The Clothes Horse


I wanted to add some Fashion flavour into the mix of my blog posts. This post is not going to dictate what is hot and not, what you should wear and go out and immediately buy. I also don’t want to focus on high end, designer or couture, nor do I want to burden you with raving on about vintage. There is nothing wrong with these, or with blogs dedicated to these, but many people don’t have the budget nor do they have access to great vintage stores.

I feel that Fashion is, or at least should be a statement of style reflecting your own individuality, and not only that but your budget, size and shape. Many things deemed to be fashionable are unobtainable by the masses; clothes can be out of their price ranges and also wouldn’t suit them. Fashion isn’t merely dictated or limited by shape and size, or budget though; its imagination. I am not laying down fashion rules here either; I hate such fashions ‘norms’ stating that larger women should wear this and thinner women wear that, NONSENSE! Doesn’t matter on size or shape some items just won’t suit you regardless! You know your shape, you know what works and doesn’t.

I going to aim my focus on what is available from the ‘High Street’, what is cheaper and accessible. I am also encouraging you to SHOP AROUND! The selections of clothing that I have chosen for this post can be purchased online, but these are not the ‘b’ all and end all of what WILL be available locally to you, and also there will be cheaper alternatives! The items included in this post are just IDEAS, a taste of what is out there.

I would suggest that before you go out to shop ALWAYS have the style in mind that you are looking for; think of the item you require. Keep in mind what you already have too; buying into a ‘trend’ for the sake of doing so is a waste of money if you have nothing to compliment it, and again not everything suits everyone! I tend to sketch my Fashion ideas in a little pad, and look for something either specific to that idea or as near as I can find. I ALWAYS search for cheaper too; if something is £40 in River Island, I’ll go and look in H&M, Primark or anywhere else to find something similar if not exactly same thing.

Of course I am not advocating completely ruling out more pricier garments. Buying one good item that will last into the next seasons is an investment, but you will be taking the chance that your choice fits this bill, as fashion does change quickly. Try to avoid overt statement pieces of one particular trend; maybe look at adding a flavour of that trend into your wardrobe, but not the whole nine yards! I have managed to make a few purchases that were pricier than I’d normally be comfortable forking out for, but they have stood the test of time. Of course it is up to you what you choose. I am also not ruling out vintage and second hand stores completely either! If you have them local to you, and you know them well enough, and they are cheap, use them! I know here in Madrid they are my first option. I bought a ‘Coatigan’ last year for 20 euros, opposed to the River Island prices of £70 – £90! Bargain!

Pick the bones outta this one:

OK, let’s talk about the bones; Dogtooth and Herringbones to be precise!

The Dogtooth print is quite the thing this season, yet it is a print that can be hit and miss, even crass to carry off. There are dresses, tops, trousers, jumpers and coats on sale with this print all over them, but choose wisely. It all depends on the right type of the print and the style of the outfit.

My choice for this one is an idea that fits the bill perfectly. I have chosen an over-sized cardigan; over-size being another trend this season. This unfortunately is a vintage item; though as I have already mentioned it is an idea of a style, it is not the only item available in this style. I searched for something I would wear, and this was the one I decided I preferred, plus although it is vintage the price is right too!

This vintage black and red wool mix cardigan is listed on asos.com link below:

https://marketplace.asos.com/listing/cardigans/vtg-black-red-wool-mix-dogtooth-print-cardigan-oversized/538138

Next up, the Herringbone.

I admit I am mixed on very specific and bold print types, especially on coats as they look good now, but again, will they be the ‘thing’ next winter? Admittedly there is more flexibility with fashion currently, as eclectic seems to be the thing, so perhaps these prints will last the test of time!

I am a bit of a coat fanatic; I adore the styles, shapes and tailoring of these garments. I do believe that a coat which is not too ostentatious can be a better bet, again thinking on the long term, especially if you do plan to spend a good portion of money on it!

If it is cheap you want then Primark do have good stocks of pretty decent coats and jackets. The key there is to check the tailoring as it can be hit and miss sometimes; how sharp are the shoulders and how neat are the sleeves, what are the darts like to nip in your waist, what buttons have been used and so on. I have recently seen a version of the ‘River Island army jacket’ on sale in Primark; I will include this later on.

The coat I have selected is from River Island and is a great example of the Herringbone print, and the everlasting ‘boyfriend’ or now over-sized style.

River Island Grey Herringbone Boyfriend Coat, 25% wool, £75.00: link below

http://www.riverisland.com/women/coats–jackets/coats/grey-herringbone-boyfriend-coat-626441

Re-take on River Island Army Jacket:

Primark have taken the army jacket with leather sleeves and re-created their own version. Interesting and uncanny, as after I saw the River Island version I went into Primark searching for such a re-creation to purchase, with no luck! Now, they have graciously accommodated me, thank you Primark for reading my mind! I have no doubt this offering will be half the price of River Island’s version. A possible great buy for the season; leather and army combined!

http://www.primark.co.uk/page.aspx?pointerid=0dea055bcdff4321bb85f635c18f55d2&ptype=snk

Keeping Warm:

Woolly knits are available in a wide variety and range of styles, prints and added with embellishments. Again try to always look for the cheapest alternative. I have recently seen a thick (almost cable) knitted cardigan in Topshop with spike and stud detailing on the shoulders, roughly £48. I think that is over-priced, as there are similar cardigans on sale at the moment in Primark, OK, they are minus the spikes and studs. Now this might seem an issue, but spikes and studs can be purchased on any jewellery item, as this season they are everywhere. Failing that a good jewellery and bead or haberdasheries shop will sell them. If you feel up to it, you can always add the spikes to the cardigan with a needle and thread, or glue gun.

I think that the fine and soft knits with lace panels inserted, are very unusual, although seemingly quite popular too. They do add a certain charm and fashion detail if all else fails.

The cardigan I have selected has a ‘Navaho’ or a rock / 1960’s festival feel; depending on your mood!

It is from H&M, Black Jersey Cardigan with short sleeves, fringes, and no buttons: link below

http://www.hm.com/gb/product/05050?article=05050-A

Now for those cautious of the stud and spike trend, and wanting to avoid an all-out ‘punk’ look. This black studded jumper from oasis, £55, is classic and demure and yet has a little rough edge. Perfect for jeans, leggings or if you are feeling adventurous, leather trousers.

http://www.oasis-stores.com/studded-neck-jumper/knitwear/oasis/fcp-product/3610163901

Trousers:

Talking about leather trousers there are plenty of PU mock leather options available, tight and almost legging like; they seem to be an ideal choice to rock up any outfit. Yet, cheap imitations can often be tacky and nasty. When choosing any fabric that is fake make sure it looks as good as possible next to the real deal. I am aware leather trousers are expensive, so I’m not advocating buying real leather. Just make sure your choice is a good one, and not a waste of your money.

Dr Denim Faux Leather Trousers for £105.86, so good in fact that they are currently out of stock. Shop around ladies; I have seen Warehouse do a version too.

http://www.asos.com/Dr-Denim/Dr-Denim-Faux-Leather-Trousers/Prod/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=1423405&cid=2640&sh=0&pge=17&pgesize=20&sort=3&clr=Black

Alternatively, if you want high fashion here is a pic of Mrs Beckham, in a pair of oh so tight leather; OUCH!

Printed Jeans:

I have selected a pair from Topshop, and I do like them. However, I am aware they will not suit everyone’s shape and size. These are a more muted shade and print, not as garish as some prints or colours available. Long line over-sized denim shirts, jumpers or tops could be worn to cover any areas you may feel uncomfortable exposing. However, if you feel up to it I have also included a sheer sleeveless shirt to accompany them, again with the stud detailing.

The jeans are a Moto Laser Print Jamie Jeans, £45.00, in Burgundy: link below

http://www.topshop.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=61&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33057&storeId=12556&productId=7519147&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=208527&

The sheer chiffon sleeveless shirt is from Hearts & Bows, £35.27. It has a point collar with spike stud embellishment and button fastening through the front: link below

http://www.asos.com/Hearts-Bows/Hearts-Bows-Stud-Collar-Blouse/Prod/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=2556603&cid=2623&sh=0&pge=15&pgesize=20&sort=-1&clr=Khaki

ABOUT HEARTS & BOWS
‘Hearts & Bows reign with their trend-led collections original vintage and vintage inspired pieces, creating a cool, street style inspired grunge-girl. Studded blouses and collar tips add a tough edge to chiffon blouses and mini dresses, layered under oversized Arran knit boyfriend cardigans and ‘90s check shirts. Look out for hi-shine leggings and Hearts & Bows’ signature high waisted rave pants, as skater skirts’.

Skirts:

Now this chiffon over lay skirt looks great with the army jacket and the grunge ‘tee’, but the price seems very steep for what it actually is. Fabric can be purchased and made up into a quick wrap around skirt to mimic this very style, alternatively search cheaper retailers for similar options.

b + ab Chiffon Overlay Skirt is a mind boggling £63.52! Details of the item include; an elasticated, high waist with a short underskirt: link below

http://www.asos.com/BAB/b-ab-Chiffon-Overlay-Skirt/Prod/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=2487030&cid=2623&sh=0&pge=15&pgesize=20&sort=-1&clr=Black

ABOUT B+AB
‘Part of Hong Kong’s renowned I.T. fashion group, B+ab take a trend-led approach to their collections, inspired by London’s street style and a vintage girl aesthetic. Military detailing, leather jackets and flashes of colour add a tougher edge to B+ab’s fairy-tale chiffon mini dresses and romantic flowing skirts’.

Leggings:

How many more incarnations can these go through?! Well take a look at these Peacock feather print offering from BamBam.

They are a bold choice no doubt, but look great coupled with the biker jacket in the pic. BamBam Leggings in the Peacock Print are £49.40. They are crafted from a super stretch fabric: link below

http://www.asos.com/Bambam/Bambam-Leggings-in-Peacock-Print/Prod/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=2501047&cid=2623&sh=0&pge=16&pgesize=20&sort=-1&clr=Multi

ABOUT BAMBAM
‘Bold, fun and fresh, Australian label BamBam began in the living room of two Queensland based brothers. Taking an irreverent approach to laidback style with an East coast perspective, BamBam take a grunge aesthetic and run with it; think heavily distressed denim with studs and patchwork, and leggings, bodysuits and bodycon dresses covered in galactic digital prints’.

Hair Accessories:

This River Island bow is an interesting alternative to the traditional hair clip; a grunge, rock or even Gothic look.

It would look fab with going out dresses or even jeans and jumpers.

Black Spike PU Bow Hair Clip, £6.00: link below

http://www.riverisland.com/women/accessories/hair-accessories/Black-spike-PU-bow-hair-clip-627504

If you have any comments on my post, or would like to discuss ideas and make suggestions about the fashion for this season then please do so! I would like to know what you think about Fashion, trends, styling and even the prices of clothes.

Many thanks for reading!

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The ‘Real’ Madrid Experience – The Jewel in The Vintage Crown


I am aware that at the end of my last ‘Real’ Madrid Experience post, I promised I would write my next article about Madrid food markets, and I will don’t worry! Allow me to explain why there has been a delay in this proposed post; it is taking a little more time to collate all the information I require, because I want a fully formed and interesting article, not a rushed version. So, while I consider my follow up post about the markets, today allow me to lead you down a completely different shopping trail instead.

This topic is close to my heart, well, the area of shopping I’m focusing on anyway. I am not concentrating here on the run of the mill high street stores, no way, we’re going VINTAGE.

Beginnings:

I am aware that often the very idea of vintage shopping brings some people out in hives. The very notion of leaving the high street behind, the safe and reliable H&M, Zara, Pull & Bear, Berska and El Corte Ingles (as every street in Madrid has one of these, practically!), Topshop, River Island and Primark might make a person confused and fearful, but don’t worry, there is hope! Vintage shopping isn’t as bad as some people think it is, there is in fact plenty of wonderful and unique clothing pieces on offer, that will suit everyone’s taste, purse and not to mention size. So, rethink your aversion to vintage before we progress any further!

For a truly unique shopping experience then vintage is the real deal. The vintage shops of Malasaña (a barrio in Madrid) offer up that one of a kind item, which no one else will be wearing. That outfit that allows your individual identity to shine. The difference between vintage and high street doesn’t merely end in unique items, but also price too. The high street fashion stores, such as those mentioned above, are more expensive than the vintage stores here. Admittedly not all vintage is cheap, but for an extra price you can get not only a unique item, but a quality item too (again, this is rare to find in the high street stores).

Here in Madrid many people do tend to grab onto specific trends, and won’t deviate from them, they then end up wearing clothes similar to everyone else (all bought from the high street). Yet, in Malasaña and Chueca you will see fashion flair on every street corner, thanks to the vintage shops!

My Thoughts:

I believe Madrid does vintage better than anywhere else I know, even London! The reason being is that the shops here don’t mark up their prices just because something is classed as ‘vintage’, not like in the UK. The quality of goods available is beyond belief too, they don’t just sell any old rubbish and class it as vintage.

What makes Madrid the jewel in vintage crown for me is affordability! Good prices make the vintage shopping experience far more exciting, as any great find will be kinder on your wallet! The individuality of the style available within the vintage shops here, is sold to the customer for extremely good prices. These great prices ensure that the unusual remains accessible to all, and not just the ‘elite’ who have more money than sense! Vintage shops are not just the shopping ground of the rich in Madrid, and this is what I like the most.

There are a really good selection of vintage shops dotted about areas such as Chueca and Malasaña, which stock retro/second hand from the 1920’s up until the 1990’s (if you class 1990’s as retro). In fact anything second hand gets sold in these shops. I have on the rare occasion seen hand bags from ‘Primark’ being re-sold (unfortunately), so nothing is out of bounds in theory! However you can find exquisite pieces of vintage; leather hand bags, 1970’s hats and sunglasses from the 1950’s for better prices than any high street store can offer.

Every shop is slightly different on price though; some have better bargains to be found too. Again it depends on the items; leather coats and fur will have a price tag of more than 20 euros, but they will be far cheaper than if bought new from high street shops.

The Vintage Trail:

I am going to focus my vintage trail on the Malasaña barrio, more specifically, Calle Velarde. This street is near Tribunal and Bilbao Metro Stations, also not far from Calle Fuencarral . Below are some of my favourite vintage shops on this street.

Below pic: Calle Velarde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magpie Vintage –

If I had to give ONLY ONE vintage shop recommendation, then this would be it!

Just as the name suggests, this shop is perfect for those with Magpie tendencies; and can’t resist being attracted to something different. This is my favourite vintage/second hand shop in Madrid! They sell everything you could possibly want from day dresses, evening gowns, coats, hats, scarf’s, cardigans, jumpers, shoes, skirts, shirts and even jewellery; the selection is as vast as the eras represented in the clothing!

At the moment they have some lovely suede coats trimmed with fur, denim jackets, bolero jackets with embellishments sewed on, army jackets and of course a selection of second hand Dr Martens!

They also have a glass cabinet which houses the loveliest vintage accessories; the sunglasses are my favourite items. Sunglasses in Madrid are always an investment as the sun shines even in winter! They also have a host of leather handbags; their satchels are a great price for a one off vintage item which will last through the seasons.

There is a ‘bargain trunk’ too, which is worth rummaging through. There is often really great and cheap items to be found within! My friend found a lovely little purple leather handbag in the ‘bargain chest’ for 3 euros!

This shop is a MUST visit!

Check out their Facebook page and website/blog:     http://www.facebook.com/magpievintagemadrid?ref=ts&fref=ts

http://magpie.es/blog/

 

La Mona Checa –

This shop is just across the street from Magpie. Again a great little shop for a one off find! From jumpers and army surplus to fur coats and dresses. I spotted a great soft suede jacket with tassels whilst I was there over the weekend. They also have that essential ‘bargain trunk’ full of little surprises which are cheaper than the items on the racks! I am fond of the stray silk scarf’s I often find here, they are perfect as hair accessories.

Honey –

Another little vintage gem, packed with the unusual and stylish.

In between Honey and Biba, is a shop called ‘The The’ –

‘The The’ is quite specialised as they stock mainly leather, denim and army surplus. What they do here, which is different, is re-work the fabrics on site. They have sewing machines in situ! They re-create waist- coats/vests, shorts and shirts all from old denim. I really like this shop, but it can be a little pricier, because of the extra work put in to the goods!

Below pic: The shop that re-works denim, ‘The The’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below pic: Just see inside ‘The The’ – the re-worked denim on the racks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biba –

I also love this shop. In the summer they had a rack of the cutest 1950’s tea dresses with the quirkiest prints! They too stock handbags, accessories, shoes and chunky knit or embellished jumpers. You can find anything here, and the prices are good too. I actually bought a leather pencil skirt from here for 18 Euros; you cannot beat that price!

Pulgas –

This shop is aptly named; pulgas meaning fleas! I see this shop as treasure trove. I love going through the narrow, long shop just taking my time to rummage (which you have to do here). You have to be prepared to search, but when you do you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Clothes, bags, coats and God knows what else is all piled up high for your searching pleasure! They do have rails of clothes too, especially dresses; so don’t fret if rummaging for bargains isn’t your style! They also stock vintage house-hold items too, such as; ornaments, books and cameras!

What makes this shop truly individual to me is the vintage fur they sell. Now I am not a lover of fur, but if you have to purchase it, and fur is popular here in Madrid in the winter; then I would prefer anyone to buy the fur of animal who has been dead for decades, and not a newly killed animal!

I have seen long length fur coats in this shop that date back to the 1930’s, from American boutiques! The fur here is often re-worked into different items too. Any fur from this shop will be at a fraction of the price than its counter-part from the high street. An example of this; in this shop a long length fur coat is 300 euros, in the high street it will be anything from 2000 to 3000 Euros. There is a significant difference in price, and obviously you will be buying a piece of history, and not killing any more animals just for your fashion fancies.

Williamsburg Vintage –

Another little shop that sells everything from shirts to coats, at a good price.

Two More Great Finds:

Templo de Suso –  Calle del Espíritu Santo, 1

Has an American boho feel to me. It is like a 1960’s / 1970’s Rock-esque feel; think Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors and Woodstock! They sell dresses, coats, shirts, tee-shirts, leather and so on.

Lotta Vintage –  Calle Hernán Cortes, 9

Everything on their clothes racks are arranged according to colour! The closet to a high street shop out of all the vintage shops mentioned; very neat, organised and tidy, it is easy to find everything. Lotta has the longest and most prestigious vintage reputation in Madrid. It has everything you could need, and the eras they cover are 1950’s to the 1980’s.

They have a wonderful set of vintage glasses, a bit more pricey perhaps at 39 Euros, but the condition of them is perfect. One pair of fabulous sunglasses will set the tone to any outfit, and here in Madrid as I have mentioned already the sun shines even in winter; I am never without my vintage sunglasses!

Check out their website:    http://www.lottavintage.com/

Mercado de Fuencarral

Just a stone throw from Tribunal Metro Station is Calle de Fuencarral, where the above market is situated. This market has many different shops that sell something a little bit different, but in here they also house an army surplus shop; G.I.Joe Surplus. With army jackets being highly fashionable at the moment, this shop is worth considering along with the other vintage shops.

 

Hints and tips to buying vintage:

In most vintage shops you can try the outfit before you commit and buy; there are dressing rooms! I suggest you do try before you buy; check out what it looks like in the mirror. Remember vintage sizes can vary from the standard sizes we are used to now, although in the vintage shops I have seen more realistic and less vanity sizing going on. Also an interesting thing to note is that a UK size 18 isn’t difficult to source in the vintage shops, not as it might be in some high street alternatives.

If you do wish to impulse buy, and then want to return an item, check their returns policy first! Vintage shops often do offer a credit note or a swap for something of the same price (Magpie offer this), but they don’t usually offer money back refunds. You’ve been warned!

I also suggest to go into these shops with an idea of what you are looking for, for example a denim jacket. There is so much to see that you could be easily swayed and overwhelmed! You could end up thinking; ‘I’ll have that and that’ and then you get home and think, ‘um, what will this go with?’ Be savvy!

Vintage shops are excellent for material, fur, leather, shoes, denim and army surplus too.

Also, I have mentioned the ‘bargain trunks’ the vintage shops usually have. In them are sale items, or items reduced to clear, and you can secure a great little something for next to nothing! If you are looking for fabrics, or even something plain to add you own style to, then these are worth rummaging through.

Another thing to remember is that some shops in these ‘vintage’ districts are NOT vintage at all, but style themselves to appear vintage. You can always tell a vintage shop; the clothes and internal layout is a dead give away, but if you are not sure check the labels! Oh, and if it says polyester on the label, remember it won’t be a pre-1970’s item. I have seen some supposed 1940’s tea dress in polyester fabric, of course they would have been made in rayon in the 1940’s not polyester! Prices too are the final check to gauge if the place is vintage or not – pretend vintage is more expensive in Madrid than the real vintage.

Oh, and one final shop to mention, which isn’t a clothes shop, but a coffee shop where you can make your own ceramics, but I think it is wonderful; Pintas en Copas on Calle Velarde. Once your item is made you can let it bake on site, and pick it up a few days later. You can make anything including; plates, cups, teapots and even snails!

Check out their website for further details:   http://www.pintaencopas.com

Below pic: Pintas en Copas

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The ‘Real’ Madrid Experience.


No need to break into cold sweats, I’m not going to be talking about Football!

I want to turn my attentions to discuss life in the Capital of Spain, Madrid. I hope to impart some of the experience and knowledge I have gained by living here. The topics I will try my utmost to include in these blogs are; my thoughts on the city, the culture, people, communities and local areas, shopping, heritage, history, politics, food and cuisine and so on.

Beginnings:

Some people may believe that Madrid is like any other tourist destination in Spain, similar perhaps to the Southern Coastal areas of the country such as Malaga, Benidorm, Menorca and so on. Well, the people who think that are wrong! Madrid isn’t anything like those Southern tourist ‘hot spots’, not that the ‘real’ Spanish residential areas of Malaga, Benidorm and Menorca are at all like the tourists think they are either! Spain has many faces to attract many people.

Madrid is a world away from other tourist hotspots situated in the South. It is a city where there is a subtle and obvious blend of the historical past and the extreme modern. Tourism is more refined here; the city doesn’t depend upon that alone. Madrid operates like any other capital; it is busy and on the move until the early hours, the streets are packed with people living their usual lives, there are fantastic architectural masterpieces, Government buildings and residential apartments, there are the elite boutiques, vintage shops and of course Primark! There are an abundance of cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs which cater for every taste and most cuisines. There are museums, art galleries, public parks and lots of traffic! A small thing to note is that ‘Roundabouts’ are called Glorietas here, the reason being I think is plainly clear, they are usually glorious to look at! Amid all the traffic there are fountains, statues and often vast structures, which are phenomenal pieces of work. A slight difference to anything I have seen in the UK or the USA.

Above: Glorieta Puerta de Toledo – one example of many such roundabouts scattered across Madrid.

The City:

The city streets are carved up into individual residential areas called; barrios. These barrios contribute their own individual feel and flavour to the city. I want to go into more details about these later, but for now I will mention only a few of the most well known and loved barrios.

Chueca: the Gay quarter. There are many excellent clubs and restaurants here. Small boutique shops and also a lovely market called ‘San Anton’. The market sells fresh produce, which can be sampled. On the middle level of the building there are stalls to purchase meals and places to eat, on the top level there is a fabulous restaurant with roof terrace.

Malasaña:  for the vintage and bohemian. Many excellent vintage stores, one of my absolute favourites resides here: ‘Magpie’. There are just too many little bars and cafes to mention, all with individual flair. There is also the ‘Plaza del Dos de Mayo’, where the people of Madrid resisted the French invasion of 1808 on the 2nd May, hence the name.

La Latina: for the party and good food. It hosts many beautiful plazas, churches and buildings. Also famous for ‘El Rastro’ a Sunday market unlike any other; stalls and people fill the streets; you can barter and buy anything here. Very good for leather bags and jewellery.

El Rastro: just a hint of the Sunday shopping madness!

Salamanca: known for its ‘high class’ reputation; exclusive shops line Calle Goya, and there are great places to eat. This area has many beautiful buildings and is host to the wonderful Parque del Retiro.

I want to discuss these areas, and many more, in further detail. I have, for now, over-simplified what the above barrios are famous for; Parque del Retiro for example could have a post dedicated specifically to it!! I will return to the topic of the barrios very soon.

Below: The ‘Boating Lake’ – a glimpse of the wonders held within Parque del Retiro.

Travel:

What makes this city accessible is the prompt, clean and safe Metro system (Trains, like the London Underground). I also think it is pretty inexpensive; 10 viajes (10 journeys) roughly 12 euros (subject to change) . This allows you to travel to most barrios within the city; certain areas do however carry an extra tariff, such as when going to Barajas Airport. The only disappointment on this is that now there have been cuts to the services on certain lines, during the early hours of the morning. For example, we were returning from a night out in Malasaña, it was relatively early 01:30, but the train wasn’t running so we had to use the bus. Again these too are excellent and prompt, but I have less knowledge of the buses than the Metro. The destination of each bus often runs on a similar route to the Metro service, so knowing this will help!

Personal Thoughts:

The last few things I will briefly touch upon in this post are some of my feelings about, and direct experiences of living in Madrid. I have enjoyed every day, and that I can say quite honestly! When I think back to just before we moved out here, how dire things were becoming, being here is like having a prayer answered. Our lives have changed and for the better. Every day is different as there is so much to see and do. Walking around is easy for me, I am based in the Salamanca area, so Retiro Park, Goya, even Puerta del Sol (another area to discuss later on!) are walkable. Our social life has never been better; the bars and restaurants can be cheap enough (which I will again go into in more detail!!!) I have seen more plays and musicals too, albeit in Spanish, than ever before! Everything is quite literally on your doorstep.

The only thing I do miss is the open countryside, or more importantly the variance the UK climate brings to the countryside and open spaces. Nothing is very green and lush here, the sun is persistent even in winter, and rain is not very often seen. The temperatures can be crazy hot! This August was extremely warm, more so than usual; 46 degrees (114 Fahrenheit), the temperatures don’t always desist as soon as autumn appears either!

Hints and Tips:

Another aspect to bring into consideration now is the language. We are learning Spanish at the moment, but getting to conversational level takes time, confidence, patience and practice! Most days I’ll admit I feel defeated! Yet, I persist as people here don’t always speak English; many people above the age of 40 don’t speak any. The reason for this is; the educational system, but also the time Franco (the dictator) spent in power here. Some of the younger people however do speak really good English, but are often too shy, under confident or under practiced to admit they do. What seems to work is attempting to speak to them in Spanish first, then you will notice they will be less shy to attempt to speak to you in English. In fact most people I have met to speak to, do have some, if not an extremely good understanding of English, once prompted! If you do plan to visit Madrid, I would suggest at least trying to learn or becoming familiar with the basics of how to say; hello, good day, how to order or ask for food and drinks. It is polite and also far less stressful! Youtube has plenty of beginner guides with pronunciation practice.

Also in Madrid the American accent is understood far better than the English accent! Spanish people often speak English with an American twang, because they have used American TV as a learning tool and reference point. Also American tourists outnumber the British!

Oh, the last thing for now, I PROMISE!!!! Public conveniences; might sound odd to mention such things, but then not many people do. I feel this needs mentioning, especially if you have never visited Spain or France before. Toilets are always accessed via the local bars, cafes and restaurants. You don’t have to be a customer to use them, but sometimes you will have to be. Starbucks and a few other well know places use codes to lock the loos up! There are public conveniences, portable types which you pay to use, but they are few and far between! I think the services at cafes and so on are far better as they are almost always cleaner!

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.