Tapas+Lavapiés= Tapapiés

Every morning before getting on my bus to Estremera I first take the metro to a neighborhood called Lavapiés. At eight o’clock, it resembles a ghost town so I was surprised to hear it was the sight of a ten-day food expo called Tapapiés. From October 20 to 30, over thirty restaurants are participating in the “Primer Ruta Multiculutral de La Tapa.” Basically, the area of Lavapiés is quite multicultural so this is a chance for each restaurant to showcase their home country’s specific cuisine through a one Euro tapa available on the route. With a quick look at the map featuring a picture of each dish, I knew that I had to go so me and a few friends headed out last night as a mid-week pick me up!

For the rundown: We started off at a Mediterranean-esque bar called Olivar 54 for a tapa featuring carne asada, roasted red peppers and a sweet onion marmalade. We then proceeded to a place called Eucalipto because I was swayed by one word: goat cheese. Unfortunately, the service there sucked and only Anna made it away with a tapa before the rest of us were annoyed. No worries because what came at our next stop was perhaps my favorite of the evening. We headed to Maisha, an Indian restaurant, for an empanadilla of chicken and vegetables. It was piping hot and bursting with curry flavor that I have not experienced in quite some time. If anything, this made me want a full Indian meal very soon.

We then rounded the corner for a kabob, followed by tabbouleh at another haunt and finally, savory potatoes from Fatas Morgana. They were like scalloped potatoes with onions doused in gooey mozzarella cheese and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was the perfect ending to a delicious night out.

Since I do not work Friday and the kids do not have school Monday, my school decided to celebrate Halloween today. The funny thing about Halloween here is that there is one theme to it all: scary.  You won’t find the girls wanting to be princesses or animals, instead, everyone is either a witch, vampire, or skeleton. I went with a witch.

I was also in charge of organizing one “workshop” which consisted of me putting peeled grapes, spaghetti, dried apricots, hot dogs and chiclets into bowls for the kids to touch and guess what it was. The intention was for them to feel like body parts- eyes, brains, ears, fingers and teeth, but when you’re dealing with three to six-year olds, it’s a bit complicated.

Needless to say, I’m happy it’s over and now I can enjoy a five day weekend. Who knows what’s in store for my actual Halloween celebration but I’ll be sure to keep you updated. In the meantime, check out the pics of our tapa adventure:

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In the Meantime…

It’s an interesting time to be working in the public school system of Spain. All of the schools are facing budget cuts, forcing the teachers to have two more contact hours a week and reducing the time they can devote to other menial tasks like grading papers, preparing lesson plans, etc. It also bans the temporary hiring of teachers which certainly does not help the staggering 21 percent unemployment rate that Spain currently touts. In light of all this, there have been many demonstrations throughout the city center, one of which took place last Friday. According to my school, coming to work that day was optional for all teachers and only one did not show up. Even so, only about half of the students came meaning class was not really in session and instead, lots of time was spent on the playground, watching movies, and any other activity to keep the kids occupied until 4:30. While walking home from the bus later that afternoon, I was met by the sound of whistles and yelling and then saw this: There were SO many teachers, students, and families alike parading the streets in protest of the cuts. On Saturday, there was an even bigger demonstration with tens of thousands of people involved. Through it all, the government seems pretty resistant towards change so it will be interesting to see how everything pans out.

In the meantime, this past week I gave my first afterschool class to a group of six students which is definitely a different experience than attempting to command the attention of a larger class. I am going to start giving these classes Monday and Tuesday which means I get home later but it’s also a good way to make extra money while also helping out the kids. So far, this four day weekend has been spent eating delicious food, watching the Real Madrid and UM games, hitting up Kapital (Madrid’s seven story nightclub) for the first time, and catching up with some friends.

I also partook in my first official Intercambio Friday afternoon with a 27 year old girl. For those who may not know, an intercambio (in my case) involves sitting down with someone who wants to improve their English and talking in half-English and half-Spanish. While it’s probably in my head, I feel like since I’ve gotten here my Spanish has not gotten any better so I feel meetings like this will be the best way to help me improve my speaking! We met at Starbucks and talked for about an hour and it was fun and also put me at ease about having more meetings like this! In fact, I am planning on having another one tomorrow with a 23 year old girl. If anything, it’s a great way to meet Spanish people which I made one of my top priorities this time around!

Today, me and the roomies took the time to walk around the city center (to be honest, we stuffed ourselves at brunch and needed to walk around to aide digestion but the first sentence sounds better). Sometimes living here you forget all the deep history and awesome sights there are to see so I’ve now promised myself to refresh myself on the city’s history. If anything, it’s a better excuse for you to come visit me soon… You won’t even need to hire a tour guide!

Yelp Goes European

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first event as an Elite Yelper here in Madrid. I’m upset I didn’t make it to the last Elite party in Denver or else I could say this is my fourth city (after Miami and New York) where I have gotten to partake in such festivities but I know it will happen soon. Lucky for me, Yelp Spain just launched within the last year and this was Madrid’s premiere event. Plans are to have another one every month so I cannot wait to see what else Lolo (the new, and lemme say awesome, Community Manager) has in store!

I added Anna and Sarah to the list of people I’ve forced Yelp upon. They bravely accompanied me to Andiamo, an Italian restaurant located in the center of the city, to get a firsthand look at what I’m constantly talking about. We were greeted with Prosecco at the door and the night only when up from there. We feasted on mini-pizzas, truffle burgers, eggplant lasagna, risotto and so much more. For dessert? None other than my beloved red velvet cakeballs! Who knew that people even were familiar with those over here!

If you didn’t believe me before, there is undeniable proof Yelp is taking over the world! Already they’re established in the UK, France, Austria, Germany and only expanding. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, I’m telling you now is the time people. I think Anna and Sarah agree- they both made profiles today!

If you need more motivation, just check out the photos from last night’s party. All of them are mine with the exception of one (with the frame) that was taken by the photographer. You can check out his other sweet pics on Flickr.

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My Happy Place

After one “grueling” day of work, I was met yet again by a three day weekend! I decided to make my Friday productive. After running around a great track we discovered by our house, I hit the streets to run some errands. Once my hunger kicked in, I realized I was conveniently close to one of my favorite Madrid spots- El Mercado de San Miguel. Seeing as I was alone and had time to spare, I decided to take a trip inside to take pictures (or food porn) and grab some lunch. I limited myself to five Euros so that I didn’t go crazy but with just four of them I ended up with a couple of decadent goat cheese croquettes and one of my new favorite discoveries- papas arrugadas, or Canarian wrinkly potatoes. They are basically the saltiest boiled potatoes you can imagined served alongside a delicious spicy mojo sauce. I can’t stop thinking about them and am planning on trying to make them myself very soon. Check out the rest of my pictures below for a peek into one of my Madrid happy places.

Spaniards Don’t Mess Around

Happy Fiesta Nacional de España! Essentially, today is the celebration of the day Columbus arrived in the Americas long ago. It is a national holiday always celebrated on October 12 and most everyone gets the day off. I woke up this morning and headed to la Plaza de Colón (named after the big man himself) to find a spot to watch the grand military parade held every year. I was not sure what to expect but thought it would be worth checking out.

I followed hoards of people waving and wearing the Spanish flag to the plaza and squeezed my way into a prime viewing spot. The sun was beating down but I stuck it out and watched on the big screen all the processions involving the Royal Family and every other important Spanish figure who were at another plaza down the way. It took awhile for the parade to reach us but once it started picking up pace, I was amazed by all that I saw.

Now I may have grown up on an Air Force base but, as a disclaimer, I recall very little military terminology so pardon my naive descriptions. It basically began with parachuters donning the Spanish flag jumping out of airplanes followed by multiple flybys (one group of planes even had red and yellow smoke streaming behind it), some of the largest tanks I have ever seen, every single member of the Spanish Armed Forces (and there are a lot), horses and horse drawn carriages, military bands, and even goats (still need to figure out the significance of that one).

I’m not going to lie, navigating my way through the throngs of people and closed off streets after the parade was a huge test of patience. One that I might have failed. To calm my nerves, I headed to El Brillante which serves up one of my favorite fried calamari sandwiches. It made me feel a little bit better but, one things for sure, it’ll take me a little bit more time living here to truly party like a Spaniard.

Check out some of the pics I snapped on my iPhone below. I threw in one from my picnic in Retiro on Friday because I think it’s so classically European and three of my favorite things: bread, brie and grapes. Perfection.

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A House Slowly Becomes a Home…

While I wouldn’t trade these past six days off for the world, one thing is certain- going to work on Thursday is going to be tough. I know (and appreciate) the fact I’m a bit spoiled seeing as I will get a three day weekend immediately following that, but even so, these days without my commute and being around hyper kids has been a bit of a relief.

My time off has allowed me to get to know a lot of new and great people, watch the UM football game so I do not feel too disconnected from my Hurricane cohorts, and really settle into my life here. Perhaps the biggest perk of the whole weekend was finding time to make the voyage to Ikea with Carl. I call it a “voyage” because it takes about an hour to get there so I’ve been anxiously awaiting the right time to go.

Last time I was in Madrid I went to Ikea for the very first time with my British friend after he was appalled to hear I had never been to one before. This past summer, Denver got their very own Ikea about ten minutes from my house so the store (and their great food) is anything but foreign. Instead, it’s now one of my favorite places to visit and I knew that it would be the best place to go to pick up the odds and ends I needed for my room. Although I’m sure in the future months our place will become even more settled in, I finally feel like I can show everyone where we will be living for the next nine months! So without further ado, here’s a mini-tour of our place. I apologize for the shaky shots (and awkward commentary) beforehand:

http://vimeo.com/30395058

The Little Town of Estremera

When you look up Estremera on Google Maps, it doesn’t take long to catch on that there is not much to this tiny town. I tried to scope out any information about the place before my first day, but realized it would take some firsthand observing to truly see what it has to offer. While my past few days have mainly been spent here: I took time during my break today to wander the village and see what else is around. I encountered a whole lot of streets that look like this: Actually, they are having a “huge” festival this weekend so there are lots of lights around like this wishing everyone Felices Fiestas, or Happy Holidays: So you truly see that there is a whole lot of nothing around this place, here’s a picture of the outskirts: So there ya go… It doesn’t look like much but apparently it’s enough to organize a long series of celebrations that warrants me a six day weekend. All around town there are tents set up including bumper cars, stages, food vendors and more so I guess this time of year is when all the people will emerge from there homes to celebrate! If all this excitement has got you curious for more you can check out their website here.

Although I’m not going to lie… Despite the two hour commute, I’m still happy I live in Madrid.