Year Abroad #Madrid: J'adore la Ciudad (city guide)

Seeing as I’ve been here a month, I have decided to share what I’ve learnt about this fantastic city and give anyone, who may want it, a few ideas of where to go and what to do if they were to come here for a few days!

Así… ¡Bienvenidos a Madrid! 

#1 … Primero.
Madrid is a city that runs at a slower pace than London and other major cities in the world. It is not slow in a sense that everyone walks in slow motion, work less, do little.. but they have a very relaxed attitude compared to uptight Britons etc.

In the streets, even in the busiest parts of the city, you’ll notice that the majority of the citizens will be walking at a steady pace. It is said that one way to distinguish tourists/non-spaniards from the spaniards is to see how fast they move in a crowd. The tourists will walk at their habitual faster pace (even if they’re staring up at the buildings or monuments) and appear to be more dynamic when surrounded by spaniards. I’ve tested this method and my lord, 90% of the time it really is true! I’m definitely faster because I walk fast anyway and I’m used to the bustling and hasty crowds in London. Even if I’m casually strolling from shop to shop window shopping….. But so many tourists are like me!!

The Spanish also use words such as “tranquila” and “más despacio” the minute you omit a hint of stressed, uptight energy. They are not ones to panic like we do in a situation. For example, if you’re trying to plan something for the weekend after next, and you want it done asap because it’d be nice to have paid or put something in writing.. The spanish will recommend that you chill out and relax about it. Everything will be fine. And it normally turns out to be.

#2 … Segundo.
The spanish are famous for their ‘siestas’ – which means a late afternoon nap. The spanish working day starts at nine or maybe ten for shops and smaller businesses followed by a lunch break that ranges between two until four or three until five depending on the shop/business/restaurant etc. And then the city comes alive again until about midnight, especially between seven and ten as everyone will have finished work, want to go a walk, have dinner out or go shopping as shops don’t close until nine o’clock here! And it is such a luxury that they do.

So when you come to Madrid, you’ve got to keep in mind that they do everything a bit later here, and most importantly, try to not eat lunch until about two or three otherwise you will have a very long afternoon ahead of you!

#3 … Tercero.
In Madrid, no matter if you’re in a little newsagents “Alimentación” or a gigantic Zara, pretty much everyone will say something along the lines of “Hola” o “Buenos días/tardes” when you enter and “Hasta luego” when you leave.

So it’s a good custom to get into even if you look like the most un-spanish person ever. It’ll give them a lovely surprise. Also, a little tip, “Buenos días” (Good day) is said until about 3pm, then you say “Buenos tardes” (Good afternoon).

#4 … Cuarto.
In Spain, like Canada really, pedestrians have the right of way on all crossings that don’t have traffic lights. The city does not have various types of crossings such as the pelican, zebra etc. in England. It just has two, ones with lights and one without. Even if a car looks like it won’t stop (because they drive fast here), if you step out into the road on a crossing, they will stop*. When Lins was here, I had to reassure her a few times that she wasn’t going to die…

Another benefit is that all the crossing with traffic lights make sounds when you’re allowed to cross. So even if you’re not paying attention to the light – and a benefit to the blind – you’ll know when you’re allowed to cross. I wish they had this in London!

(*If they don’t stop, I am not responsible… 😀 )

#5 … Quinto.
The Spanish have five meals a day here. But before you jaws all drop – let me explain them:

  1. Desayuno: Breakfast consists of a coffee or hot chocolate with biscuits or something fresh from a bakery than can be sweet or savoury.
    This usually happens between 7 and 9:30am.
  2. Almuerzo: Typically a half-sandwich, coffee, and maybe a juice to make sure you last until lunch.
    This is usually between 10:30 and 11:30am.
  3. Mediodía: Lunch is seen as the most important meal of the day. (The grandma of the first au pair family tutted at how the english have such big dinners…) Thus is normally a large hot meal of two portions, el primero y segundo plato,  a hot meal, that is prepared at home and normally most family members participate. And this is one reason why they have a siesta: to sleep off the amount of food they eat!
    This normally happens between 2pm and 5pm depending on family lifestyle which is why practically everything closes in Spain between 2pm and 4pm.  Good ol’ siesta…
  4. Merienda: This is like the afternoon snack after school in England. It’s similar to Almuerzo, you eat half a sandwich, something sweet or fruit.
    This is usually at 6:30 – 7pm.
  5. Cena: Finally! Dinner! By this point I was ready to eat absolutely anything when I was with my au pair families. It is typically a full meal with salad, meat or pasta etc.
    Dinner time can range from 9pm to 11pm. Bonkers.

Children, even babies, follow the same routine. As food has such a large cultural importance to Spanish society, we shouldn’t be surprised really!

So, those are the main things that have stuck out to me during my first month out here. I’ll add more in the future! I’ll also post about the best places I’ve found to go in this incredible city! Now back to writing about the lives of celebrities. Honestly. I am a genius about the rumoured lives of celebrities…

I hope everyone is having a great week, and have a fabulous weekend ahead of them! Big love.