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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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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!

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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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Hello Madrid!

Hello again, I have not written in a long time due to traveling around to visit family and friends and packing up my life in England. My life is now officially in my best friend basement (a slightly morbid thought). During the days leading up to the move to Madrid, I experienced so many bad emotions, that at one point I had to question; – “Was it really worth it?”

These emotions were, sadness that I was leaving my family and friends, anxiety about if I was going to have enough money to survive. Fear that I would not like it. Stress from packing my life up, putting a third of my clothes in my friends basement and throwing a third away (eek, trust me, this was a high stress time!) However, when it came down to it, all these bad emotions were out-weighted by the excitement and the desire to experience something new…and I am glad that I have done so!

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