Tag Archives: Calle

Lavapies: Barrio at the Heart of Madrid

I’ve been here in Madrid for more than a year, and hate the fact that I still struggle with Spanish. And so before I quit on my language learning ability, if it does exist, I did some online research and came upon Asilim, an Lavapies-based institution offering language and integration courses for foreigners.  I didn’t enroll there, realizing that I can take free classes at a municipal school at Bravo Murillo. The search, however, piqued my interest in Lavapies, and led me to finding out more about it.

imageLavapies Metro Station, along Calle Argomusa, brings you right at the hustle and bustle of the barrio, La Playa de Lavapies.

imageYou may opt to start your tour at La Plaza de Tirso de Molina. In the middle background (vaguely captured) is the Teatro Nuevo Apolo, popular for its art deco-styled building, and known to be one of the most active in Madrid, in terms of programming.

I guess Lavapies owns the bragging rights to being in the middlemost part of the city (well, a little to the south of Madrid’s center, that is).  A number of barrios can lay claim to this actually, since many are found within the central area of the city. The popular ones (which I’ve already visited) are Puerta del Sol, Toledo, Moncloa, Colon, Gran Via,  and La Latina. These are great neighborhoods, and there are many more that I didn’t mention. For now, let me focus on our subject as it charms me the most.

One of the first things I learned is its supposedly not-so-good reputation, which I thought isn’t, really. Whether it’s true or not, there’s no denying that Lavapies is one of the most colorful barrios of Madrid. Be bewildered by the utter multi-cultural diversity of the place. Being there is like submerging in a sea of nationalities – Asians (mostly Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis), Moroccans, Middle East nationals, and Latinos, of course. They took advantage of its welcoming arms and cheap rent prices to settle and build communities.

Lavapies has become a haven of sorts for foreigners who wanted to invest or venture into business. It’s a place where immigrants from anywhere in the world coexist peacefully and forge strong relationships with the Spanish locals. In fact, they were able to establish communities within the barrio with great success that they might as well claim it as their own, and call it their Little India, Mini-Morocco, or Little Whatever-country-they-belong-to, and rightly so. Isn’t it just fair to call Lavapies Madrid’s cultural melting pot?

First Visit to Lavapies

image Old apartments in front of Plaza Agustin Lara. Housing in the barrio are available at low rent prices, attracting more and more young people to move in.

image South Asian Shop sells authentic Indian clothing and bags. Located along Calle Caracava.

As an Asian (Filipino) trying to blend into a new place, Lavapies’ known openness to foreigners has such a great appeal. This fact rings loudly, as attested to by many I know, giving me the impression that it is one of Madrid’s most foreigner-friendly places.

Of course, not all that I’ve heard about the barrio are praises and all. Some on the Internet have labeled it as unsafe (I refrain to use the word “dangerous” as I realized that this is not true ). In its defense, I can only think of a popular quote, “every rose has its thorns.” I strongly resent the unfair label, so I thought that being there in the middle of the action is the best way to disprove it.

Off to the Barrio

The starting point of my tour is the Ultima Parada of Autobus 27 at Glorietta de Embajadores (You can take this bus at Plaza de Castellana). A short walk through Miguel Servet and Calle Valencia and I found myself right in the middle of the Plaza de Lavapies. It was quite limited in area, with a small playground occupying a significant part.

Looking around, the uniqueness of the place is evident. Lavapies is atypical compared to other Madrid barrios. Surrounding the plaza are a number of foreign-owned restaurants, alimentaciones, and mobile phone and electronics shops, alongside their Spanish counterpart. It was almost 4 pm, and business was brisk that time of the day.

I assess that the establishments this part of Lavapies thrive since the nearby Metro Station attracts quite a good number of commuters. It is apart from the fact that the important roads converge and traverse through it, being the heart of the barrio.

I later learned that the Playa de Lavapies had been the site of the fountain where the Jews used to wash their feet (hence the name) before proceeding to the nearby synagogue, through a road now known as Calle de la Fe.

Bohemian Vibe

If you’re looking for a place where Bohemian and chic scream loudly,  Lavapies is your best option. It offers opportunities for the free spirited to experience and savor unique poetry, arts, and music. Performances are done in restaurants, cafes, and the sidewalks. Streets become stages for evening events, especially during weekends.

Just be warned, if you’re uninitiated, about the presence of odd-hairdoed and dressed artists and similar advocates come nighttime. Indeed, Lavapies speaks Bohemian, and there is no doubt that its varied-culture  nature contributes all the more to such an alternative atmosphere.

Known as a gathering place for the Bohemian crowd is the El Juglar, at Calle Lavapies, 37. It features various shows and performances at affordable entrance fees.

A safe barrio

Why do some people shun it? Why the fear, when in fact, like the rest of the city, there is strong police visibility in Lavapies, as evidenced by the regular rounds of mobile cars within the vicinity?

In my opinion, Lavapies is safe. Even for tourists. Whenever I’m there, the plaza serves as my hangout where I eat on the bench whatever food I bring. I wander around tirelessly, treading as many streets as possible just to pass time. And I always do this in my lonesome. Clearly, the place is safe as safe can be.

image Shot of Escuelas Pias made more picturesque because of the beautiful day. Escuelas Pias was formerly Colegio de Lavapies, burned down during the Spanish civil war in 1936. The present ruins serves as a library and the UNED Associated Centre.

Here’s a funny incident: As I approach Escuelas Pias via Meson de Paredes, someone in a group lazing around by the street corner caught my glance and nodded at me. Between acknowledging the nod and ignoring, I decided on the latter, and continued to walk while trying to look nonchalant. Obviously, I tried to avoid them out of fear. Was I taken aback when from a distance, I saw them having a seemingly normal conversation with a elderly couple.

I felt horrible – but I thought I couldn’t be faulted for having such a reaction. While I do think of Lavapies for the most part as safe, the Internet has triggered me somehow to have even  a tinge of doubt about it. A blogger even warned about the possibility of experiencing shady offers as one walks its streets. I was told a similar story by a friend. Don’t stare, avoid eye contact was the advice I got (Hence, my reaction with the group).

I thought that my foolish, paranoid reaction was unwarranted. In retrospect, I would have done the opposite and taken advantage of the chance to interact with the locals. Damn these crazed nerves – they always get the better of me.

Me Encanta Lavapies

After a number of visits, here’s my verdict – Lavapies is no different from any other barrio in Madrid. In my opinion, it’s even better. It’s cool, hip, and vibrant. It might be loud and rowdy, but not to the point of being raunchy. I’d live there in a heartbeat – if only I could.

I love that it’s near Puerta del Sol, which I consider the heart of Spain, while meters away is Rastro, for that Sunday morning flea-market shopping you don’t want to miss. Asian stores are everywhere. Doner Kepab is there (a few of them scattered, actually), with its Middle Eastern fare a good-enough alternative to the Tel Aviv version. There is a comic shop (El Collectionista) along Calle Tribulete. A health store (Planeta Vegano) at Calle Ave Maria. A herbal apothecary shop (Herbolario El Druida) at corner of De la Fe. Easy access to the highly efficient Metro. Great choices of cafes and theaters. The popular Mercado San Fernando (which I initially mistook for a church) is nearby. What more could you ask for?

While Lavapies exudes a dark character (what place doesn’t?), it’s just one of its many sides. In no way should it be labeled as seedy, or downright bad, as a few blogs do – because it’s not. Every place has its own evil, but good is there to cancel it out. The presence of opposing traits makes a place normal and livable, even great. Lavapies, the little barrio in the heart of Madrid, is exactly like that.
imageCool-flavored drinks, cozy ambiance, fast Latino beats, and even DJs – all this you can enjoy at Amor Voodoo along Calle de Lavapies.
imageSidreria is one of the more popular restaurante along Calle Argumosa. Spanish restaurants are complemented by their non-local counterparts to provide more options to diners.

imageSouth Asian restaurants ready up tables along the sidewalk of Calle de Lavapies. Photo was taken at around midday; a few hours more and diners are expected to come in. Indian dishes are rich and spicy, easily compensating the rather bland table covers.

imageCafe Barbieri at Calle del Ave María, 45, Lavapies. Located near the plaza, the cafeteria has been in business since 1902. One of the authentic Spanish cafes that exude Old Madrid. In 2015, it had major changes under its new management. Popular in Madrid for its delicious coffee fare, Cafe Barbieri is also known for staged performances.

imageI stumbled upon Paticano building at Traviesa de la Primavera, where masses for the “Iglesia Patolica” are said to be held. This “religion” recognizes the rubber ducky as their god.

imageThe sign says it all. This store sells all kinds of products for its Asian, Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern clients. Many others are strategically located within the neighborhood.

image The M1 minibus is a convenient ride to Lavapies, traversing the barrio as it takes its route from Embajadores to Sol and vice versa.

image A quick stop and coffee at Carrefour Lavapies affords one a panoramic view of the playa and Metro station.

imageBiblioteca de Humidades UNED is located next to the Lavapies Metro Station.

imageOne thing is true about Madrid; every major place in the city is not without these three establishments – churches, cafeterias, and casino and gaming shops. Lavapies is no exception.

imageTheater Valle-Inclan is a stone’s throw away from the Metro Station and Biblioteca de Humanidades, UNED. Its site is where the Old Olympia Theater once stood. Offering the latest in theater technology, Valle-Inclan regularly presents programmes that feature the best contemporary writers and artists.

imageA graffiti artist made a steel canvass out of these metal shutters of a restaurant along Calle Lavapies. Similar “works of art” are found all around the neighborhood.

image Commuters congregate in front of Lavapies Metro Station.

imageLa Playa de Lavapies is the lifeline of the barrio.

imageWelcome to the start of Calle Lavapies, side of Tirso de Molino. I walk along a few others – presumably on their way to work at or around the Plaza, or even beyond (Embajadores).

Thank You, and More Please

It’s 2015, and like everyone says, it’s a new year to look forward to.

But the pessimist in me feels it’s just another bleak year to get by.

Evidently, being in a new city somehow dampens my spirit, and the feeling won’t dissipate.

I’m surprised at how easy it is for me to disregard the positive things I wrote in my first post – hopefulness, great opportunities in Madrid, Spain, and the burning desire to make it here.

I must shrug off this negativity and be thankful instead.

But, what should I be thankful for? Apart from family and friends and good health, it’s hard to think of anything else. Listing a few more seems a lot of work cut out for me at this moment. Damn the New Year’s day blues.

Why should I be, in the first place?

We have to express gratitude for what we receive – to God, the Universe, or anything else we believe in. Otherwise, we can’t ask for more. I watched this film, fell in love with it, and made me a believer of the mantra – thank you, more please.

So, for this post, I made a short list of things that I am grateful for. Here goes…

1. I am totally indebted to Ayuntamiento de Madrid, Casa de Baños, Calle Bravo Murillo, at Distrito Tetuan for the free beginner Spanish class. I look forward to the succeeding Spanish courses of higher level (both of which are also for free).

(I’ll be beholden to the Universe to no end if it can make my brain work like a super sponge, and suck in everything there is to learn about the language.)

Spanish Alphabet, found in the manual we use in our class

2. Our professor was not able to lecture one time, and had us watch a movie instead. And so, I must thank Profesor Francisco, mi nuevo amigo, for introducing me to Volver, an amazing film which I thought was also crazy and magical.

3. Everyone at home wanted to have a Roscon on the table as part of the New Year’s Eve meal, so I bought a small one at Carrefour Principe de Vergara, near Colombia.

Roscon and the paper crown, New Year's day in Madrid
Roscon, or Rosca de Reyes, the Kings’ Ring, and My paper crown

Lady luck must be on my side because my first slice had the toy, an owl figurine, in it. The toy is a representation of Baby Jesus, and the one who chances upon it becomes blessed, and lucky for the next whole year(?).

Roscon gift for me
The white toy owl means blessings and luck has been bestowed on me by the Three Kings. The bean means that I have to buy the Roscon for next year

The next slice had me finding another toy, this time, a plastic bean or seed (either a lima or fava). A friend teases me, says getting the bean means I’ll be the one to buy next year’s Roscon. Being told of this just put a smile on my face, for I am only too happy to oblige.

Thanks to Carrefour’s Roscon for blessing me and making me king for the day.

4. I would gladly walk through this…

Deserted Madrid metro passageway and turnstile area passageway made possible because it's December 24th, Christmas Eve.
Empty Madrid metro passageway and turnstile area despite (or rather because of) the holiday, December 24th, Christmas Eve.

than be crushed in this..

Long, heavy passenger lines to Manila's Metro Rail Transit System. A daily occurence. Photo source: wheninmanila.com and Mark Balmores of Manila Bulletin
Long, heavy passenger lines to Manila’s Metro Rail Transit System, a daily occurence.
Photo source: Thanks to When in Manila and Mark Balmores of Manila Bulletin

Actually, I only have good words for Manila MRT for providing service at its best, and accommodating riders many times its capacity. Kudos!

Just seeing these photos make me appreciate Madrid Metro all the more for the convenience of travel and commuting.

When I finally get my abono (which allows holders unlimited train ride around the city for a month, all for 52 euros), it means access to more places in Madrid. Definitely, a boon to Let’s Talk Madrid.

5. Thanks to Madrid and Plaza Puerta del Sol for the memorable New Year’s Eve countdown event. It was simple, with hardly any firecracker lit. All the noise that greeted 2015 was sheer shouting, cheering, and boisterous laughing of merrymakers of mostly families and friends. Yet, frankly, it was one New Year’s Eve celebration I immensely enjoyed.

This is as near as we can go to Puerta del Sol. Still we had a nice view of the countdown celebration at Calle de Arenal
This is the closest that we can get to the plaza of Puerta del Sol. Still we had a nice view of the countdown celebration from where we stood at Calle de Arenal

Last night’s was just one genuinely heartfelt celebration.

Feliz Ano Nuevo! Happy New Year to everyone!

6. Hey, I have many reasons to say thanks after all – and I admit that there are so much more apart from this list. I’m truly happy for everything I received the past year, and look forward to 2015 and what it might bring.

Thank you, and more please.

Madrid After Christmas

It's the 26th, and the spirit of the Yuletide Season is very much in the air in Madrid even if Christmas has already passed.

Everyone is not ready to let the festive mood within them disappear. Decors all around the city, at homes and in the streets, avenues, and plazas, are still up and will not be removed until January 6th.

Madrid is Christmas Land 'til Feast of the Three Kings

For a few days more (10 days to be exact), Madrid continues to be a magical place come night time as Christmas trees and lighting decors brightly illuminate the city.

Speaking of Jaunary 6, it is when Spain commemorates the Feast of the Three Kings or Epiphany, and also the date when Christmas officially ends.

Dia de los Reyes, as how they call it in Spanish, is the Spaniards' The Little Christmas. Gift giving is done on this occasion as a tradition, instead of Christmas Eve or Day.

I want my Roscon (and the good luck that it brings)

Another popular tradition during The Three Kings is the eating of sugar-coated Roscon, a delicacy similar to a doughnut, only much larger.

Inside every Roscon is a toy, most likely a little Nino Jesus. Everyone partakes a slice, and the one who gets the toy enjoys good luck and blessings for one whole year.

Hail to Kings Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar

Likewise, I can't wait to catch candies that will be thrown to the crowd by people from the Municipalidad as they pass by Calle Principe de Vergara.

The parade symbolizes the arrival of the Three Kings and bringing of their gifts.

This candy-throwing event is done in many places in Spain during Dia de los Reyes.

My first Christmas in Madrid made me realize that the city vigorously celebrates the Season, much like how we celebrate it back home. I look forward to enjoying the same joyous experience again next year.

Here are some photos of beautiful sights and scenes from Madrid after Christmas. Feliz Navidad!

Colorful lights adorn this building at Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid
Christmas lights in the form of giant snow flakes adorn the facade of El Corte Ingles building at Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Christmas Lights shaped in circle mesmerize passers-by at Calle de la Montera
Yuletide lights mesmerize passers-by at Calle de la Montera
Blue Christmas Tree at Calle de la Montera, in front of Gran Via
Blue Christmas Tree at Calle de la Montera, in front of Gran Via
Beautiful lighting decors of red and blue brighten up the length of Calle de la Montera
Christmas lights of red and blue brighten up the length of Calle de Fuencarral
Gargantuan neon sign display at El Corte Ingles, Nuevos Ministerios
Gargantuan digital sign display at El Corte Ingles, Nuevos Ministerios

Chandelier lighting decors send warmth and illumination throughout wintry Calle de Goya, in Salamanca
Chandelier lighting decors send warmth and illumination throughout wintry Calle de Goya, in Salamanca

Calle Velazquez, Madrid
Calle Velazquez boasts of truly attractive lighting that highlight the festive season, in Distrito Salamanca

Goya, Madrid
Yuletide gives this establishment good reason to spruce up its facade with draping rope lights, located along Calle de Goya
Feliz Navidad sign welcomes pedestrians as they walk through kiosks that line both sides of the passageway beside Nuevos Ministerios Metro Station and going to El Corte Ingles, Plaza Castellana.
Feliz Navidad sign welcomes pedestrians as they walk through a passageway with kiosks on both sides. Beside Nuevos Ministerios Metro Station, fronting Paseo de la Castellana
A mini recreation fun land is set up to accommodate kids wanting to enjoy fun rides. At the back of El Corte Ingles
A mini-recreation and play center is set up in the grounds of El Corte Ingles to accommodate kids wanting to enjoy fun rides
Bluish white Yuletide Lighting decors shine down upon the busy street of Bravo Murillo
Bluish white lighting decors radiate warmth and illumination upon the busy street of Bravo Murillo
Chamartin Mercado, Madrid's most beautiful market (for me, at least) made more beautiful with it bright green Christmas tree and trimmings. Along Calle Colombia
Chamartin Mercado, Madrid's most beautiful market (for me, at least), is made even more charming with its bright green Christmas tree and trimmings, along Calle Colombia
Imposing Christmas tree complements the Paseo de la Castellana fountain near Nuevos Ministerios. What a site to behold!
Imposing Christmas tree complements the spectacular Paseo de la Castellana fountain near Nuevos Ministerios. Such a site to behold!
This scene at Paseo de la Castellano reminds of Champs Elysees during Christmastime
This scene at Paseo de la Castellano reminds me of Paris' Les Champs Elysees during Christmastime

Merry Christmas everyone, from Let's Talk Madrid!

Let’s Talk Madrid, Spain

Having had the chance to stay in Tel Aviv (5 years) and travel to Paris (5 days), I thought of myself as truly lucky.

Now this time, I am in Madrid, Spain. For how long? Nothing’s definite yet.

All I’m sure is that I am one fortunate soul.

Because for one thing, I am a blogger. In me now is this overflowing exhilaration knowing that once again, I can write about another great city.

puerta del sol madrid picture
At Puerta del sol, the heart of Madrid

Indeed, there is no other acceptable way to talk about a place, gush and rave about it, or even spew rants about it (if need be) than to be there – in the flesh!

To write honestly about a place, you must breath its air, soak in its culture, bask in its sun, and mingle with its people, asserting yourself as like one of them at some point (take it as a challenge).

estadio santiago bernabeu picture photo
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Europe’s third largest stadium

You do so, and everything becomes spontaneous, easy, and frank. You don’t become exact in your words, sounding like that in a wiki – but more like insightful, discerning, or even idiotic.

Needless to say, you’re licensed to articulate your emotions in any way you want if you see things first-hand.

And put simply, if you’re within, around, and a witness to your subject, you churn beautiful and evergreen pieces about it.

Lucky me, I am here in Madrid. For real.

Hence, letstalkmadrid.com is born.

Plaza Mayor Madrid
Feast of Nuesra Senora de Almudena Mass, at Plaza Mayor
Your caballero is ready and raring to travel around this beautiful Spanish capital. I dare to either conquer (read: blend in), or yield (read: be captivated by all its splendor).

To wander aimlessly along Madrid streets and inner streets is more to my liking; excited to be surprised by things, places, and sights that await to be discovered.

Here I come Gran Via, Puerta del Sol, Prosperidad (the Distrito where I live), Chamartin, Rastro (and its limitless antiquities), and Plaza Mayor, among so many others.

Flea marktet shop at El Rastro de Madrid
Flea marktet shop at El Rastro de Madrid

These blog-worthy places are but a drop in this city’s deep bucket of beautiful sites and attractions.

My humble website will feature some of Madrid’s parks (such as Parque de Berlin, across Avenida Ramon y Cajal) and churches (like Parroquia de San Antonio de Cuatro Caminos, along Calle Bravo Murillo), where I go to spend my times of idling and worship, respectively.

Statue of Pope John Paul II at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, Calle de Bailen, Madrid
Statue of Pope John Paul II at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, Calle de Bailen, Madrid

Also worth noting are their cafes, cafeterias, cantinas, coffee shops, coffee bookshops – which ever way they are called. Spaniards dearly love their coffee, explaining why these establishments are in the thousands, scattered around the city.

Audrey Cafeteria, Calle de Bravo Murillo Madrid
Audrey Cafeteria, Calle de Bravo Murillo, Madrid

Do I have to mention that Spanish food will be prominently featured here? No Madrid blog is complete without discussing tapas and paellas, cochinillos and pollos asados, and turones and jamones. Occasional reviews of popular Madrid restaurants are in the offing as well.

My first taste of Paella at Museo de Jamon
My first taste of Paella at Museo de Jamon

Por favor, join me in my journey as I write about my day-to-day experiences, adventures, travels, and travails as a Madrileno nuevo – a self-appointed one at that.

Undoubtedly, Madrid is a travel blogger’s haven; and so I can’t thank the Universe enough for being here.

Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue
Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue, Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Most importantly, it’s a privilege to be in Spain knowing that not everyone has the means to travel.

It is hard enough to gather resources needed to tour one’s own country. It’s even more difficult to travel to another country in a faraway continent.

Palacio de las Cortes, Carrera de San Jeronimo
Palacio de las Cortes, Carrera de San Jeronimo

I know that countless individuals ache for a chance to see Madrid. Sadly, most can only dream about it.

In my case, I am living my own.

For this, muchas gracias.

Do keep me company as I learn to live in this city; experiencing bliss and sadness, and everything in between. I’ll take it a day at a time while embracing Madrid tightly, and all that it has to offer.

Palacio Real picture photo
Palacio Real

Let’s talk Madrid.

Hasta pronto!