Home » Madrid: Ex-pat Experiences & Thoughts » One Year In Madrid

One Year In Madrid


Well, as it is coming up to my one year anniversary in the capital of Spain I thought I’d do a sort of recap of my time here that would also include some of the things I have learnt and my favourite places.

I am certain I have previously mentioned that I had visited Madrid about 3 times previous to officially moving here, so it was somewhat familiar to me. Yet, until you live in a place you never really know it, but upon writing that I know that I don’t know everything there is know about Madrid still!!! Life to me is a constant learning curve, so I always enjoy discovering something new, whether that is a word, a place or a shop!

I can say being here has been the best experience. I feel privileged that I have been provided with this ‘path’ to take in my life, as it was sorely needed. Somewhere someone had to be looking out for me, and I strongly believe that!

Concise Recap Of A Year:

I have learnt a language, and am still learning it. I have become familiar with a great city and feel at home here. I have met lots of people and made friends (I have 3 really good friends here, and in a city I think that is good going). I have a really good social life, and access to so many varied avenues of entertainment; even watching plays and musicals in Spanish has been great (though at first I doubted it could be)! I have been to so many places since moving here; the first 6 months was hectic!!! I have ticked off some of my ‘to do’s’ on my ‘bucket list’ and have more to also look forward to experiencing, such as a trip to Rome in December!!!!!! So excited about that!!!!

The advertisement for Grease, we went to see it in the summer at a theatre on Gran Via.

I have written about initial experiences in this post. You can read it to get more of a background of Madrid as a city:The Real Madrid Experience

A Change Of Scene:

I have even experienced the health care here. I don’t know whether I have written about my one and only (crossed fingers and hope I need never go again), hospital visit?? Again, I was lucky to have two Doctors and a nurse who spoke and understood English! I can’t fault the health care I had; it was as good as it gets when you’re ill and in need.

On Friday, I also finally managed to officially register to receive health care here!! A big YIPPEEE!!! It has been a long time in the waiting (a year nearly). From this I will then be able to have a Doctor at one of the Medical Centres here, and a Dentist. This does concern me though please me simultaneously; as there is no way my Spanish is ready to be tested to the extent of medical terminology! Another hurdle I may one day need to cross or hopefully not!

All in all I reflect back upon this year and feel proud of my achievements. Just being here is quite crazy! Since I was a little girl I hoped to be able to move away from the UK, but as I finished University and then began pursuing my career I doubted it would happen. Yet, 2011 was when the final change required occurred; for about 2 years previous I felt there would be a massive change, though I didn’t know what form that change would adopt. After a long time feeling as though my life was plunging into an abyss (dramatic but true), I am finally in the light again. I cannot be thankful enough for this opportunity and change.

I feel being in Madrid has made a positive impact and me and my life. I was taken from a bad setting where I felt there was nothing left, to something where there is always more.

Places I Love To Be:

OK, so Madrid has so much to offer and it isn’t always the hustle and bustle of city life that makes me love living here. I have read some reviews from tourists who criticise Madrid for not being very pretty, but I want to say that if they believe that is the case then they weren’t looking at the city properly, and didn’t get to know it well enough to comment!

So, I want to share some of my favourite places to be and to go to in the city, and the reasons why of course! These are the places that make this city great to me!

The Best View:

Best view of the city for me has to be the vista from the top of the Cathedral De Santa Maria La Real De La Almudena. This Cathedral adjoins the courtyard of the Palacio Real de Madrid, which is a stunning part of Madrid anyway! I remember visiting the Cathedral one morning and being the only person standing up there, accompanied only by the statues of the Saints. My stone companions and I were gazing out over the vast city beyond, and it was quite magical to be honest. In that moment it was the most tranquil setting, which induced the same effect onto me too. The view of the city and surrounding areas is fabulous, and cannot really be rivalled in my opinion mainly because of that perfect setting.

Part of the view from the Cathedral

 The Best Architecture:

I’m not a religious person, but the many churches of Madrid are architecturally beautiful and I would urge anyone to pay them a visit. The internal décor too is something quite exquisite, and there is always something about a church that instils awe within me. If there is a service being held too, this is the perfect time to go in and feel the atmosphere. In every city I have ever visited I always go to one of their churches, they are after all a significant part of any countries history. The Cathedral De Santa Maria is beautiful, but there are others also that I love; San Manuel y San Benito near Parque del Retiro, Monasterio De La Encarnacion near Opera, and San Jeronimo El real opposite Museo del Prado.

San Manuel y San Benito

The Best Open Space:

The best open space in Madrid has to be Parque del Retiro. Maybe I am biased as I live very near to it! What I was surprised at when I first visited was that there was a map giving directions, I didn’t realise how vast the place was! It is made up of walk ways, or avenues which are individually named. This park used to be part of the grounds of the original royal palace, and the grandness still lingers on.

Why I love Retiro Park so much is that there you can cycle, skate, skateboard, jog, run and even dance! It makes no difference whether it is dark or light! They also hold yoga, dance, jogging and skating classes, which you can join if you feel like having some company!

It is possible to hire a bike for next to nothing and just spend the day in the park, which we have done and I thoroughly enjoyed it as it added an extra dimension of exploration and I just felt somehow freer! There is also an outdoor gym, which is the best place in Madrid to see ‘Tableta de Chocolate’ or six packs!!! My British friends fell in love with this place in the summer! Ladies be warned!

There is a boating lake, and I have become quite proficient in rowing! I love it, in the summer it is wonderful, and it is great fun. I also love the huge monuments and colonnade to one side of the lake. It is a great place to sit and relax, read, write or even cycle through!

The Colonnade at Retiro Boating Lake

Also in the park there are many ‘wild’ domesticated cats that roam around with the cutest kittens ever! The park is also home to the red Squirrels, and they are not shy, in fact they are quite happy to pose for pictures. This summer we also saw a beautiful black swan, and I don’t think I have ever seen one before.

There is a smaller lake too where the Palacio de Cristal is situated. A lovely building to look at, in houses exhibitions too, but they aren’t worth the visit, yet the building makes up for any disappointment.

There are places to eat, drink and chill out within the park. We usually take a picnic and just sit at the many benches or on the grass areas. Local people also have parties and BBQ’s in the grounds, which is my plan for next summer!

There are also buskers, performance acts, art and photographic exhibitions, markets and anything in between! The park is a hive of activity and a community all on its own. I love being there!

A Statue To Just Admire:

This brings me to my favourite statue in Madrid.  El Angel Caído, or The Fallen Angel. Now I’m not going into too much detail about this yet, as I want to do a separate post dedicated to this statue. All I will say is my first visit to the park was a ‘pilgrimage’ to see this very statue for myself, as I love all things strange and spooky!

Down At The River:

Another great outdoor space which I enjoy cycling in is the Madrid Rio. It is a 10k stretch of park that runs alongside the Manzanares River and offers lots of recreational activities such as; tennis, rock climbing, a skate park and so on. I hire my bike from a rental store just off the River side, it is quite cheap too. People don’t just come here to be active though, in the summer months they also sunbathe close to the River, and they cool down by going into the many water fountains. It is known as ‘the Madrid beach’ because of this! It’s busy in the summer and for me not quite as charming as Retiro Park, but it has some places great little places of interest such as; Puente del Rey Bridge, Virgen del Puerto Chapel, Puente de Segovia bridge and Puente de Toledo Bridge, and the view of the Royal Palace is lovely.

View of Madrid ‘Rio’

The Most Novel Experience:

Another activity I think is a little novel for Madrid is the Teleferico, which are cable cars that run from Templo de Debod to Casa de Campo. They are an alternative, but more expensive travel option to the Campo area, but I used them just so I could again see Madrid from another perspective! The views are great, but to me it was more the oddity of being suspended in the air and travelling over Madrid that I enjoyed the most. Funnily enough it is quite tranquil too, although if you weren’t keen on heights you wouldn’t think so!

A hazy view of the Royal Palace taken from inside the cable cars.

The Coolest Little Café:

The coolest décor of any restaurant / café has to be Le Jardin Secreto on Calle de San Bernardino. This is why I love the place as it is just what is says it is, the secret garden, or an Alice in Wonderland experience. I love it there; it is quite magical and almost, romantic? I know it is an odd description to attach to a restaurant, but I just like how the place makes me feel. Even the tea things are mismatched and something fit for the Mad Hatter’s tea party, it is all a little bit fairytale!

They also offer a fabulous and wide list of drinks; over 25 varieties of hot chocolate, coffees, teas, cocktails alcoholic or not, wines, spirits and beers. Also they have deserts and cooked food. It is a small place though, but that doesn’t bother me so much as the interior has me hooked! It does become busy, very busy. We were last seated in one of the window nooks, and it was like being in our own little secret garden! I ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail made up with ice cream; delicious!

I would suggest arriving there early though, for 6:00, and if you do ever visit there and think a weekend would be a good idea, again get there early or make a reservation!

El Jardin Secreto; looks far more magical at night though!

My Favourite Cocktail:

The strangest cocktail I have tasted, and therefore it has to be my favourite is Leche de Pantera at the club of the same name in Moncloa. It is expensive cocktail, but it is roughly half a litre of alcohol, which is the oddest shade of green I have ever seen! Can’t describe the taste really, it is an odd mix of cinnamon and eggnog??

The Place To Find Anything:

The coolest shop I have found where it is possible to buy almost anything is Tiger. The one on Calle de Fuencarral near Bilboa Metro Station is my favourite because it is spread over two levels, yeh, more things to see and buy!

For those of you who don’t know this chain of shops they sell goods cheaply. Anything from art canvasses, paints, paint brushes, hair accessories, household goods, foods, wool, hats, glasses, candles; as I said anything really! I enjoy just browsing to see what items they have, but I can never leave there without buying something! This was the first place in Madrid I found dried chillies!

The Must See Market:

The best market in Madrid, well, it has to be Mercado San Miguel near Plaza Mayor. Although I have written a post which stated that this market it is on the tourist trail Foodie Heaven it is a must see whilst in Madrid, and is a thoroughly enjoyable place to be to feel the city’s true vibe. What I love about this place is the atmosphere, which cannot be rivalled as it is simply crazy!

I love browsing the stalls, sampling the food and having a drink. I just like to be there, even for 30 minutes or so to absorb the scene. It is busy, crazy, manic, and somewhat expensive and you’ll be lucky to ever get a seat to relax in, but it is worth spending some time and money just to be there. I usually get a little fidgety and begin feeling claustrophobic after the 30 minutes is up, as it is so packed in there, yet, you will never get bored!

My Favourite Stations:

My favourite metro station in Madrid is Goya, I love looking at every framed drawing of the said artist upon the walls. Doesn’t matter how many times I have been there, I still look at the drawings and think cool. Yet, Atocha train Station is my other favourite as it houses a whole garden, with trees and water features neatly installed. They even have live turtles and terrapins. It’s not like any train station I have ever visited before, so strangely subterranean!

The Best Museum:

My favourite museum to visit in the city is the Museo Romántico on Calle San Mateo. This is the closet thing I have found to the stately homes, manor houses and castles of the UK. I love it there, and am quite happy spending a few hours wandering about the rooms, lost in my own mind imagining what life would have been like living there in the 18th century.

This museum is dedicated to displaying a complete environment of how life was for the family who owned the house. The art is not static, like in any other museum in Madrid, but part and parcel of how the house would no doubt have looked during the time it was occupied. As I said it is like a stately home of the UK, but on a smaller scale. This is why I like it so much as the objects have a place, are in their proper context. It is interesting to see it and better than any modern art installation.

Inside The Romantic Museum

My Favourite Club:

My favourite club to visit at the weekends has to be Café Central. The atmosphere is so cool and relaxed and the live music is great. It doesn’t matter to me who are playing as they never disappoint. I get there 9:00 to ensure I get a seat! I like to be near the band, so early is good for me, as I don’t want to be standing up all night! The service here is great too, so I don’t ever have to leave my seat for food or drinks, and that aids the enjoyment of the music.

To me this club is like a quintessential 1920’s ‘joint’; there is just something about the place that makes we want to be there. It is situated off the Plaza Santa Ana too, which is a great place to eat and drink in Madrid anyway as the night-life is so lively.

A Night-time at Cafe Central when we went to see Lluis Coloma Trio

The Best Place To Clothes Shop:

My favourite place to shop for clothes is the vintage stores of Malasaña. I have written a post about this previously, so if you have read it then you will know how much I enjoy the variety and uniqueness these stores have to offer. If you haven’t then take a look as this will give you more information on vintage shopping in Madrid: The Jewel In The Vintage Crown

I love a good deal and something individual, and here is the only place in Madrid to find such things! They have things you can’t find anywhere else, and I would have been lost without my discovery of them!

What I Have Learnt:

Other than the language, I have learnt a bit about the culture of the people here in Madrid too; some of it good and some of it bad.

Street Etiquette:

Well, if you expect manners don’t be disappointed. People here are all about getting from A to B quickly and are not adverse in pushing you aside to get there that little bit quicker. On the pavements or sidewalks it is every man, woman, child and dog for themselves!

I had the false apprehension that people in Madrid would be ‘old school’ and brim with courtesy and politeness, how wrong I was. Even men will have no qualms on barging me out of their way, which to be honest, for me, says a lot about what type of men they are. Manners are free and I still adhere to them, so what if I am the only one!

Expect to see dogs everywhere. People in Madrid are crazy about pooches; it is dog friendly. They also do ‘their business’ wherever, so watch your step!

Another strange thing is that people may ignore you on the street, but once inside a building, inside an elevator, they expect you do greet them and also say goodbye. So for example ‘Hola, buenos dias’ and ‘Adiós’, also they may chat about the weather or any other small talk.

Shopping:

Whilst not having a car to rely upon I use the Metro or walk to supply myself with food. I was quite aghast that everyone seemed to make use of shopping trolleys’, which at home are considered the realm of the elderly. Anyway, I gave in after a few shop runs made me laden down with heavy bags. I had to invest in something cool to ferry my food about it though, so I opted for a purple trolley that I affectionately named ‘Henry’. He and I are now inseparable.

As there is no large supermarket near to me, I found locating all the foodstuffs I required a little difficult. I usually have to visit a couple of different supermarkets or shops to buy all that I require, plus I don’t find the food here to be cheap. If you want vegetarian or healthy options then you spend far more. That in itself is bad news. Plus the produce doesn’t last as long as it does in the UK. Within a few days I find fresh food is rotting in the fridge and that annoys me.

Health food shops are expensive too!!! I recently bought 100 Cranberry tablets for 18.90 Euros! In the UK you can easily buy them for £8, which is a significant difference.

Also, the Pharmacies in Madrid stock all the medicines, which keep the prices of the goods higher. Paracetamols, antacid, cough medicine and so on can only be purchased via the chemist. This annoys me; I suppose it is the inconvenience of having to shop in so many shops for separate supplies of goods. Too used to Tescos than maybe good for me!

Night-life:

Night-life culture too is a different here. I have mentioned this before in a previous post: The Hunger Trail

People in Madrid eat at different times to most people in the UK and also children aren’t in bed by set times like people may expect them to be. It is not uncommon to see kids out with families eating out at 11:00. In fact on Saturday I saw a baby being pushed around and it was 1:30am. Another thing is that people often just go out and don’t really ‘dress to the nines’, often wearing very casual clothing to be out and about even on Saturday nights.

Demure:

Talking about clothing; I also thought that people in Madrid would be more ‘demure’ in their dress sense, well, the women anyway. I was again wrong. The summer months proved that women here are just as risky in their choice of clothes as they maybe in any other country. It was not uncommon to see a flash of ‘posterior’ on the Metro.

Noise:

Noisy neighbours are also not uncommon in Madrid. I have heard plenty of tales of people complaining about these facts. Many people generally tend not to give their neighbours much consideration. I have already mentioned that the times people are eating reflect the times they actually go to bed, late. It is quite normal for people to be eating at 2:00am and still up and about at 3:00am, but the also go to work in the mornings! Also, living in an apartment tends to be noisy generally, but given the fact that some apartments are situated above shops, bars, cafes and also car garages and workshops, they can be noisy places to live and try to sleep!!

I know it took me a fair few months to become accustomed to hearing other people at all hours of the night and day, I am so used to a house on a quiet street!

Protests:

To witness protests being staged in the city has also become quite the norm. I was surprised at first at how frequent a protest would occur, but also inspired to see how the country reacts against what they believe to be political injustices. Obviously the economic crisis has been given lots of press coverage throughout the world, and so too has the Spanish reaction to it.

Saturday I saw another protest, well, of sorts. My friend told me it was a fascist protest. A certain group here in Madrid still celebrate or honour the life and death of Franco (the Dictator) who died 20th November 1975. I couldn’t quite understand why they would want to remember him fondly.

Holidays:

Religious holidays and public holidays; wow, there has been so many this year! I think I read that Spain is runner-up, only second in the world out of all countries for having the most public holidays per year. Maybe next year they will top the polls!!!

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5 thoughts on “One Year In Madrid

  1. Very informative post. I had been to Madrid with family in June/July 2012 and visited some of the places you have mentioned. We stayed at Prosperidad. Can’t wait to go back there. Look forward to more posts from you. Jo 🙂

    • Thank you Jo for your kind comments on my post, I truly appreciate them 🙂
      It is great that you have enjoyed the city so much you wish to return; I too love living here, there is so much to offer everyone!
      Thanks again, Bex

  2. Pingback: The Fallen Angel Of Madrid – El Ángel Caído De Madrid | The Savvy Senorita

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