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Month: December 2010

Tips on moving out of Madrid

Tips on moving out of Madrid

In the case of IE, there are quite a few Guiri’s packing up and shipping out of Madrid during the holidays. In many cases the moving and shipping are to locations far away, often across oceans. So the dilemma arises of how to get all your things home, without paying a small fortune.

With airlines constantly adding baggage fees there are only so many suitcases we can take home with us. So once we’ve maxed out these allowances we have to consider shipping boxes.

Unfortunately, the first obstacle arises in finding boxes to ship. Personally I asked some of my Spanish friends and even our Portero where we might find boxes to purchase but came away with no success. I have heard of people either rummaging businesses after hours for their discarded boxes or even asking for any extra free boxes at the local ‘chinos‘. However, if you’re shipping your valuables over-seas then perhaps you’d rather pack in a sturdier box. We visited a Mail Boxes Etc. that is a just around the corner from our place and found boxes in multiple sizes (ex. 40x40x50cm) with a price range of €3-5. Check the website for locations closer to you.

While I did not use this service, in my search I found this company who delivers boxes for moving to your home, Boxes Spain. You may want to give it a try.

As for shipping, I do NOT advise you use Mail Boxes etc, unless money is no issue.  We priced sending a 20 Kilo box to California and were quoted €350.  That is for ONE box, going as slow as can be.  After a near panic, we recouped ourselves and went to Correos for a second quote. Here we were quoted about €108 for the same size and weight box. You can go online at Correos and calculate the cost to ship your goods. Just remember to bring cash!

Now the problem is how to get those heavy boxes to the Correos…good luck with that. I think my biceps hate me now, but at least I don’t have to feel guilty for skipping the gym!

Introduction to Madrid with Context

Introduction to Madrid with Context

Living abroad means many things. One thing it’s sure to entail is a stream of visitors looking for an exclusive look at Madrid, since you know it all soooo well, right?!

If you’re looking for a fun activity here in Madrid for your guests, one where they can actually learn something beyond “this is called a cana”, consider sending them to Context. Context offers small group “walking seminars”, with no more than 6 guests. There are no “tour guides”, but rather the walks are led by docents. The small group dynamic lets you ask questions, or stop for photos, without feeling like you’re holding up the group. The docents leading the tours are more specialized, having earned advanced degrees in art history, classics, urban planning, etc.

In addition to “Introduction to Madrid”, Context offers two “Art Walks” that include “Goya in Madrid”, and “Prado”. There are also some history oriented tours, featuring “Flamenco”, “Life is a Dream, Intellectual Madrid”, “Civil War and Madrid Under Franco”, and “El Escorial”. Context also offers a five hour excursion to Toledo. So pick your interest, or just get an overview of the city.

I participated in the “Introduction to Madrid” walk this past weekend. The clouds were beginning to cover the sky, ominously looking like rain, when I met our docent, Andrea, at the meeting point in Puerta del Sol. Luckily the weather held out for our 2.5 hour tour, which covered the palace area, La Latina, and Huertas, in addition to Sol. Andrea described how Madrid came to be formed, and shared details of the Hapsburg kings, Spanish customs, and, in particular, the architecture of the city. And we took a visit to the Mercado de San Miguel, where I grabbed some delicious olives before we were off to the Plaza Mayor. I snapped shots along the way with my fancy camera, as did Mike, another New Yorker on the walk, and I was grateful for the opportunity to stop and pause in this wonderful city.

Although I have seen these parts of Madrid many times now, it was wonderful to hear more history of the city, and I have a feeling the themed tours (especially Franco) would be particularly interesting. Stay tuned for Courtney’s review of “Life is a Dream, Intellectual Madrid”.


Will work for wireless in Madrid

Will work for wireless in Madrid

Guiri Guest, Anne Grant Anderson and her husband moved to Madrid from Seattle, WA in the US.  She works for a non-profit that advocates for improved public education in Washington State and is passionate about education and education policy.  In her ‘tiempo libre’ she enjoys reading, cooking, walking her dog Abby, blogging, and photography.


For many of us, free wireless has become a necessity – whether for work or play, we’re hooked. As someone who is dependent on wireless internet access in order to work remotely from Seattle, Washington, I hit the pavement in search of a cozy spot to curl up with my laptop and a café con leche.

And what did I discover? Wireless, or “wifi” (pronounced wee-fee) doesn’t magically appear on every street corner, but it does exist. I started out at the standbys – Starbucks and VIPS – where you buy something and get a code for a limited amount of time online. I was surprised to find that places like McDonalds and El Corte Ingles have networks, but I wanted more…I wanted a place that felt warm, inviting, and didn’t make me feel like I was being kicked out every time my wireless ‘time’ was up.

A few lovely discoveries at the top of my list include:

  • El Azul de Fucar, Calle Fucar, 5

I walked into this place and felt at home at once. You are welcomed by a case of gorgeous pastries and can choose a bench or table to make yourself comfortable at. Another bonus is their food menu that includes vegetarian options (a plus for us rare few who avoid the jamon!).

  • Harina, Plaza de la Independencia, 10

Harina takes the cake – literally. Not only is the place flooded with sunlight, but you’ll feel right at home with the whitewashed walls and bistro tables. And the coffee, bread, pastries, and cake won’t disappoint.

It may not be quite as cozy, but it’s right across from IE business school and is owned and operated by an IE alum and his wife. When we first arrived in Madrid, we stopped in here feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by apartment hunting. The owner literally pulled out his laptop and helped us with our search! They also have specialty drinks like mochas and vanilla latte’s.

I also discovered this website that’s helpful in a pinch, but the destinations I’ve checked out so far have been hit or miss…free (gratis) wifi.

Best of luck exploring the wired world of Madrid!

10 best things/the 10 things I’ll miss most about Madrid

10 best things/the 10 things I’ll miss most about Madrid

After 15months in this fun city, it’s time for me to say Hasta Luego Madrid and Bonjour Paris. The GuiriGuide will continue with my fellow Guiri’s, including new Guiri Allison who has already made a huge impact on the site.

I’d like to leave you with the 10 things that I like most about living in Madrid:

1. The Sun – the sun really does shine a hell of a lot and for a Brit who is used to talking about the weather as a primary topic of conversation, this really makes a difference to life

2. Large glasses of Vermut (vermouth) over ice on a summers day and (for 2euro)

3. Plaza Olavide which has become my hang out, especially in spring, summer and autumn months sitting under the dappled shade on cafe terraces with friends whiling the weekend away.

4. Free food. As you may have noticed, I am a foodie. I love eating. And I love that every time you order a round of drinks, food comes with it. From a basket of patatas fritas to large slices of tortilla and croquettas (particularly in Salamanca!)

(And there is much to be said for combining points 1-4 above: sitting in the sun at a cafe on Plaza Olavide drinking Vermouth and eating free food!)

5. Orange juice. Not just any juice but freshly squeezed just before drinking it delicous orange juice. And every day.

6. The Markets:

a. Mercado San Miguel. I was taken to this place as the first meeting of who would become my Spanish food guru. It is a recently reconstructed market that houses the most wonderful foodstuffs that you can purchase and eat right there – be it chocolate con churros, jamon, vermut and olives, oystersor of course tapas.

b. The Chamberi Market is a joy to do my shopping in. I now have favourite places to go and know the stall owners. The food is great and I actually enjoy my trips there!

7. Discovering a different part of Spain every few weeks (you can see some of my write ups here)

8. Jamon (ham), Morcilla (black pudding/blood sausage) and the general apetite for pork products in Spain.

9. Transport:  The metro and bus systems are efficient and easy to use and most of the time I walk. But the best thing is that I can step out the front door and get a taxi in under five minutes at pretty much any time of day or night. usually spending under 10euros to get where I need to go.

10. The Metropolitan Gym will go down in history as the palce that actually made me want to do sport.