(Editor’s note: Stephanie recently moved to Madrid from Los Angeles. EuroCheapo checked in with her before the big move and is now following up to hear about her experience.)
I was worried I wouldn’t like Madrid. Or even sillier still, I was worried that Madrid wouldn’t like me. But as it turns out, we are a perfect match.
It’s hard to believe I’ve only been living here for a month because I feel right at home. Although my arrival was marred by rain and exhaustion, after a couple of days (and many siestas), I was riding the metro alone, saying “vale” and meeting friends for tapas in Sol.
Perhaps the transition into Spanish life was easy because before the big move, I had done enough research to know what to expect (chain smokers, weird closing hours, slow service at restaurants). But there are things that can only be discovered by living here.
Madrid never ceases to surprise me, but here are five things about this city that are pretty amazing:
1. The tap water.
The tap water is good enough to drink here. While the tap water back in Los Angeles is also safe to drink, it has that “tap water” taste, which is why I never drank the stuff. I was skeptical about drinking from the tap at first so it took a couple of days of cautious sipping before I became a full-fledged tap water drinker.
And you know what? It tastes fantastic. Madrilenos are very proud of their tap water, which comes from the city’s neighboring mountains. Now I fill up my water bottle with what is probably the best tap water in Spain, if not in Europe.
2. Cheap food.
I love that I can go out with my friends for tapas and a drink at places like 100 Montaditos or El Mercado de San Miguel with less than €10 in my pocket. Tax is included in the bill and tipping isn’t a must like it is back home.
TIP: If you’re in the mood for brunch, go to VIPS (pronounced “VEEPS”), a popular chain in Madrid. For €3.75, you can have pancakes, eggs, bacon and café con leche).
3. The Metro.
I’m just going to say it: I am in love with Metro Madrid. The first time I rode the metro, my roommate laughed at my bright-eyed fascination. I explained to her that the metro system in LA is a joke. The metro in Madrid is super efficient, organized, and affordable. If you miss the train, you can catch the next one in four minutes, so there’s no reason to kick yourself over hitting the snooze button.
4. A walking city.
I’m amazed at how well I can get around this city on foot when I don’t feel like taking the metro. I spent my first week walking everywhere, constantly feeling like I had walked into a postcard at every corner. I had to buy new walking shoes within a week of moving here. But now that it’s getting much colder, I join everyone else underground.
5. Public Libraries.
When I first arrived in Madrid, my apartment didn’t have internet access. I lugged my laptop to various WiFi cafés, but that wasn’t always practical. A trip to my nearest biblioteca publica (public library) revealed that with a library card, I could sign up for free internet access for an hour on the library’s computers. I checked my email, read the news and caught up on my blog reading in a clean and quiet place.
To get a library card, all you need is a passport or NIE (Numero de Identificacion de Extranjero). To find the nearest library, visit the library directory on the Comunidad de Madrid website.
One more surprise: El Retiro Park on a weekday
I should also add that if you’re ever in Madrid and are craving some peace and quiet, go to El Retiro park during a weekday afternoon. Sit on the steps of the Crystal Palace and feed the ducks and black swans. A fair warning: It will be enough to make you consider moving here.
About the author: Stephanie Corral is a freelance writer from Los Angeles living in Madrid, where she works as an English teacher.