by Erin Elaine
1. El Rastro
El Rastro is the giant flea market that happens on Sunday mornings a few blocks away from my neighborhood. I spent 2 hours there this past Sunday, and I don’t think I even came close to seeing every stall. There are stalls selling clothing, electronics, art, souvenirs, antiques, belts, purses, shoes, fabric, books, and more! I loved the stalls with antiques, be it clocks, figurines, furniture, coins, brass door handles, etc. I could go every Sunday just to look at all the treasures being offered. This past Sunday I went to find some art for my room, and I returned victorious with 4 paintings I love, plus a wall hanging, and a couple other small things. If I had had more cash on me I might have been tempted to spend it all.
2. El Corte Inglés
This is the absolutely enormous string of department stores near Sol. Imagine Macy’s meets Ikea, multiplied by 4, and a dash of wtf. They couldn’t fit all the departments into a single building, so there are six buildings all within a block or two of each other. Two of the largest buildings have 9 floors each, not including parking. There is a little bit of everything at El Corte Inglés! One of the buildings has a full-on restaurant on the top floor. Another has a pilates studio (yes, you read that right). Another has a travel agency and insurance sales. One of the smaller buildings (only 3 stories) is completely dedicated to books. And you can find the most interesting stuff there! I wandered through the home area that looked like a giant showroom of different living room designs and bedroom designs. I saw everything from imitation antiques to ultra-ultra-modern lamps that almost didn’t seem functional, and everything in between. Finding the right department in these buildings can be exhausting, but they do have an incredible selection.
3. Grocery shopping
As I wrote earlier, things like fruits and vegetables and basics like bread, cheese, butter, some meats, etc, are relatively inexpensive here. Prepared foods like frozen pizza, some sauces, anything precooked, is a bit more expensive. Some of the selection is quite different from what I’m used to. The sections for canned fish like sardines are very large. They love their canned fish here! Cream cheese isn’t always easy to find but the Dia near me carries it for a similar price as in the states. I haven’t seen any strawberries yet, but the availability of fresh figs makes up for that because they are delicious! I have also heard a rumor of dragonfruit being sold so I will have to hunt that down. Another thing that is different from the states is that not every grocery store has a complete selection of different kinds of food. Some of them are super specialized. It’s really common to see smaller stores that literally only carry fruits and vegetables, sometimes even just fruits. I’d say for every normal grocery store there are 2-3 smaller stores that only sell fruits and/or vegetables. I think this will help me eat healthier!