With the TEFL course behind me (yay!), it was time to settle in and start enjoying life in Madrid without the stress of homework and teaching practices. I swore I wouldn’t be that person always trying to find the same things you’d find in the U.S., but sometimes you need a Bloody Mary (or three) and an American-style brunch. Luckily, Toast Café delivered on both. It was an excellent find by Chelsea and Trey (check them out over at www.oursteppinstones.com). They’re a fun couple from Charleston and are currently on a mission to visit the numerous rooftop terraces of Madrid…a mission I totally support!
Another day was spent admiring the Temple Debod, an Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC, which is a place that has amazing sunsets if you time it right. I missed the sunset that day, but still enjoyed wandering around the park. It’s so hot here during the summer and most people wait until dusk to leave their apartments and brave the heat, which means the parks are full of people socializing and just enjoying life. It’s one of the things I really love about Madrid…how friendly and social everyone is and seemingly less addicted to their phones (unlike other places, ahem, San Francisco).
Next, it was off to Jordi Roca’s ice cream spot at the Gourmet Experience located in El Corte Ingles on Serrano in the Salamanca neighborhood. I knew before I moved here that I wanted to try it and it was predictably delicious. I’m on my own personal mission to get reservations at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, which is owned by Jordi and his two brothers. Probably wishful thinking since I hear there’s a year waitlist, but I’m going to try. The first half of July has been full of more wine tasting (duh!), lots of Galician-style octopus and tinto de veranos, and lazy days, which I plan to continue throughout August before I have to get an actual job come September.
Tomorrow, I’m heading to a teeny tiny village in northern Spain to attend a four-day cooking school retreat with Esme Tours. I first read about it last year and have wanted to go ever since. I’m really looking forward to leaving the heat of Madrid behind and having the chance to unplug for a few days.
During my first week in Madrid, I managed to squeeze in another tour with the always awesome Devour Madrid. I say another because I took their Tapas, Taverns & History tour back in 2014 when I first visited Madrid. It was the highlight of my trip and our guide, James, was fantastic. I met people from various parts of the world that I’m still friends with today. Fast forward to last month and I knew I was in for another great experience on their new-ish tapas and flamenco tour.
Our guide Luke didn’t disappoint and the local, family-run tapas places, along with the flamenco show, were amazing. I had gone to a flamenco show in Seville, but like many people, didn’t really know what it was all about. Also, I had no idea Madrid is considered the “Capital of Flamenco.” I just assumed that was somewhere in southern Spain, which is a region you usually associate with flamenco. I didn’t realize Madrid is where performers come to make their name in the flamenco world. I don’t want to give away all of the details of the stops on the tour because you should check it out for yourself, but we started in the Literary Quarter of Madrid…an area I had yet to explore. After a variety of tapas at our first stop, we made our way to two places – one where we learned how flamenco shoes are made. Interestingly, the taps consist of tiny nails put in by hand rather than the taps you’d find on traditional tap shoes. Next door, was a shop specializing in Spanish guitars…I loved learning the “behind the scenes” of how the shoes and the guitars are made. Our last stop before heading to the flamenco venue was for a sampling of local wine and cheeses...all delicious!
Then, it was time for the flamenco show at Cardamomo. The venue was small and intimate…perfect for experiencing the drama and emotion of flamenco. Our seats were front-row, which allowed for an up close and personal experience with the dancers, singers and guitar players. I actually got choked up from the sheer emotion of it all. It was incredible! Our final stop of the night was at a local place for dinner that included lots of tapas, along with wine from their own vineyard and topped off with a delicious dessert. At the end of each tour, you’re given a mini-guide to Madrid to help you avoid the tourist traps and head to places the guides themselves would frequent. If you’re visiting Madrid, I definitely recommend taking a tour with Devour Madrid. In addition to the two I’ve taken, they offer several others, including their newest "Tapas & Wine Tasting" tour, which I may just have to sign up for to make it tour number three.
Life in Madrid...first impressions.
The first few weeks here in Madrid were a blur due to jetlag and the looming start of the TEFL course I was so terrified of. I arrived a week before the course started and did some exploring before it got underway. First impressions were great! I loved my neighborhood and settled in pretty quickly. However, having to sign the lease in Spanish on the morning I arrived was scary! I had no idea what exactly I signed until I later used Google Translate to go through it line by line. I was able to figure out the metro (that seemed so intimidating on my first visit here back in 2014) pretty quickly. The washing machine all in Spanish? Not so much. I just put the clothes in and hoped for the best. Going to the grocery store was also an intimidating experience since I could never understand what the total was in Spanish, and couldn't seem to find the screen that showed it. I've now gotten over that fear since I have to eat!
Other than the usual adjustments of moving to another country, things went surprisingly well in those first few weeks. The wine prices here are nuts! I feel like I was totally robbed paying Bay Area prices all those years. I developed an addiction to tinto de veranos, olives and jamon...I started to wonder if there's a limit to how much ham one person can safely consume! I adjusted to the Spanish way of eating...i.e., dinner at around 10 p.m. I enjoyed listening to the people on the street below yell at the TV during soccer games or hearing someone spontaneously start singing flamenco. Next up on the blog...a recap of my awesome experience on a tapas and flamenco tour with Devour Madrid.
Welcome to The Cubicle Escape! Where to start? I guess I should give a little background on how this site came to be…
Most recently, I lived in San Francisco…for three years back in 2002 and again starting in 2010 for a total of 8 years altogether. The first time around, I adored it…I cried every time I had to leave it to go home for holidays, etc. The second time around…not so much. The difference between 2002 and now is mind-boggling and not in a good way. I thought I would love it just as much the second time around and didn’t have a plan B in case I didn’t. I spent the past 6 years in a sort of “stages of grief” process in regards to the city…in denial that it was changing so much, angry that it was, and then accepting that it was no longer the place for me. I won’t get into the reasons why because there are so many…ridiculous cost of living, dirty, crowded, noisy and inundated by a**hole tech workers to name a few (sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true, so save the hate mail).
Don’t get me wrong…there were a lot of good times there and some of my dearest friends still live there. Things like the sheer beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, the Victorian houses, wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma, the memories of the Giants winning three World Series championships while I lived there (odd memory, but I’m a huge sports fan!) and so on. However, it came to a point where while it was nice to be financially secure, the quality of life benefits of living there was definitely skewed in the wrong direction. Plus, going to a job that I no longer found fulfilling in order to finance that lifestyle wasn’t worth it anymore.
So, one random post about teaching English abroad way back in 2013 later and now I’m in Madrid. It took me awhile to get here…mostly because that whole denial thing about leaving the Bay Area, but I’m here now and so far, so good. The Spanish way of life, and European life in general, is much different than the rat race of the Bay Area. I’ve come here with no expectations that Madrid will be my final stop as far as a place to live forever…I don’t want to put those expectations on it like I did for San Francisco. For now, I’m here and thoroughly enjoying this new way of life, learning Spanish, teaching and traveling around Europe.
I'm Becki...a part-time traveler and recovering expat back in the U.S. after two amazing years spent living in Spain.