Almost five years ago, in a Madrid bar, I made small talk with some tall Spanish guy for 15 minutes. Only in town (country?) for three days, I thought nothing of it – I didn’t even remember the conversation the next morning. A couple of days later, however, I was reminded of the encounter when I received an email from a fellow named Jacobo. Apparently I’d given the stranger my email address – not usually my style, so I’m going to blame it on the sangría and chupitos.

Many, many emails and three months later, I returned to Spain from San Francisco to scope out the Spaniard. Potentially a very foolish move on my part, but I took my chances. And I suppose it went well because I made EIGHT trips to Spain that year and several more to meet up in the US. A year and half later, I finally made the big move to Madrid.

I’ve lived in the Spanish capital for over three years now. At first I dedicated myself solely to my previous career (marketing for tech companies) learning quickly that there was no shortage of interest in Americans from Silicon Valley who’ve worked for big tech companies. Soon enough, however, I discovered my real passion was for travel and writing. So while I continue to keep one foot in the tech world, I relish in developing my own site (La Tortuga Viajera), as well as focusing on travel writing.

A year ago, Jacobo and I got married (translation: finally ended the residency/visa debacle that made our lives H.E. double hockey sticks for two years). We said our “I do’s” and “sí’s” in a 700-year-old monastery in Guadalajara, celebrating with some 120 Spaniards and 40 Americans.

I also can now happily say that Madrid very much feels like home. For the first year or so I missed the US terribly, grumbling at every turn over Spanish inefficiencies – the gym is closed on a random, unimportant holiday? My birth certificate isn’t valid if it wasn’t issued within the last six months?? The bank isn’t even open on Saturdays????? But now, my heart hurts whenever I leave the Iberian Peninsula – I’m literally incapable of surviving without a daily dose of manchego cheese or weekly intake of tortilla española and croquetas (troubling, I know). Now if only my Spanish husband wanted to stay in Spain – he wants to move to San Francisco. Fíjate.

I came to Madrid for the first time on a typical post-graduation Eurail trip.  I spent a few days in the city, seeing the sights and sipping sangria with my travelling companion and various new friends from our hostel.  One of my most memorable experiences was attending a drag show where the performers were dressed up like Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky!  My friend and I were the only American residents in the audience and the performers were concerned we would be offended, but we had a great laugh along with all the madrileños.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Madrid; however, I honestly never dreamt that I would move to the city one day.

A “few” years later, I had made my way to New York city where I was working as a Management Consultant and settled into an apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood with my partner Will and our beagle Ella.  When Will was accepted to the IE Business School in Madrid, we decided to pack our bags and make the jump across the pond.  Will had never been to Spain before and I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish … it’s a good think we’re adventurous!  Luckily, I have a lot of experience moving to new places and am an avid traveler.  This combined with Will’s Spanish skills and a lot of help and advice from friends, The Guiri Guide, and my alumni club allowed us to quickly narrow down neighborhoods for our house hunt and have a bit of head start before we arrived in the city.

We are now all three (yes, Ella came along!) settled into our apartment in the Malasaña barrio.  I am enrolled in intensive Spanish classes and am very pleased at how much I have already learned in class and picked up around-and-about in Madrid.  I enjoy walking around the city – seeing the sights again, but also exploring all the fabulous boutiques, small but delicious cafes, and sitting out on the plazas drinking a tinto de verano with new friends.

There is so much to see and do in Madrid and I look forward to sharing what I learn in the next year with all of you.

El Mercado de San Anton

June 29th, 2011 | Posted by JLynch in Food and Restaurants | Jamie - (8 Comments)

Since moving to Madrid, I have come to appreciate more than ever before the mercado culture. There is something about getting your fish fresh from the pescaderia, your meat directly from the butcher, and so on and so forth that makes everything taste better than when you buy it in the supermarket.  That is why when El Mercado de San Antón in Chueca opened its doors in May, I was one of the first guiris in line.

El Mercado de San Antón combines the charm and gourmet delight of the Mercado de San Miguel with the functionality of Mercado de la Paz.  The bottom floor is home to Opencor, a traditional supermarket in the Corte Ingles family. The next flight up is the actual mercado, which hosts various stalls where you can buy high quality basics such as meat, fish, poultry, cheese, bread, wine and hamburgers.

The second floor is where you can find the prepared food kiosks. The variety is impressive and hosts stations dedicated to the tapas of Greece, Japan, Italy and of course Spain. There are several areas to enjoy a wine, cider, beer or tinto de verano with your appetizers as well.

The distinguishing feature of the Mercado is undoubtedly the rooftop restaurant, La Cocina de San Antón. It is a large restaurant with an indoor section, a patio, and a cocktail bar. Although I have not yet had the pleasure of dining there, my trusted colleague tells me that it is truly exquisito

El Mercado de San Antón has something for everyone, whether you are looking for a place to take out of town guests, need to stock the fridge with some fresh food, or fancy a drink or a meal out.

El Mercado de San Antón

Calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24

Art museums – If you’ve lived in Madrid for more than three days, then you’ve probably visited a few. But have you been to El Museo Sorolla?

Awhile back, Courtney eased our museum fatigue by introducing us to some of the lesser-known museums in the Spanish capital. And today, I’d like to revisit one of those semi-secret spots.

The Sorolla Museum isn’t just any small museo filled with art. Instead, it’s a proper home hidden inconspicuously behind a wall on the always-bustling General Martínez Campos. Within its walls you’ll not only find Sorolla’s masterpieces, but an urban getaway replete with lush foliage and trickling fountains. For a moment, you might just think you’re in Andalucía.

Born in Valencia in 1863, the Impressionist artist is most famous for his depiction of The Vision of Spain. This series of paintings, commissioned by the Hispanic Society of America, features fourteen large panels depicting Spain’s regions. Now, his art displays around the world, but also occupies his old family home here in Madrid.

In 1925, Sorolla’s widow donated this house (built in 1910-11), along with all of their belongings, to the Spanish State in honor of her husband’s memory. Passing through the salons, hallways and gardens, it actually feels like a home (well, not my home, but some ideal version of it). Chandeliers, furniture, books – it makes the Prado feel like a sterile hospital.

Both art lovers and loathers will likely find something to appreciate about Museo Sorolla – whether it be the opportunity to admire a prominent Spanish artist, to check out unattainable Madrid real estate, or just to transport yourself, even for a minute, outside of the city. And hey, if none of that pleases you, the collection can be seen so quickly that the moment you realize that it’s not your thing, you’ll be done!

I was happy to find out today that the museum is often open on random Spanish holidays (speaking of which, happy Corpus Christi?) and that no admission is required to enter the gardens. That said, if you’re feeling a tad too lazy to make it over to the museum in the Madrid heat, you can instead take a virtual tour of the garden (which probably feels a lot cooler from the comfort of your own home). Turn on your computer sound, grab a tinto de verano, and you’ll be set.

How did I end up in Madrid?

Three years ago, I decided I wanted to speak fluently a third language, English and French being the first two. So I thought about learning Chinese or Arabic, but Spanish would be quicker to learn and has a more global reach, and I enjoy speaking it a lot, compared to my short experiences babbling mandarin or arabic. So my mind was set on Spanish, but still I did not know where I was going to learn it.

My plan was to use the last semester I had to complete to obtain my Master’s degree and do it in a Spanish speaking country. I had the possibility to study pretty much anywhere in Latin America and Spain. My criteria was: “Where will I have more opportunities to land a job with less than 6 months speaking Spanish?”
Madrid and Barcelona were then the obvious choices, as many South American contacts told me that for a graduate it would have been very hard to find a good job if you do not have any contacts beforehand.

So Madrid or Barcelona ? It was a tough choice. In the end, what decided me was the fact that Madrid had a larger job market than Barcelona and that I had the opportunity to study in a university in Madrid – ICADE – which brand would help me a lot to land a job here.

That’s why I ended up in Madrid. I now love Madrid for many other reasons, the first of them being that I fell in love with a fantastic French girl and that we both love living in Madrid.

I have been living for nearly 3 years now in Madrid, working as freelance management consultant and entrepreneur. I am looking forward to blog and share with other fellow guiris to help them settle in Madrid with specific advice on learning spanish in a few months, finding a job here, finding a flat, explaining every neighbourhood and which one is for you, and why not, talk a bit about the stuff Spanish talk about all the time: the crisis and politics

Do not hesitate to comment and/or send me an e-mail if you have any kind of question.

Here was my post for GuiriGuide. For complete “how-to” guides to make your move to Madrid easy, have a look at my blog Moving2Madrid.com !

Madridly yours,
+Pierre-Alban Waters – Moving2Madrid.com – Google+ – Twitter – Linkedin – Newsletter!