Going to school
Less than a year and a half after arriving in Barcelona, we are moving again! This time just up the hill to Vallvidrera but for all the stress we’ve endured over making the decision, you’d think we were moving to Hong Kong. For those of you who do not know what or where Vallvidrera is, it’s just at the top of the funicular in the Colserolla National Park. It has one supermarket, one pharmacy and a lightbulb store. It’s pretty but let’s face it, it’s not exactly a hotbed of fun and excitement unless you love mountain biking and/or wild boars (and sadly I am not a big fan of either).
So why are we moving there? Well, as I’m sure you all know, one of the most difficult things about moving to a new city when you have kids, is choosing a neighborhood in which there is a good school for your children. To start with, unless you already know the city well (and I didn’t), your mental geography of the place is probably hazy at best. “There’s a beach somewhere right? And maybe some mountains? Oh, and a big funny looking church that looks like something out of Star Wars...” How can you choose a neighborhood to live in, let alone a school for your children, when this is all you know about a city and you still can’t even pronounce the word 'Eixample'?
The difficulty is compounded by the fact that in Barcelona, there is every possibility of not getting a spot in a nearby school (or not finding any of the nearby schools to your liking) and therefore being obligated to haul your kids all over creation just to get them to and from their places of learning.
Many of us are lucky and find great schools within walking distance of our new homes. Others (and I am referring very directly to myself here), are not so lucky. We did find a great apartment in a great neighborhood when we moved here, and we did find a great school. The unfortunate part of the equation is that getting from one to the other involves 20 minutes of walking, a train ride and a funicular. A total of 45 minutes commute each way.
I know that we are not the only ones who make such a trek. I know it because every morning we squeeze ourselves onto the 'tren escolar', a train that leaves Plaça Catalunya’s Ferrocarill station every day at exactly 8.15am. The train then proceeds to make all stops along the S1 and S2 lines, picking up hordes of rowdy young children, school monitors and parents, the boys crowding three into a seat, many of them looking like young executives (albeit, extremely rumpled young executives in short trousers) in their blazers, neck ties and leather penny loafers.
For many schoolchildren and their parents in Barcelona, the morning ride on the tren escolar is just a part of daily life in the city. I know it sounds like a dream, something you all are wishing you could experience as well, but you know what? I’m getting really tired of the tren escolar. So that, my friends, is why we are moving to Vallvidrera— so that my kids can walk to school and so that I will no longer have to endure having my face squashed between seat dividers and hundreds of Barça backpacks on a regular basis.
I realize that it all sounds a bit crazy. Why didn’t we just move to Vallvidrera in the first place? Or why didn’t we find a school just a teeny bit closer to home? Well the truth is, that like many people when they first move to a new city, we just didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We made some logistical errors and now we are trying to remedy them. Sacrifices are involved. Sacrifices involving stuffy trains and possibly wild boars. But I suspect that you have all made your own sacrifices in your choices of where to live and where to send your children to school. What has been your experience in finding a good school within walking distance of your home?