Tipos Infames – wine, books & cafe

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!

Tipos Infames
San Joaquín, 3
28004 Madrid
915 228 939

Making summer last at the Piscina de Verano

Whether you are just moving to Madrid or returning from vaciones, the Piscina de Verano at the Universidad Complutense Madrid provides a perfect way to beat the summer heat!  The large olympic-size swimming pool is great for some exercise al fresco or just the occasional dip to cool off while sunbathing.  Surrounded by grassy areas and tables with umbrellas for eating your snack from the cafeteria it’s a nice spot for chilling out during these remaining days of summer.

Located close to Parque del Oeste, the pool is open through September 8th from 11am until 8pm.  I have been a couple of times this week and it was not very busy, but I have heard from friends that it is best to go early if you want some peaceful time to get in some laps.  I also heard that no children are allowed and indeed I have not seen any in the pool.  General admission costs €8 and students from other universities can also get a discounted rate of €6.50.

Piscina de Verano UCM

Calle del Obispo Trejo near Calle de Martin Fierro

Metro: Moncloa or Ciudad Universitaria


Parque del Oueste’s “secret garden”

Shortly after moving to Madrid, I set out to explore the city’s parks and green spaces.  I started with Parque del Buen Retiro (read recent Guiri Guide posts here and here) and then headed over to the Parque del Oueste.  With my brother in tow, and luckily also my camera, we started at the Templo de Debod and then headed further north into the park.  I was pleased to find lovely green spaces with plenty of room for picnics, strolls with our dog, cycling and even skateboarding!

We then wandered down a small path and happened upon the beautiful and peaceful La Rosaleda garden. Set away from the main pathway before you reach the cable cars, there was only a handful of people strolling in between the rows and rows of rosebeds.   I was amazed at the array of colours, neatly groomed pathways and thoughtfully laid out garden.   The flowers come from all over the world and it’s a spectacular sight when they are all in bloom.  Several fountains and pergolas add to the ambiance.  Instantly relaxed, we wandered through the garden and sat for a while on one of the benches scattered throughout.  A peaceful haven so close to the hustle and bustle of the Plaza de Espana!

Here are a couple photos I took in early June … it’s become one of my favorite spots in Madrid and I think it’s definitely worth a visit (especially if you enjoy taking photos or need some peace and quiet!).




La Rosaleda garden located within the Parque del Oeste (near la Calle de Francisco and Calle de Quintana.

Gluten Free Guiri: Living with Dietary Restrictions in Madrid

When moving to Madrid, or any new place for that matter, everyone has a long list of to-do’s once they arrive and a variety of concerns about their new home city.  For those of us with specific dietary needs, it can be daunting not knowing what food will be available – especially when the traditional foods clash with our requirements.  Coming from New York City where absolutely everything seems available within walking distance at any time of day, I wondered how Madrid would stack up and if indeed its famous hospitality would extend to accommodating people with special diets.  Luckily, with very little exploration I found a variety of options with the city center.

I have been gluten free for a year now and packed my carryon with gluten-free crackers for my flight over, but I definitely didn’t have enough to last me long after my arrival.  My first trip to the supermercado at Cortes Ingles brought a wave of relief … a large “Sin Gluten” (without gluten) section sat right up front.  In fact, Cortes Ingles has a large variety of gluten-free, lactose-free, and health food products.  The selection varies based on which store you visit, but both the shops between Callao and Sol metro stops have good sized special foods sections.  The shop at Nuevos Ministerios is the largest and most diverse I have found so far.  Other supermarket options for celiacs and those with gluten sensitivities are OpenCor, who have a similar but smaller selection than Cortes Ingles, and Mercadona, who have shops all over Spain.

If you’re looking for a more intimate shopping experience, Nature and Clark is a gourmet market located just south of Calle de Fernando VI on Hortaleza (on the border between Malasaña and Chueca).  I wandered in recently and was surprised at the variety of dietary needs the small store covers.  While the selection of gluten free products is quite small, they also sell Kosher and macrobiotic supplies.

So those should keep you covered for dining at home, but what about eating out?  Spanish tapas are world-renowned and tapas restaurants are scattered all over Madrid.  Figuring out what tapas dishes you can or cannot eat takes a few questions and some trial and error.  If you’re gluten-free, stay away from croquettas (even the filling contains flour), empanadas and the tostas but feel free to dig into tortilla española or tortilla de patatas as it is called in some parts of the country (people have had to re-assure me over and over again that it’s just eggs and potatoes), patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), gambas (shrimp), pimientos del padrón (peppers) and of course the jamon (ham)!  And if you’re craving a little taste of America, don’t fear … McDonalds has gluten free bread available for their hamburgers!

Having to skip the pan and empanadas is frustrating at times; however, I think our vegetarian friends have a tougher go of it in the land of jamon!  Some suggestions for vegetarians can be found in Alison’s post Viva la Vida – Vegetarian Style.

I would love to hear any other great restaurants or shops that you have found.  Feel free to share in the comments!

Kitting out su casa

Some purchases from A loja do gato preto

When moving to Madrid, it’s impossible to bring everything you need for your new home along with you plus it’s fun to mix things up a bit for each new place.  When looking for home supplies and decorations, it’s easy to hit up one of the many Cortes Ingles mega-markets for a one-stop shopping experience; however, there are lots of great home stores scattered around Madrid.  I recently found a few in the Salamanca barrio and the prices are great at the moment during the season of rebajas!

A loja do gato preto was a wonderful find during a stroll one afternoon down c/ Velázquez.  They have a wide selection of home decorations and are a great choice if you like bright colours.  I saw some yellow, blue and purple buddha statues, intricately painted lanterns and a wide selection of photo frames.  They also have useful but good-looking tools like dishracks, spoon holders and trivets and quirky japanese geisha soap dispensers.  The prices are right too … I snagged a couple of medium bowls for €2.50 and placemats for just €1.90 each (the bright buddha heads were €24.90 and I was really tempted!).  I will definitely be going back to and will try my best not to buy everything in the shop!

Just around the corner on Calle de Hermosilla (just a block north of the Serrano metro stop) are some other well-known shops such as Habitat, which sells contemporary furnishings and decorations.  They had a wonderful display setup downstairs with ideas for your outdoor space … I love the orange folding chairs, they would be perfect for a little Madrid terraza!  Continue a bit further down the road and you will find outposts of Zara Home and Zara Home – Kids.  A slightly cheaper option is Butlers who had a wide selection of games and kid-friendly decorations along with a wide selection of nautical themed decor … perfect for decorating a beach house!

It’s exciting moving into a new home and I am pleased to find such fun shops here in Madrid!

A loja do gato preto: C/ Velázquez, 24 – 28001 Madrid / 34 91 577 16 07

Habitat: C/ Hermosilla, 18 – 28001 Madrid / 911812600 OR Paseo de la Castellana 79 – 28046 Madrid / 917 705 442

Zara Home & Zara Home Kids: C/ Hermosilla, 16 – 28001 Madrid / +34 915776445 (check their website for other locations)

Butlers: Calle de Hermosilla, 13, 28001 Madrid