18 sept. 2018

Dancing in Madrid

The thought of dancing in Spain fills most people’s imaginations with brightly dressed flamenco dancers and sultry salsa in dimly lit clubs. Amazing, but not something the average person can participate in other than as an enthusiastic spectator.

I was lucky enough to discover another side of dancing in Madrid at the Madrid Dance Center – a modern facility near Retiro (a few minutes walk from the Principe de Vergara metro) offering a range of classes including jazz, tap, contemporary, salsa, ballet, tango, and even pilates.

I took a contemporary dance class last week from an impressive instructor – Stephane – who spoke Spanish, French, and English. The class had only three other people in it and I was by far the least talented dancer, but I enjoyed every bit of it and loved the challenge of moving my body and trying to keep up with the choreography!

The best way to get started is to check out their class schedule – horario general on the website under actividades y precios – which changes each month, and decide what you’re interested in taking and how often you’d like to go. Then you can walk in and sign up any time.

I highly recommend trying out a class and taking advantage of the discount being offered. Happy dancing!

Madrid Dance Center


914 355 981

Calle del Doctor Castelo 7, 28009

13 sept. 2018

Being Streetsmart in Madrid

In the past we’ve written posts about the metro, buses and train systems here, but after living in Madrid for almost a year you start to catch on to a couple of things here. (yeah, I know it took me a year, I’m a slow learner) Here’s just a couple of things to keep in mind when riding Madrid’s public transit system.

As you are waiting on the platform, the metro trains come from your right to your left, not the other way around as on most other cities’s metros I’ve been on. I learned this one night by accidentally going up and around to the other side of the platform because I thought the train was coming from the wrong direction, it ended up costing me and extra 15 mins to wait for the next train. (they run less frequently after 11pm) There are a few exceptions, though, at the Charmatin stop which is connected with the Renfe depending on how you exit the train station you could end up in the middle platform on the metro and thus it could come on your right.

There’s also a couple of lessons I learned on the bus. One is you enter through the front door, and always exit the back door, even if no one is getting on. (this is strictly enforced and mentioned on their website) A friend of ours also mentioned that if you carry a stroller on, you must be in the cut out section to the side, or also reserved for wheelchairs. She didn’t know and sat in a seat with the stroller in the aisle, and ended up holding the bus up until she was able to move back to the appropriate section. Also, make sure you hit the stop button for your stop or promixa parada, immediately after they make the preceding stop. Otherwise, they will blow right by your stop, my husband has had to learn this a couple of times. As the bus arrives, especially at the smaller stops, you have to flag the driver down, just as if you are trying to hail a cab.

Also when walking to all the stops be mindful that drivers here turn (whether legal or not) right on red, so even if you have the walk sign there may be a car that crosses in front of you. Jaywalking is tolerated here, but I wouldn’t recommend it when you are crossing at a large roundabout, I’ve seen two many people cross early and get caught in the middle of the street without a median.X

Good luck and safe travels whether by on foot, bus, or metro.

Madrid’s Metro Website http://www.metromadrid.es/es/index.html

Madrid’s Bus website (new and improved) http://www.emtmadrid.es/?lang=es-ES

11 sept. 2018

The Road to an Abono Joven

I thought I learned a lot of Spanish when I was in high school and college. I realized when I got to Madrid that my Spanish is not so much bad as it is odd, out of sync with local convention.

It all added up to me being mildly terrified of everyday encounters with Spanish-speaking people. I felt very brave whenever I walked into a shop and actually asked for what I wanted and was understood, even a little bit.

I live in a suburb, so the Metro system is a daily need. In order to do almost anything, I need to take the metro or bus, and the 1.50€-a-pop tickets (or 9.30€ for ten trips) get pretty expensive.

This meant that I needed to apply for an Abono, a monthly pass that allows me unlimited rides on buses and metro in the city. Despite my fear, I had to go and talk to real people in multiple shops in order to get what I needed. Through my own errors, I learned the steps it takes to get your hands on one of these excellent money-saving tools.

1. Determine your needs – Check out this page in order to determine whether your age qualifies you for a discount. Also, this is the place to figure out what zone you want. Some people who work in the outskirts need a particular pass, which is more expensive but still far less than individual tickets.

2. Acquire photos – In metro stations and at any photo shop around Madrid, you can get “fotos carnet,” which are a specific size photo that is used for a lot of official documents. You may need them for other things, so don’t worry if they are sold in batches of 6 or 8. You will also want to get a photocopy of your passport.

3. Visit an Estanco – These are the Tabacco shops that are all over Madrid. While some are open in the afternoons, I recommend visiting in the morning. You can apply for a regular abono on the spot, or fill out the paperwork for an abono joven, the one with the youth discount, which will be available in 15 days, either at that Estanco or by mail to your address. There will be a nominal fee (less than 5E) for the abono’s plastic wallet.

4. When your Abono Arrives – you will still need to purchase your monthly ticket. The easiest way to do this is go into a metro station and find a ticket machine. It will have you insert the card wallet, which will allow you to purchase your monthly ticket.

5. Use your Abono – Remember you can purchase next month’s pass using your card wallet a few days before the next month using the machines.

Believe me, the process and the talking-to-people-in-Spanish were well worth getting my abono and having unlimited public transit.

6 sept. 2018

Selecting a Bank in Madrid

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we have a bank account here in Spain at the Caja Madrid because it was the only place that would accept us without a NIE. Are you beginning to see a general theme here? Life is damn tricky here without that NIE (which takes a good few weeks to couple months to acquire). But as you see from our posts – there are ways around it!

Opening an account here for Will was simple. However, for me it wasn’t such a smooth process as I didn’t have IE backing me as a student. While my name was added to the account and I was given some access, I could not get a debit card until I got my NIE. In the interim I was given an online ordering credit card which before any order was placed the primary person on the account (in this case my husband) had to approve the order. That didn’t pair so well with my “we’re equals in this relationship” mentality…but it is what it is I guess. I am still picturing the glazed eyes of shopaholic wives happily sitting at home in front of their computers.

One important thing to point out is we can only do our banking at this one designated Caja Madrid at Serrano, 114 – 28006 Madrid. However, we can pull money with no fee from any Caja Madrid ATM. The staff at this branch are really nice and speak English – they’re even nice when the waves of new IE students come in to begin their accounts (all at the exact same time of day).

Pay close attention to banking hours because they’re almost absurd (actually this might drive you to new employment aspirations in banking in Spain). Hours are approximately from 8.30 to 13.00/14.00, Monday through Friday. Some are also open on Saturdays until 13.00, but they are few and far between.

Pay close attention to banking hours because they’re almost absurd (actually this might drive you to new employment aspirations in banking in Spain). Hours are approximately from 8.30 to 13.00/14.00, Monday through Friday. Some are also open on Saturdays until 13.00, but they are few and far between.

I have learned that many of the students from IE have subsequently switched their bank accounts to Santander due to the fact that it is more international.

For more thorough details on rates, laws and a list of Spanish banks please click here.

4 sept. 2018

Obtaining your NIE number in Madrid

In order to be ready for my adventurous year in Spain- all I have to do is this one minor thing, get my NIE number, it should be easy and I’ll probably get it in a day. However, I was wrong as usual.

When you go to the Spanish consulate for your one-on-one interview, at the end they will hand back the originals of your local Police report with the Apostile, and in our case we had a FBI record with fingerprints, a copy of our marriage certificate, along with the form that you filled out for the Consulate that they have stamped, initialed and dated. The Spanish Consulate in San Francisco told us to hold onto these documents because the officials may ask for them when entering the country for id purposes, and/or when applying for the NIE number. They also staple a little reminder to your passport that says you need to register with any local police within the first 30 days of your arrival.

My husband and I flew over in late October and moved into our new apartment in Madrid. Down Calle Huertas near us is a police station or La Policia, so we walked up and saw a couple officers hanging outside. We started walking into the station like you would in the states, but quickly learned that here the officers outside act as bouncers at a club, you have to state the reason for your visit, and then they’ll let you into the waiting room. Once inside we waited about 10 minutes for another officer to come out only to tell us that there is only one police station in Madrid that you can go to to register, but that you’d need an appointment.

We then quickly learned that the school my husband was attending, I.E. would assist us with calling to make the appointment for you (many language schools, such as AIL Madrid, also help you do this). We had to wait two months just for the appointment, but I’ve now heard it can be shorter or longer depending on the time of year you apply. There was also an additional form (very similar to the form you filled out for the Consulate) that the school provided us that you had to fill out and bring with you to your appointment, along with all of the same documentation you had to provide for the Consulate, plus three passport size color photos.

I arrived early to the police station, passed the “bouncer” test and then was instructed to wait in a line that ran out the door and down the block. After a hour wait, I arrived at the front counter where they quickly looked at the local police record I had from the states, and my marriage license with the Apostile. Since I am a dependent and not technically the student, I have the familiar de estudiante or family student NIE number (same for children of students as well). They also fingerprint you and affix your photos onto the applications, leaving one that will go on your NIE card.

Four months after our arrival in Spain we received our NIE number and cards (you have to go back 40 days later and pick them up in person). I know this is nothing compared to the time people can wait in the US for a visa or green card, but in the meantime you have to play like you’re a tourist and should carry a copy of your passport with you at all times. However once you have the card, then this is all you need to carry with you and it can be used (and is preferred) as i.d. for making credit card purchases, getting into clubs etc.

The first thing I recommend upon arrival to Spain as a student is to see if your school will assist you with getting the NIE number. We found this helpful since the websites for the Spanish Consulate or the Madrid Police dept really don’t spell out the process. Also, don’t forget to bring all of your documentation with you to Spain, especially your marriage certificate. Remember too that this card is only good for a year from the day you arrived in Spain. Once this time has passed, you can renew your visa from within Spain to stay for another year. The renewal process is a little easier and requires a bit less documentation and, if you give yourself enough time to prepare, should go fairly smoothly. Also, at this point, you will be more familiar with the process and everything will feel a little less daunting.

Police Station - Oficina de DNI y Pasaporte la Latina
Av de los Poblados, 51, 28024 Madrid, Madrid, España‎ – 913 22 86 60. Metro: Aluche‎ https://www.policia.es/

30 ago. 2018

Day trip: Patones de Arriba

A city of made of slate. That’s how I always describe the pueblo of Patones de Arriba, which snuggly sits in a mountain crevice on the northern border of the Madrid community. Having visited villages across Spain, I can promise you this one has “nothing to see” (nothing to do – nada que ver) with the others.

Kitty cats seem to rule the 16th century town and its tiny streets that curve and swerve up and around ivy-covered slate buildings. Homes with itsy bitsy doors and impossibly small windows appear better suited for Snow White and her seven dwarves than any sort of modern-day Spaniard. With only 500 inhabitants, chances are that not too many modern-day Spaniards likely call this place home anyway.

As if the fairytale pueblo weren’t enough to fill your craving for getting out of the city, it also happens to have a pretty spectacular backyard. The town’s sweet slate-cobbled streets fade into dusty mountain paths bordered by wild flowers and the skeletons of buildings past. Hiking through the ruin-speckled hillsides that cradle the town, you can imagine the livelier atmosphere of days gone by – before most of the residents relocated down the hill to Patones de Abajo.

Only about a 50-minute drive north of Madrid, Patones de Arriba makes for the ideal urban escape. And if you’re anything like me, then you’ll have worked up a Spanish-lunch-sized hunger by the time you arrive. Which means that you won’t have any problem putting back some cordero lechal (lamb that has only been fed milk). Upon arriving, I suggest you immediately tackle your hunger at El Abuelo Manolo. The restaurant, which sits at the top the hill, has expansive views of the valley, and serves up cordero that my father rates as one of his top five favorite meals ever (my dad, Michelin, same thing right?).

After eating, a stroll through the village is just what the Spanish doctor ordered. And depending on how much cordero you ate, a hike through the trail-laced mountains might be even more appropriate.

To get to Patones, you can either take a bus from Plaza de Castilla, or drive north on A-1 to Nacional 320 toward Torrelaguna.