Las Aventuras De Los Gringos En Madrid

Last weekend, we met our friends, Boris and Natasha, in Madrid.  We did a walking tour from Rick Steves‘ book.
 
Boris and Natasha (names were changed to protect the not so innocent)
We started at Puerta del Sol.  The building below was Franco’s headquarters and people tried to escape from questioning by jumping.  Others claimed to have been thrown from the windows.
The square is also the place where Napoleon’s troops shot Spanish protestors that was commemorated in Goya‘s painting, The Third of May.
The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya, showi...

The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya, showing Spanish resisters being executed by Napoleon’s troops. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days, it is a hugely popular public area where the biggest dangers were the huge lines to buy lottery tickets for the big drawing (the king won once) and the hordes of fashionistas at Topshop.
The guard’s hats are flat in the back so they can lean their head against the wall while smoking.  He says they wouldn’t catch anyone in a footchase.
Reading that page in the guidebook was so exhausting that we had to stop for sustenance…at a confiteria.
Sorry, they were so good that I we dug in before taking a picture.
We walked to Plaza Mayor,  a huge public space that was used for bullfighting, royal showboating, the Inquisition and its subsequent “bonfires”.  We saw it filled with a Christmas market.
We needed a cafe con leche, so we popped into a cafe.  They came with churros, so of course we had to eat them.  Properly fortified, we were ready to hit the market (Mercado de San Miguel).
Stuffed as we were, walking through was enough to make us hungry.  The food was so beautiful that I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
We went to a convent and bought some cookies (we didn’t intend for it to be a food tour even though it clearly turned into one).
File:Atentado en la calle Mayor..jpg
In 1906 there was a royal wedding procession past this spot. Someone threw a bomb along with the flowers. It killed 23. The statute below memorizes the dead.
Madrid’s Cathedral
The Royal Palace
Madrid is a really beautiful city.  We whiled away the afternoon strolling public squares, grand promenades and wonderful Retiro Park.
 
Un poquito Espagnol will get you a long way in Madrid.  I was delighted to realize I learned some by osmosis in the US.
 
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This Little Piggy Went To Market

Twice a week, we have a market in our neighborhood.  When the Sweetest Girl in the World and my niece came to visit, we went.
They have wide variety of fruits and vegetables, many of which are locally grown.   Somehow, I doubt these Pineapples are locally grown.
I absolutely had to buy my niece a chocolate croissant.  It’s hard to say no to someone so cute.
I could easily do some major damage to this cheese vendor’s cart and my pocketbook if I let myself go.  Check out the variety.  Most of them are from Switzerland, Italy or the nearby Savoy region of France.  We used goat cheese when we made crepes.  Mmmmmm…
We spent a relaxing morning wandering around the market, oohing and aahing over the wonderful food.

Wild truffles!  I wish that I were rich enough to afford and a good enough cook to get the truffles.
Dried fruits, nuts, olives, beans, peppers, spices, vegetables, many types of mushrooms….
Check out all the different types of greens above.  There were more, but I couldn’t fit them all in the shot.  She bought some homemade soaps as souvenirs.
The first time we went to this market, I had major sticker shock.  A rotisserie chicken, which would be between $5-10 at home was 20 CHF ($22-25 depending on the exchange rate).

 

Geneva Expat 101, Lesson Four – Furnishing an Apartment on a Budget

Switzerland is expensive.  Very, very expensive.  The high value of the Swiss Franc hasn’t helped (thank you Switzerland for devaluing your currency).  As a result, we have been looking for ways to get the things we need here on a budget.

We went to Ikea*.  It still seemed rather expensive, or at least more expensive than Ikea in the US.  I know that their prices are, in theory, the same worldwide.  Although I haven’t done the calculations, I suspect Switzerland is an exception to their standard pricing and is more expensive.

We tried to make our new home  organized, warm and homey. To do this on a budget, I relied heavily on brocante (secondhand). Since Geneva is such a transient community, you can get lots of nice things used.  Some of the best stores to go are Caritas, CSP and L’Armee Du Salut (Salvation Army). A few weeks back, I went to check them out with some friends. We were amazed by what we saw and all of us found “treasures”. 

Sometimes, there are extra markdowns on certain items.

 

Sadly, none of us purchased the Courvoisier cannon.
None of us purchased the mounted fish head either. It is still up for grabs. Interested?
Seriously, they have tons of whatever kind of household item you need.
They have furniture too.
Tons of it.
On the hunt for a smokin’ deal
Rugs, books and CD’s. Oh my.

Here are some places you can go to get what you need on the cheap:

  • Salvation Army (L’ Armee Du Salut) – We purchased a giant armoire here to store all of my clothes and a nice lamp (it fits Swiss plugs).
  • CSP (Centre Sociale Protestant) they are all over – I purchased a ton of flower pots here.  This is a great place to go for books too. 
  • Caritas stores are also all over – you can get just about anything here.  One day, I spent 49 CHF and came home on the tram with a table for our kitchen, a vacuum cleaner, a steamer/rice cooker, and a plant stand.  It has been a great place to get appliances.  We have gotten a hairdryer, a rice cooker, a fan and a raclette set there.
  • The classifieds on glocals.com has also been a really useful.  We were able to buy our spare bed and TV there.
  • Advertised brocante weekend sales
  • Plainpalais flea market 
*I bought Ikea’s version of the Slap Chop.  It didn’t cut anything and was a big waste of money.  He just laughed at me because I’d wanted it so badly and had been so excited about it.