The BEST things about daily life in Madrid

This post was originally featured in the blog of API Madrid student Morgan Dent. Morgan is studying with API at Suffolk University in Madrid this spring 2011.

[Notes – 1 euro = $1.35)

1) The Metro – yes, I know I’ve mentioned my love for the metro several times but I really can’t get over it. You could pay thousands of dollars for a car and insurance, and fight your way through Spanish traffic, or you could pay 30 euro a month for unlimited access to the city 24/7! Although the metro closes at 1:30am (which has come to seem early, believe it or not) there are buses running around the clock that pretty much follow the metro lines.

2) La Comida – while Krista and I buy groceries for the majority of our lunches, there are a few great, cheap places to eat, right next to school. Yesterday I got a ‘plato combinado’ at a cafeteria in a neighboring university for 5 euro – it included a large salad, patatas fritas (fries), lomo a la plancha (deliciously seasoned grilled pork), bread, croquetas (little, round, fried mystery balls with possibly cheese, potatoes and/or jamon inside), empanadillas and a beer -5 euro!!!

Another great place to hit for lunch is Tienda Verde -a tiny sandwich shop complete with various meats, cheeses, veggies and sauces to put on a baguette -combine with chips, a drink, and/or a nepalitano (Sarah’s and my addiction – flaky chocolate pastries) for less than 5 euro.

Bocadilla de Jamon on the left,
coffee, and assorted pastries from a cafe with
Katie, Krista and Sarah

3) La Pharmacia – the concept of a pharmacy in the US is pretty different from ones here. When I had a cold I searched Corte Ingles (basically a Spanish, nicer version of Wal – Mart) for Advil or Nyquil in vain. Tatiana told us you can only get medicine in the pharmacies, even just Advil! Yesterday, I asked a Spanish friend where she got her ear pierced and she told me the pharmacy! Also – don’t worry about having to visit the doctor for a prescription, a lot of things they will just hand you over the counter (I got amoxicilin for 2 euro and no questions asked). While it’s annoying to not be able to find simple face lotion or nail polish remover in Corte Ingles, the pharmacy will cover anything from tampons to lip balm to lotion to medicine, mostly for very cheap.

4) mint.com – while not exactly pertaining to Madrid, mint has become essential to my budgeting here. It links to your bank account and lets you break down your expenses by category and create and manage your budgets. Since the euro is worth 35% more than the dollar, I’m always trying to keep in mind that when I spend 5 euro on lunch it’s really almost $7, and when I think, cool, this purse is only 20 euro, its actually almost $30. Don’t let the euro fool you.

5) Tapas – tapas are small plates of food, meant to be shared. We recently discovered El Tigre (recommended by cousin Kyle, thank you) in Chueca (the gay district)…definitely the best tapas I’ve had in Madrid.

You go in, push your way through thick, standing crowds of loud, happy people socializing and eating, until you find a SMALL, open square of the bar that’s running around the perimeter of the restaurant. If there’s no space on the bar, a waiter will lead you to an open space in the middle and tell your group to stand there while he shoves a plate of tapas in your hand and quickly takes your drink orders. As the waiter rushes away, your group digs in to the fried potatoes smothered in a spicy orange sauce, croquetas, sausages, little pieces of fried chicken wings, and piles of grilled pork, ham, cheese, or tortilla espanola balanced on slices of baguette.

5 minutes later you are all holding a drink and a plate of the same tapas that come free with the drink.  Perfection. This can continue for hours, or as long as you can take the heat waves coming off of the crowd (crowd being an understatement in this situation).

6) Retiro – I know I’ve also talked about the Retiro – the park – a fair amount but it is definitely one of my favorite, and most frequented places to go in Madrid. The other day when I got home from class around 1pm, I made lunch with Krista then walked to the park when she left for class at 3. It was a gorgeousss day, so I took lots of things to do. I did my philosophy reading in the grass, then went and sat by the lake for a while. It was really warm and sunny, and there was a guy playing jazz on a saxophone. I ended up just sitting there reading and then painting my nails for a good three hours. All around the park are little outdoor cafe’s where you order at a stand and they bring your food to a table. It’s perfect to just sit in the sun and enjoy some coffee.

Last Friday, Sarah came over and she, Krista and I packed chocolate croissants and walked to the park in beautiful 60 degree weather. We rented a boat, payed for an hour and a half, and rowed out onto the lake to join all the other kids sunning, talking and relaxing.  It was basically heaven to just sit out on the water in the sun for a while, thinking, talking and not doing anything.

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Comments

  1. I love Tapas! Go to El Tigre, they have such a good deal on them and they are SO good!

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