Monday, June 30, 2008

Just a typical day in my weird life

I bought Frenchy a 4th-hand road bike for his birthday (previous owner: Ian, prior to that, our IESE professor Franz, who had already bought it used) and we've been psyched about getting out for a long weekend ride. Unfortunately, due to either weather or travel, that has been impossible since his birthday. So our road bikes sit patiently and wait.

But last night we agreed that today would be the day. Despite the heat, we would go out and ride, no matter what.

Of course, when we woke up this morning it took a while to actually get moving, but soon we had donned our really sexy bike shorts and were ready to roll. Then my cycling shoes started making weird noises. I kid you not. We unscrewed the clip plates, couldn't figure out what was rattling or why, and put them back together and were again ready to go. Then I noticed my tires were soft. I called down to Frenchy, who was already downstairs waiting for the elevator. (Mine does not, figuratively or literally, go to the top floor.) He confirmed that he could use some air too.

So we went about pumping the tires. Mine took about 3 minutes. For whatever reason, Frenchy's took about 40 minutes and a lot of sweat. So by the time we were actually ready and outside, it was already 12:15. And we were supposed to be at Moncho's Marina for a paella with Nani and several others at 1:30.

Never mind, we headed off north along the water and got all the way to Badalona, where we realized that if we stopped at home before lunch we'd most certainly be very late. So I called Nani and informed her that we'd be arriving with our bikes (and no locks for them) and in our really sexy outfits. I figured we'd be eating on the terrace as we usually do and thought no one would really mind.

So when we arrived and found out we were actually upstairs in the dining room, where people were dressed quite normally (and in some cases very nicely) for their Sunday lunch... well, I sat down as quickly as possible. We stashed our bikes in the employee bathroom so they wouldn't be stolen (nicest waiters in all of Barcelona, clearly) and stuffed ourselves with paella.

The ride back home was a bit... slow. But we made it nonetheless and proceeded to pass out in a post-paella siesta until it was time to head over to Kris and Gemma's to watch the match. And... YAY ESPANYA!

So now it's 12:30... It's still mega hot outside. And, incidentally, inside. And sleep isn't likely tonight. Everyone in town seems to be outside, yelling, honking car horns, shooting off firecrackers.... Tomorrow should be a national holiday anyway!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Breaking News: Noelle Goes to Paris

Just a day before Frenchy's graduation, I was asked if I'd like to move to Paris with the company. And just the day before that, Frenchy and I had discussed that very possibility as we pondered whether Barcelona would be the place for us for the coming years. We had decided probably not... The weather is nice and all (well, normally) but weather isn't everything.

So when I was asked that question, I said, "Sure." The next day Frenchy graduated. That was May 9. I finally got the official news two weeks ago while I was in Madrid and the even more official phone call a week ago Monday. So as you can guess, we've been in a bit of limbo for a while now, and it hasn't always been the easiest thing, but we've managed alright.

This morning I took a 6am flight to Paris, which is where I am now. I think I slept two hours last night and didn't manage to sleep at all on the plane because the guy behind me was using my seat back as a sort of punching bag. Now it's after midnight and I should really be in bed. But the reality is starting to set in. We are moving to Paris. In two months.

After spending the day in the office and getting to know my future colleagues, I'm looking forward to this next phase in my life and my career, even though I know it's going to be filled with plenty of challenges. From the language (which I guess I'm decent at) to the new office, new work, new colleagues, to the typical administrative headaches that always accompany a move, and finally to the very special administrative headaches that are reserved for Americans working abroad... well it's certainly going to be an adventure.

And adventures are always better with a partner in crime anyway, aren't they?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Back in BCN, and naked again

Well considering I have to be back at the airport in less than 6 hours, I will have to keep this one short and hit the sack. Amazing week in Finland, with a little overnight in Estonia (Tallinn is cooool! Will definitely go back when it's not a national holiday) and today we had the travel day from hell. Would you expect anything less?

We were to take a 12:55 ferry back to Helsinki from Tallinn, which would have gotten us to our destination by 2:45 in plenty of time to get to the airport for our 5:20 flight to Barcelona. But when we got to the ferry terminal (very pleased with myself, I might add, for having just rearranged all my travel to Paris tomorrow - another story altogether) and found no one was really there.... we became a bit suspicious.

And rightly so, because our ferry was cancelled. Silly us! National holiday! Reminds me of when my flight from Bucharest to Barcelona was cancelled because it was EASTER. I mean, you knew it was going to be Easter that day for at LEAST a year. Why put the flight on the schedule? Same goes for Juhannus (not to be confused with the unmentionables of a dear Finnish friend of ours) in Estonia. I mean really. When you make a reservation for a ferry, you'd expect there TO BE A FERRY!

But never mind. They were kind enough to let us switch from Nordic Jet Line to SuperSeaCat without charge, but the catch was that the next ferry didn't leave until 2pm. So we waited an hour and a half and finally boarded and I kept telling myself that everything would be fine, that we'd make it... despite the fact that we'd now only arrive at 3:40 and we'd need to be checking in for our flight at 4:25.

I didn't factor in the boat being late. We arrived at 4 and thanks to some graceful running off the ship and through the terminal with our huge backpacks, we were in a taxi by 4:04. According to our very specific taxi driver. We miraculously made it to the airport despite rain, bad traffic, and the start of rush hour, in time to check in without any problems. And just before doing so, I had the foresight to take all my overnight stuff (makeup, contact lens solution, toothbrush, etc) out of my checked bag... just in case.

And good thing I did, too. Because we made it to Barcelona. But our bags didn't. And you know when we will finally get them? THURSDAY! Today is Tuesday! Ugh. Forget the fact that I now have not much to wear for my three days of meetings in Paris starting tomorrow morning at 9:30. Which reminds me... it's late and I have to get up at 4am. Time for some shuteye. More Finnish adventure stories to come. And believe me, there are many!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Global Chilling

The weather in BCN has been pretty terrible for 6 weeks now. We had two fantastic weeks at the end of April, and since then just clouds and rain. What is going on here? Where is all this global warming everyone promised us? I'm moving to the Arctic, where it´s supposedly getting warmer, because this is getting really depressing. Or else I need some more climate change. Because the climate here needs changing!

In other news, we are off to Helsinki tomorrow morning because I have a conference there with the folks who are behind Habbo Hotel, and then we´ll stick around for the long weekend (Monday and Tuesday are holidays here in Barcelona) to enjoy the annual Midsummer festival. Wouldn´t you know it, the days we're in Finland it looks like it'll finally be beach weather here. But hey, I'll just work on my skin cancer next year I guess.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

International Relations

Just got back from a 2 day training session in Madrid with about 30 people from all over Europe (Spain, France, UK, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and Lithuania) and it reminded me that I really love working in such an international environment. Before IESE, I spent nearly a decade in New York, which is already an international place to be, and I was lucky enough to work in companies that had strong international ties. But even that didn´t compare to the IESE experience or my current job.

For instance, I share a work space with a Belgian and two Catalans. At the next work space are another Catalan, a Portuguese, and two French. And our office count obviously doesn´t include the people who waltz in and out from all over the place for mega-committee meetings.

Hmmm usually there´s a point to my ramblings... I guess it would be that I´m not quite ready to go back to the US just yet! I think I´ll continue my European sojourn as long as possible.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Et Maintenant Quelque Chose Completement Different

I'm cheating on my blog! Frenchy and I have started a new one, aptly titled Pardon Mon Fran├žais. The idea is to bore you with the ridiculous things that happen to a French guy and an American girl living in Spain. Or wherever.

If for whatever reason the link doesn't work, just plug in .

Frenchy will be writing in fran├žais and moi en anglais. Until we get bored and try to change it up a bit. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Naked Cycling (Cyclonudistas!)

I'm all for cycling. Bicycles are fun, fast, and not harmful to the environment. You can ride basically anywhere you want, and you get some exercise at the same time. I'm also all for nudity. I mean, why not? Being naked isn't bad for the environment, but I guess it can get a little cold sometimes.

What I'm NOT sure I can get into is naked cycling. But when my equally ecologically-conscious colleague Nathalie forwarded me the info about the CicloNudista event last weekend, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to go check it out. Hey, if you can't join 'em, gawk at 'em! In my humble opinion, it was a bit too cold that day for nudity, on a bike or otherwise.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Sun Is Out In Barcelona Again! (Finally)

And it couldn't have come any sooner! After over a month of rain, it has gotten hard to recall that the weather here is usually warm and sunny.

Perfect opportunity for a motorbike ride with the man of my dreams.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Roman Holiday

So for Frenchy's birthday I decided it might be nice to take him to Rome, a city neither of us had ever visited and had both always wanted to see. And always in search of adventure, I figured we'd probably have a good story or two to finish off the weekend. We weren't disappointed.

I had heard plenty about Roman taxi drivers and their cheating ways and insane driving habits, but hey, I've spent time in Lima and in Bucharest... how much worse can these drivers really be? I was more concerned about losing my euros than losing my life. What I will say is that Lima and Bucharest left me well-prepared for the wild ride we went on upon from the airport to the hotel.

I have a feeling that the drivers that wait for you at the airport are like Disneyland hosts. They are there to make sure tourists are welcomed with a true Roman experience. In the 30 minutes we drove from the airport to our hotel, we had several near death experiences and heard every bad word in the Italian language, and probably a few invented ones as well. I thought it was hilarious. As we got out of the taxi in the middle of our street, I asked the driver in my "Italian" which way to our hotel. Shocked, he said (in Italian), "BUT YOU SPEAK ITALIAN! I'M SO SORRY!" He apologized for his language for a few minutes and threw in a few "ciao bella"s and we were off in the direction of our hotel. We thought.

See, the next thing we learned about Rome is that they don't count from one to ten like the rest of us. As we went down the street toward the hotel (we thought) we noticed that the numbers went 27, 25, 23, 30, 32... Then a dead end. Huh? So we went back up the other direction in search of number 5. Completely opposite end of the street. Frenchy said, "I think in Rome they teach the kids to count like this: 2, 5, 4, 7, 9, 1, 13... Just to screw up the tourists."

Finally checked in to our hotel, and all was well. We headed out to wander around and take in the sights. Quick note: if you have the opportunity to be in Rome on a Friday evening, I highly suggest you take advantage of the fact that there are FAR fewer tourists around at 5pm on Friday than ANYTIME on Saturday or Sunday.

As we wandered around, we got caught in a massive anti-car bike rally.

Then caught up with Valerio for the first of many gelato expeditions and some birthday spumante for Quentin.
The following day we had breakfast in the hotel... and while we were outside of the room something happened with the electrical system JUST ON OUR DOOR and we were locked out. The manager was mortified. He had just made an elaborate show, offering to take care of anything we needed on Frenchy's birthday and hoping Frenchy had the best birthday ever. And then we couldn't get back into our room. Which meant no showers, no wallets, no sunglasses, no money, no cameras... nothing.

So we waited there for a while as the electrician risked his life to short circuit the system and spring the door open. I, personally, couldn't imagine that there wasn't any way to bypass the key card system. And finally, 40 minutes or so later, the guy unscrewed the door handle (I mean, I watched a lot of MacGyver... I knew this was possible) and we were in the room and able to head out into the city shortly after. Frenchy's birthday got off to a slightly late start, but we more than made up for it in sightseeing, gelato, mozzarella, and beer!

Birthday boy

The Spanish Steps. Or, if you're actually Spanish... The Espanish Esteps.

Don't you love it when people do this?

Trevi Fountain. To me, this looks like Sea World. But IT'S JUST A FOUNTAIN! No Shamu! No dolphins! What are all those people crammed in there for? There's no light show!

In the middle of Circus Maximus, these dudes appeared. They are a group of Roman history "enthusiasts" which basically means they dress up and parade around town on Sundays and stage mock fights. Oh, and they also do parties and corporate events.

Even warriors get wedgies.

As gladiators go, they were awfully polite, obeying all pedestrian sign and making proper use of the crosswalk.

Figuring out where to go next

How to park a Smart. (Diagonal option not shown.)

This picture is not just worth a thousand words, but also maybe 1000 euros. Moments after taking this and beginning to wander off to the next site, the police officer inside the car walked up to Frenchy and said, "Documento." Frenchy pretended not to understand at first, but finally we produced our passports. The police officer was NOT happy with us for taking a picture that he felt ridiculed La Polizia. I discussed with him in my finest Italian but he kept insisting that I delete all the pictures. I did so, one by one, saving this one - the money shot - for last.

Just before I was about to delete it, another officer walked up, wondering what we were discussing. Officer #1 said that I had taken a picture of him in the car. And I said, No, it's a picture of me! SEE? And I showed it to him. He couldn't help himself and started laughing and said to the first guy, "Did you SEE this? It's so funny!" At which point, number one had a hard time keeping a straight face and pretending to be angry with us. I announced: "This is art! You can't make me delete it!" The good cop said, "It's garbage. Okay get out of here." And we were off.

Fortunately Frenchy didn't dump me right there on the spot. He's so nice. :)

Monday, June 02, 2008

New Helmet

After two years using the same old crappy second-hand helmet, I finally got a new one. An orange one! With a stripe! There was a pretty cool yellow one from Bultaco too, but they didn't have my size, so I went with the orange.