Karie on Jan 22nd 2008 12:47 pm
As you may recall, the flat where we originally landed in Barcelona was only temporary. For that period of time, we couldn’t have asked for anything better. We loved the flat, it was in a beautiful neighborhood, and we had a wonderful (and helpful) flat mate.
I was honestly a little concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find another place that we loved so much that was within our price range. The first few (of many) flats we looked at only proved my point.
One in particular was priced at less than half of what we budgeted, the reason being that it could only be rented from month-to-month, as the building was scheduled to be renovated. Since the owner wasn’t sure when the renovations would begin (after all, this is Spain… mañana, mañana, mañana…), he would benefit from having at least some income from an otherwise empty flat, and we would benefit from the price break under the condition that we could move with very little notice.
Knowing that the building was in need of renovation, we weren’t expecting much, but at this price, we figured we would have to HATE it in order to pass up saving that much money for a month or two. Well, we hated it. Actually, we were afraid of it.
There was a hole in the front door, the stairwell was held up by posts, there were huge cracks in the wall that were all dated within the last year or two… this building was structurally unsound. Oh yeah, and the counter tops were plywood, and while it had a private rooftop terrace, we couldn’t walk on it unless we wanted to risk converting it to a huge skylight.
Our options did improve from there, but we quickly learned that we needed to adjust our expectations for finding a flat in buildings that are older than our country. For example, the flat that we selected is in the oldest part of Barcelona, called El Borne. We’re guessing our building is at least a couple hundred years old. Hence, there is no elevator… which normally doesn’t bother us, except that we’re on the 5th floor. (Mom & Dad, our 3rd floor flat doesn’t seem so bad now, huh?)
And about those stairs… they’re old too. Some steps are steeper than others, some slant a little, and after the first couple of floors the staircase changes from switchbacks to spiral, which seems to get smaller and smaller the higher you go. It’s kind of like climbing the Sagrada Família.
Honestly, I had written this place off before we even got to the 2nd floor… but then when the door opened to our unit, it was perfect! Nothing special, but perfect for us. A large bedroom, open kitchen-living room area, space for guests, remodeled but still with a few artistic edges… a charming mix of old and new. It was also within our budget, and furnished with the exception of a few small items.
Moving in suitcases via taxis and the Metro, then carrying all those up the stairs wasn’t that fun. However, it was a small price to pay. We love having our own place again, and it feels like home… and with climbing 64 steps to get home, it’s like it comes with a free gym that actually forces you to use your membership! How great is that?!
Right now we have a rental contract through the end of April, with the option to extend it for the rest of our time in Spain. We didn’t want to commit to too long initially, since we had a few reservations about living downtown (noise, crowds, etc.) So far it’s all been great, and I think we’ll be happy here.