Cheap Eats In Madrid


I love Madrid and I think the reason I love it so much is that it’s just Un-Spanish. That particularly applies to the food. There’s so much variety of food in this city so eating out is never boring. That been said, there are certain places I frequent more than others. Usually because they’re yummy, but also because they are super cheap! Here are my favourite budget restaurants, all different cuisines, so there’s something for everyone.


The Place: Baobab (Calle Cabestreros 1)

The Meal: thiebou (€7)

Senegalese food is not something I’d tried before moving to Madrid, but damn. Baobab is in Lavapies, right by Plaza Nelson Mandela, and you’ve probably noticed it if you’ve walked that way through the barrio. It doesn’t look much from the outside, but isn’t that how you find hidden gems? This place is particularly great in warmer weather, ’cause their outside terrace has such a great vibe. Service is fast, although do expect them to tell you that you can’t have whatever you try to order on your first attempt. It’s pretty hit and miss in that retrospect. But if you can, get the thiebou, an amazing rice dish with either fish, chicken, or vegetables. The portions are huge, I’m not sure I can even get halfway through the plate. If you’re looking for good food, and lots of it, with a chilled out vibe, then Baobab is for you. Just be sure to get there early, as otherwise you’ll be waiting in line a long time to get a table. Yeah, it’s that good.

The Place: Shapla (Calle de Lavapies 40)

The Meal: menú del dia vegetariana (€8)

Possibly my most visited restaurant in Madrid and for good reason. As both a vegetarian and a Brit, I love Indian food. And Shapla is my favourite place for it in Madrid so far. Their menú del dia is a steal (you can pay €9.50 for the meat version, but let’s be real, vegetarian is the way to go for Indian food), and once again, I can never finish the damn thing. For €8 you get a starter, main, side, dessert, and drink. My usual combination is onion bhaji, chana masala with pilau rice, and mango lassi. Also vino blanco, something they’re very liberal with. This is another place where eating on the terrace is the best way to do things, as something is always going down on Calle Lavapies. Admittedly this backfired once when some sort of drumming and dancing thing was happening, but one bad experience out of 500 doesn’t sway me. Shapla forever.


The Place: El Azul (Calle Fúcar 1)

The Meal: menú vegetariana (€7.90)

If Senegalese and Indian aren’t for you, definitely head to El Azul. There’s also no terrace here, so I was going all out with this one. El Azul is just a cute little cafe nestled in the labyrinth of Barrio las Letras and I love it. Not only do they have a great selection of vegetarian food, but they have hummus! Do you know how hard it is to find hummus in Madrid? I had almost given up. I love coming to this place for coffee, tea, or cake, but if I’m going all out I’ll get the menú de dia. I’m a fan of the hummus and pita bread, and either the veggie burger or the vegan sandwich. At this point I usually want to burst, so I’ll switch the dessert for coffee. It’s often pretty busy in here, but if you can grab a seat, take it. Cafe culture lives on.

My vegetarian tendencies make eating out in Madrid a little difficult, so I’d like to think I have a slightly more unique take on dining here. Maybe I’ll keep adding these little tidbits of my food tastes to the blog. I’m currently on a mission to eat all of Madrid’s veggie burgers, so maybe blogging it will make me feel less guilty. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these or have any other budget eats for me to try

Advertisements

Housemate Horrors Part Dos

Picture the scene. It is 4AM. It is my new flatmate’s 3rd night in the apartment. Suddenly, I am awake. I hear him talking loudly on the phone, but because it is 4AM and he is speaking in tongues (aka Spanish), I have no idea what he is saying. I sneak a peek out of my door and see my other flatmate there.

“Apparently the whole building is being robbed!” she exclaims, surprisingly chipper.

They fill me in and we all anxiously wait for the police. New Housemate runs from room to room, pointing to where he sees the intruders. We see nothing, but whatever, it’s dark, it’s 4AM. We have no reason to doubt him.

The police come. He points to places. They go to investigate. After a while it is silent. The police have left.

We start to question whether there were ever really any intruders.

He keeps calling the police (I find out the next morning, he called them eight times). He can’t sit still or calm down, and is constantly signalling and telling us where he sees people. Every time we ask for clarification, such as which balcony he’s pointing at, or which floor, or even if he’s talking about our actual building, he ignores us and runs to another window. His story changes from ‘a group of black men’ to ‘people in ski masks’ (but all of this was in Spanish, obv). He is struck with fear over seeing a group of people tie a poor little old woman to a chair. We still see nothing.

There are no intruders.

The sane flatmate and I decide we should go to bed. He won’t shut up about the intruders, or sit down, or even breathe. Sane Flatmate tells him she doesn’t see any intruders and that he should go to bed too. He does not react well to this. I push my chair in front of my door, just in case.

It’s impossible to sleep because he is running around the flat, opening and closing blinds, banging doors, stepping onto the balcony to find the mystery intruders.

About an hour later, only twenty minutes of which I was asleep for, it’s now 6:50AM and there’s frantic banging on my bedroom door. I open it in case it is Sane Flatmate saying New Flatmate is brandishing a knife or something (it seemed likely at the time). No, it was New Flatmate. He blurts something out in rapid Spanish, barges past me, sits on my bed, and stares out the window. The window which had the shutter down and has the exact same view as his bedroom window. I just stood there, half-asleep and dumbfounded. Before I can react, he runs out again and I shut the door, barricading it once again. I hear him talking to someone. He decided to wake our building manager up because he’s still convinced someone is in the building. It’s completely light outside now.

An other hour passes and he finally seems to have shut up and I get a glorious three hours sleep.

Sane Flatmate tells me the next day, that in the beautiful twenty minutes of sleep I stole, he managed to lock himself in her room with her and claimed that there were twenty men on the patio. Those twenty men turned out to be twenty plants.

To keep the mystery going, later that same day, New Flatmate disappeared. We think he went to Barcelona and we had no idea when he was coming back. For the next week and a bit, we flinched at every noise, waiting for the day he would return home and probably try to murder us. When he finally does return, he says nothing. Apart from one incident when he chased me out of the apartment whilst screaming ‘why are you running?’, no other incidents have occurred. We start to believe that he is actually 100% insane and question why our landlord hasn’t evicted him yet.

Eventually, he assures us that he ‘took a little bit of meth’.

Oh, alright then. That makes it so much better.

TL;DR: I’m moving out at the end of the month.

As a side note, whilst New Flatmate had disappeared, a New New Flatmate moved in. He is 40 years old, married, has 3 kids, and has never lived outside of his parents’ house before. If you ever move to Madrid, please make sure your landlord gives you some say in who moves in with you (or, y’know, actually tells you someone is moving in before you awkwardly meet them in the hall).

Mapping Madrid: The War On Jamón

(Or, a Vegetarian Caffeine Addict’s Guide To Eating In Madrid)

tumblr_nrfh8era401qzb2e5o1_540

I’ve talked a lot of trash about Madrid in the past, and one of my most common remarks is that I don’t get why so many tourists visit here. And I’m not just saying that because they get in my way whenever I have to venture into Sol *shudder*. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolutely wonderful city to live in– I just don’t think it’s the place to plan and wait for a visit to. That been said, obviously there are places and things I love here, but because most people I know always visit Barcelona (how dare they?), my expat expertise is wasted. So when one of my favourite bloggers, Rachel, wrote about how she was visiting Madrid this year, I jumped at the chance to offer my favourite haunts in this city I call home. Then I figured that no one else I know is gonna visit this city again any time soon, so I’ll blog my tips as well. You’re welcome.

This installment will focus on my first worry when planning my move to Madrid, how to survive as a vegetarian, and my first hurdle upon arriving, where to find a decent cup of coffee. Hierarchy of needs and all that.

Time for real talk: if your idea of Spanish food is free plates of delicious tapas with your drinks at the bar, Madrid is going to disappoint you. Although it is possible to find, it’s not always worth the trouble. In fact, if you think any of my food related tips are going to be praising Spanish food at all, stop reading now. I am not a fan (and if you’re vegetarian, you’re not going to be either). But I do appreciate good food… it’s just not what you’d necessarily relate to Spain.

Federal Café (metro Noviciado): This is probably my favourite place to grab lunch in Madrid. It’s big and bright and spacious and is a favourite among the expat scene. It’s an Australian place, with another location in Barcelona, and it’s definitely my go-to place if I’m craving a sandwich… which really don’t exist in Spain. My favourite is the haloumi.

Toma Café (metros Noviciado/Tribunal): This place is consistently referred to as the best coffee in Madrid, and I’d have to agree. It’s a quirky little place that’s more like a hole in the wall, but if you do manage to fight for a seat in here, stop for one of their iced coffees (another rarity in Madrid, usually if I request one I’m handed a regular coffee and a separate glass full of ice… you’re welcome).

Coffee & Kicks (metro Callao): This is a new place but has quickly become one of my favourites. Another place for excellent iced lattes or cold brew coffee (and an extra delicious lemon cake). It’d be so easy to walk right passed this place if you didn’t know what you were looking for, but that’s just part of it’s charm.

La Chelinda (metros Sol/Antòn Martín): I’d describe this place as a feminist Mexican restaurant, which are three words after my own heart if there ever were any. I would do anything for Mexico and Spain to switch their cuisines, but I think this place is the closest I’m gonna get. Try the veggie burrito.

La Infinito (metros Antón Martín/Lavapies): As an English graduate, I’m a sucker for anything with a literary reference. This adorable little library café hybrid is a really quiet little spot perfect for getting work done. It also does hummus, something you’d think a country with such Arab influences would have more of, but alas. I promise I don’t pick my menu options based on which literary character they’re named after, honest.

Viva Chapata (metro Lavapies): VEGAN FOOD. VEGETARIAN FOOD. I LOVE YOU. Aaaaah. In a sea of chorizo and jamón, finding somewhere with an overwhelmingly vegan menu felt like a hallucination. A veggie mirage in a world of cooked animal carcasses. Although it does have meat options too, y’know, if you’re into that stuff.

So go forth, holiday-goers and newbie expats of Madrid, eat good food and try to ignore all the weird giant pig legs that adorn every bar/supermarket/restaurant you see.

Teaching English in Madrid: Pros and Cons

tumblr_nl7a7cKGN91qzb2e5o1_1280

So teaching English in Spain was a bit of a whirlwind decision for me, and since deciding to do it last May and moving to Madrid in July, my opinions and expectations have changed a lot. Firstly, I was so completely against teaching children. I hated high school when I was there myself, why would I willingly spend more time there as a grownup? One of the selling points of teaching for me was that I could work exclusively with adults. So how did I end up, eight months later, working with kids (and more importantly, enjoying it so much more)? Let’s investigate.

I’ve pretty much done the whole teaching spectrum during my short time in Spain. I’ve worked in an academy, taught in-company Business English, and taught in a secondary school. I’m by no means an expert, but just in case anyone is an obsessive Googler like I am, here are my thoughts on all three of my teaching gigs so far.

Teaching In An Academy: Most people who teach in a language academy will tell you the same thing: it’s very hit or miss. I kind of fell into academy work. It was one of my first job interviews in Spain, and they were the first place to offer me a job. As an unemployed college graduate, I jumped at the chance. I was gonna have money? Yes please! However, I really wish I’d done more research first. I quickly found out that my €10 an hour pay was kind of, well, terrible. I pretty much just spent my days teaching straight out of a textbook and fighting with the CD player to get listening exercises to work. Also, for all my fear over teaching kids, adults (with barely any command over the English language) will very often fight you over basic English grammar or word pronunciations. Like, who’s the English teacher here, Juan?

  • Pros: Your classes are all in one place and most of the time materials will be provided.
  • Cons: The pay isn’t the best and there’s a strong possibility they’ll expect your academy classes to have precedence over any privates you might have.

Teaching In-Company Business Classes: I really liked teaching Business English, but I did get amazingly lucky teaching only C1 level students. A lot of the time Business English students will want to focus more on conversational English that will help them with clients and travel, rather than revising the joys of the past participle for two hours. Originally I was worried that my lack of business knowledge would hinder my ability to teach Business English, but you’d be surprised how much stuff you pick up from just general day to day life, and there weren’t any instances were I couldn’t answer my students’ questions. A lot of the time I’d plan a lesson on a specific subject, and by the end of the class I’d be answering random questions about Scottish Independence and the, uh, nightlife in Amsterdam. Definitely more interesting than phrasal verbs.

  • Pros: You have more control over the lessons and can ask your students what they specifically want to learn (you’ll also get to sit in fancy conference rooms a lot).
  • Cons: When taking on new classes, you have to account for travel time between locations, so you better bring a book to read on the Metro.

Teaching In A School/Being A Language Assistant: After my Business English contract was coming to an end and seeing how much my friends liked working in schools, I decided to try my luck applying for the Ministry Program… in the middle of the school year. Shockingly enough, it actually worked. And I’m so glad it did. Teaching kids is very different to teaching adults, but for the first time since starting this little teaching adventure, my job actually feels… rewarding? I thought that teaching paying adults would feel like this, but I quickly realised their interest mainly stems in landing a job. Whereas kids might not be learning English by choice, the majority of them do seem to actually enjoy their lessons. And the best part is that because I’m only a measly language assistant, I just get to play games and do fun stuff with them, all the boring grammar stuff gets loaded onto the teachers. It’s like being the cool aunt or something.

  • Pros: Your classes are all in one place, you get to hear sentences like ‘Madonna will have a baby… and then kill it’ whilst teaching the future tenses, and let’s be real, the pay is pretty great.
  • Cons: The likelihood of getting placed in a school in the centre is slim, but honestly the commute isn’t so bad. When I first got placed in Zone B2, I almost cried. But it only takes me about 45 minutes and my 40 book reading challenge is coming on like a dream. So not really that much of a con after all.

So that’s my experience with teaching English in Madrid. I know the experience is different for everyone, but that’s part of the fun of it. It’s supposed to be an adventure! And if you really do get a job and it’s completely terrible, just change it. In case you couldn’t tell from what I just wrote, there’s lots of opportunities for teaching English in Madrid and you’ve just gotta find your perfect fit. If you’re thinking of applying to teach English abroad, I highly suggest it! It definitely changed my life for the better… although whether that’s the joys of teaching or the cheap vino blanco is purely a matter of opinion.

November Photo Diary: Temples, Volcanos & Palaces, Oh My!

I know, I know. A photo diary blog post– how cliché. But nonetheless, I have a few snaps to share from my November shenanigans, and it’s a good way to look back on things in the future. It probably won’t happen every month, but if there’s something worth writing about I’ll share it on here.

IMG_2200

November was a bittersweet month. It was my flatmate Lauren’s last month in Madrid, so we had lots of little excursions to the places we always said ‘oh, we should go there!’ and never did. November technically started off right after my trip to Segovia, because as soon as we arrived back in Madrid we rushed off to Allie’s real life American Hallowe’en party. I had pumpkin flavoured cookies and drank punch. So American. Even if there weren’t any red cups. As this picture was taken after midnight, it was technically November. And since I don’t like to spend money on things (total lie, but I’d rather spend it on shoes and pretty dresses, not Hallowe’en costumes), I wore my own clothes and donned some extra liquid eyeliner to be Alex DeLarge. One person knew who I was.

IMG_2201 copyOne of the many ‘last chance to do x’ places that Lauren and I visited was tea and cake at my favourite brunch spot right by our apartment. I often come here in the mornings for a café con leche and a napolitana (just call it a fucking pain au chocolat, alright), but Lauren never joined me. So before one of our trips to the cheap English food shop that just opened in Madrid (vegetarian Oreos and Heinz Tomato Soup <3), we stopped by for a refuel. I got passion fruit tea, purely because I wasn’t wearing my glasses and couldn’t see if they had any of the green variety, and a chocolate cake. I think Lauren just got a boring old normal tea and a cheesecake, because our tastes are very different, but we enjoyed ourselves and it definitely made the (poorly planned on our part) rush hour on a Friday Metro journey a lot more bearable.

IMG_2202

Yet another adventure with Lauren involved one last trip to our favourite tapas place (if you could call it that). I actually ended up taking over one of Lauren’s classes when she left, so this day I just followed her around to see exactly where the building was. Whilst she taught her class I got sucked into an English bookstore and endless iced lattes at Starbucks… where the chosen name of the day was Dorothy. Not on my behalf though, that’s just one of the many ways that Spanish people hear the name Rosy. After that we trekked to Salamanca to the famous tapas place. Tapas and copas for 2.90€? Yes please. I always get the sandwich vegetal out of necessity, but I love it anyway. And I’m never going to turn down a nice cold glass of tinto de verano after a long day of walking around Madrid… even if it is raining outside.

IMG_2203

A lot of my month was spent doing some cover classes for my agency and working on implementing new social media strategies for my internship (so grown up, so adult), so we skip a week or so here until it was Lauren’s leaving weekend. Unfortunately, this coincided with my dad coming to visit, so her going away drinks were cut short for me. Because of this, Greg, Lauren, and I went out to another bar a bit earlier for some, uh, more tinto. After that we headed out to meet everyone at a Hawaiian themed bar with fish tanks in the walls. We were greeted with leis, flowers, cocktail umbrellas, and… ham sandwiches? Very Hawaiian. Six of us ordered a volcano drink which was an amazing 45€, but sadly it was the only overpriced smoking drink I got to experience as my dad text me to say he was at his hotel… and that means I’d get to stop spending my own money so obviously I was going to go meet him. And I guessed I missed him in the four months I hadn’t seen him or anything. Whatever.

IMG_2204

The next day I got up early to show Madrid to my dad. Unfortunately for us, it was the worst weather I’d experienced since I moved here in July. After breakfast we dipped in and out of a few stores in the centre, and I got to show my dad the Plaza Mayor Goat Thing, which is clearly worth the trip to Madrid on it’s own really. We didn’t really have a plan of action, so we strolled down Gran Via and I thought that maybe the market would be up in Plaza de España– it wasn’t– but a quick Google search of ‘touristy Madrid things’ did remind me that the Temple of Debod was within walking distance, so we headed out to see some Egyptian-y goodness. It’s something I’ve been meaning to visit since moving here but have never had the chance to, so it was great to finally experience it. We didn’t go inside the museum, but we did get to walk around the outside of the temple and see a great view of Madrid from the top of the hill. It was nice for my dad to see that Spain exists outside of Benidorm.

IMG_2206

We spent the rest of the day avoiding the rain and eating in the most Spanish restaurant I’ve been in since moving here… I wouldn’t recommend it. But the next day we got back on the tourist-y wagon. We started with breakfast, once again, and then braved the crowds of El Rastro, because you’ve gotta experience that at least one. And it happens on my doorstep, so I don’t really have that much of a choice about going if I want to leave my house on a Sunday. After a bit more exploring we got churros with Lauren and Greg, which then inspired us to check out the Palacio Real de Madrid. It was beautiful to see and I’m glad I got to go inside and learn a bit more about the history of the Spanish monarchy and how they lived… but I think I’ll always prefer the British monarchy and visiting run down medieval castles like I did for my birthday this year.

IMG_2205

Later that evening both Lauren and my dad left me, on the same plane no less, and I was back to a life of emptiness. LOLJK… my dad had brought me my Nintendo 3DS over and Pokémon Omega Ruby had just come out so I’ve had a pretty productive week. Six gym badges down, two to go. Nah, but really, I started my new teaching job on Tuesday so I’ve spent the week rubbing shoulders with the business professionals of Alonso Martínez. I’m definitely glad I bought this coat now, I feel like I can blend in with the soulless business corporate types I wait at crossings with quite easily and without judgement.

IMG_2207

12 days until I go back to the UK for Christmas and get to give my cat so many eskimo kisses that my nose starts to erode. Until then I’ll be teaching some business English, trying to revolutionise social media marketing, and watching all of the Game of Thrones DVDs my dad brought me. It’s been way too long, Jorah.

Reasons You Should Visit Madrid

10690291_10204366648022027_4350412595426445816_n

I’m not sure if I’ve ever fully expressed my love for her on here, but I really love this wonderful human being called Sibby. My earliest memory of her is from sometime back in primary school, pretending to be a dog and barking at passers by on top of the hill in our playground. After that I remember her as an eleven year old in a big puffy winter jacket. I think it had tassels. I remember her being a huge emo goth baby, I remember her forays into fashion blogging, and I remember her buying me a House Targaryen necklace for my birthday… although admittedly that one was only in July.

Continue reading “Reasons You Should Visit Madrid”

Housemate Horrors

Madrid has been pretty great to me since I’ve been here and the only problems I’ve had have been related to my living situations. My first apartment had a broken door which meant I kept locking myself out and the second looked like it could be the setting for one of the REC sequels. So of course there was a lot of hesitation when I moved into my new place… but everything seemed great. It was clean, it was new, my bed was the size of some of the other apartments I viewed. I thought I’d lucked out with the perfect apartment. O what fools these Rosys be. I forgot about the roommates.

Let me preface this by saying that I have three roommates. One of them I knew from my teacher training and they actually told me about the apartment– which I will forever be grateful for. We also cook each other food and drink a lot of tinto, two of my favourite past times. My second roommate is also pretty great. She’s like a ghost most of the time, you’d barely know she was there. And she’s like a built in Google Translate for me when I want to quadruple check that there’s no meat in my food. But number three… I’m pretty sure she decided she hated me from the moment I walked in the door and I’m not sure what I managed to do in those first three seconds, but I guess it was pretty terrible. Sure, my roommates have done things that have annoyed me, but I’ve never said anything as I figured it was pretty obvious that sometimes stuff like this was gonna happen. In my case, it would be getting woken up at like 5AM three days in a row and not particularly appreciating it when someone invites a random traveller they met once before to sleep in our living room. But I digress, the point is that roommates aren’t gonna agree on everything. So here’s a list of some of the things my roommate, we’ll call them G, has complained to me (or to others, about me) about in the three weeks I’ve lived here.

Continue reading “Housemate Horrors”