Morning tourists, Afternoon residents



Las Chicas begin the day with an uphill walk 20 minutes to Parc Guell, Gaudi’s subdivision-turned-park. The mosaic gatehouse and fountains greet us and we continue uphill on stone staircases and paved paths through shaded gardens. From the hilltop, we see Mt. Tibidado to the north and the Mediterranean sea to the south, flanked by a quilt of red tile roofs and ochre buildings. Watch for photos of this outing in a later blog post. On the way back from Park Guell, Mary discovers 3 croissants for 1 Euro at a bakery and quickly takes advantage of this monthly special.


Off to the big box store for apartment accessories. It’s not all fun in the sun in Spain. Last week we hit Carrefour, sponsor of the Tour de France King of the Mountains jersey. We envisioned Costco, but it was more like Wal-mart.


Las Chicas purchased exciting items like towels, ironing board cover, shopping cart (critical for bringing food home from supermarket and mercat), clothespins, frying pans, mattress cover. Mary, not a shopper,  nearly lost it by the clothes-drying racks, but then discovered the price-check machine and busied herself comparing and contrasting aluminum and plastic racks.

Today, it’s IKEA time! One Swedish immigrant told Mary long ago: “It is Swedish K-mart.” Las Chicas need items large and small: mattress, desk, desk chair, pillows, sheets, under-bed storage, trash/recycling bins.  On last week’s Carrefour expedition, Las Chicas were rescued by kindly English-speaking bus rider going in the same direction as Gran Via 2, the Carrefour mall. Today, Las Chicas managed a fast metro/bus transfer and again had help from bus driver and bus riders.  Exit the bus. Mary: “Where is it?”  Lisa: “Right there!”, referring to the large IKEA sign front and center.


Hard to believe Mary couldn’t see this across the street.

Lisa only visited IKEA briefly in the 90s and Mary’s last visit was in the 80s in Philadelphia. Las Chicas and other customers  with carts stand next to elevators that never come. Lisa invites Mary upstairs after she finds smaller cart-like objects festooned with the oversized yellow IKEA shopping bags.

Las Chicas decide on desk and desk chair, Mary asks for assistance in filling out paper–que numero en que lugar? Sofa beds and furniture are next, and sales clerk says we must go on  (and on and on) to get to colchones por la cama (mattresses for the bed) department. On the way, Las Chicas pick up another pants hanger and trash/recycling system bins. During this time, Mary crashes her cart into many pieces of furniture, but fortunately, not into other customers.

At the appropriate mattress area, Lisa finds the one she researched online.  Lisa asks clerk if it’s available in the correct size. Mary tests and it’s too soft.  Mattresses have Swedish names, with descriptions in Spanish. Las Chicas decide on another more expensive mattress, clerk prints out form that we will use to pick up mattress at check-out.

Sensing that Mary’s shopping limit has been reached, Lisa suggests lunch at the massive IKEA cafeteria, then reconsiders after looking at the food. Mary starts to crumble, but Lisa reassures her that it will be over soon. We don’t know about the cavernous home-ware section that awaits these reluctant shoppers. Sheets are picked out, then tossed back. Additional selections are made: under-the-bed containers, bed comforter, hanging shoe rack, bedside lamps, and surge protector. Lisa retrieves new cart  for all the additional items.

Las Chicas enter the final warehouse section anticipating a counter that will fill their order. Instead rows of boxes and unknown numbers loom. Mary shows her piece of paper to sales clerk to find aisles for desk and chair. Loaded onto another bigger cart, Home Depot style, Las Chicas can see the finish line: the cash registers. But where is the mattress pick up? Ah, pay first, then go to area “derecho” , to the right. More confusion as Mary attacks the electronic ticket machine, punching buttons with words next to them that may or may not refer to mattress pick-up and transport. One IKEA desk clerk tells Lisa “wait over there,” but Mary asks another roaming sales clerk “Donde esta este cholchon?” and he points to number on paper and same number on overhead screen “en proceso” or something like that in Spanish.

The mattress appears, rolled up like a tootsie roll. Hurray, we have the correct ticket for transport and are only two numbers away from outtahere. Lisa arranges for transport for all items on the following day. No gratis. But no wrestling with boxes and mattresses and taxi.

Las Chicas see the H12 bus through the windows, and make a run for it. Success! An easy return journey to Gracia and the welcoming shade of our neighborhood streets.

© 2013 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved

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