Cris & Fe intro: We’re starting today here at NPLH the series of interviews No Local Like. We’ve always found really cool to read interviews on other blogs and we had long wanted to open a space here for friends to publish their ideas. The intent of No Local Like is that we can learn a little about each place by someone who calls this place home. The first interview is with our dearest Isa Sperandio, friend who hosted us in Madrid during our round the world trip – which is a story we are still to write about, one day we’ll get there!
If you would like to participate, please contact us! Meanwhile, take a peek at what Isa has to say about the beautiful capital of Spain:
Isa has been living in Madrid for nearly three years. She went to Spain to make a dream, nurtured since 1998, come true: study a Master with a scholarship, which took her years to achieve. Something inside her knew that those nine months of the course wouldn’t be enough. So she met a Sevillano, fell in love and decided she should stay around there, taking the professional opportunity she had and knowing better what “saudades” are, the Portuguese untranslatable word that so many poets sing about.
1. Why do you consider yourself a ‘local’ of Madrid?
Because I do not go where the tourists go anymore.
After almost three years in Spain, I’ve already got my favourite suburbs, I know every bit of this city and I know what you can find in each of them. Ah! And I do not pay exorbitant prices for anything.
2. What do you think is special about Madrid? Why would anyone want to visit it?
Spain is a country divided into several different countries: País Vasco, a Cataluña, Andalucía, Galícia… Each of them has their languages or dialects… gastronomy, climate, habits.. Spain is a geographically small country, you move a few miles and everything is different!
Many consider “Madrid” as “Spain”, and others as “anti-Spain.” That being for one reason: this is where all these worlds meet.
Besides being the home of Spanish who come from all corners of the country, here we are also Latin Americans, British, French, Portuguese and many other foreigners working, living and contributing towards the society that is open to a constant evolution.
Madrid is the capital and an increasingly cosmopolitan city, where there is life at any time of the day or night.
3. If a friend that has never been to Madrid before spent a day with you, what would be the itinerary?
Oh what a delight! I’m happy just to think about it!
Actually the program depends on the friend, because Madrid offers many possibilities.
For bars and nightlife lovers, Barrio de las Letras and La Latina.
For rockers, the hidden bars Malasaña and Callao.
For the quiet ones, a stroll through Parque del Retiro, Templo de Debot and if it is a Sunday a walk around the Rastro (a sort of street market, historic and immense, which happens on Sunday mornings in La Latina).
To everyone: an afternoon in Toledo, a photo in Plaza de Cibeles (the most beautiful place for me), a walk through Puerta del Sol and watch the sunset next to the Palacio Real – which is huge and beautiful.
It is also essential to check Plaza Mayor, Cava de San Miguel (pay attention to the format and look of the street and buildings) and a new place which is very cool: the market of San Miguel.. it is a construction from the early twentieth century which was restored recently and where you can taste the finest Spanish cuisine and beverage, in a place that has a fairly new concept for those who, like me, come from Brazil.
And just for some, Santiago Bernabeu.. mythical stadium of Real Madrid, which many of my friends who came here wanted to visit.
4. And if that friend could spend more time around? How long do you think is a good time to know the region? Where would you take him/her?
To see Madrid I recommend two or three days. Depends on whether you want to know it as a tourist or if you want to feel it and experience it a little better.
If you stay more than two days, include a ride to the feudal cities of Toledo, Avila and maybe a lunch in Segovia, which offers the best of medieval Spanish cuisine.
5. There are many travel guides to Madrid. Do you think it is worthwhile to follow what they say? Got any tips that are not in guidebooks?
Well.. actually I’m not much of guidebooks… I’m more of people. I prefer to talk, listen to the tips and experiences of those who love that city or that place. I also look for lots of information throughout forums and social networking sites.
But I am categorical on avoiding the minibus tour, which is a total waste of time and money! For two reasons: first because it is way too expensive (about 15 euros per person), second because the city is never too big for a pair of legs and well informed curious eyes.
The Metro in Madrid is super convenient, fast, covers the entire city and has air conditioning (essential for a summer that always tops 40 degrees). And it costs only one Euro the trip. But I insist: Madrid is not that big and you can see everything walking, unless you want to go to Bernabeu, where you can get after 17 minutes in the train.
6. What behaviour tips would you give for those who are going to Madrid for the first time?
As for the theme of “clothing”, three simple and straightforward tips:
Madrid is a city of extremes, in summer it is 40 degrees and during winter it snows, rains and is cold for 3 months straight. If you come between June and September, trust me, and bring a maximum of one pair of trousers and one long-sleeve top.
If you come in wintertime, bring gloves, hats and scarves.
The second tip: bring comfortable shoes, and no, you do not need high heels.
The other is obvious: take care of your bags and wallets on the subway and the tumultuous streets. But this is something that everybody has to do in any city on the planet.
Still about clothes: girls, you WILL buy stuff! Do not bring the bag (or backpack) too full, save some space!
And a comment: many people say that Spaniards are rude and stupid. This is not true.
Spanish people is stressed by nature, impatient and playful. But they have a sense of humour that we usually do not understand, they speak very loud and use many “must haves” on the grammar, then it seems they are giving you orders and yelling the whole time… but it’s just a way of talking. Overall, the Spanish have very big hearts and are very helpful.
7. What would you say to your friend to pack before boarding to Madrid?
A package of chocolate Bono (a sort of Brazilian biscuit) for me!
8. What do you eat there? Do you have tips on local restaurants frequented by locals?
I cook at home a lot and have meals at my friends’ homes quite often.
When I eat out, I usually just cross the street because I am lucky to have one of those “friendly neighborhood bars right in front of my place, where Lorenço treats me like a lifetime friend. It’s a super tiny place that no tourist knows.
But there are a couple of typical places where I like to bring my friends who pass by. Write it down:
1 – Chocolateria San Gines – was founded in 1890 and is located between some of the oldest streets in town. It’s all a luxury to taste the typical churros with chocolate anytime of the day or night. Two hints: it’s always packed, so be patient and be smart to sit at a table as soon as you spot a free place. The system there is a bit chaotic.
And most important: ask a glass of griffin water (from the tap – Madrid’s water is 100% drinkable and is considered one of the best in Europe). The water is very fresh and vital to keep eating the churros that are extremely sweet. Plaza San Ginés, 5.
2 – Casa Alberto – founded in 1827 and part of the Circle of Centennial Restaurants in Madrid . Few people know it, but Madrid has a very particular cuisine and different from the rest of Spain. Amongst the most typical dishes are “las Orejas”, “los Callos a la Madrileña” and “las Manitas de Cordero” which are the specialties of this place. If the idea does not quite convinces you, I suggest the classic “Tortilla de Patatas”, the meatballs and cod that is a delight. Calle Huertas, 18.
3 – Bocadillo de Calamares – at the area of the Plaza Mayor (and not inside the square, where everything multiplies the price). The Bocato calamari are super traditional Madridians. It may be a little strange to us, but I guarantee it is delicious! This is a sandwich of fried squid with bread. So, nothing more. It’s even better if accompanied by a clara with lemon (refreshing beer with lemon, which is fantastic).
9.What do you usually do on the weekends there?
I walk around the city. On Sundays I like to go to Lavapies, a suburb where there is much life on the streets, I sit at a table, ask for a coffee, a piece of pie and can spend the whole afternoon there reading the newspaper with my boyfriend.
Other options are a museum, cinema and picnic in the park. It all depends on the season.
Catching the train and going to the mountains to spend the day is always a constant.
And being with friends. Always.
10. Would you like to say anything else?
When I was 12 or 13 years old, my English teacher (an authentic British) gave me the best advice I’ve ever received: “After you finish college, do not take root. Travel, spend some time getting to know other countries. ”
I complete these words saying it’s never too late, even if they want to make you think so.
Living abroad, travelling, seeing the planet where we live on and the different people and cultures that inhabit it, is to know yourself and find new possibilities.
In general people are very negative.
When I started to move to come here (with a scholarship that supported me for nearly a year), everything seemed impossible… When I decided I wanted to stay longer, everyone said it wouldn’t work. When I began to prepare for the work visa, people said such negative things that I got depressed.
So my words can be summarized as: do not believe what other people say, believe in yourself. Because this is all we have: ourselves and our dreams.
One thing I learned is that in Spain “la vida son dos días. Hay que disfrutarla!” – Life is made by days. You’ve got to enjoy it!
So good luck to everyone and we see each other along the way.
Journalist, curious and full of desire to keep all her experiences alive, Isa tweets ( @Isasperandio) and has a blog where she writes about the things she loves the most: Mis amigos, libros, discos y nada más (“My friends, books, albums and nothing else”). It is true that “nothing else” includes travel, technology and some of the world of communication that she loves to investigate.