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Introducing a new Guiri, Janine Murphy

Introducing a new Guiri, Janine Murphy

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

El Mercado de San Anton

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

El Museo Sorolla: more than just an art museum

El Museo Sorolla: more than just an art museum

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.

Introducing a new Guiri, Pierre-Alban Waters

Introducing a new Guiri, Pierre-Alban Waters

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 !

Madridly yours,
+Pierre-Alban WatersMoving2Madrid.comGoogle+Twitter – Linkedin – Newsletter!


Not your Grandma’s Apple Cider

Not your Grandma’s Apple Cider

Guiri Guest, Jamie is a 31-year old American woman who has been living and working in Madrid since September 2009. Her fate was sealed in 2008 when she met a Spaniard at work in NYC who, after a year together in the States, was able to convince her to pack up her tiny West Village studio and move to Madrid.  Working in a large, international finance firm enabled Jamie to transfer to the firm’s Madrid office and she has been navigating the city and culture ever since.  One month shy of her one year anniversary of living in Madrid, Raul proposed and they are currently planning their fall 2011 wedding that will take place in NYC.


Living in Madrid has afforded me the ability to explore pockets of Spain that are not typically on the top of the list of most Americans.  Although slowly gaining recognition in the States thanks to the annual Film Festival, you would not normally hear San Sebastian mentioned in the same breath as say Madrid, Barcelona, or Seville.

Last spring my fiancée and I had the pleasure of hosting two of our best friends from NYC in Spain for a week. We dedicated part of their visit to San Sebastian and to this day it remains one of the best trips I have taken since moving to Spain.

San Sebastian, located in the north of Spain in Basque Country, is a lovely, small city nestled on the Bay of Biscay and is about a 5 hour drive from Madrid. The city is known for, among other things, pintxos, kalimotxo, and sidra.

Pintxos are small bite-sized appetizers similar to tapas, which are typically served on small slices of bread and displayed atop the bar with small toothpicks in each one. Tradition governs that you cruise the bar, taking any pintxo that catches your eye, and then stacking the corresponding toothpicks on your plate once you are done eating. When you are ready to pay, the bartender simply counts the toothpicks on your plate and charges you accordingly (a price of €1-3 per pintxo is probably about average).  San Sebastian has a wealth of such bars concentrated in the city center. Our group enjoyed having wine and a pintxo or two at one place and then moving on to the next until we couldn’t possibly eat another bite.

Afterwards we washed our pintxos down with kalimotxo, a mix of 1 part coca-cola and 1 part red wine with plenty of ice.  In other parts of Spain this would be considered a drink more for teenagers, most typically consumed on the streets with supplies from the local alimentación. In San Sebastian, however, this drink is more prevalent and is often a featured special at bars and nightclubs.

The highlight of our trip was undoubtedly the night we went to one of the local sidrerías, or cider houses.  The four of us hopped in a caband headed out to Sidrería Petritegi located in the small pueblo of Astigarraga, not far from the city proper. It is a massive restaurant with high ceilings and rows upon rows of picnic-style wooden tables.  As is tradition, we each ordered the fixed cider menu for €27.95 per person. It included a starter of tortilla de bacalao (cod omelet), followed by fried cod with peppers, chuletón (a juicy and perfectly seasoned t-bone steak) and dessert (cheese and membrillo, which is a type of dense marmalade). The menu also included unlimited cider, which for us was the main draw. In Spain, cider, or sidra, is a mildly alcoholic drink made from apples. As I have learned since moving to Spain, the flavors of the cider open up when they hit the bottom of your glass.  Accordingly, the pouring of cider is somewhat of an art form here and is taken very seriously. This particular restaurant dedicated an entire room to the pouring and consumption of the sidra. In the back of the restaurant was a large, cavernous space filled with huge barrels of cider and a barman that was tasked solely with pouring directly from the barrel. We had to watch a few other patrons to see how it was done, but basically you walk up to the barrel, hold out your glass, step back and hope to get some cider in your glass.  Drink (in one sip only), raise your glass, repeat.

I truly cannot say enough good things about San Sebastian. Although what I described above was just the culinary part of our adventure, the city is rich with other sites as well; we were even able to spend an afternoon on the coast of France as it was only about 30 minutes away by car.  If you are ever in Spain, I highly recommend a trip to San Sebastian. Buen Viaje!