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Month: February 2010

Weekend in Segovia

Weekend in Segovia

It was Valentine’s Day weekend and my husband and I decided to have a much needed break in nearby Segovia.  Its only 30mins by AVE high speed train from Madrid’s Charmatin station.  (  According to most of the guide books, this little village in the summer probably has more tourists than locals, so we chose to go in the down season or winter.  From the AVE station you can take the city bus or a 10min taxicab ride into the heart of Segoiva or Plaza Mayor.  This Plaza reminds me of a lot of town squares in the states, very quaint and the place where everyone gathers on the weekends.  This weekend in particular there was a carnival with all the townspeople dressed up in costumes, including their dogs.  They had various music groups performing in the Gazebo, and a costume contest for the kids.

Our hotel, Las Sirenas was in a great location between Plaza Mayor and the Acueducto Romano  The rooms were small yet very clean, with antique furniture.  It was a good location relative to the price per night of the rooms.  The rates go up considerably after June 30th.  Also, make sure that if you ask for double occupancy, that you ask for a double or queen size, otherwise you will end up with two twin beds, like  us.

The Acueducto Romano in Segovia is one of the most interesting attractions in Spain.  These large stone arches are held together without mortar and was thought to be built around first century A.D. (see Fodor’s guide of Spain)  Next to this massive Roman feat is a very famous restaurant we had dinner at called Meson de Candido.  We had to try the famous cochillo or suckling pig that they cut up tableside by using the side of  a plate.  I also tried the cordero or lamb and it was el mejor or the best I’ve ever had.  We finished the meal with a Baked Alaska that had coffee icecream in the center.  I would be willing to take a daytrip a again to Segovia, just to eat here again, it was that good.  They are open for lunch and dinner, but our server said that they are busier at lunch than dinner, probably because most people do a daytrip to Segovia.

The two other major attractions we saw were the Cathedral in Plaza Mayor and the Alcazar.  The Cathederal was  very ornate inside with gold and marble statues, and beautiful stained glass windows.  They also have a museum, but it was closed when we were there on a Sunday.  (Pl. Mayor opened Mon-Sat 9-6 :30, and Sun 9-2:30pm)  The Alcazar is a castle from the 12th century on the northwest part of town.  They offer a discounted student admission for 5 euros which includes a self guided tour and includes the steep climb up the Tower of John II.  I was a little disappointed that you are only limited to the first floor with very few furniture and art pieces, but the ornate ceilings make up for this.  The view from the Tower of John II is worth climbing all 150 stairs, where you are awarded views of the mountains and the entire town of Segovia.

From Madrid, you can easily make Segovia a day trip, especially if you take the AVE train.  It is worthwhile, though, to stay overnight to explore the quiet streets and see the Cathedral and Aqueducto illuminated at night.


Seeing a doctor in Madrid with Sanitas

Seeing a doctor in Madrid with Sanitas

My husband and I have separate insurance here in Madrid outside the standard social healthcare.  We have a plan with Sanitas.  We pay approximately €90 (for two people) each month for general healthcare and dental.

So far Sanitas has been good to us.  But I will say that it is a little frustrating that it is entirely in Español.  I would bet good money that the majority of Sanitas members are from outside of Spain and might really benefit from more English speaking services…normally I understand and am beyond fine with no English in Spain but when it comes to my health…I want to be completely in the know.  Don’t let the English website fool you…all the documentation…everything is in Español.

I’ve so far only used one service – OBGYN.  I saw Dra Argente at the MD Anderson International España.  I selected Dra Argente because she was on an English speaking Dr list I had obtained from IE.  However upon arriving I found she didn’t really speak English, however there was no need to worry as they had appointed me a Foreign Consultant who sat in on the examination and translated when needed.  The consultant also helped make other appointments and was there for basic questions/needs – I felt honestly in good hands.  And Dra Argente – very nice, I have already recommended others see her and they have reported back on good experiences as well.  Unfortunately the hike to MD Anderson is far but the metro stop [Manoteras on the 4 Line] is decently close to the hospital.

I am about to embark on my second use of Sanitas by way of the Dentist – its time for a teeth cleaning.  I have been recommended a good [English speaking] Dentist so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Museums: Thyssen, Reina Sofia and Museo del Prado

Museums: Thyssen, Reina Sofia and Museo del Prado

Whilst you are in Madrid it is worth exploring some of the numerous museums, especially in Winter. There are some stunning collections around. The Thyssen has an exquisite collection that takes you through the different ages of art, perfect for novices such as myself.

I also love the Reina Sofia which has more modern (20th Century) art. The star attraction is Guernica and it has an impressive Picasso collection. There are also good collections from a number of other well-known surrealist artists such as Gris, Miro and Dali. definitely, definitely worth a visit.

The last of the big three is the Museo del Prado, bordering Retiro Park. It houses a large collection of 12th ro 19th Century Spanish art.

As you are walking around and getting hungry, there are a few options:

  • museumsFirstly, The café at the Thyssen is good and they have both indoor seating and a courtyard. The price is a little higher than outside but the food is good.
  • For a casual drop-in lunch at Los Gatos for tapas is a must at some point whilst living in Madrid. It’s a real Spanish hangout and it’s fun watching the chaos. Check out the barbers chair too. I usually have a salad and a mix of tapas – the morcilla is absolutely fantastic.
  • For a more formal lunch, a stop at the Cenador del Prado is a good bet. It is great value with a 15eur lunch menu consisiting of three courses, plus amuse bouche, good bread (often hard to find in Madrid) and drink. The wine menu is incredibly reasonable too.
  • Or of course, if the weather is good then pop across the road to Retiro Park for a picnic.
Laundry in Madrid

Laundry in Madrid

So I have a little secret, I had never been to a laundrymat or lavaderia before my trip to one in Madrid.  Unfortunately, this was not by choice but necessity, since our washing machine or lavadora decided to stop working.  So, I stuffed what I thought would only be two loads of laundry into some shopping bags and walked four blocks over to our neighborhood lavaderia.  They have six washers and three commerical size dryers, I unfortunately needed four of those washers, which is when I learned the drum size for their washers is a little smaller than back in the states.  The owner felt sorry me and helped load the clothes in and fill them with complimentary detergent.  She even asked if I wanted anything ironed, including the sheets.  So all in all not a bad experience, except I did have to shell out 3 euros per load in the washer and an euro per load for the dryer.

I have enjoyed our new washer (thank you Carmen and Lou) because it has a couple of “new features” on it, that sometimes you don’t see on all Spanish lavadoras.  It has a rapido or fast wash setting for 30 mins, I can’t tell what a convenience it is to have this because most of my friends here complain that a cycle can take at least an hour and a half.  It also has a very fast spin cycle so that the clothes aren’t dripping wet when you pull them out.  This is important because most Spanish apartments don’t have dryers or secadoras, instead they hang their clothes to dry on their terrace.   We’re lucky its just the two of us, so I’ll do laundry twice a week in order to have enough drying space.  (i.e. two clothesline in the bathtub)

One last option is the dry cleaners.  We go to Saigon Dry Cleaning near the laundrymat on Leon St, 12. (open M-F 9:15am-2pm and 5pm-8:10pm, Sat 9-11:30am, closed on Sun)   One time we took two pairs of pants and six sweaters, and the bill was only 25 euros. (not bad compared to Hawaii’s prices)  It took three days before they were ready for pickup, but they also have overnight cleaning as well.  Everything was the same as back home except they aren’t open on Sundays, and instead of leaving your clothes on hangers to take home, they neatly fold them and wrap them in tissue paper.


  • Laundrymat-Lavaderia  Calle de Leon, 6 Madrid, Spain near Metro Anton MartinOpen M-Th 8:00am-8:00pm, Sat and Suns 8am-11pm
  • Saigon Dry Cleaning Leon St, 12 Madrid, Spain  (open M-F 9:15am-2pm and 5pm-8:10pm, Sat 9-11:30am, closed on Sun)

Seeing VO in Madrid

Seeing VO in Madrid

So what is VO?  Luckily the words easily translate in English…VO is Versión Original (original version) movies.  This means, instead of dubbing over the voices of foreign language movies there are simply subtitles for Spanish speakers. Yes, you NEED to know this because most movie theaters in Spain have dubbed films and no offense to the voice actors (who must enjoy a bit of fame and wealth due to their demand) but it just doesn’t feel so right watching Brad Pitt’s mouth move out of sync with his new faster and seemingly more nasal spanish speaking voice.

There is some interesting history behind the dubbing..I read somewhere once that in 1941 obligatory dubbing made the showing of original versions of foreign films illegal unless they were first dubbed in Spanish studios.  But I think more shocking is that this seems to be the one thing the Spanish haven’t thrown out the window and worked at break neck pace to get passed.  I found this interesting case study on Spain as a Dubbing Country which helps us understand just a little more about the Spanish…for those interested.

And for those of us who find value in someone’s real voice…a list of VO movie theaters:

Cine Renoir – Locations all over Madrid.  Sometimes you purchase a specific seat (like the rest of Europe) and sometimes you have open seating (like the USA).  The seats are comfortable and the theater is nice.

Yelmo Theaters – Many locations.  They’ve got a good central location in Sol.

Pequeño Cine Estudio – (the website doesn’t appear to be functioning) Calle Magallanes 1. Madrid, 28015 in Chameri.

Cines Golem – I have not yet been to this theater but it appears they have a good selection of independent films.

Just make sure when you plan your movie trip that VO is written somewhere on the movie poster (usually in the corner).  And then next make sure the movie script doesn’t have too many other languages than what you’d hoped for – we had our own comedic experience of watching Inglorious Bastards in VO and were lucky enough to resort to the Spanish subtitles for half of it.

Happy Movie Watching