Vi at Aventura resident Barbara Margalef always dreamed of being an ambassador. “I loved geography class in school, and the more I learned about other countries, the more excited I got,” she said.
Her love of travel began at an early age when her father would take the family yachting in Bermuda each summer. “It was a very international place and I just loved meeting people from all over the world.”
But it was a family trip to Montreal that changed her life. There, she was immersed in the French language, and fell in love with it. “I thought it was such a sophisticated language.”
Studying Abroad in France
Barbara studied French at the Beard School in Morristown, N.J., and jumped at the chance to spend a summer in France at the University of Grenoble’s Interpreter School; the same school that Jackie Kennedy attended. “My parents told me if it was good enough for her, it would be good enough for me!” Margalef said.
She returned home to attend Bennett College in Millbrook, N.Y., majoring in Political Science and French, and then enrolled in the French literature program at Vassar College to study masters like Proust and Flaubert. Bennett also offered a Third Year Abroad program, and once again Barbara seized the opportunity to live in France -- this time in Paris.
A Poetic Life in Paris
Barbara’s life in Paris was like something out of a story book. She found a little flat near the Bois de Boulogne, dated dashing young Frenchmen, and drove her MG around the arrondissements. “I felt so international!”
Barbara lived out her dream by working for U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Bohlen through France Etats-Unis, an organization that promotes friendship and understanding between the people of France and the United States.
Through France Etats-Unis, she often worked events at the American Cathedral -- a hub of cultural and social activity in Paris. One evening she was privileged to coordinate a concert for legendary singer and entertainer Maurice Chevalier. “He was so debonair,” Barbara recalled. “I never met anyone with so much personality and charm.”
When she wasn’t working, Barbara’s favorite thing to do was to sit in a café in the Left Bank and watch all the interesting people go by. “Oh, it was so colorful!” she says, reminiscing.
Fate Leads to a Marriage in Mexico
After that life-changing experience in Paris, Barbara entered the workforce -- but her desire to travel never waned. In 1964, while living in New York, Barbara planned a trip to Acapulco with her mother, Marion Fisher. But when Marion became ill, Barbara decided to take the trip alone.
“I still wanted to go on the trip, so I decided to go solo,” she said. “As fate would have it, the seat next to me that would have been my mother’s was occupied by the man who would become my husband!”
That man was Mexico City native Jaime Margalef. The two dated long-distance for a year and a half before Barbara moved to Mexico City and they were married.
“It was so exciting — we went to shows, parties, and bullfights,” she said. Barbara, once again, had the opportunity to see Maurice Chevalier in concert — his very last show. While in Mexico, Barbara became fluent in Spanish and was a proud member of El Mexicanito, the equivalent of the American Junior League.
Discovering a New World in Retirement
Barbara and Jaime were married for 20 years and had two beautiful daughters before separating. In 1998, Barbara returned to New York to help her mother recover from hip surgery. While in New York, she decided to embark on a career in real estate, and like most of her endeavors, Barbara became quite successful. But the cold winters became burdensome, and in 2011 she and her chihuahua Minnie moved to Bal Harbour, Fla.
Five years later, Margalef decided it was time to downsize again and in February 2016, she and Minnie moved to Vi at Aventura. At Vi, Barbara was finally able to fulfill her dream of becoming an ambassador -- to new Vi residents.
“I’m fluent in Spanish and have enjoyed giving a warm welcome to our prospective Hispanic residents,” she said. “Being a resident ambassador has allowed me the chance to get to know future and prospective residents and let them know about our community.”
When she’s not socializing with residents, Barbara enjoys painting abstract acrylic art. “After you’ve been a controlled artist, it’s difficult to just let the brush go wild, but it’s really fun!” she said. “The nice thing about retirement is you’re finally able to do things that you always wanted to do because you have the time to do them. Doing new things -- it opens up a whole new world!”