Guiri on Wheels

rollerbladesNew guiri writer Jamie Prachar is an AIL Madrid Spanish student and has a great taste for adventure and all things outdoors. Welcome to Guiri Guide, Jamie! It’s all yours:

Wondering how to work off those go-to weekend comforts of binge eating patatas bravas, croquetas, olive oil soaked pan de abuela, and, of course, copious amounts of red wine?  How about if you could do that AND meet new people, all while getting some of the best views of Madrid? Look no further than the popular madrileño sport of… rollerblading! I know what you are thinking, #1992, #KellyTaylor, #BeverlyHills90210, #unfortunatejeanshorts. In actuality, rollerblading has become a popular social sporting activity throughout Europe, regaining popularity in recent years due to its social, health, and ease of city transport benefits.

rollerblading girlsConvinced by Spanish friends to try the sport having never done it before, I actually picked it up rather quickly with a few pointers (after loosening my death grip from a nearby tree trunk).  You need relatively little equipment to begin: skating clubs will lend you skates to try or they can be bought secondhand for as little as ten to twenty euros.  If you become hooked, new pairs are very reasonably priced at sports outlets such as Decathlon, where you can also purchase elbow and knee pads for as little as five euros, especially recommended for the gravity-impaired. With a low startup cost, rollerblading is a fun, outdoor alternative to a gym. Skating is a great workout for all shapes and sizes, you will definitely gain some strength in your quads and glutes and a sunny glow just in time for beach season.

rollerblade dance class

Rollerblade dance class in Retiro!

One of the best things about rollerblading in Madrid is the accessibility: there are many places to skate and groups to skate with, for free! Retiro Park and the Madrid Rio are ideal places to practice and, for the super adventurous, there is even a 65km paved route circling Madrid, Anillo Verde that allows for both great views of the city and an escape to nature.  You can skate solo or opt to join a free monthly skating route group, such as Escuela de Patinaje Sobre8Ruedas, who also offer free trial lessons and have groups ranging from beginners to advanced, taught in Spanish or English.  Skating groups are a great way to meet new people, and falling is more fun if there are other people there to laugh with you (or at you).

rollerblading retiroOnce you spruce up your skills, you can even use rollerblading as a practical, abono-free way of navigating the city.  A stuffy, hot metro ride can be transformed into a quick, breezy, above-ground route on skates.  I personally stick to skating in the parks and paved river paths, I´m bad enough on my own feet on Spanish sidewalks, let alone adding wheels to the mix.

Now that you know about the health, social, and practical benefits of rollerblading, get out there and try it! Just watch out for tiny dogs and baby carriages.  For more information on above listed groups and classes, check out www.sobre8ruedas.com.

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AIL

Moving to Madrid: The Ultimate Checklist

suitcaseHey Guiris! I’ve decided to take a minute to get back to the very basics of moving to Madrid in this post: what to pack! This list applies to anyone and everyone, despite the duration of your stay, so read on and feel free to add additional items you seasoned guiri’s have found helpful in the comments.

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The following essentials have been discussed and hashed out among numerous guiris here in the city, so you can feel confident when you’re preparing your suitcase that you’ll be ready for any adventure that Madrid may bring you! Let’s get started:

1.    Your passport!

passportYou might be thinking, “this is obvious,” but that doesn’t make it any less important! Even if you’re from a European country, this vital ID is necessary to complete visa processes, take weekend trips to Morocco, and even to check into the occasional hostel.

 

2.    Smart Phone (unlocked)

This is the easiest way to bridge the gap between your home country and your new life here in Madrid. With all your original contacts, photos, apps and more, your smart phone is a great tool to help you navigate your new home. Grab a new SIM card at one of the many stores in Madrid (Orange and Vodafone offer pay as you go SIM cards, and Movistar offers monthly contracts if you already own the phone), or pick one up at your Spanish or teacher training academy. I know AIL Madrid offers them at the front desk and rents smart phones as well, all you need to do is ask!

3.    Some sweet shadessunglasses

In a city that’s sunny 65% of the year, a good pair of sunglasses will take you far. You’ll find them perfect for days in the park, walking to class or work, or a weekend lunch on one of Madrid’s many terraces.

4.    You favorite bathing suit

This item is easily purchased here, but make sure you have one either way. Madrid’s warm seasons (spring, summer, and winter) bring access to all the city’s public pools, as well as many private ones (motivation to make new Spanish friends!) In addition, the beach is less than a two hour train ride away, just waiting for you and your long weekend!

5.    Light, simple layers

light layersYou can ski or hit the beach within just a few hours of Madrid, so flexibility and layering are your best friends in the varied climates of this beautiful country. A scarf to throw over your shoulders is invaluable when visiting a church or visiting the mountains, as is the ability to take it off and bask in the warm rays in the park or at the beach.

6.    A secure purse/bag

I want to take a moment here to say I’ve never felt unsafe in Madrid. Be it dusk or 5am, my personal safety (as a young foreign woman) has never caused me a moment of worry or distress and I couldn’t be more grateful to have that feeling of security. That said, like any big city, the center has a few pickpockets. The easiest way to combat this is to have a purse with a zipper/magnet or, for the gents, to keep your wallet in your front pocket: yes, it’s that easy!

7.    A practical pair of shoesShakira+Antonio+visit+Madrid+8k0H209etMZl

The first day I arrived in Madrid I was given a copy of Hidden Madrid, a book full of walking tours and historical information about the nooks and crannies of this expansive city. This book, combined with a good pair of walking shoes, has exemplified more than anything what almost everyone who visits Madrid says: “the best way to get to know the city is by foot!

8.    Converter

If you arrive in Madrid without the ability to plug in your electronics, don’t worry: just stop by a ferreteria and they’ll set you up with what you need. But it’s definitely easier to arrive with at least one converter so that you can stay charged and in touch throughout your arrival and have one less thing to think about.

9.    A camera/phone

For those of you who have already lived here for a while, I’m guessing you feel the same as I do: some of my most cherished memories now belong to Madrid and I have the photographic evidence to prove it! Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a photographer, you’ll want something to start documenting your new life and adventures in Madrid.

10.    A kindle (or whatever form of book you prefer)

reading metroI recommend a kindle simply for easy transportation: when you’re traveling or commuting, having a compact entertainment source with a variety of books can be hugely helpful! I joined the hundreds of readers on the metro right after my move here and have never looked back. It can also be the perfect companion for a sunny afternoon in the park or at a café, or lend a helping hand when it comes to practicing your Spanish: try reading a book you’re familiar with in your native language, but in Spanish!I started with Pride and Prejudice; the translation is simple and the vocabulary is useful in everyday life.

11.    A weekend bag

weekend bagMadrid is one of the best connected cities in Europe, with high speed trains reaching every desired destination within the country and cheap flights available to all the neighboring countries. Whether you want to hit the beach in Malaga, walk the streets of Avila, or take a quick weekend trip to Paris or Rome, having an overnight bag can make the decision to go that much easier (and help you avoid problems with RyanAir baggage regulations!)

12.    Something to share from home
maple candy

Bringing a small treat, a style of music or dance, or even new mindset to share with others is one of the best ways to make new friends and expand your new life in Madrid! Every time I visit home, I come back to Madrid with a bag full of maple candies, chocolates, and various arts and crafts to distribute among madrileños and guiris alike. What’s your country or state known for?

My final note regarding packing is this: don’t over think it and pack light! Madrid has great shopping opportunities for all budgets, and you’ll be able to find anything you meant to bring but forgot. Whether you want to avoid baggage fees or feel like discovering what all the Spaniards are wearing before selecting your own wardrobe, going light is always the best option!

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So, get packing and come to Madrid: we’ll be waiting for you!

Meet Joan! An AIL Madrid Featured Student

> Joan is a 19 year old AIL Madrid student from San Diego, California, USA.

> She has been studying at AIL for nearly three months so far.

> Joan just earned a two year professional degree in dance, an art that is both her passion and her work.

> In San Diego, she teaches children´s ballet, as well as gymnastics and ice skating.

Joan on AIL Madrid:

“I love this environment because there aren´t formal tests, except the one at the very end. It´s not about the grade, it´s about actually knowing [Spanish] …. I just have to do what I need to actually learn the material, not to pass a test, so I feel like I’m learning way more in these three months than I did in school. I have a much more positive feeling about language learning now.”

Joan and her Host-Family:

“Family is so important here and that’s really nice. They always eat dinner together, and I spend Sundays with the family.”

“After class I´ll go over all my stuff with [Lucia, my host-sister] and we play the same games that we play in class… it usually clicks when I go back home and talk to the family and go ´oh ok, that’s what that was´. It compliments my class time.”

Joan on Being a Local:

“I feel more local than when I did my other [Europe] trip; we were going everywhere and it was very touristy. But because I’m kind of living here, I get to do local things and just live the daily life, which I really like…I go salsa dancing every Monday,  I was surprised that people were just so serious about it! They just took you and started dancing with you and speaking in Spanish!”

Joan´s Advice:

“I like that every day is a challenge because I don’t speak the language; going to the store I have to pump myself up and think ‘you can do this!’ … So that’s what I would suggest. Get out there and try it!

Joan on the Future:

“I am coming back. I already want to book my flight, I already miss here and I haven´t even left yet. I´m coming back!”

AIL

So you think you’re a Guiri?

Guiri Guide is looking for a couple adventurous and enthusiastic expats in Madrid who also happen to have the propensity to write and share.

Our Guiri Guide writers have a thirst for experience and a positive attitude when it comes to their encounters. Moving to a foreign country is never without its dramas but with our Guiri community of support, it can be enjoyable. A true Guiri Guide writer lays out the welcome mat for new expats and then continues to be the neighborly host through and through. Do you have what it takes?

Contact us to learn more or to ask questions at info@guiriguide.com

Five Restaurants that Make A “Madrilena” Miss Madrid

Pilar Orti lives in London and is the author of The A to Z of Spanish Culture. Here, she shares the five favorite restaurants off the beaten path that make her miss Madrid – and not all are Spanish, surprisingly ! And they are so different from the typical, trendy places in all guides. All yours Pilar

I left Spain over 20 years ago out of choice. What I didn’t expect was that I would never get used to not having excellent food within arms’ reach. I go back to Madrid often and spend most of my time eating out with friends or buying food to bring back to London with me. The relación calidad-precio is difficult to beat anywhere else. I usually go back for just a weekend, but if I’m there for a week or longer, I make sure I visit the following places. If you have some time in the city this summer, you might like to try them too.

La Terapia.

Let’s face it, this is just a cafeteria, but the food is really superb. And so is the service.

It is located in the relatively new neighbourhood of San Chinarro, in the North of Madrid. The barrio is populated by young couples and so there is a really laid back feeling to the neighbourhood. La Terapia has a large terraza and this is for me, its main attraction. The terraza is situated on a large bit of sidewalk and so you can comfortably enjoy your food without the traffic bothering you.

La Terapia. c/ Príncipe Carlos. San Chinarro.

(Located around the middle part of the street.)

Entre jamones.

As its name suggests, if you fancy tasting some quality jamón, this is the place to go.

Entre jamones is situated near Avenida de América, and like La Terapia, it has a decent terraza (although this one is quite close to the traffic). If you are the kind of person that likes hopping from place to place, this might be a good choice as there are plenty of other bars and terrazas in Corazon de María to choose from.

Entre Jamones. Corazón de María, 46. (Note that there are two restaurants, pick the one on the corner.)

Chin-Chin

This might be an odd suggestion, but if you want to spend hours talking with your friends in a quiet terraza, while you taste different kind of Asian dishes, this might be the place for you.

Chin-Chin has a sitting-down all-you-can-eat buffet. This means that you sit at your table and order the different dishes as they take your fancy. It is the best way to have a bit of sushi with a bit of rice, some meat dishes, some noodles…

I can’t really say that it is the best Chinese restaurant in Madrid, but if you find yourself in the Arturo Soria/Avd de America area, it might be worth a try.

Chin-Chin. c/ Torrelaguna, 69.

El Automático

As you might have guessed, I like quiet places and one of the reasons why I continue to visit the three other places I’ve mentioned, is because, unless I turn up at a particularly busy times, I can always find a table.

This is not the case with El Automático. This bar is located in the middle of the neighbourhood of Lavapiés, bang in the centre of Madrid. However, what this bar has that makes me cross Madrid at the risk of having to sit uncomfortably while I eat my food, are its croquetas. They really are pretty amazing. And if you also order dátiles con bacon, then your culinary paradise will be complete.

El Automático. c/ Argumosa, 17.

Jamón José Jiménez

Lastly, I have to mention this charcutería.

 The thing I miss most in London is the jamón. Even since I was a student, my mother used to order jamón from José for me to take back. It meant I could always prepare a decent meal in a few minutes: eggs with ham, pasta with ham, peas with ham, rice with ham or just ham and bread, the best way to enjoy this ham.

Twenty years ago I used to travel with a kilo of sliced ham wrapped up in its own fat, to make sure it didn’t dry up. Now I travel with five or six vacuum sealed packs, which last me much longer.

So, if you are a fan of jamón or any other pig-based ibérico products, pop in to see José and send him my regards.

José Jiménez. c/ Gaztambide, 68.