A lot of buildings in Lisbon are covered with the most gorgeous and colorful ceramic tile. As we learned on a food tour this morning, this is because these tiles were once cheaper than paint, they fire-proof a building and the tile reflects the sun. Older buildings do not have indoor heat or air. The colors are mesmerizing. I thought I would share some of my favorites with you so far…
I’m going to be honest with you guys. Sometimes, being an expat is weird on a marriage. I am ALWAYS with Dan. We depend on each other in ways we never dreamed. For example, when one of us has a bad Spanish day, the other has to step it up and have a good Spanish day. We always finished each other’s sentences before, but now I need to know the Spanish word he is struggling to find and vice versa. And I have officially taken the title of co-pilot. But then there is the support that we didn’t anticipate…
I needed a haircut. My hair is long, but getting tired and needed a trim. However, I just couldn’t get the nerve to go into a beauty parlor and attempt to speak Spanish for the duration of a salon visit. So… I asked the hubster to trim my hair…. this is what happened next.
Doesn’t look like a trim, does it? 🙂
(It actually looks fantastic and is straighter than a professional. The length is just a bit shorter than what was requested). What a life 🙂
Dan and I decided to tackle the mother of all tourist traps on Valentine’s Day… Gran Via. From the moment you walk out of the metro, it feels more like the United States than Madrid. All of the surrounding buildings are the ones that you see on postcards, the people were speaking English and dressed just like Dan and me, and the store fronts were familiar.
I say that it feels like the United States, but the reality is that it doesn’t feel anything like Indiana. It is the Spanish version of Broadway in New York City. There are brightly lit marquees advertising plays and productions, movies, variety shows and concerts. The Lion King or El Rey Leon is currently playing. Clothing stores and fast food restaurants line the street, including the first McDonalds in Spain. (As a general rule, the Spanish don’t eat fast food and the availability is nothing like it is in America). More than that though, there was a hustle and hurriedness that we aren’t used to anymore. The Spanish simply don’t move that fast. Americans that are trying to check everything off a to-do list before they catch their flight the next morning, however, move quickly.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Spanish, while not warm and fuzzy people, celebrate Valentine’s Day with enthusiasm. The little street outside our apartment that leads to the metro was covered with hearts on every tree. The restaurant where we had tapas had the ceiling covered in heart shaped balloons. The metro was even full of couples loving each other more noticeably than usual 🙂
Dan and I had a delicious perch ceviche for tapas. It was so tasty and so fresh. The music was loud and Latin and we found that our spirits were high just from the ambience. Check out the sights from the rooftop terrace! That’s our city 😊
We then moved venues (like true Madrilinos) and had the BEST cheese fondue ever (Sorry, family, its true). There was even a rose on my place setting when we arrived at the restaurant. Love was certainly in the air on Valentine’s Day. My favorite day here so far.
I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Most of the time, I appreciate it for what it is… a way to keep in contact with friends and a source for recipes, events and news articles that I would otherwise miss. Last Sunday, while scrolling through Instagram, I found the address of a bakery here in Madrid. The treats looked exotic, but there was one in particular that I thought my husband would love for Valentine’s Day. Those delicacies led us to Alonso Martinez…
Yes… you are seeing that correct. Macaroons flavored with Bombay gin. They are just as unique and delicious as they sound.
We also got a raspberry mousse and a carrot cake. I wasn’t a fan of the carrot cake, but could have devoured fifty of the raspberry mousse without a break. They were that good.
The evening took us on a long walk through the Alonso Martinez area, which was a cool, hipster area with a mix of funk and grunge. Incredible street art, beautiful gardens, a pop-up bookstore and a road that led us to a movie theatre that had American films. We spent two and a half hours in a bubble with popcorn and Tom Hanks. Alonso Martinez did not disappoint. And we would say that it is our favorite stop to date, but that may not be the case anymore 😊
You know, adventure doesn’t have to happen by the light of day. Tonight, after we took our pups for their final potty break for the evening, we noticed that our door key had fallen off of Dan’s key ring. (Our door is self locking)
There have been few times in my ridiculously fortunate life where I have been more confused on how to proceed. I took the dogs away from the apartment to let Dan think. What do you do when you have three dogs, are in your pajamas, no phone, no money, no way to communicate at 1am? I still don’t have an answer. Luckily, I didn’t have to… by the time I got back, Dan had phoned a lock smith (his phone was in his pocket). By 125am, we were back inside.
Lesson learned, universe, Lesson learned.
Cost of tonight’s potty break? 300 euros. (Price gauging is universal).
Life in Madrid is not boring. Since my last post, we have had a 48 hour snowfall, our shipping container was FINALLY delivered, and we have completed several metro stops. Our Spanish doesn’t seem to be improving much, but we are feeling more comfortable with our surroundings and navigating the city. The Metro Challenge seems to be accomplishing its intended goal… we are getting off our bums and exploring our new city. 😊
Make no mistake… this is a gut-checking adventure at times. There are days when the four walls of our apartment seem to hold the only friendliness in the city. So, last weekend we decided to seek out the other English speakers. (Side note: One of the quirks of Spain is that they don’t really eat breakfast. A coffee and cigarette will get them through until mid-afternoon when they will have their three-hour lunch). I, however, love breakfast. It is, by far, my favorite meal of the day. My marvelous, intuitive husband realized that I needed comfort and found us a Bagel Brunch in a second-hand bookstore that was run by Americans. It was a lively, popular place that was full of people who also seemed to crave speaking English as much as we did. The bagels were good, and the mimosas were delicious. It’s funny how just an hour of familiarity fills the tank.
As we walked around Madrid, we watched Madrilinos enjoying their Saturday. We watched a father and son play “futbol” in a square. We took lots of pictures of Madrid’s street art. Our observation is that Spaniards have figured out how to keep time slow. They seem to savor life in a much different way than we Americans do. What we didn’t notice until later was that, in just a month, we have also adopted this pace of life. Our day was spent walking, talking, taking pictures and just being with each other. When we returned home, we felt that Noviciado might be our favorite stop. That was…until Tuesday 😊
Today’s entry in the Metro challenge is the stop Arguelles. Arguelles is a major stop – it is the origin of the 4 line, and also has stops for the 3 and 6 line. One of the first impressions you get from Arguelles, besides its size, is this fantastic mosaic mural on the wall…
El Corte Ingles (translation “The English Court”) is a large department store chain, and one of their largest stores is located here – everything from Michael Kors purses to GE appliances to gourmet wine and cheese to couches. One of the largest locations is on the corner here. However, today Nancy was in the mood for something a little cooler… a little more trendy…
There is something about Tiger that reminds me of Ikea. Maybe it is the minimalist design, the Scandinavian sensibility (Tiger is Danish) that anything can be whimsical, or the fact that everything seems cheap… even if its not. Everything here is priced and packaged to appear affordable. Yet somehow the two times we have been here the bill has been north of 40 euros… but you do get a lot for it… spices, stationary, candles, toys, mostly between 1 and 5 euros per package.
Also at Arguelles, what I think made Nancy TRULY happy, was the corner florist. It seems you can go anywhere in Madrid even in February, and find a street vendor with fresh and bright flowers.
Once the exploring (which is really code for SHOPPING) is complete, we wander over to the real purpose of our trip to Arguelles… dinner.
We love Paella. Even though it is not a Madrid specialty, real Paella comes from Valencia, the tourists demand it so it is everywhere. The restaurant Casa Valencia is a Madrid tradition. Located across from the Parque de la Tinaja and the Temple of Debod, two major Madrid landmarks, the restaurant has been a fixture of Madrid since 1975. Opened officially by the King of Spain, it is THE place in Madrid for traditional Paella.
Inexpensive, with a great wine list (fantastic wine under 20 euros a bottle makes Dan very happy), friendly wait staff, and an English menu (always a plus), we love Casa Valencia. Some interesting quirks about the place is the live lobster tank… Nancy is constantly worried that something we order will have lobster and she will see it removed from the tank, and the fact that they charge for the bread… but don’t ask you if you want it. The bread is excellent and pretty cheap, but the Asian pair at the next table was NOT happy.
Between Tiger, El Corte Ingles, and Case Valencia, not to mention a Zara Home, and some other cool stores, Arguelles is a stop we will be visiting again and again.
Stop 3 in the books, 178 to go. Dan
One of the cool things about the metro, is how it is like a cocoon. You walk into the metro in one place, and then are totally isolated from the outside world until you emerge somewhere else. Did it rain? Maybe. Snow? Possibly. Flying pigs? Have to read tomorrow’s paper. So emerging from the Metro always brings with it a surprise, sometimes small and sometimes…
Ventura Rodrigues is on the 3 line, and is not really remarkable on its own. Its close to a lot of things… Plaza Espana, the Royal Palace, the massive department store El Corte Ingles.
Our dinner destination for the evening was a stylish tapas restaurant bar called La Sifoneria.
We decided that we had been in Spain for three weeks and had not yet “Hace Vermut”, the Spanish phrase for “Doing Vermouth”, and tonight was the night. If you are not familiar with sweet vermouth, this is not the stuff James Bond adds a very small amount to his Martini’s. Sweet Vermouth is a sweet herbal cocktail and very much an acquired taste. Its in the wine family, but tastes nothing like wine. We Clark’s have argued about whether or not is tastes like uncarbonated Coke… and the argument continues.
La Sifoneria is an interesting place. The food was decent though not spectacular. We had tapas that were more Italian than Spanish (a Caprese Salad, mini pizzas) and a main course that was definitely Asian (they called it a Wok, I call it a stir fry). But what made the place worth the trip was the atmosphere.
It was a little hipster, a little trendy, and definitely off the wall. There was a wall covered in old liquor bottles, exposed green painted brick, and lots of character. There was a group of Americans discussing their lives as ESL teachers. It was a slice of Modern Madrid, in a city that loves its traditions.
Stop #2, definitely a success. We even found a cool taberna to visit the next time we are in the area! 2 down, 179 to go. Dan
Banner day in the Clark household. My three hearts received their pet passports. We can now travel throughout Europe with our sweet pups. (A future post will outline just how much easier and cheaper a pet passport is to obtain than a 3rd country health certificate from the United States).
First up… PORTUGAL at the end of February!!!