El Rastro

El Rastro is said to be the largest out door market in Europe. It opens from 8am – 3pm on a Sunday and is located between the La Latina and Tirso de Molina. It is another of my must see, must visit places in Madrid. You can get absolutely anything here, clothes, hand made jewelery, trinkets, art, furniture, comic, hardware, games, toys, music that will forever remind you of your time in Madrid and fill you will warm thoughts. It is a mixture of new, crafty things and a flea market. You can get anything that your heart desires.

Some quick tips:
1) Watch out for woodworm. From what I have been told. Wood worm is something that effects a lot of antique wood products and if you get it in your home, you are in a little bit of trouble. However I am sure that they get rid of it before they sell a product.

2) Keep your hand on your valuables, this is a pick pockets favourite way to spend the day. All those new, excited tourists with lost of cash on them.

In the 17th an 18th century El Rastro was a huge meat market which is where it gets its name from. El Rastro means Blood Stain and refers to the blood stains of the animals sold there. However it is now safe to say that none of that kind of thing happens there these days. Just streets and street filled with stalls and people.

All this shopping is bound to make you hungry and what an amazing place to be when you are hungry. The tradition when visiting El Rastro is to go for caracoles (snails). I suggest visiting the bar aptly named caracoles located near the top of the market very close by to La Latina station, sitting at the bar and ordering a portion. They are in a ever so slightly spicy in a kinda tomato sauce and are soo tasty if a little scary looking but you will just have to get over that.

Another Fantastic place to eat is at El Capricho Extremeno. This is located at the very bottom of the market I wish I could tell you the street. I will find out and edit my blog later. However you could just look for the huge queue and wait in it, it is bound to be for this tasty shop. They sell bread with just about any Spanish tapas topping you could ever wish for. For just 2€ each!! It is well worth the wait, the food is sensational and there is a real family ambiance about the place that makes you feel like you are eating fresh traditional Spanish home made food. (Which you are). I recommend the pulpo (Octipus) and the Tortilla (Spanish omelet) These are my favourite ones, but they have so much to chose from. If you visit you have to be prepared for a wait and to be assertive otherwise you will end up being there for a while.Try to get there early or you might miss out on some of the food. It is so popular that they run out of the best stuff fast.

And if you are still hungry after all this food or need to rest your feet. The traditional thing to do after El Rastro is finished, is to sit at a bar in La Latina and have a Cana with some Tapas. A very good way to spend a day. 🙂

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What to do on a cold Saturday Afternoon in Madrid?

On Saturday Morning I woke up late as I didn’t have class. The flat was cold as the heating is broken (just my luck). So I sat on the sofa wrapped up in a duvet, talking with some of my dear friends online and contemplating on what I should do with the rest of my day.

I decided on a day of culture. Madrid is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon (or in-fact a whole day) wondering around art galleries plus they have times when they are free to enter!! YES FREE, my favourite price! So this is what I did.

First I went to the Reina Sofia which is FREE all day on a Saturday. I like the museum because it houses one of the most amazing paintings I have ever seen in real life. The Guernica by Picasso. Now I have seen this piece of art on post cards, in books, as prints in peoples homes and never really appreciated it as much as when I saw it in real life. It is so amazing and nothing quite prepares you for the size and the greatness of this piece. I once read in a comic a fictional quote made up by the writer of the comic it went like this. (yes I admit it, I am a geek and I read comics)

Un aleman le dice a Picasso, delante del Guernica:

Usted Hizo esto?
-No, fue usted.

After reading this very clever and thought provoking quote and seeing the Guernica it just made me think about what the war must have been like to be in the middle of, and how even now, we carry on fighting and destroying peoples lives. It’s a really upsetting thought and I wish we could learn from the past. The painting brings out so much emotion, plus, every time you look at it, you discover something new. If you have never seen it, please, please, please take time out to visit it. No matter how many times I have see it, it never fails to amaze me.

Anyway I never really spend all day in this museum, even though you could and if you like modern art I am sure you will. This museum reminds me of the Tate Modern in London. Its a mixture of amazing pieces and pieces I don’t really understand, but thats not to say they aren’t great. This museum has also got a lovely garden which in summer you can go hang out in with friends, a see through lift that never fails to leave my heart in my mouth and the building its self is an amazing piece of arcitecture which if you stand at the top of you can see the view of Madrid for miles.

The next stop was the Prado. Which between the hours of 6-7:30pm on the days Thursday to Saturday, it is FREEEE! You might have to fight in a queue for a while, but it soon moves and is very worth it!! This Museum is one of my favourites. It is beautifully laid out. The exhibitions are truly breath taking and it is a fantastic place for people watching and sketching. The paintings and statues are very fine art and very old but are amazing. I just discovered a love for Goya. I never really looked properly at his work and it’s another artist you don’t really appreciate it until you see their work in real life. His use of colour is just spectacular.

Anyway, this blog post ended up longer than I had expected, sorry for that. I will leave you with some phones of my day. Hope I have inspired you to go check out some amazing pieces of art. It would be a great shame to visit Madrid and not check these out.

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To the future

Good afternoon, yes it is me and I am back! I have been neglecting my blog for a while now and I feel that its time to get back to it. Let me fill you all in on what has been happening in my life so far.

Well I have recently split up from my boyfriend of 4 years whom I moved to Madrid with. Now this was very hard, very hard indeed! I think it was a mixture between not having a permanent job, being away from my friends and family and trying to adjust to a new environment. But those were just on the surface and I guess it was just not meant to be.

So I was now left on my own in Madrid, not many friends, no family, cant speak the lingo very well… I decided I was going home. I checked flights, I arranged pick ups from the airport. I was set on going home. I was distraught and angry and I just wanted to be at home. But I didn’t book that flight, don’t ask me why, I just didn’t. I carried on with work and just with life in general. I began to think past the sadness which made me think about my own life and what I wanted. I did my classes with my students that are just perfect and enjoy learning, I walked past the shops, looked at the beautiful buildings and the awesome culture and watched people from afar…Why was I going home again?

What would I do at home? I would have to wait until September to start a teaching job in England. Yes my amazing friends and family are out there, but they can also come visit me here. Its cold there, and yes it is cold here too but not as cold as home. I decided I must stay!! I felt a relief that I had finally taken charge of my life and made decisions for myself. I feel empowered now that I now know where I am going in life and what I want to do, and I am happy with my decision to stay and enjoy this marvelous city. 🙂

I must end this blog post with some thank you’s. I would just like to say a huge thank you to my ex boyfriend who gave me the opportunity to be here and have these awesome experiences and I want to thank his wonderful family for doing everything they have done to help me out (and its a lot). They are truly fantastic people and I am happy that I had the chance to have them in my life.

To the future, and what great things it will bring for me and all of you. 🙂

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Street Art

Street Art has always interested me. I have this love hate relationship with it. On one hand, it is vibrant, clever, it shows talent, it brightens up boring day to day life and it gives character to dull streets. For me, one of the reason why I love Madrid, is for the little treasures (as I like to think of them) that you find when you are walking around Madrid. If you look really hard you can find really small ones and it makes you feel like you are part of a private joke.

A lot of the time they are also a very clever way to bring peoples attention to current world affairs and they challenge the decisions that our leaders make for us. A great example of this is Banksy. If you are not familiar with him or his work please google the name and check it out. I think you will either love or hate him. I love it, I am a huge fan.

Shop owners also allow people to spray their shop shutters so that they don’t just get people coming along and spraying horrible, talentless things onto them. I think it makes them look good too. This nicely brings me on to the other side of this argument and why I sometimes hate it. The people that do just come along and spray “tags” onto shop fronts, bus stops, walls and often peoples doors! Why do people think that it is OK, just to do something like this to someone? So here is my dilemma… what is the difference between the two? What makes one right, and one wrong? And who decides that one is someone expressing themselves through art and the other is just pure vandalism. I mean, its not fair if someone loves to do street art and they are not very good at it.

I don’t really have a conclusion to this dilemma, only that I guess there should be designated space for people to do street art if they wish. Then this would take the spontaneity and character out of it. Who Knows! I bet I would quickly make up my mind if I had paid a lot of money for a property and someone came along and painted up the side of it regardless of whether it was a master piece or not!
Oh well, I will continue to walk around Madrid and be in owe of the talent that is around. Below are some photos of some street art that I have discovered. Some is obviously meant to be there others kindly added by talented artists!

graffiti
Street Art
Street Art2Street Art3
Street Art5StreetArt4

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The feeling of experiencing new for the first time.

Storm In Madrid

Storm In Madrid

Do you remember when you were really little and you experienced something for the first time? Life was such an adventure! Being an adult means that sometimes it take a little more to experience that same feeling. However, moving to Madrid has given me the opportunity to feel like a child again (I guess not that I stopped). I am constantly walking around, saying words like a child learning to speak for the first time would do. I feel great achievement when I have a conversation for the first time in Spanish to someone. I watch TV only really understanding little bits. I am completely new to this language and so the world seems a slightly confusing and frustrating place to me right now, but I love it!!

Now, what got me thinking about this was the Storm Madrid had on Wednesday night. The sky turned an almost orange/grey colour. The lighting was hard and frequent, and lit up the sky like a firework. I count…1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi…Crash!!! (It was close by). The air smelt warm and dusty. The huge raindrops falling and hitting the trees made a rustling sound. I was like an excitable child. I was running around my flat, wanting to see the lighting from different angles. It was so exhilarating! I got goose bumps! It felt like my first ever storm and I loved it!

I was soon brought back to adulthood, when the rain started to leak through the wooden windows of the flat. I had to get towels to mop up the rain and to try and stop it leaking in through the bottom of the window ledge. (A quick tip for those thinking of buying a flat here in Madrid. The windows are old in some flats, so make sure you look at the windows to see if they have a seal or better still get plastic ones, however it doesn’t rain much). Once the rain had calmed down I got into bed to watch the remainder of the storm through the skylight and regressed back into feeling like I was seeing this all for the first time! Its a great feeling.

To all of you out there that feel you need a little excitement in your lives, I propose packing up your things and leaving the home comforts of your country and embarking on an adventure. You will begin to appreciate the small things in life a lot more. 🙂

I now can add my pictures!!! I got a card reader so now my blog will look prettier!

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Useful Knowledge about Madrid!

I am currently sat in a cafe, checking my emails and surfing the web with a cup of coffee on a Monday Evening. I look outside and I can’t believe my luck. I NOW LIVE IN MADRID!! How lucky am I? I should be pretty quick as my battery is dying, is it cheeky for me to plug it into the power point? Hmm I might try it! (I wonder how I say “can I plug this in” in Spanish?

Anyway let me tell you a little about my almost two weeks of being here! I should start with what I have discovered that I never knew about Madrid. Well my first thing is that it is so difficult to fresh milk here!!! Yes, I was outraged when I found this out. I was all up for getting back on the plane, until it was pointed out to me that I am in the centre of a big country with not many grassy areas for cows to graze and its very warm. I will forgive Madrid this time 😉 UHT milk takes its getting used to. It is quite an acquired taste I assure you. Tastes good in coffee though!

The second thing is that It is illegal to drink on the streets of Madrid even though you see lots of people doing it! I know this through first hand experience and luckily I managed to escape, however some of the people I was with weren’t so lucky! If you are caught they will take some form of identity and give you a ticket. Now they only process 20% of these tickets, however if you are one of the unlucky ones, for your first offense they make you sit in a 3 hour lecture about why you should not drink on the streets. If you are caught a second time then its a €300 fine… very steep! Not sure that it is worth it! However you could be lucky and you might never get caught! Just keep this in mind if you choose to partake in a little ‘Botellon’ as the Spanish call it.

The third thing is that the huge fee you have to pay if you choose to be self employed in Spain. Now you might wonder why you would want to do this. Well If you move over to be an English Teacher, many companies will ask you to register as self employed. This saves the company money as they don’t have to pay your national security, plus if they can’t get you work then they don’t have to pay for your time when you are not working. However you still have to pay your social security even if you don’t have work. Its a little catch 22 really. Anyway the fee is €183 if you are under 30 and €249 if you are over 30 years old. On top of this you have to pay 15% tax which isn’t bad but combined it is a huge chunk of your wage. I know this because I have been employed by a teaching school but I can only work for them as self employed. I only found out about the fee once I got out here…Sneaky, sneaky! However If you are reading this and are a native English speaker, don’t be put off as there are many schools and colleges that will employ you and give you a contract so that you only pay 15 %

Its still warm and light outside, I might go for a walk before food! I have to be careful now with money as I have to last until next month to get paid again! Lots of walks I think. I don’t think I will be doing the cheap option of drinking outside anytime soon!

Adios!

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Packing Traumas

So I know that packing is not an easy thing. I was never under any illusion that it would be, but seriously? OH MY GOODNESS, ITS STRESSFUL!  You see, when I am packing for a holiday I don’t try to stuff things in, I am quiet a sensible packer. Now packing to move is sooo different. I was kindly introduced to my new nemesis…baggage weight! I had to fit everything I wanted to take in a 15 kg bag and hand luggage bag that could be no heavier than 10 kg. Now you might say, ‘Why complain you have 25 kg altogether surely that is enough?’ Well when you have a laptop that with its case weighed 5 kg and the suitcase weighed 2 kg I didn’t have much room for anything else.

Now after my boyfriends skillful packing I got the clothes in that I wanted, even though there may have been some tantrums about why I needed 11 dresses, ‘that much make up’ and ‘that many books’. It was finally done and all the bags weighed the right amount. ‘Phew’ I thought.

Then I saw it, how could I have forgotten such an important thing in my life…My DSLR Camera that is usually fixed to my face. Ok, this Camera only weighs 1.5 kg I can fit it in, can’t I? Nope sorry, I was told. Maybe I could get it at Christmas? I thought about it for a millisecond and stopped. Why on earth was I contemplating this? This camera was coming with me! My first thought was to put it around my neck, then I was told it would be classed as hand luggage, I may have to pay an extra £30 for it! This was the last straw, my stress manifested itself into rage. ‘Take my clothes out I screamed! I don’t need clothes!’ In-fact, do I need my laptop, take it out, take it out? I had turned into a crazed woman and that camera was coming with me! Now I guess I could be excused by the fact that it was 1 am in the morning and we were traveling the next day at 8. We had been packing for two days, and previous to that I had thrown or let behind most of my things. Towards the end of trying everything, nothing worked, everything was so tightly packed. We decided that we would just slip it into my hand luggage and deal with it at the airport, if and when the time comes…and it didn’t. They never even weighed my suitcase.

I am so thankful for my boyfriends patience and understanding. I don’t think that I would have been in such a lovely place if he hadn’t have just let me be a pain and did everything he possibly could to help me. I am not usually this high maintenance…Well not always. 😉

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