An American in Barcelona: Dr. Pearson, The Man Who Brought Light to Catalonia

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Accommodation Short-term accommodation Newcomers who wish to book short-term accommodation in Barcelona to allow them- selves time to search for a more permanent home will find a wealth of options in the city. It is therefore advisable that you arrange your short-term accommodation at least two to three months before your arrival, so you can have more choices and get cheaper rates. The city now offers a wide range of hotels to suit all tastes and budgets, from five-star luxury properties to midrange accommo- dation. The local market is mainly dominated by domestic hotel chains and independent hotels, although there is some presence from international operators.

You can choose from large, full-service, globally branded hotels right through to smaller, cosier, individually-owned boutique hotels. There is a broad selection of hotels in the lively city centre and beachside areas, as well as in quieter residential zones. A hostal should not be confused with a hostel, which is a kind of communal accommo- dation offered mostly to young people, referred to as an alberg juvenil in Catalan. A hostal is very similar to a hotel, but is smaller and more informal.

Hostals tend to be family-run businesses. They are not categorized by the 5-star hotel rating but instead have their own 3-star rating sys- tem. They provide quality accommodation at a much lower price, although they offer fewer facilities and services and generally lack Internet reservations or booking sites. Serviced and self-catered apartments These are fully furnished and equipped apartments available for short-term or long-term stays. They usually provide cooking facilities and all the modern conveniences of home.

Serviced apart- ments come with daily or weekly cleaning services, while in self-catered apartments such services are optional and are charged separately. They range in size from one-room studios to bedroom apartments. This type of accommodation is ideal for families and large groups. Like serviced and self-catered apart- ments, aparthotel suites feature en-suite bathrooms, fully fitted kitchens and living areas. But in addition to these internal facilities, they also offer typical hotel ser- vices such as restaurants and bars, con- cierge assistance, in-house maintenance and laundry services.

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Medium and long-term accommodation Any stay in a rental property longer than six months is considered medium or long- term accommodation. A temporary contract is for six to eleven months and is renewable. This type of contract is normally used for holiday lettings and is more expensive. The new Residential Tenancies Act of June provides that the duration of leases is freely agreed between the parties.

If it is less than three years it will be extended The previ- ous law applies to contracts from before June which establishes contracts for a minimum of one year, renewable up to five years. The first year is mandatory for both tenant and landlord, while the remaining four years are optional for the tenant and obligatory for the landlord. Due to limited space in Spanish cities, locals are used to living in multi-family residential buildings. Barcelona is no exception to this.

Single-family detached homes with a garden or even semide- tached homes are very difficult to find in the city. Those who wish to live in this type of house need to go to residential areas outside the city.

Bear in mind that in Barcelona, socialising is mostly done outdoors and there is little entertaining at home. Bedrooms are con- sidered a purely functional place to sleep and are often comparatively small. Flats may be furnished or unfurnished. Furnished flats include basic living, dining and bedroom furniture and basic appli- ances such as a refrigerator, cooker and washing machine. You can negotiate the items to be included with the owner. These districts are subdivided into neighbourhoods or barris. The following is a brief overview of the most popular neighbourhoods of Barcelona.

This district, with its Roman, Medieval and Gothic architecture, narrow, winding streets and intriguing mix of old and new, is a magnet for tourists and locals alike.


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The area also features two of the best food markets of the city, Boqueria and Santa Caterina. El Born, once a medieval trading venue, is now one of the most fashionable areas of Barcelona. It is known for its vibrant nightlife and excellent shopping. It is a ten-minute walk from La Rambla and from the beach. Parc de Ciutadella and the Barcelona Zoo are also nearby.

Ciutat Vella is a trendy district that draws a hip, youthful crowd. Many of the build- ings in this area have been renovated and turned into rental apartments, which have become popular among young local pro- fessionals, expatriates and tourists.

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The whole area is set out in a grid, with each block having an inner courtyard. The Eixample contains the largest con- centration of modernist architecture in Europe. It is also the economic and commercial hub of Barcelona and a high- class residential neighbourhood. In the Eixample, one can find spacious apartments with high ceilings, inside elegant Catalan Modernist buildings with long corridors and elaborate facades. The inner courtyards in each block give most buildings a natural source of light both in front and behind.

This neighbourhood is very central and has excellent transport links to the rest of the city. It appeals to residents of all age groups. Yet behind its trendy, bohemian character lies a traditional neighbourhood of proud, elderly locals. A Metro line runs through the heart of the neighbourhood. Its closeness to the beach makes it attrac- tive for new housing complexes, and it is now starting to attract local and interna- tional businesses. It may be hard to find parking in this area during the day when it is buzzing with business activity, but at night some streets are not so busy. The Rambla del Poblenou adds a unique, lo- cal character to this neighbourhood, retain- ing a village appeal with a great selection of shops, markets, bars and restaurants.

The wide streets and avenues are lined with numerous high-rise, condominium-style apartment buildings, as well as lower walk-up complexes with com- munity areas and swimming pools. Diagonal Mar has a large shopping centre and several 4-star hotels. Many of the apart- ments in this zone are rented out to the employees of the multinational companies that have set up offices in the nearby area.

It is also within walking distance of Parc de la Ciutadella, the Barcelona Zoo and the Poblenou neighbourhood. It has a modern shopping centre with a supermarket and movie theatres playing movies in their original version. Some developments have private gardens and swimming pools. The area has easy access to motorways and the airport and is fairly well served by buses going to the city centre. Spacious second homes and Catalan Modernist houses remain, as well as many convents and religious schools. The neighbourhood also boasts the beauti- ful hilltop parks of Monterols and El Putxet, which command good views over Barcelona.

The neighbourhood has a great community atmosphere and is very popular with Barce- lona families. It also offers a good selection of shops and restaurants. Sant Gervasi is minutes by car from the city centre.

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It corresponds to the oldest and most central area of the old municipality of Les Corts which was incorporated into Barce- lona in In the highest part, situated above Avinguda Diagonal, Neolithic and Iberian remains were found as well as a Roman necropolis. They are located south of Barcelona, just 15 minutes by car to the city centre.


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Sant Just and Esplugues are quiet residential areas with vast green spaces and great views of the sea and the city of Barcelona. Many of the properties here are recently constructed apartments and houses with swimming pools. It is also possible to find detached, single-family homes in this area. It has all the essential commercial and public services. Esplugues is home to the American and Ger- man schools and is thus very popular with German and American residents.

Its castle was built in the Middle Ages, as well as the towers of the original city wall, which can be found today in the city centre. Castelldefels is 20 minutes away from the city centre and 10 minutes from the airport, taking either the C or the A motorways. The public transporta- tion system is excellent, with both buses and trains to Barcelona leaving every 20 minutes from several locations throughout the area.

Bordered by a mile-long sandy beach to the east and hills to the west, Castelldefels has a mild climate. A favourite spot for tourists, it has many restaurants serving a variety of cuisines and a number of good hotels. Castelldefels is attractive to people who like living near the sea and to families whose children go to the British school, which is located in the area. It is one of the biggest municipalities in the Baix Llobregat area. It is located 15 kilometres from Barcelona and 10 kilome- tres from the international airport, and can be reached by bus, train and car.

It is connected to Barcelona by the C and C motorways.

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Sitges, a city about 35 kilometres south- west of Barcelona, is a very popular tourist destination. It is known worldwide for its beaches, nightspots and historical sites, as well as its annual Film Festival and Carnival. Its strategic location and excellent transport links to the city allows many of its residents to live in Sant Cugat and work in Barcelona. Although it has grown in size and population, Sant Cugat has managed to preserve the essence of a quiet town, and its residents enjoy a high quality of life.

Sitges Here it is also possible to find de- tached, single-family homes. Sant Cugat has different residential areas, all well connected to each other and the city centre by buses and FGC stations. In all these zones you can find flats with communal areas and to a lesser extent ter- raced houses. Other residential areas include Valldoreix and Mirasol, which were originally sum- mer vacation destinations of Barcelona residents.