For a bit of a unique experience, I really recommend Gibraltar. Nestled into a massive rock, surrounded by sea and Spain, this UK territory (with right-side-of-the-road driving) is seriously interesting.
We really liked Gibraltar. Note that you need a passport (unless you are an EU citizen) to enter into the UK territory. Gibraltar has a rich history dating back hundreds of years, under the occupation of the Moors, Spanish and then the English. The population is 30,000 and we found that many of its inhabitants have been there for many generations – crammed into the side of its huge rock. We took an excursion with Gibraltar Rock Tours up the rock where we were taken to see The Pillars of Hercules [the end of the flat earth], St. Michael’s caves with amazing stalactites, The Great Siege tunnels and then of course, to see the monkeys [Barbary Macaques]. The monkeys are believed to have come from Africa, brought by the Moors. Winston Churchill once famously said during WWII, ‘as long as the monkeys exist on Gibraltar the territory will remain under British Rule‘. I guess that’s fine, as long as those suckers remain at the top of the rock because they quickly became annoying, climbing all over you, on the cars, in the cars…
Take time to stroll through the main town, where you can find stores typically only found in the UK and traditional English pubs. The main drag is a pedestrian-only street and flat (nice, since the rest of the place is very hilly). Shopping in Gibraltar is tax-free – major bonus.
Other activities on the island include walks, hikes, fishing and whale watching tours and of course, beach time. There is an abundance of business in Gibraltar which has definitely influenced its nightlife scene…which is pretty vibrant. There is a casino too!
As for transportation. We had a car which was relatively easy (though a bit of a pain with boarder control). If we hadn’t had a car then I think walking would be been the next best option, as the area is small and most main attractions are close together with the exception of those on the rock itself. I remember seeing taxis but not recall any (or much) public transportation.
Now getting there – Gibraltar makes you realize how huge Spain is. A drive will take you approximately 8 hours. One option is to take an Iberia flight to Sevilla and rent a car for the short drive south. Or fly directly in with Easyjet and British airways (may be difficult from Madrid). And then there is always the Renfe trains which you can take to neighboring Algeciras and take a short taxi to the boarder.
We have had a few questions about children living in Madrid, especially around schooling. After some research through friends with children we have come across a great website www.kidsinmadrid.com which has a listing of English, American and International schools in Madrid. It has a lot of other up-to-date information for those with kids too.
One of our friends daughters goes to Numont School which they like as it is ‘very small’ and a ‘family business school’ (it only has a primary school though.) He suggests looking at all the schools as they all have different advantages for different children and their parents.
I was excited to find Salsa in Madrid, through a friend of ours from IE. I have wanted to learn one of the latin dances for three years now, but something always came up with work, life etc. Now, though we don’t have as many obligations while my husband is in school, so we figured this was the perfect opportunity to learn.
Its called Salsea los Miercoles or Salsa on Wednesdays at a club called Shabay. (near metro Ruben Dario, within walking distance of IE) For eight euros you receive a group lesson, and one copa or drink or two non-alcoholic drinks. There is an intermediate lesson from 8:45-9:15pm and the beginner’s lesson is from 9:15pm-10:00pm. (with the entrance fee you can take both classes) Then, there is a social dance after wards until 3am.
The group class is great for beginner’s, like my husband and I who haven’t danced since our wedding eleven years ago. This is a great opportunity if you want to learn Salsa, because the regulars who come are here to dance, learn, or teach salsa, period. I also noticed that the bar doesn’t seem to make too much money on this night since its tough to be spinning around while you’re holding a glass in your hand, same thing goes for smoking. Be forewarned, ladies if you stay for the social dance after the lesson, other local Spanish men or madrileño will ask you to dance whether you came with a partner or not. I figure this just gives you a little extra practice. Check it out, its a lot of fun, and great way to work off those tapas! Check out their website www.salsea.net for what the salsa subculture is up to in Madrid from contests to classes to conventions.
Salsea los Miercoles Shabay, Calle Miguel Angel, 3 Madrid, España (metro, Ruben Dario or 10min walk from Iglesia)
Since beginning Guiri Guide [actually I admit, because of Guiri Guide] we have been introduced to some amazing things and people in Madrid. Honestly, the best part of this venture for many of us has been the fact that in our quest to find the best, easiest and most enjoyable things in Madrid to make the move and settling as pleasurable as possible, we have had to get out there and ‘discover’ a bit more than we would normally do in our day to day lives.
The idea of Cheap in Madrid is simple, to provide you ways to experience the pulse of the city on the cheap…or even free! The author, Sarah from South Africa, has been living in Madrid for 4 years and enjoys, to its full extent, the buzz of the city – both indoors and outdoors. Best of all, Sarah is sharing with the rest of us!
Madrid isn’t the most expensive city in Europe but on the other hand all you need to do is take a side trip to say, Salamanca to quickly realize that we pay a lot for things…too much really. And if you recall – we’re the partners of ‘starving’ students, so we could stand to go cheap some [well most] of the time here.
I went last weekend, as per the recommendation of The Cheap in Madrid’s Blog, to the Caixa Forum to see PhotoExpo: Infancy by Isabel Muñoz. An exceptional exhibit. The way the photos were positioned around the room – almost uncomfortably close – and the wonderfully written description of each photo, truly made the exhibit powerful.
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I have just come back from a visit to the US and one of the first things I noticed, even before I got through customs at the the airport, was the smoke. And as I was walking into my apartment building at 7:30am, a gentleman opened the door, with cigarette in the other hand. In Madrid, it’s publically accepted to smoke.
I admit it, I am an ex-smoker so may be more liable to notice than some others. As the weather is so good for much of the year, smoking isn’t much of an issue as most people are outside. In winter or rainy days, you should know that smoking is allowed in most places. So if you smoke, this is a great city to be in.
Most of Europe has now banned smoking in public buildings so why has Spain not followed? Apparently a few years ago the Government insisted that bars and restaurants over a certian capacity should install ventilators to decrease the second hand smoke. When the Government then announced that smoking would be banned, the bars and restaurants rallied together to sue the government: either they should be re-imbursed for the ventilators, or they should be allowed to choose. Let’s face it, they knew business was decrease heavily and weren’t about to take the investment that they had made lightly.
I have heard verious rumous about when smoking will be banned but there doesn’t appear to be an official line on it just yet. Many restaurants now have non-smoking areas and it is possible to avoid smoky places but it’s something you should be aware of in advance.
And if you are a smoker, well, this is a great city for you. In large buildings (such as the afore mentioned airport) there is a smoking area almost as soon as you come off the plane.