On our last sabbatical when we lived in Chicago, we made a plan to visit a warm place in March, far away from the frigid temperatures. It was a good plan, and we spent 11 lovely days in Belize. Although Zürich is not nearly as cold as Chicago, it IS colder than our usual home in Claremont, and we thought about warmer weather and some sunshine, as well. A little searching under “Europe in January” helped create plans to head to Barcelona. This city had not even been on our radar before we left home, but friends had said that either they had enjoyed it, or they anticipated enjoying it, and that was enough to get us going. It’s on the Mediterranean, after all.
Here are the weather forecasts for the last week of January in both places. A good 20 degrees (F) warmer and sun peeking from behind a cloud made us happy that we chose Spain. As we left Zürich, the snow was coming down, and even though Spain wasn’t nearly as tropical as we had dreamed, and some clouds did roll most days, that did not diminish our enjoyment in the least. I did not have to wear my winter coat or gloves.
This was our first trip this sabbatical where we flew rather than riding the train. This ended up saving time, but I was reminded how much I appreciate the simplicity of train travel. It’s so easy for us to get to the train station from our flat – just 15 minutes of walking, and then you jump on your train and go. It took 40 minutes by tram to get to the airport, and, of course we had to get there early and go through security, etc.
Several things were different for us by flying in the Schengen region of Europe. First of all, no one asked for our id at the airport. Anywhere. We had our boarding passes on our phones and just scanned those. Second of all, we did not have to take off our shoes at security. You have to remove boots, but not shoes. However, we had to take our iPads out of the backpack. Once we landed in Barcelona, we did not have to go through customs. In that respect, flying was just as good as riding the train.
Barcelona is in northwest Spain, or in the region of Catalan (Catalunya) where both Castillian Spanish and Catalan are spoken. People who believe that Catalan is independent of Spain fly one of the Estelada flags to show their support. We saw many of these flags on balconies.
I brushed up on my very best jr. high Spanish, taking a crack at Duolingo before we left, and I surprised myself at how many words I actually did remember from Señora Gonzalez’s classes from 7th-9th grade. Our first little outing into a bakery for coffee and croissant I was good about remembering to say dos instead of zwei when ordering dos café con leches and dos (point to the chocolate-covered croissants in the case) and pleased to be able to answer the question “for here or to go” with a para aqui.
I made an executive decision to make Barcelona a sister city to Los Angeles because of the similarities I found there. Both are large, sprawling cities next to the sea with large flat sections and hills in others. Both have many Spanish speakers. Both have palm trees and other similar plants.