When I first got to Spain, I had a freshly minted English degree, and while I didn’t notice it at first, I missed the experience of reading interesting literature and getting to hear other people’s opinions on it. So when I saw a little advertisement in a library talking about a literature circle in English, I decided that it would be a priority to at least give it a shot. I emailed with one of the moderators of the group – having moderators seemed like a good sign of a thriving group – and vowed to arrive for the first meeting only a few weeks after I got off the plane.
After getting lost on the residential school campus where the meeting was held and seeing about seven black cats, I made my way to the cafeteria where they were meeting. I had gotten the texts for the month via the internet; all of the things the group reads are available online in some format so it’s easy for everyone to be on the same page.
I was surprised to discover that everyone but me was Spanish, despite having near-native levels of English conversation. We had a spirited discussion and I felt like I was listened to but not coddled. The group finished by discussing a play that they were going to go see together, and they encouraged me to join.
I’ve now been to three monthly meetings, and the things we’ve read range from Caribbean poetry to British short stories and everything in between. The amount of attendees ranges from 5 to 15, depending on the month, and recently the group abandoned the residential school campus in favor of the more central and easily located Café Comercial near Bilbao metro. Generally the meetings begin with conversation and drinks, and then naturally continue into the literary discussion.
If this particular group doesn’t seem like what you would want to check out, definitely visit a library near you, either in a university or even in your public library, and see if you can find a discussion group that reads English (or even Spanish) texts. If you are interested in this particular group, contact email@example.com for more information.
Guiri Guest Laura is a recently-arrived English Language and Culture Assistant. She graduated from university in the Spring and is exploring the options that Madrid has to offer for her varying interests in fiction writing, Spanish, teaching, and Journalism. She is from the United States and is still figuring out all the little things that Guiris have to master to become true expatriates in this city.
Hearing the sound of golf balls being hit while passing Madrid’s GreenCanal at Canal de Isabel II transports me to another place and time. Suddenly I’m in a golf cart during the 80s, bored out of my mind and noshing on a Snickers bar while hoping – praying – my dad will let me drive to the next hole. Ah, those were the days.
I grew up on the golf course – my dad was a golf pro, and I spent a solid decade between college and post college going to NCAA tournaments and then pro tournaments across the nation (as a spectator!). So passing by Canal de Isabel II, which Allison introduced to us a while back, I’ve found myself pining over putting and pitching wedges. It was only a matter of time before I gave into the temptation.
And so I finally did. Last Sunday I put on some cozy clothes and marched my way into the driving range office located midway down the long park block on Islas Filipinas. I rented myself a 7 iron (“the most versitle club in the bag,” says my golf buddy back home) for a wopping 3.30€, leaving them with my DNI (always a stressful moment considering the agony I went through to get that darn thing).
I paid my 3.40€ entrance fee and was directed to my tee. There, I discovered my fancy golf set up complete with multi-colored buttons, a mirror for inspecting my swing, and a timer to let me know just how slow I was going. I pressed an orange button and up and out popped a beat-up golf ball just as the ticker that read 60 balls dropped to 59. Fancy shmancy, indeed.
I’m kind of blown away by the driving range on a whole bunch of levels. Not only is it super-centrally located and pretty cheap, but the facility prides itself on being environmentally friendly. With 100 driving range spaces and a 9-hole pitch and putt, it’s like a mini golf paradise right in your madrileño backyard. When are things ever that convenient, efficient and environmental in this darn city? Seriously!?
Let’s see if the sound of golf woos me back for another batch of balls. At very least, I imagine it will have to wait until the blister on my hand heals…or until my ego recovers from just how horribly I play the game. Maybe next time I’ll bring a Snickers bar for good measure.
Avenida de Islas Filipinas between Avenida de Pablo Iglesias and Calle de Santander
902 22 24 21
Metro stops: Islas Filipinas and Ríos Rosas
La Casa Encendida: Look at art and learn Photoshop too!
Guiri Guest Elizabeth is a designer, graphic artist and urbanophile living in Madrid. She lived in New York for ten years and graduated in May from the MFA Communications Design program at Pratt. She loves being surrounded by art, architecture and design, and has a passion for the hidden narrative of the city and “off the beaten track” places.
When I first discovered La Casa Encendida I was still in New York, planning my move to Madrid, and I was so thrilled to find a connection (however remote) to a creative community in my new neighborhood. So after not even three days of living here, of course I stopped in to check it out. It is a beautiful space with four levels and a large open performance area in the center. Their programming is diverse, focusing on avant-garde art and theater. The current exhibition, La Caballeria Roja (The Red Cavalry), contains a veritable wonderland of Russian Constructivist art and sculpture, with some experimental surprises.
Going up the stairs takes you to the labyrinth of classrooms where they teach every design-related computer program you’ve ever heard of, from photo retouching to After Effects. There’s a laboratory for video artists to work on their projects and a library/resource center, available gratis for all. So clearly this is the place to learn video editing in Madrid, and they also have an “artist in residence” program, which has a long history of supporting young artists. Also quite randomly on the roof is a permanent botanical garden, to teach kids (small and large) about the different indigenous plant species found in El Retiro.
La Casa Encendida is a great place to connect with if you are interested in art, would like to learn more about it, or get the creative bug when you are visiting or living in Madrid. The classes are all in Spanish, but that’s good if you’re like me and need some practice!
Since it’s inception a couple of years ago, Fashion’s Night Out (FNO) has become a global multi-day event where retailers can drum up business and the savvy shopper can score a freebie or two. When I struggled to get a cab last year in New York, I realized that this event was becoming serious business and now that Madrid has over 340 shops signed up to participate, I am eagerly looking forward to this year’s fashion extravaganza! In Madrid, FNO is scheduled for Wednesday, September 72011.
The basic concept is that fashion brands and shops will stay open late into the evening (often until midnight or beyond) to allow shoppers time to peruse their displays and latest season’s collection. Often, the shops will have music, free demonstrations or services and special discounts for FNO shoppers. The perks vary based on the shop, but you can find out all the deals and plot out your approach based on the information Spanish Vogue has posted on their website.
For those who prefer to shop at home or who can’t make it to the events, check out the online deals also on offer. And if you’re still travelling on your vacaciones, check out the other offers worldwide … as I said, FNO is a global event!
To get the latest updates follow @FNOMadrid on Twitter or VogueEspana on Facebook.
I’m a WiFi café junky. Nothing gets my creative juices flowing like leaving the casa and holing up in some shop where booming Spanish voices manage to drown out my own thoughts. Somehow, it works for me.
One of my favorite WiFi hangouts these days is the semi-new (2010) eno-biblio-café (name coined by me, gracias!) where you can work, read and imbibe in one fell swoop. Sounds like bliss, verdad?
If a coffee isn’t your thing, you can choose from their list of wines – my suggestion: a glass of the Ad Libitum Rioja. After all, nothing pairs better with a book and free Internet than a good glass of vino!
And it’s more than just a book shop where you can get tipsy and buy Spanish books you might never read. Hiding below transparent panels of glass, the bottom floor comes to life with vibrantly painted bright orange walls covered by various art expositions.
Between the wine, books and art, it’s a miracle I ever get anything done!