Phones in Spain

If you have an Iphone or an Android in the states or some phone that can fit a sim card and has 3G access, bring it abroad with you. I must say I envy all my friends who can text with a keyboard or pad instead of pushing the same number 3 times to get one letter, or being able to jump online and ping your location so as to never get lost, or look up cool places and restaurants close by etc. etc. It is super helpful to have a super phone when you are living in a new city, especially when you are not used to the language yet.
As long as your phone is unlocked (a fairly easy process) you can purchase a SIM card and pay as you go for minutes and data, it is a dream come true. No more huge bills for barely using or going over your data usage, no more contracts (although you could sign one if you are staying put for more than a year).
The best bet I’ve found was Tuenti. I know it’s like if facebook came out with a phone, would you buy it? Well, it is not just a scam to hook you into using the Tuenti social network. In fact they have good service because they are hooked into the Moviestar broadband network so you can pretty much get good coverage everywhere for a much cheaper deal than Moviestar.
For 1 GB of data you will pay 7 euros +IVA but you pay extra for mobile minutes, you used to be able to get 3GB for 20 euros +IVA with some minutes included. I hardly ever call anyone, I just use whatsapp so this is a great deal for me.
There is no contract. You can quit anytime no penalty with tuenti. If you go over your data or minutes and have enrolled in auto-top up then you receive no added costs!
You can purchase the sim cards and new phones from their website and they arrive at your door via moto-delivery; they confirm delivery time beforehand via email. Sometimes you have to go to the post office to pick up your sim card.
The downer is they don’t have a storefront location for convenience but there are a couple of places you can find tuenti sim cards and you can top-up at some of the moviestar machines. Everything can pretty much be handled online and they do have an English department that will respond to emails if desperate. I haven’t had a complaint yet. Tuenti has been a great choice for me and I haven’t had to deal with any of the problems some of my friends have had with Yoigo or Orange. I’d recommend tuenti for anyone who is a temporary in España.

Favorite Tailor in Madrid

tailorIf you need clothes tailored in Madrid, Spain then check out the Taller de Costura at Buenavista,9 in Lavapies.  I love them, they are super sweet.  Their dog can seem ferocious but he is all bark and no bite.  Tip: he doesn’t like it when he can’t see your eyes so take off your sunglasses when you visit, it will calm him down.  I also will occasionally bring him a little treat to get on his good side.

I have had all kinds of work done at this shop and never paid over 10€ for a job.  Plus they are super friendly and help you to feel comfortable practicing your Spanish.

I have never had anything come back badly tailored and when not in a rush most items are ready in 4-7 days.  They can get pretty busy but if you live in the neighborhood it is definitely worth it to check them out.

Ballet Nostalgia

Apolo I grew up in a family where all 3 of us girls took ballet classes.  We even dragged my little brother to a few classes because we basically lived at the dance studio.  So when I saw that Giselle was playing at the Teatro Nuevo Apolo by my apartment I had to go.  The theater was old and falling apart a bit but really cool nonetheless.  I sat in the highest section because it was the cheapest but the Anfiteatro isn’t  the best spot to watch a ballet from as you can see all the stage markings and their jumps don’t seem as impressive.  All in all the Classical Russian Ballet company were good, the venue on the other hand wasn’t a good pick as the stage was very small and hollow but I enjoyed it.  If it had been a better venue or a bit cheaper for better seats I would have bought tickets for all three shows; “El Lago de los Cisnes”, “Giselle” y “La Bella Durmiente”.  It reminded me how much I miss dancing.

Bathroom Saga

neighborsI hate my landlord. I don’t expect much because landlords are never really likable in my experience but this guy sucks. Aside from the small stuff, we have a bigger problem at our apartment. Actually it is an emergency! Apparently, our shower which has never functioned right from day one and was full of concrete when we moved in, is now leaking into our neighbor below’s apartment. We received a knock on the door very late one night and it was the landlord from the apartment below, he was super nice and understood we were just tenants but obviously wanted the problem solved quickly. So I called our landlord, he was at a club in Ibiza and said he’d call me back; he never did. After multiple emails and many ignored phone calls I ended up calling our landlord from a different number and voila! I got him on the phone, he begrudgingly said he’d send someone over to look at it. This was the longest repair I’ve dealt with in my life mainly because I had to rely on a terrible landlord. In the end it took over a month to fix our shower (old plumbing that was poorly installed). In the meantime we showered at friends’ houses and at the public homeless showers in Embajadores for 50 cents per shower. bathroom hellThe worst part was when they took out the toilet and we had a useless bathroom. But eventually it was fixed after many days of living with the plumber. But to top it all off the owner of our apartment ended up calling us because she couldn’t get a hold of our lazy landlord/rental manager and she asked us to front the plumber the money that her insurance was supposed to cover. At that point I lost it, on top of all the construction we were dealing with pressure from work etc. and family was coming to visit…I never fronted any money, eventually we got a hold of our landlord and he dealt with the payments. But I will never ever work with his company again. If only we had the landlord from downstairs, he was super attentive, called regularly to check in and made house calls, granted he wanted the problem fixed but he was what I’d hope for in a landlord.  I guess better luck next year.
casa de banosI am really thankful that there are public showers in Madrid and I think every city should have them. Madrid keeps them fairly clean (at least the woman’s side) and they are monitored. If you need them they are by the Embajadores metro @ GLORIETA EMBAJADORES, 2

Planeta Vegano

planeta veganoI love this place.  They fairly recently expanded and now offer everything you can imagine.  If they don’t have it, just ask and they may be able to order it for you.  This place has all kinds of substitute meats; a variety of sausages, slices, gluten, tofu (although cheaper at the Asian markets), frozen stuff etc.  Every grain and bean you can imagine, sauces, tahini’s, oils etc., veganaise, nutritional yeast, allergen free detergents, coconut oil soap, greenie dog treats, the list goes on and on.  I think they even started to add cosmetics like natural hair dye and nail polish.  I can’t wait to see what they have when I come back.  The owners/workers are super friendly and everything is 100% vegetarian and mostly vegan.

Go support the movement @ planteta vegano  c/ave maria, 34 -28012

Laundromat

Normally, I wash my own clothes and hang dry them at my apartment but sometimes items are too large for my tiny washer so I have to head to a laundry service.  The cheapest Lavanderia in my neighborhood is Lavanderia Autoservicio Buenavista.  It is in Lavapies and although it isn’t the most convenient location it is one of the cheapest I’ve found.  One wash costs 4 € and a dry for 30 minutes costs 4 €.  In the past at other places I have paid up to 7 € for a 30 min dry and the clothes still came out wet.  So it doesn’t hurt to shop around for better prices, especially when you need to wash and dry a queen down comforter in the wintertime.  It takes forever to dry things inside during the winter here.  This lavanderia also has free wifi so you can surf while you wait.  Or just drop your stuff off and the guy that works there will take care of everything.

They are open everyday except Sunday and of course only take cash.  He provided the detergent free of charge and was just a super friendly dude.

Check them out if you need a wash in the neighborhood:

Lavanderia Autoservicio en Madrid Centro

C/Buenavista 44

Tel.:911154550

Tapapiés

Living in Lavapiés, taking part in the 2 week long Tapapiés was unavoidable.  This was the second year that many of the local bars showcased their best tappas for  €1  or a caña (small draft beer) and tappas for €2.

As vegetarians, going out for tappas brings little excitement as most are served with ham or some type of meat inside.  However, Tapapiés was just what we needed to size up our options.  You get a map of all the participating bars and what tappas they are offering.  You can pick up these maps at any of the participating bars or follow online.  There were more participants this year than last so we lucked out with about 7 options out of 47 (more if you eat fish).  It was great because each bar had a different vibe to it.

The first bar was blasting Britney Spears American Pop songs which didn’t seem to match the ambiance nor clientele at all but their hummus tappa was ok even though it wasn’t listed on the map.

The wine bar Alma Café was more relaxed with a mid 30s + crowd.  Their Canasta Griega tappa was real good but the best part was the lil old grandma cooking them in the back.

We tried a few more but the one I loved was the Cono Alabanda from the bar Alabanda.  It was a delicious pastery puff cone with vegetables, goat cheese, white truffle oil and a little side of mashed potato and pumpkin.

And since we couldn’t sample all the bars we didn’t spend too much money.  Although 2 euros for a sample and a tiny beer can really add up when you’re bar hopping.  If you are in Madrid near the end of October this is a must.  And if you are new to the neighborhood it is a great excuse to scope out the bar scenes in your area all in one night.