I’ve often thought about where else I’d consider living in Spain if the right opportunity came along. A couple of years back I was wrestling with the idea of moving just for the sake of it, but then concluded that that was as pointless as it was reckless. I feel I’ve now reached a point in my life where a simple sideways move is no longer an option; if I move, I go up. That’s how it’s going to be from now on.
Currently, I am in the midst of an online-based digital marketing course run by Google, which I hope to pass early next year. So far, it has been the most enlightening, inspiring and thoroughly exciting process I’ve been involved with since leaving University. If all goes well, I’ll be on the job hunt with new qualifications under my belt, and on the brink of making that upwards move before my fourth year in Granada is through.
Ideally I’d like to stay in Spain, but realistically, that would probably mean re-locating to either Barcelona or Madrid, where I am far more likely to find something suitable (I doubt Granada has even heard of digital marketing). Yet even this is a long shot; it’s most probable I’ll end up in the UK (sob), but if everything does go my way, then last week’s visit to the Spanish capital was most definitely part one of a two-part assessment.
I had three days. Many of our treasured fiestas have befallen weekends this calender year, meaning that 4-day weekends have become 3-day weekends (better than in the UK I know but still), thus, my travel options have been somewhat curtailed. Still, I’d say three days is about right for Madrid.
The plan was to head to El Santiago Bernabéu to catch Real Madrid take on Celta de Vigo in an energetic La Liga match. Neither I, my pal nor any of his pals had a ticket; we’d hoped to buy ‘liberated’ ones at the stadium, but to our bitter disappointment, none were left by the time we arrived. Touts wouldn’t budge from €100 and that was for seats in row Z. Mission failure.
On the upside, my budget for the weekend was suddenly doubled. Back of the net (oohh irony). Thus, I could afford to properly make the most of the opportunity, and hopefully reap a more open-ended experience to take away.
I was lucky to have a friend to stay with for the weekend, and even luckier that she could afford the time to show me around a few of her favourite haunts and hangouts.
Street Art! Food! Smoothies!!
Malasaña, with its hipsterish blend of street art, vintage fashion boutiques, underground bars and buzzing cafés, was naturally my favourite spot. We spent the best part of an afternoon here just mooching around, before hopping onto the metro and heading for the famously quirky Lavapiés bario. My friend’s Brazilian friend was determined to shake off his hangover (and ours) with an imported Açaí smoothie from his favourite Brazilian café. They were, he claimed, the best in Spain. The best in Spain! How could I not join him after a statement like that? Even if they did cost €4.80 each (wince).
Well, they were exceptionally good, I’ll give him that. But the best? No idea. It was the first time I’d ever tried açaí (hipster confession), which, along with the freshly baked coxinhas and yuka empanadas to boot, I would definitely fork out for again. Pricey, but worth it.
I returned the following day for lunch at one of the many exotic eateries that help shape its aforementioned quirky character. I say ‘exotic’, but this is Spain we’re in– remember that. It was a Turkish restaurant, and the food was delicious, from the Bereket, to the red pepper hummus and lamb kafta kebabs. Bit better than your average 3 o’clock in the morning shawarma; pricier too though, mind. Not knocking the shawarma or anything, wouldn’t dream of that.
(Free) Tapas! Hipster Cocktail Bars! Markets!
If there’s one bragging right Granada definitely does possess though, it is the famed free tapa. But hang on what’s this? Madrid has free tapas too! And the portions are MASSIVE. We’d intended to try at least 3 or 4 different tapas bars but were stuffed after two. The first was El Respiro (Calle de las Infantas, 34), where we were fed all the usual Spanish nibbles; chorizo, jamon, queso, tortilla etc, but in the second place across the street– El Tigre (Calle de las Infantas, 30) –I’d never seen so much free food shoved onto one plate. It was madness. The place was rammed and frankly it was verging on a feeding frenzy as we were leaving.
We finished the night off with a round of cocktails at the uber trendy, All-American diner-looking In Dreams Café (Calle de San Mateo, 4). If you go, order the Dark and Stormy; you won’t taste better.
A trip to Madrid wouldn’t be complete without a stroll around one of its copiously stocked indoor food markets. Last time I visited, I lost a good hour or two exploring Mercado San Miguel, where I gorged myself on the best olives I’ve ever tasted. This time I was taken to the new, chic and cozy Mercado de San Ildefonso, where, regrettably, there were no olives, but plenty of red wine to numb the hangover with.
Since this was only my second time visiting Madrid, it was hard not to do as tourists do. I visited the Reina Sofia museum, free of charge, and saw a great deal of very peculiar art.
‘Surrealist’ is the proper term. Call me uncultured, but most of it goes way over my head, which is, I imagine, what most of the surrealist artists exhibited in the museum probably intended. Picasso’s Guernica, however, was truly awesome, whether I understood it or not.
Naturally, the cost of living in any capital city is higher than elsewhere in the country, but it’s all relative. The average wage is higher too, though not by much I am told, and if I were to move to Madrid, one of the main conditions would be a guarantee of a higher income. Rent for a room in a shared, central apartment, from what I’ve gathered, tends to vary between €350 and €600p/m, a Metro season ticket for zones A and B sets you back €72 and groceries cost more or less the same as they do in Granada. Seems reasonable, right? (to find out what I earn, read this post).
One thing that is virtually guaranteed in any major European capital is a multicultural society. Madrid is a leading example. People the world over are drawn in by the city’s enviable melting pot of international identities, and add to it their own quirks and customs. A study by El Mundo newspaper indicated that there were just over 5.5 million foreigners living in Spain in 2013, and around 12% of that figure live in or within the surrounding areas of Madrid.
It’s not that I wouldn’t begrudge living in an entirely Spanish community; I just love being around people from different walks of life, who, just like me, relocated to Spain for the hell of it. During my stay I met folks the UK, France, Italy, Turkey, Brazil, New Zealand and (of course) Spain, either through friends or by chance. Granada has its own population of extranjeros but many of these– at least the ones who come out to play –are part of the University’s erasmus programme; not there to work like they are in Madrid.
So, could I live in Madrid?
I love visiting Madrid, but to live there would take some getting used to, that’s for sure. However, providing I am there for the right reason and she doesn’t try to fleece me at every chance she gets, I think we’d get along just fine. Whether Barcelona and I would get along better remains to be seen…