Monday, February 28, 2005

MADRID Impressions

Madrid is indeed a beautiful city, very rich in passion, in architecture, as well as history. The only complaint I can think of is that the Spaniards were busy renovating many of their old buildings last weekend, which I suppose will keep them busy in the coming months, thus resulting to a less attractive panoramic view of the city, especially when taking fotos.

Most of the fotos below are also not in high quality representation. They were taken by an ordinary film camera where you print the fotos. I re-captured them using my new digital camera.


Ah well, every woman’s favorite hobby I guess. I barely made Ph.D. in shopping last weekend since three days was not enough to indulge, thankfully haha. But, it was a relief though; I can finally enter any shop without having to worry about my size, unlike in the Netherlands everything is bigger and I am shorter. Annoying bigtime.

Me with the bear climbing the apple tree statue, Madrid's insignia. G and I in the busy calle of Puerto del Sol.

A spectacular showcase of Madrid is its main highway called Gran Via [Grand Road/Way]. The long Gran Via stretch is festooned with beautifully and elaborately designed edificios [buildings] with gold color accents, dating from the early 19th century.

From the corners of Metro Callao and Gran Via, streams the two busiest shopping streets in Madrid (sorry, forgot the street names!). They split up and exit towards Puerto del Sol, where the statue of the Bear climbing the apple tree is located (see foto above). People say that the bear is Madrid’s symbol?

For the connoisseur shopper, hold on to your high-heel shoes because there is another place for you: Calles Goya and Serrano, a chic shopping district filled with mid to upscale exclusive fashion boutiques, the place where Posh Beckham is often sighted. I only discovered this place on Saturday, after 5PM, so basically I only had 3 hours to wander around, let alone shop. Not enough. My friend G also live in this area, lucky her, I guess.

Left foto: by the Gran Via; middle foto: in El Rastro biggest flea market in Madrid; and right foto: very tired as this is late into night after a lovely dinner and some shopping.

Quick Facts: Most Madrideleno shop owners close their stores at 2PM for siesta. They re-open at 5PM until 8PM in the evening.

Well, these Spaniards really know how to live life huh; they happily indulge in afternoon siestas while the north Europeans toil away. I know siesta very well as it is a part of the old Philippine culture, but nowadays, this afternoon relaxing activity is simply out of the ordinary, after all, the Philippines have for decades adapted well into the 24-hour American labour mentality (which is a form of minor slavery according to the Europeans).

Another shopping place one should not miss in Madrid is the great “El Rastro” market, the biggest flea market in the city, but open only on Sundays.

Even though the whole place was jampacked, we have to snake through the crowds, our elbows together, my hands guarding my belt bag like my whole life was packed in there and G kept looking back telling me to be careful of pickpocketters, I still loved the chaotic experience and would surely go back if given the chance.

I bought a few items, something for the kitchen and for the living room.


Mesones! Let's go Meson Hopping!

One of the best places to satisfy the discriminating palate is at the mayor mesones, located just right below the majestic Plaza Mayor. When you go down the exit stairs from the plaza, you will see a row of rustic looking stone taverns, or mesones as commonly called in Madrid.

Each meson tavern has its own distinct specialty. The general idea here is to hop from one meson to the other and tasting a little bit of each tavern’s specialty while enjoying some accordion music and jolly dancing.

First foto: the row of meson tavernas where we hopped for dinner and the second foto: the majestic Plaza Mayor (a must see) just right above the meson tavernas.

We first tried the tortilla tavern, which at first glance looked like a Mexican bodega because of its bright colors. When the tortillas arrived, I then realized for the first time that they were omelet. OK, they look like omelet. We rinsed the tortillas with some sangria. Now, that was nice.

Then a few minutes later, a charming and chubby Spaniard sat by the arched doorway and began playing the accordion. When he knew that G and I are from the Philippines, to my surprise he started singing some Tagalog songs. He sang Leron Leron Sinta, Bahay Kubo and darn, he even knew the lyrics of the Philippine’s National Anthem - Bayang Magiliw, lol! I thought it was so funny; I just laughed and laughed. This man was such a character!

Surprise! The Spaniard who can sing well in Tagalog!!!

Next stop was the fish meson, which was so and so. There was another Spaniard with an accordion in there as well, but he was such a boring and pitiable entertainer. We didn’t even noticed him playing until he started collecting money from us.

The third and last stop was the jamon meson. Ah, lip-smacking goodness jamons. I crave for anything spiced and cured you know. I just love Spanish meat tapas... chorizo, jamon iberico, jamon serrano, they make my taste buds churn, I want! Happy that the best food was indeed saved for last.

We also had some sort of free entertainment in the last tavern. There was a highly intoxicated Spaniard impersonating Julio Iglesias and was having a go at the microphone. He was a mess and he tortured our ears to oblivion.

More quick facts: The Spaniards eat late. They start around 10PM in Madrid and nightlife kicks off after midnight. Also, be sure to reserve if you are going to a popular restaurant because these feast loving Spaniards are always dining out.

Lunch is another story though. They start at 2PM and god knows when it ends, lol. G told me that in many restaurants, they still serve breakfast at 12-1PM. Not brunch people, but breakfast.


The Madrid Vision bus would be the best way to familiarize Madrid. It serves three routes: (1) Historical Madrid, (2) Modern Madrid, and (3) Monumental Madrid. (correction: they now only serve two routes --- Historical and Modern Madrid)

The Madrid Vision touristic bus.

Costs € 13 per person (2005) for a whole day tour, all for the three routes already and you can easily hop from one bus to another. The best way to view Madrid in panorama would be to sit on the top deck of the bus.

Highly recommended, but after 2 hours, it was way too cold up there. Summer would be different I am sure.

The Metro subway is another alternative to use for exploring Madrid. Efficient, clean and fast, but be careful of undesirable hands groping for your wallets, bags and you know what else. Yes there are sad people everywhere. Unfortunately.


Plaza Mayor (see picture above in gastronomy) is a lovely place. It is the perfect spot (many people argue it’s a tourist trap?) to sit down and let time pass, perhaps over a book and a glass of wine, or just simply to people watch. Luckily, the afternoon that I was there, the wintry clouds cooperated, they were moving towards the another direction, leaving me with all the sun rays to enjoy.
I had a good time studying Madrid’s map while finishing easily two glasses of red wine.

Because a woman cannot be alone for 5 minutes in Spain, it happened. The waiter, who by the way doesn’t speak a word of English was flirting with me. Armed with my Cebuano learned Spanish words + self taught sign language, I tried hinting I am not interested. For a moment I thought he understood but he just kept repeating, Nombre? Numero? Telefono?

So the solution was to pay the bill and leave. ADIOS amigos =)

The side streets of Puerta del Sol are also good places to stroll and sight-see. One can start the journey from Gran Via going down to Sol. The streets are mostly flanked with busy shops and a chorus of rebajas (sale) signs seem to cover the whole stretch.

Puerta de Alcala... the white cars with the red stripe are Spanish cabs. And, Parque de Retiro, this man-made lake is just a portion of this humongous park.

First foto: the Crystal Palace inside Parque de Retiro; second foto: Cibeles fountain

Parque de Retiro, Madrid’s humongous man-made park and man’s grand display of artistic prowess. Many Madrileños hang-out here during the week and it can get busy during the weekends.

Locals say that the Retiro was originally built for the Spanish King Phillip IV and it was only opened to the general public sometime in the 1800’s. The park exudes a sphere of arrogance and royalty. One of the fine-looking showcases in the park is the Crystal Palace, its walls and ceilings are made of glass. Too bad, they didn’t allow taking of pictures inside.

I also love the many stunning outdoor fountains in Madrid. They make the city look so pretty and somewhat romantic.


A not-so-positive point of Madrid: it is quite rare to encounter a Spaniard who can converse in English, even in the hotels (the big ones are not a problem) and in the restaurants. I am sure this is not an issue in the business district because based in my experience, many of my Spanish business associates speak very good English but for the tourists, its a pain.

One thing for sure that I know, the men are a very assertive lot. I have been approached by a number of Spanish men and they are not always easy to get rid of as they tend to not believe the word NO. Sigh.

Words of survival in Madrid:

Tinto vino (Red wine)
Cambio (Change)
La Cuenta (I want to pay!)
Muchas gracias (Thank you)
No habla espanol! (I don’t speak Spanish!), the best answer to get rid of an irritating Spaniard following you, lol.


Another seemingly important Madrid characteristic is the fashion sense of many women, they simply stand out. The Madrileños, both men and women, and in this case especially the older generation, they are very style conscious types.

Since I was not able to capture the senoras on camera, I hope this pretty black swan will suffice. Taken at the Crystal Palace in Retiro Park.

The women are regally poised, clad in intimidating fur coats (even for 10C), Gucci sunglasses, high heels and their crowning glory? Thick hair held up with ozone-layer-killer hairspray. OMG, they all look like twin sisters of the Dutch Queen Beatrix, ha-ha. To complete the whole glamour ensemble, a very tiny chihuahua walks behind as a living fashion accessory. I honestly think PC Hoofstraat in Amsterdam will be put to shame.

The men as well, they gather together over a cup of coffee during Sunday morning, neatly dressed in coat and tie. I initially wondered if they came from a church service or if there was a senior citizens business meeting going on in the cafe. Helaas no, they were just dressed like that, just like a normal day.

I guess being overdressed is being Madrid!


  1. Anonymous1:45 am

    hinay hinay sa bandwidth or I'll have to charge you. glad you enjoyed your visit, though even you would have to admit, a weekend was too short. D says hi!

  2. Anonymous1:45 am

    hinay hinay sa bandwidth or I'll have to charge you. glad you enjoyed your visit, though even you would have to admit, a weekend was too short. D says hi!

  3. Hey MissT, welcome back in Nl! Wow, it seems like you had a lot of fun there in Madrid! I know about the men there, they're like 'aasgieren'! It's the same with French men! Strangly when I was in Italy last summer, no Italians bugged me, only the African immigrants and the British tourists(??)! Anyway, nice to read you enjoyed yourself! Later today I'll post a little story about my adventures yesterday in Antwerp! Elja

  4. Hoy day balik na diay ka! sus how can you cebuano sign language shoo the waiter away? or were you fluttering your eye lashes on him ;-) bet you maxxed your cards ;-) i love spanish tapas! Maybe we should put Madrid on our wish list this year. Thanks for introducing me to Gia.

  5. Damn I'm jealous. I'm hoping to explore Spain a bit more before I leave eventually someday, and Madrid is right up there.

    BTW, did you know that Spain is the country with the least amount of English speaking people in Europe? Not surprisingly, Germany has the most (among non-native English speaking countries of course)
    Did you try any good red wines you can recommend?


  6. Hey Rik Madrid I heard is posh ;-) I have been mostly in the south and Palma, another "culture"

    MissT didnt the guy sing for you MATUD NILA? ;-)

  7. G:yes it was too short. would have loved to take the cable car and a trip outside to toledo and the nearby castles. i enjoyed it a lot... but would have wanted to spend more time in calles goya and serrano!!! i hope you guys found D's mobile.

    and hey, its freezing in NL now! the lakes and canals are frozen! but i was really good timing last weekend, weather was perfect for winter strolling in the calles and plazas there.

    Elentari:hahaha, aasgieren. the southerners are really assertive unlike the northern europeans that are cold! i rarely get followed here in NL by a Dutch (caucasian), it is usually he coloreds who are more assertive. I will check your Antwerp entry later too! I hope that was a blast.

    SHATZLI: yeah balik na, back to work :-(! well you know our dialect, cebuano, there are lots of spanish words hehe. i have wanted for that waiter to take a picture of me sitting in the cafe at plaza mayor but he was such a flirt, i ended up leaving. i didn't maxed out my credit cards hija! i never used my card, only for the hotel. i made sure to pay cash hehe, but i had a budget. im not a slave of overspending. luckily, my mind is stronger than my wants, haha. right, madrid is posh compared to other areas in spain. down in malaga are where the northern europeans nouveau rich are buying villas, its also posh there but not very spanish.

    G is an expat in Madrid, she works for one of those international organizations.

    RIK: Barcelona is another place to visit aside from Madrid. I was in luck because the weather last weekend was above 5C. there are many beautiful sights in the outskirts of Madrid too but 3 days wasnt enough. too bad.

    all the red wines i tried were good! i am sure they were spanish wines.... but i didnt take note of the brands. they were cheap though at €1,50 per glass unlike the guzu (fresh orange juice, or any fresh juice) which is €3,50 a glass.

    its always best to have a few spanish phrases ready when you go there.

  8. MissT,

    I have been reading some of your great webblog for a while, but since you have been in Madrid now and made an absolutely very accurate description of the city, I would like to throw in a few comments.

    First to Riks comment…its probably right that Germany has more English speakers than any other European countries, but not in percentage (far from). The Netherlands and Denmark are way ahead of any other countries when it comes to speaking English as a second language (both close to 80% and Germany is around 40 %), and not only are they ahead with English but also German as second or third language. Check the link which is an interesting study of languages within the EU….btw Holland and Denmark has further in common being the average tallest people in the world and I guess both also having the flattest countries in Europe. ( Oh and did you know that there are app 6000 spanish words directly comparative in Tagalog language )

    Only 3 days is certainly not enough, and I suppose you did not even visit any museum; El Prado, Thyssen, Reina Sofia etc etc.

    Guzu ??? sure its not Zumo

    Madrid is great but in my opinion Barcelona is much better ….

    (Dane in Spain)

    NB: I am warning Glenda already that when she comes to live here in Valencia the Latinos will not leave her be for one second. Its an annoying behaviour they have, but really nothing to do about it, except for not going out alone.

  9. Marbella is full of Arabs...Malaga anywhere along the coast is full of Brits urgh! But Barcelona is full of life. Palma is another story, we rented a car and zig zagged the villages! and found excited place to eat! I survived Palma with my cebuano too ;-)
    M is with me now and keep posting,ayo ayo ha, sus I wish I have your strong will.. I overspent in London!

  10. Simon,

    I'll agree with your statistics, but they're a bit misleading on one aspect. The vast majority of Germans who don't speak any English reside in the (former) East. If you look at what was formerly West Germany, I'll guarantee you that the percentages would be as high, if not higher, then any in Europe. From a traveling standpoint, this makes a big difference, as most of the travel destinations are found in the West.
    BTW, everything I've read recommends Barcelona over Madrid. Is this because of the Catalan influence? The beaches? Just curious...


  11. SIMON:ola welcome! arent you the scandinavian dane living in valencia, spain?

    true, holland and denmark are very similar in topography and even with social structure. i have talked to a lot of danes and they are like the dutch who speak excellent english. i think it has something to do with economics too. in the graphs it shows that 8 out of 10 dutch and danes speak another 1 or 2 EU language, usually german. as we all know, germany borders both countries and incidentally is also the biggest economic powerhouse in mainland europe. so there are economic and trade interests there. my father in law speaks german and he often travel to germany. here at work, i am surrounded with dutch people who can speak several languages... they usually have a combination of dutch+english+french or dutch+english+german.

    tagalog also has very little spanish words (6000 was it?) compared to cebuano and more so chabacano (dialect in zamboanga which is better known as broken spanish). cebuano, my dialect has MANY spanish words than tagalog. in cebu, we even count in spanish and my great grandparents on both sides were mixed spanish. i may not be able to speak spanish but just looking at words can help me understand what it means.

    Yeah its ZUMO, hehe! so expensive there! i didnt go to the art galleries, no time and i get bored going through those art works (i have bachelors in fine arts by the way lol). i only saw the buildings, they were more interesting... unless i have a painting so passionate about, then i would take the tour.

    SCHATZLI:well europe is full of Arabs! lol! there are lots of villas for sale in marbella. my colleagues (bossing ba) owns a couple of them down there. its an expatriate community and very international.

    what did you buy in london?!

    RIK:we do a lot of business with germany here at work... and many west germans are actually good english speakers but in order to do business with them, you must speak german unlike the dutch who will gladly speak english when they hear your challenged dutch, lol.

    must eb the beaches in barcelona... its also a more exciting place i have heard that say madrid, which is more poised and distant being a historic, business and government capital. barcelona gives more the lively touristy and culture feeling, and its near the famous balearic islands, mallorca, ibiza... wanna go there soon hehe.

  12. Anonymous5:56 pm

    Literally translated, chabacano means vulgar. Ever since I learned to speak proper spanish, I would tease my mom and tell her she was speaking chabacano. Zamboangan chabakano is indeed a mix of visayan and spanish.

    Donde esta el sandok, esta alli en el dingding naka suksuk.


  13. sweetie I didnt really max my card ;-) I just shopped new gym outfits and I became a mini Imelda marcos..trainers LOL..walking shoes, aerobic, hiking boots, snow shoes, we need to be cool for Oslo.

    and lots of presents for Filipino kids here in their santa you know!

  14. Anonymous7:48 pm

    Your blog is really dull - if the current posts are anything to go by. Ditto the people who write the comments. It's all about income tax, the bloody Philipines - and what you had for dinner.

    Your Dutchness seems to have really got to you.

    I should imagine the only reason anyone bothers to write to you is because of your, admittedly, lovely picture in the profile. It's the only reason I'm writing to you.

    You should get out more. Visit a few places that (you) don't (make) look like picture postcards - Gaza City, Manningham and Hackney come quickly to mind - and get more of a life.

    Steve T

  15. so you're back! yeah, they're night people. when we were in barcelona, we were forced to wait till 10-11pm to have that 'ambiance' - well, that is after dining out at 9pm and finding ourselves alone in the restaurant :(

    and hey, it's lupang hinirang and not bayang magiliw :)

  16. Anonymous11:00 pm

    good to know that the trip was a blast!!! too bad, could've been longer. but, hey, another good excuse to go back. that's my story and i'm sticking to it! lol. all the gastronomy delights you talked about... yum! did you get some saffron to take back? or riojas?

    girl, you're making me want to go there now, too. lol. to check all the historic sites to see. maybe this spring or fall. summer might be too hot for me. besides, alot might be closed. you know these europeans, they love their holidays. lol. aaahh! life and times here in europe. just the history and culture of it all. so wonderful! chat with you later. take care! limoncello :)

  17. SCHATZLI:right on, gym outfits pala hehe

    G:i know what you meant by that!!! bastush hahaha.

    ANALYSE: yeah i stand corrected, its lupang hinirang pala :-)

    LIMONCELLO:wasnt able to buy saffron, though i thought about it. i did however brought lotsa tapas! jamon iberico and chorizos

    STEVE T:my dear stalker, thanks for dropping by. my blog is so dull that you have to read every word i write! im so flattered :-)

  18. Anonymous2:18 am

    Glad you enjoyed your trip to Madrid...and you definitely saw a lot in just 3 days!

    Also good you survived the spaniards' aggressive advances...i've heard if you are a blonde girl it is even worse.

  19. JESSICA: yeah i did enjoyed the short vacation!

    i dont know about the blonde thing... what i know these southerners are always on the "hot" mode, hahaha!

  20. I enjoyed your post about your vacation, especially about the Spaniard who can sing in Tagalog.. How come he knows to sing in tagalog?

  21. Mell D: i have no idea why he can sing tagalog. my friend said he just knows and if i teach him another tagalog song, then he would learn it quickly. he was really fun and i was very impressed. this was part of his lyrics:

    "ang mata mo ay maganda...
    ... mahal kita"

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  45. Anonymous5:15 am

    It was fun to read about your Madrid adventura! I lived there for 3 1/2 years and loved it. Your pictures make me feel homesick for the place!


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