Rebecca Smith Every Friday afternoon on El Punt Avui TV Nicole has a 20 minute chat with an English speaking expatriate who lives in Catalonia. Here is the conversation with Rebecca Smith.
Welcome Rebecca, a very British sounding name, where are you originally from?
I am from Doncaster in Yorkshire, in the North East of England. It has an industrial background but once you get out into the countryside it is green and beautiful.
And now you live in Catalonia, where abouts?
I live right in the city centre of Barcelona. And have been here for about ten years now.
How did you discover Catalonia?
I guess you could say Catalonia discovered me! Once I left university I lived and worked in New York for a good number of years. I met my husband there, but we were getting increasingly frustrated with the rat race and we were looking for a way out. An opportunity came my way, so we jumped at it but it meant a relocation back to Yorkshire. So we were in Yorkshire for a year and his parents were on holiday from America in Spain. As it was easy from the UK for us to go and see them in Spain, we went and met them in Barcelona. Had a great weekend, stayed in a nice hotel, in the best part of town.
Was it love at first sight?!
Yes it was!! We were absolutely spoilt with the experience! And then on the third morning we both got up, looked at each other and said – ‘Are you thinking what I am thinking?'
Really? One weekend, that is all it took for you to make you want to live here!
Yes, but we decided, let's not be foolish about this. Let's come back, stay in the worst part of town, not do the fancy version of Barcelona, let's do the everyday version. So the first time we experienced the highlights and then the second time we experienced everyday life. And we still loved it and thought, this is the place. There is something about it, it got under our skin.
Your business runs from home, so it was easy for you to move from the UK to Barcelona?
Exactly, yes. We help British customers buy their gas and electricity. We run it all online. So we just needed a place with high-speed internet connection.
Three months of the year you hop over to Maine?
We have a slice of America every summer. It is a complete change, I feel like I have a double existence. Here it is city life, I barely use my car. But when we go to Maine, it is in the middle of nowhere. There are probably more wild animals than neighbours. I feel very fortunate to have both aspects in my life.
You are a very keen sportswoman...Ironman is your thing. It is being here that started it all for you?
For the last five or six years, yes. Oh yes, Barcelona is definitely to blame! I have always been sporty, but in England it is hockey, netball, tennis that are the classic sports. When I came to Barcelona I joined a running group. It was a great way to meet people and get to know locals. So I learnt my Spanish and Catalan while running. Some of my first words were all about intervals and training!
So what fuelled the long distance racing for you?
I watched a friend do a triathlon here and I think she came last in her very first race but she had the biggest smile on her face. I thought if she feels like that crossing the line maybe it is something I should try.
Was your first triathlon here?
Yes, in the direction of Sitges. I was not fast, it was not pretty! And I finished towards the back of the group. I remember stopping for water and they had run out so they offered me a bottle of wine! I thought, this sport is great! All my friends from the running group were looking for new challenges, so we all decided to try it together.
Every year you and your husband do an Ironman. Which was the last one your did?
We competed in the Ironman in Nice at the beginning of the summer (2014). It was brutal, the swim was fantastic but while on the bike, the heavens opened and I was so cold. I was wrapped in foil and a plastic bag to keep warm, while riding! It was a long event but I feel very proud to have done it.
When you train do you get out of the city or ride your bike from Barcelona?
No, I need danger money to ride my bike in Barcelona, we tend to drive out of the city. Thankfully on my bike I have discovered more of Catalonia than I have done in my car. You go slower and appreciate the beauty. And talk about beauty, there is everything from the coastline to the vineyards to the mountains.
Which direction do you tend to head off in?
One of my favourite spots to visit is the Penedès Region. It is 40 minutes by car from Barcelona and there you have uninterrupted roads to ride on. The scenery is amazing, I just love it.
Can you give me three top tips to anyone coming to live in Barcelona.
Catalonia has so much more to it than just Barcelona. Explore! I love the Penedès, Girona region the Garrotxa and many more. And my final tip would be to not let the lack of the language stop you. If you show an interest in Catalonia, the people here are very welcoming.