Friday, September 21, 2007

Spain trip highlights

We’re back from our 10-day trip to Spain (September 7-17). I thought you’d like to read some of the trip highlights!

Sunday, September 9
The flights on Friday, September 7, were fine - no delays from Minneapolis or Newark, New Jersey. I did not sleep in the plane from Newark to Madrid, but I was busy reading “The Collectors” by David Baldacci and I watched the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie twice. We arrived in the Spanish capitol at 10 a.m. and it was sunny and warm. There was a momentary snag with a credit card not reading properly when getting our rental car, but it all worked out.

After that long flight, Ian drove the five hours from Madrid to Riumar, which is on the Mediterranean coast. We stopped for potty and leg-stretching breaks. I dozed off now and again, but the 2-door Volvo was not really car-nap comfy. It was nice to get to Riumar and our chalets. We bought groceries, made a light dinner, drank some Spanish wine and watched the BBC on the TV. By 8 p.m. local time we were SO tired we went to bed. We slept soundly until midnight, then got up, got dressed and went for a walk around the village. You'd be surprised how many of its small, family-run restaurants were still buzzing with people at that late hour. We came back after about 45 minutes, had another glass of wine and went back to bed. I slept until 8 a.m. local time (Spain is 7 hours ahead of U.S. Central time) and Ian got up when I brought him coffee at 9.

This morning we're moving personal items from chalet 10 (the one that will be sold tomorrow) to next door at number 11. After waiting for three Irish ladies to leave (they've been our guests for nine days) Ian and I went over to ask what time they would be leaving. We spoke to one of them, who said they had a marvelous time. We like to hear that. They will be our last rental guests. We are hoping the remaining chalet (11) sells soon. Regardless, I don't think we'll rent it next season either. It's tough to do it long distance and if someone wants to buy most often (even if they're buying it as a rental property) they don't want it already rented.

We'll spend today taking stuff from one chalet to the other and then at 3:30 we'll meet my son Michael and his wife Natalia at the train station. They’re coming from Barcelona, which is 2 hours away and they'll spend the evening with us and go to the sale with us in the morning. I want Natalia along because I don't comprehend all the Spanish legalese that she does and if there are questions I want her there as a translator that we can trust to ensure all goes well. Besides, it will be nice to see them both. We saw them in MN last August when they visited for 10 days. We've not been together in Spain for 2 years. Ian and I came to their wedding in September 2005. It's wonderful to see them doing to well; personally and professionally.

I will be SO happy when the sale is done. It will be a tremendous relief and an answer to many prayers.

Thursday, September 13
The sale of chalet number 10 went through on Monday. I wish I could say it went without a hitch, HA, it was a nightmare. Thank goodness Michael and Natalia came along to the signing. Our agent, Chris the drama queen, was in true form; completely disorganized and did nothing to engender confidence. In the end it all went OK, but it was enough of a bad experience that we cannot imagine doing any business with Chris again!

After the sale, Michael and Natalia returned to Barcelona by train Monday and we came up by car on Tuesday. We stayed at a hotel that was supposed to have wireless Internet connection in every room, but our room did not have a signal and the front desk could not get it sorted out. We decided we would just stay one night and then come back to Riumar and stay in number 11.

September 11 is independence day in the province of Catalonia so the banks were closed. We visited with Michael and Natalia at their home and went out for both lunch and dinner together.

Earlier Tuesday morning before traveling to Barcelona, while we were still on the delta, we got into a small car accident. We were PARKED on a side street in the neighboring village of La Cava, sitting in our rented car, when a local guy driving a dump truck came by us and snapped off the driver's side mirror. Ian beeped the horn and screamed at the guy as he jumped out. The man stopped, got out and began explaining in rapid-fire Catalan, with big arm gestures that we were wrong to be parked where we were, blah, blah, blah. I called Natalia and asked her to send the local police. The guy had had a bit to drink - not sloppy, but certainly foggy. He was walking around the side street and out to the main street and we worried about him leaving the scene. Ian went to his truck and took the keys from the ignition. The police arrived and listened to his version and informed him quite quickly he was in the wrong. This guy's entire demeanor changed and he became even more contrite as the accident report was completed. The officer explained that because the accident was not serious and no one was hurt, he would not test the other driver for alcohol (how novel), but the officer did shake his finger at him and told him to go straight home. Ian was able to reassemble the mirror pieces so we do have a driver's side mirror, albeit a cracked one. The accident report with the other guy's insurance info and that we were not at fault should be plenty enough for Avis.

On Wednesday morning, after we deposited the sale check our Spanish bank account we visited our friends Caroline (a Canadian married to a Catalan) and Christine (German), who both live just outside Barcelona in Sant Cugat. Oh, it was SO good to see them. We met through the Barcelona Women's Network (BWN) when we were all members of this English-speaking women’s group. There were some emotional moments and tears as I remembered just how precious they are to me. I also spoke by telephone to Doreen and Patricia; more great BWN friends, but ones we would not get to see this trip.

We have been running errands since we returned to Riumar. This morning we met Martina, a German realtor who works for an agency that is just up the coast from Riumar. We had corresponded by email and it was nice to meet her face-to-face. Already she is miles ahead of Chris. Another bonus is that she is a horse person! She has Quarter horses and Arabians plus she is in the process of getting a license for her own horse riding stable. As you can imagine, she loved photos of our Arabian stallion Legacys Renoir.

We also have the chalet listed with the Inmodelta agency right here in Riumar. Between the Catalan/Spanish agency and Martina's German agency number 11 should sell! We also bought BIG signs that read "Se Vende" (For Sale) and I've put Natalia's cell phone number on these signs. Naturally, if we can sell the chalet without paying a 5% commission to an agency, all the better.

Today, we had lunch with British transplants Janette and Brian. Janette has been handling summer rental changeovers for number 11. We met her through Chris (one good thing she'd done), but this was my first time meeting them face-to-face. Ian met them when he was here a few weeks ago. They too have unbelievably nutty Chris stories. Unbeknownst to us, Chris has quite an unsavory reputation and has many debt judgments against her. Lovely! Anyway, Janette and Brian are wonderful people and ones we plan to stay in touch with.

Tomorrow (Friday), our last full day on the delta, there will be more running around and Ian will fix a leaky toilet hose and replace small, cracked tiles on the bathroom countertop.

Yes, we want to sell number 11 and focus on the Auld Macdonald Farm, but this trip has also reinforced that we want to return too. I just love it here and surely we could find a suitable place for us here that would allow us to have horses either with us or nearby. There's no rush, we're happy on the farm, but Spain or France are certainly in our future plans.

Saturday, September 15
Today we closed up the chalet and said goodbye to Riumar and I wept as we left and for a good way down the highway. For me, it’s a challenge because I don’t know when I’ll be back. I’m also torn because I do love it on our farm in Minnesota with our horses and other animals.

The drive to Madrid took five hours and we are spending the weekend with Cynthia and Claude, our dear Canadian friends who we've not seen since their wedding in Montreal. On Monday, we fly Madrid-Newark-Minneapolis.

We returned the Volvo to Avis at the Madrid airport. There was some discussion about the police accident form we presented, but it was quickly resolved at the returns desk. At least, I hope that is the end of it! I’m always nervous when a company has a Visa card number!

Cynthia and Claude have lived in Spain for 10 years. Claude collected us at the arrival area and we made a short drive to their home. I don’t know what section of Madrid they live in, but it is gorgeous and very safe. Apparently, it is fortress safe as a famous Spanish footballer (soccer star) had lived in one of the townhouse-type apartments and extra measures were put in place to keep his adoring fans at bay.

There are people in this world who are born as gracious hosts and Cynthia and Claude are certainly that. We just love to come to visit them, wherever they are. After we settle in our room, we four sat on their patio veranda and ate grilled shrimp and barbequed white fish with fresh oven-baked veggies and other local lovelies; delicious olives, course bread, bottles of well-researched Rioja! The conversation, as always, was stimulating and wide-ranging.

Sunday, September 16
We woke up to a sunny and comfortably warm day and we four went to the Hipodromo La Zarzuela (the horse racetrack) in Madrid. What a GREAT time. Before each of the races we viewed the horses in the paddocks, then places our bets and went to the stands to watch! We did pretty well for being somewhat unscientific. Really, we bet just to add some interest, not to retire!

Afterwards, we ate at a nice restaurant and had Spanish rise dishes, named paella and arroz negro and drank chilled rose.

Later, back at the house, we fought the siesta urge, and watched a movie and chatted.

Monday, September 17
This morning, Claude left for a business meeting in Poland a few hours before Cynthia took us to the airport for our flight home. Since I’d devoured a Baldacci novel earlier in the trip, Cynthia gave me a Jonathan Kellerman novel, “Rage”, which introduced me to protagonist Alex Delaware. With less than 100 pages left to read, I’m hooked and have reserved the Alex Delaware series to buy in publication-date order on my Amazon wish list.

Ian and I arrived home on the farm Monday night at 8:45 p.m. Minnesota time, which is 3:45 a.m. Spain time. As you can imagine, we were a bit tired, as we gotten up in Spain at 8 a.m. Our flight from Madrid went well and there was only a slight delay leaving Newark. We’d parked our truck at the airport.

When we arrived home, I went to the barn and patted all the indoor horses. Naturally, our barn helper Tina took such good care of all the animals! Tiger the cat greeted us and spent the night here in the trailer purring and loving us up. I picked up our dog Lady from the local kennel Tuesday morning and she was thrilled to see me.

Basically, we’re good. Sometimes the jet lag gets us, but that will be over in a few days.

Next week Tuesday, Ian is traveling on business to Cupertino in Northern California for 10 days. I’m staying home and going to a big horse show at the state fairgrounds. Renoir will be there and will be shown Saturday afternoon in the stallion parade before the futurity auction that happens in the evening.

My son Richard is going to come up and work on renovation projects and keep me company. It will be nice to have him here while Ian’s gone. He’s learning more and more about horses, which I think is good for a city kid!

Our next big push is to get things done in the house so we can move back in – winter’s a coming!


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spain – buen viaje

Tomorrow, September 7, Ian and I are traveling to Spain. We have been waiting for the sale of chalet number 10, which has dragged on in fits and starts since Easter. Finally, we have a green light and an appointment to sign papers at a notary office on Monday, the tenth. A young Spanish couple is buying the chalet as their primary residence.

We will be in Spain until the 17th. We will visit friends and family in Barcelona and Madrid. Our flights are in/out of Madrid and we will drive to/from Riumar, which is a five-hour drive. It will be nice to see the Mediterranean again and all the changes since I last visited, which I think was two years ago this month when my son Michael married Natalia. Ian has been twice this year; at Christmastime for his visa and a business trip two weeks ago.

Tina is taking care of the farm and all of its animals, except for Lady, who will be boarded for the 10 days we’re gone.

We are listing the remaining chalet, number 11, with two additional local real estate agents in hopes it sells soon. We have enjoyed owning our Spanish properties, but its time to consolidate here in the U.S.

The money from the sale will allow us to restart renovation projects that have languished in recent months. We look forward to moving back into the house and enjoying our living quarters trailer on trips to horse shows.

Our stallion, Legacys Renoir, will be in a stallion parade Friday evening, September 28, in the Coliseum at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the Fall Fest Arabian horse show. After he struts his stuff, hopefully booking breedings for the 2008 season, Renoir will have a long break before he shows again – which will be in Scottsdale, Arizona in mid-February. We hope to be there with him from the 9th to the 25th.