Ever since I discovered Cassandra’s witty blog, Gee, Cassandra, about life as a Fulbright scholar in Madrid, I’ve been hooked. Until recently, for me Spain’s capital had become just a place to pass through on my way traveling and working around the country. However, reading about it on her blog reminds me just how much this big, bustling city has to offer. Check out her interview for the Expat Files below about life as an expat in Spain’s capital city!
1. Describe Spain in 3 words:
Humming. Striking. Mañana.
2. How did you end up in Madrid? What made you decide to move there? Why did you choose Madrid?:
Why Spain? Well, in college several of my Spanish-major friends were planning to study for a semester at the Universidad de León, in the northwest. I had no idea what Spain was like, butI didn’t want to miss out on the fun. At first I struggled to adjust to life abroad, but by the six-month mark my parents cracked jokes about how I’d never come back.
Why Madrid? That initial taste of León my sophomore year left me wanting more, and so when I graduated two years later I looked into ways to return to Spain. I’ll always remember the morning I opened my e-mail to see that I’d been granted a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship; my legs went completely numb. The Fulbright Commission assigned us to different regions, and I have been nothing but encantada with my placement in Madrid.
The flower peddler on Cassandra’s street in Madrid
3. What’s your favorite food in Madrid? The best place to find it?:
Living in the capital means that you can find dishes from all over the country, which is great since typical madrileño dishes like callos (tripe [!]) aren’t at the top of my things-I’d-order-again-list. There’s a restaurant in Malasaña, El Pez Gordo, which offers Spanish staples like croquetas, migas, salmorejo, tortilla, etc.; if I were told I’d have to leave Spain tomorrow, this is where I’d head for dinner.
4. What do you think is the most beautiful spot in Madrid? The best view?:
Gran Vía is iconic Madrid at its best (though there are dissenters who’ll argue otherwise). When I go away on a trip, I don’t feel as if I’ve returned to the city unless I walk this lively strip. The best way to experience it—other than simply taking a stroll—is to take in the view from the top of the Palacio de Cibeles.
5. Name one thing to do or see in Madrid that is not in any guidebook:
Go to Parque del Cerro del Tío Pío to see Madrid from afar! A brief metro ride from the city center, this park allows you to observe the hustle-and-bustle of the center from quiet, sloping hills.
6. Name one downside about living in Madrid:
Like living in any big city, the opportunities there come at a price. Transportation costs keep rising, rent is expensive, and going out is far cheaper in other regions than in Madrid. But let’s circle back to that word “opportunities” and focus on all the great things la capital has to offer!
In Malasaña, a neighborhood of Madrid
7. Name one funny cultural mishap or misunderstanding you’ve had in Spain:
Although my Spanish level has improved in the 20 months I’ve been living in Spain, I still have silly language slips every week. Experience is the best teacher, and I’ve learned, for example, that venta al por mayor does NOT meant that the goods are only sold to the elderly. (It translates as “bulk sales”! Another example? Recently, a Spanish friend was showing me photos of her trip to the southern shores. At one point she paused and warned me, “Salgo en pelotas. Te molesta?” I shook my head no. Wise woman that I am, I knew thatpelotas meantballs. And, judging from the beachy context, I guessed that she’d be posing with a beach ball. Imagine my surprise when my friend clicked the screen and there she was, jumping from the sand in glorious, naked freedom. And that’s the story of how I learned that “estar en pelotas” means to be naked.