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Tuesday, 3 December 2013


Madrid feels like small village that sits on a hill, surrounded by mountains that wakes up slowly in the chilly morning, neighbours throwing open their shutters, sounds of cheery morning conversation, gossip and coffee machines whirring away. Then you step out into the street and the hubbub of people, motos and tall buildings brings you back to reality, this is in fact the third largest city in Europe and we live right in the centre of it!

We've been here for a year and a half and honestly part of me found it a slight let-down and I wasn't a major fan... Madrid seemed a bit behind with the times - perhaps because there are a lot of elderly people where we live. At first it felt old fashioned, judgemental, a cookie cutter collection of people, overprotective parents in the playground continuously telling their child "you're too small for that" or "that's too difficult for you", uncompetitive businesses, rude customer service at large stores and generally not very eco-conscious. However this has turned around and I've learned to embrace my new home, the people and the city, which is in fact very cosmopolitan which plenty going on, has so much sun that I wince when I return to the grey skies of England, and full of thoughtful, rather crazy people.

It's difficult to kick that village image out of my head as there is a strong community spirit here and everyone walks slowly around the streets, filled with a presence where people enjoy their paseos without needing to go anywhere, just for their walks. I love bumping into people I know when out in the streets, and in the evening there are hundreds of people everywhere just walking, slowly.... It's rather endearing. People just stroll, talk and hang out in the streets which is awesome!

I have just got used to the madrileños looking at you as you walk - before this bothered me quite a lot - coming from London where people don't seem to look at each other as much - leave you alone and think to themselves. Now, I come to appreciate the act of looking right back into the eyes of passersby and working out what they're thinking and if they have a disaproving look of some sort (Young mother! Weird dresser! Short skirt! Dirty face baby! who knows...) Then I can calm it pronto by looking at them DEEPLY and they immediately look away. Arhggh I hated it first but now it's just very human and revealing. BUT even if I walk with my man, girls still look at him unapolagetically and this makes me MAD!! And hey, the girls here are pretty gorgeous - they all have amazing long healthy hair and super groomed which leaves me worrying about being too scruffy - but then I just think FUCK IT! (*Not so true now!)

Anyway. Madrid is FABULOUS for children and there are playgrounds at every plaza and even sprinkled along the main shopping street which is so useful! You see kids everywhere - sitting nicely with their families at terrazas, playing with the other children in the plazas. It's really cool. I noticed that spanish families tend to say 'No' more often to their kids and limit them a lot more than back home: "That's for older kids", "That's too difficult for you", "Not that way" instead of letting them find out alone and this was further confirmed in Leon's nursery (- which is lovely by the way with a big sandy playground- a rarity among the others I checked out.) and originally I was hesitant of this cultural difference that has upset many a grandparent in the playgound when they see how crazy my kids get with perhaps too much freedom. There are 3 big grassy parks in Madrid which the kids love and the Retiro park even has huge carp and ducks in the lake and turtles in another pond. I'll tell you more about Madrid for kids another time.

Fast forward maybe 5 months from when this has been in draft.... maybe I was harsh with Madrid at first. It really is a wonderful city with a lot going on, beautiful structures and spaces, kind, interesting, talkative people, who have a playful, childlike soul but are super tough in reality.

Metropolis building built 1910 by Fevrier brothers
Palacio Cibeles - Old Post Office turned city hall

El Palacio Real - largest palace in Europe!
Edificio Banesto el Palacio de la Equitativa
  Admiteddly it's December and it's been oh so long since I've blogged... but I hope to jump back into the rhythm again and keep a record of what we've been up to, places discovered, my babies' developments and thoughts on Madrid or wherever we are. We were lucky to return to Mexico again this year which was incredible exploring the Mayan ruins for the first time, and spending a lot of time at the beach in the Yucatan peninsula or swimming in the cenotes, and also enjoyed playing in the french countryside again and life away from the city. I've been home once this year without the babies, but we're all off to London for Christmas wahey! We've visted several regions in Spain, Segovia, San Sebastien, Burgos, Barcelona... which are each so distinct and wonderful in their own way and there's still plenty to see! We expect to stay two more years and I really want to make the most of it! Leon started school this September and seems to enjoy it a lot, Elias started nursery as well which was a big change but he took to it brilliantly, though now he's misbehaving a lot more.. ay ay ay!!

Here are my boys

Chilling at the pool (July)
Chilling in the Mountains (June)
Elias and his Papa at the playground

Leon in Malasana off to another playdate
Boys in Retiro park admiring the ducks

See you soon!