Monalia's World

Observations on a New Life in Spain

Skip to: Content | Sidebar | Footer

Penguin Factory in Poble Sec

10 April, 2009 (04:01) | Living in Europe | By: admin

When we first moved to Barcelona in November 2006 I did not have a blog going, but I did write many memorable experiences and documented our early feelings as we began to integrate. The next few blogs will be from my early writings, from when we first moved here and began our quest to buy a place to live in. Although this story doesn’t have accompanying photos, subsequent blogs will:


December, 2006

We have made plans to see a 270,000 euro place in Poble Sec which sounds intriguing and suspiciously cheap for 90 square meters on a rambla. The ad claims the place has a store front, an upstairs living space and a garden patio interior. It sounds great. We’ve never been to Poble Sec, so we’re a bit curious.

We find the neighborhood. Poble Sec has some great looking buildings, so our hopes rise. There are cool looking restaurants and shops on the little rambla. We meet up with the realtor and walk to the property.

At first glance it looks like a butcher’s shop, except it has a big picture hanging over the front of the shop of a penguin sliding down some ice. We enter to find two frozen food display freezers on either side of a long foyer area. The only conclusion we can come to is that the previous owners had been selling frozen penguin meat and promptly went out of business. I am aghast! I can feel a big pit forming in my stomach. This is not to be our dream piso, this is obvious. Just behind the frozen penguin meat “foyer” is “The Kitchen”. “The Kitchen” is an electric hot plate sitting on a chair in a room the size of a small closet. Beyond the frozen penguin meat “foyer” and the “The Kitchen” is the “living area”, which is just a big room. Calling it a room would be exaggerating though, it is simply an area that happens to be surrounded by four walls and has a ceiling. There is a small, dark, dank, stinky bathroom somewhere off the “living area”.

“OK Then. What about the garden/ patio?” I say, trying not to show my disappointment.

“Oh, this way.”

Out to “The Patio” we go. It reminds me of the Hanoi Hilton American POW camp in North Vietnam, where US soldiers were tortured alongside the Vietnamese prisoners. I share this image with Mark and he replies,

“Yes, I can see that. What I was thinking is more Charles Dickens, a dark and scary tale from Oliver Twist.”

“The Patio” is dark because being on the ground floor, buildings and structures tower up around it. Dripping pipes and laundry lines block out any sunlight that might be passing by. There are strange platforms jutting out from some of the buildings that seem to suggest gallows, We laugh nervously, as we could easily imagine having our morning coffee with bodies dangling from the end of a noose above us.

“Right, so there is a second story?” “Yes, step this way”

We walk back into “living area” and the realtor points to not stairs, but a shaky ladder that someone has banged together with some scrap wood. Mark ventures up the ladder first to make sure it will hold the weight of a human. He climbs up into “The Upstairs,” where he can’t stand up straight because its not meant for someone 6 foot two. In “The Upstairs” we find old bedding and dirty clothes strewn about. No windows, just a dark box with a hole in the floor to escape from. Mark says,

“I built better looking forts in vacant lots when I was 12 years old”.

I turn to the realtor, “Vale, gracias mucho, pero demaciado trabajo”, this was more than a fixer upper. For us ‘Casa de Penguin Butcher’ would need a bit too much work.

So we continue with our search for a home, trying not to become disheartened. The image of the Casa de Penguins sends us from hysterical laughter to despair. Just remembering Mark trying to stand up in “The Upstairs,”with his head tilted and his shoulders stooped makes me guffaw. But then I get depressed. But only for a short while. I am so in love with Barcelona. We shall find a home.