into a big, fun adventure. Last year we were in L.A. and celebrated with a big party at our pad there, as seen in this a recent blog. The year before that we celebrated by staying at the fancy Hotel W, near our pad at the beach.

This year I came up with the idea: let’s spend Mark’s birthday through New Years at the 5 star hotel made famous by Woody Allen; Casa Füster. It is located only a few blocks from our Partners In Rhyme headquarters in Gracia, but staying there provided a unique and enchanting view of our neighborhood.

Let me start with Mark’s birthday on the 29th: we invited 3 close friends to celebrate Mark’s actual birthday with us. We listened to cool Bill Evans style jazz, ordered room service, had a great time.

Birthday friends posing on terrace.

Festive Views from our room

Our suite had a sauna and a jacuzzi, so we spent the 30th pretty much ordering room service and making use of all the bells and whistles of our hotel. Here are some photos of and from the hotel. Many landmark buildings, such as Sagrada Familia, Tibidabo, Gaudi’s La Pedrera, others, can be seen from the rooftop terrace. The hotel itself is the work of the architect Lluis Domenech Muntaner, a modernist contemporary of Gaudi, and was built in 1908. Casa Fuster itself is an emblematic designer hotel. But its the views that are to die for, in my opinion.

1) view of Tibidabo 2) Passeig de Gracia. In this shot you can see the Hotel W. You can also see how close the beach actually is from Gracia. The ocean in the background is where we live in Barceloneta.

1) You can see people milling around on the rooftop of Gaudi’s La Pedrera in this photo. 2) Passeig de Gracia leading to Plaza Catalunya and Las Ramblas. if you know your architucture, you will notice Gaudi’s Casa Battlo in this shot. It really blends in with the other eccentric buildings.These views make me fall in Love with Barcelona all over again.

Eccentric Skyline of Bcn.

above – Snaps of and from the Hotel Rooftop terrace show landmark buildings and a beautiful skyline

1) You can see the Sagrada Familia in this shot 2) Modernist architecture of Casa Fuster is characteristic of my adopted city.

More shots from and of the hotel:


On New Years Eve we invited some friends from our barrio to come celebrate with us.

The new year rushing out.

Dancing into the new year – what an auspicious beginning to 2015!