by Erin Elaine
It’s been about 5 days, and I’m going to tell you just a little about Madrid. Just to scratch the surface.
Firstly, I’ve been really busy with logistical moving-to-another-country tasks, so I haven’t had a huge amount of time to see the sights. I’ve been spending my time setting up my phone service, getting a bank account, going to meetings to fill out endless paperwork, and looking for apartments. But what I have experienced of Spain and Spanish culture so far has been really cool.
I’ve started getting used to eating lunch at 3pm and dinner at 9pm or later. I’ve also been enjoying the siesta naps. It’s definitely one of the best things about this culture. However, it means that once I start working, I won’t have a true lunch break because school finishes for the day just before lunch. There will be a short break mid-morning, so I’ll have to bring some kind of snack.
The food here is great! Lots of jamón, cheese, bread, vegetables, etc. A lot of restaurants aren’t that expensive either. The beer is pretty bad, but the wine is really good, and inexpensive.
I’ll try to help you picture the city. Most of the buildings are pretty old, just picture European-style stonework, lots of tiny little balconies, etc. Most of the buildings are between 3-8 stories. There aren’t really any super super tall skyscrapers or anything, nothing like New York or even Seattle. There are a few smaller 1-2 story buildings in some neighborhoods but not tons.
There are some main streets that are 2-4 lanes, but a lot of the streets are narrow 1 lane streets, lots of cobblestone but not everywhere. The center of the city has been converted to pedestrian only, so there are no cars in the way there. It’s so nice to be able to stroll down the center of a street in the heart of the city and have it be quieter than streets farther out even though it’s more alive with people.
It’s pretty hot here right now, almost 90 every day even though the average temp for this time of year is supposed to be 80. But the buildings are tall enough to give quite a bit of shade, especially where the roads are narrow.
The shops are all pretty small here, but there are new ones every couple blocks. So instead of in the states where you would drive a couple miles to go to a grocery store or a hardware store, they instead have tiny little shops every 3 to 4 blocks. So things like grocery stores, pharmacies, office stores, hardware stores, etc, are located every few blocks. A lot of them have similar signs, like pharmacies all have big green + signs on the street, so you can tell from a ways a way that there is a pharmacy there. Also, most of the stores are pretty specific, so there aren’t really stores like Target where you can buy a little bit of everything. There are a few big stores like that, but not many.
Basic foods like fruits, veggies, bread, and cheese are pretty cheap, cheaper than in the states. Ham isn’t too expensive because it’s so popular here. Other meats are similar prices to the states but beef is harder to find. Pre-packaged foods are really expensive here. It can be cheaper to go to a restaurant rather than buying pre-packaged food. There are a lot of cheap restaurants around here. Food to go is pretty rare. So Spanish people can order a meal that’s fast and cheap like fast food, but they still sit down at the restaurant to eat it.
Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day here and happens around 3pm. Dinner usually happens around 9-10pm. A really common thing here is called tapas, which are basically appetizers. If you order a drink anywhere, they will almost always bring you a small plate of tapas. You can also order them by themselves if you want. There are a lot of traditional tapas that everywhere has. Such as pieces of jamon, pronounced hamon, which is kind of like bacon but less fatty, less crispy, less salty, with more of a true meat taste, or a cheese plate, or olive plate, or broiled veggies, or chopped potatoes with different kinds of sauces.
I’m really loving it here and I can’t wait to discover more!