Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hasta Pronto Madrid

El Madroño - Symbol of Madrid

For the past month, my life has been a whirlwind, full of great company and a lot of stress.  I am never one to complain about having an exciting social agenda but when I had a major meltdown trying to exchange a scarf in Missoni, ended up crying in the store TWICE and my soul mate was reminding me that I was “acting like a brat”, I knew that I had reached the breaking point.

It is funny how life can change from one moment to the next and hopefully, it always brings something that will cause growth and add character but sometimes the initial shock can be overwhelming and saying a temporary, “hasta pronto” is never easy on emotions. 

A month ago, my husband got transferred to the States and he is absolutely thrilled.  He has wanted to live in the States since we met, I always told my Spanish toro that he married the wrong American as I have always felt more Spanish than American.  With the news, we have had to make the proper arrangements for the move.  He has been making the proper arrangements Stateside and I have been packing and closing things in Spain.  Perhaps both of us know the other’s culture better than the other.

I finally mustered up the courage to tell my main boss, I entered his office and felt like I was going to be sick. 

“Boss 1, we have something to talk about and you aren’t going to be pleased.”
“Aye, Sarita, what is it?”
“I am giving you a month’s notice and I would like to ask for a year off.”
He turned white and didn’t get back to me for a couple of days.  When word took off, the Hacker boss got teary eyed and Mr. Ibiza said I would be terribly missed because I have given such joy to the office, the Brainy boss was so excited for me and the Pacer boss said I will be missed and "who is going to touch his balls?" when I am not there.  I got a laugh out of that one because in Spanish they say when somebody is getting on your case "me está tocando los huevos" which in English would translate to, "somebody is being a pain in the ass" but when you translate it literally, it would mean, "he's touching my balls!!  

Shortly after, my whirlwind started at work.  We had our AGM in Lisbon at the Hotel Pestana Palace which was lovely but beyond stressful for me; I worked with the hotel, the investors, the investors’ secretaries, etc so the event would run better than perfect.  I found that the work ethic in Lisbon was a bit slower than my accelerated pace so I had a patience tests on a daily basis since last October.  No pressure there as I tried to maintain the office orderly at the same time and give support to 17 co-workers.  On the personal side of things, I coordinated with my sister so she could meet up with me in Lisbon to celebrate her birthday. My sister arrived on the same Thursday and I was in disbelief:  For the past ten years, friends and family have always said they will come to visit me in Madrid or Tel Aviv but the typical excuse always rolls around; it is far away, they have kids, the flight is too long, they don’t have any holiday, etc so when a visitor comes, I am so overjoyed. 
Running around like a monkey in a
cocktail dress  at the Hotel Pestana Palace

My sister commented that she doesn’t remember us ever spending quality time together alone and much less in a foreign country.  It is never too late to spend quality time with anybody so make that effort. 

We had the best time in Lisbon.  One of the Portuguese co-investors, just happened to live in the barrio where my sister and I reserved a room at the Hotel do Chiado that has the best views of all of Lisbon.  Elizabeth gave me a list of restaurants that are her favs or that she highly recommends because “you’ll eat well there”.  Europeans definitely love exceptional food.  I made reservations a month in advance because I figured it is always better to get your personal life sorted in a jiff and then focus on what pays for you to have the social life.  I made a reservation at the restaurant Largo and Faz Figura but since it was raining the Saturday we were there, I had the concierge at the hotel cancel the reservation and make a new reservation at Aqui Ha Peixe.

After I tied up the last details at the AGM at the Hotel Pestana Palace, I cruised over in a taxi to the other hotel.  I got to the room and the view was breathtaking!!  Just amazing. 

My sister and I decided to walk around together but she said that she had already walked around a bit but didn’t mind walking around more.  So we get down to the street and we walk literally 10 steps and we found ourselves in ZARA, a Spanish clothing store!!  We walked a bit more and we found ourselves in another shop!!  Shop till you drop in Lisbon!!

The trip with my sister just kept getting better.  We went back to the hotel and had a drink on the terrace.  The weather Gods must have wanted us to be extremely happy because suddenly two rainbows appeared in the sky.  It was amazing.

Lisbon - a view from the Hotel Chiado
We got ready for dinner and walked up to Largo.  When we got there, we saw all of these people in a cute plaza, right across the street from the restaurant.  My sister who tends to be just as bossy as myself, must be a “Warden thing”says, “You go manage the reservation and sit at the table and I’ll go check out what is happening.”  Unlike the Spaniards, almost all of the Portuguese speak English.

“Yes, a table for two under the name of Sarah Casado.” I tend to use my husband’s last name on the Iberian Peninsula to avoid have to spell out my own.

My sister comes cruising into the restaurant and sits at the table and reports, “You aren’t going to believe it, there is a free fashion show that starts at 22:30!!!”

We had a table right next to one of the jellyfish tanks – the restaurant is awesome!  My sister ordered a watermelon martini and I ordered a blackberry/raspberry mojito – both were delightful.  The food was wonderful and we had a fabulous time at the dinner.

We paid and cruised over to get a decent seat at the fashion show.  It was so fun!  Great music, great clothing.  We topped off the night with a Port on a terrace.

The next day, we went up to the Castelo San Jorge and then walked back to the hotel.  We ate lunch and then took a nap.  When we woke up, it was POURING.  So we got ready and luckily it stopped. 

View from the Castelo San Jorge, Lisbon
We decided to get in a cab and see the last monuments and then we took a cab back and we went SHOPPING!  We had a quest.  The only way she was “allowed” to cross the pond, was if she bought her husband who loves the great grapes, was to send him a case of vintage Port.  So off we went.  We found a great shop and tasted a bunch of Ports and made the shipping arrangements.

In the evening we went to a place that has over 300 Ports on the menu – fabulous!  Then we walked down and ate at Aqui Ha Peixe – spectacular!

The next day, we hopped in a cab and got to the airport.  The airport in Lisbon is quite chaotic but we managed to get on an earlier flight to Madrid.

In Madrid, we walked around everywhere, went shopping and I finally bought myself a piece from Sargadelos, Galician porcelain, we had a drink at El Viajero which was the very first bar I ever went to, had a glass of wine at the Mercado de San Miguel, saw a flamenco show and a bullfight.  After my sister left, I had to tie things up in Madrid.

La Menina by Sargadelos
Flamenco at Casa Patas
Bull Fight at Las Ventas

Having a vinito at El Viajero
I called the moving company, turned off the Digital+ and started with the “despedidas”.

I am not going to get into all of the details about the move and preparations because it is stressful and boring.

My husband set off ahead of me as he had to work and wanted to get things settled before I arrive.

Annabel, my British soul mate who I met on our first day at work at a law firm, flew in this past Saturday to lend me a helping hand.  She witnessed the meltdown and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be by my side and we will be laughing about it later!  I had the meltdown after about 5 “hasta pronto” gatherings with the dear friends I have met along the journey and then ate lunch with my bosses.  It suddenly hit me that after 8 years in Spain and all of the adventures it gave me with 2 years in Tel Aviv in the beginning of my decade abroad, I am leaving.  I am still in shock.  I love Madrid.  It is probably the most wonderful city ever but I have to remind myself that like many cities I have seen, that there are many things that I don’t like, especially the fact that there is no water.

As I reflect on my life, I have traveled the globe; I am very lucky.  I have gotten on wrong trains, I have gotten on wrong airplanes, I have gone in the wrong direction numerous times, I have met really weird people who are interesting and I have met some of the most wonderful people who have filled my life with support, love, laughter and made me feel alive.  I studied my junior year in Málaga, my mom had to constantly remind me that I had another year of the University to finish and had to return “home”.  I loved it.  Shortly after I graduated, I moved to San Juan Norte, Costa Rica to be a volunteer for a year and a half where once again, I had to be reminded that I could not work for free forever and had to return "home".  After that, I lived in the BIG Apple which never felt like "home"…and then off to Madrid to do a Masters at New York University where I found I was finally "home".  Shortly after my arrival, I met my best friend, roommate!, love who became my husband who I met through one of my hometown best pals, the world is a pañuelo as they say in Spain (it's a small world).   

August 25, 2005 - Married at the Junta del Retiro, Madrid
My mom wrote on my Facebook profile a month ago when I was freaking out, “Change makes growth.”  And that is exactly what it does.  Change makes growth.  Changes make you laugh, they make you cry, they make you nervous, they make you excited, perhaps you could say, they dust off the adventurous side of yourself.  It’s like starting all over again and getting the opportunity to be like a kid who sees a big Elephant for the first time and asks, “What is that?”  I think that my dust has been removed and I think I am ready to go back to a country I once referred to as “home”.  I have always been one for adventure.  I will miss Madrid.  I will miss all of the wonderful people I have met but with today’s technologies, nobody is really ever that far.  Their footprints will always be in my heart and they have given me growth.  Thank you Madrid for everything.  You have spoiled me rotten and for all that you have given me, I am beyond grateful.  I love you.  Hasta pronto Madrid.

I decided that since I am moving and will no longer be making the occasional entry from Madrid or wherever else I am as a broad abroad, that if you want to read about an ex-pat making new adventures as a semi-foreigner in her own country, you can find my new blog at the following address:  www.tinytalesfromabroad.blogspot.com

Thanks for reading about my adventures and for all of your support.  Remember, Change makes growth.

Me and Annabel in Madrid

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I was pleasantly surprised last week when my Italian friend, Dario, invited me to opening of an exposition where all of the pieces sold at the gallery from today until June 4th will go to conquer hunger and will be donated to Pozo del Tío Raimundo in Madrid.  As I continued to read his email, my heart started to jump for joy, for the first time, I was going to see his works on display and possibly sold.

I remember the first time I met Dario.  I met him at one of Eli Bellie’s birthday parties about 3 or 4 years ago.  I noticed his accent right away.  Dario is from Roma, nothing sounds better than a Roman saying his own city in his Roman accent.  He works as a computer engineer and paints with a brush that has one hair on his free time.  I have always admired his works.  He has always invited me to his apartment to see his latest creation and some that are in the process.  His works have a lot of energy and have so much detail that I have often spent a long time just looking at one section of his paintings.  His paintings usually deal with exotic plants, flower, bugs and animals.  I can interpret them of how things are connected and how they can revolutionize into something different.  I have offered to buy one and even steal one on more than one occasion!  But he always said that they are not for sale.  Boohoo…  

Dario Battaglini

I walked to the exposition after work.  The Galería Begoña Malone is located right in Chueca on Calle Pelayo, 50 and very easy to get to.

I really didn’t know what to expect, I don’t think that I had been in an art expo where the pieces were for sale since I worked for Christie’s back in 2000.  I always go to museums and special exhibitions but it is not often that I go to a gallery.  On my stroll over to the expo, I managed to go to the wrong building first because apparently there are two number 50s and when I peeked through the window, I was thinking to myself, “This cannot be – there is nobody here.  Did I get the day wrong?”

I took out the invitation and I had the day right but the wrong address.

The gallery is two floors, ground level and a floor below.  The walls are a crisp white, which makes the paintings hung on the walls show all of their strengths.

Dario Battaglini
When I entered the gallery, I immediately spotted Dario’s cuadritos.  They weren’t labeled but I knew they were his.  I took a look at all of the paintings and they were all quite impressive.  There weren’t many people when I first got there and Dario nor Miguel, his partner, were anywhere to be seen.  I continued to make my way around the ground floor; I spotted another one of Dario’s cuadros.  The smile on my face went ear to ear.  His works have so much detail, they are amazing.  And there, just like his painting, I spotted him.  I gave Dario a big hug and then went to the basement to see the rest of the exhibit.

I took a quick peek and then rushed back upstairs to congratulation the up and coming artist on his first exhibition.  I decided to buy one of his works of art and Dario explained that they are a series but they can be purchased individually.  Dario and his friend who is also an artist helped me pick two out. I was ecstatic, I was finally going to own a Dario!!  And to top it off, I was the first one to purchase one of his works of art.  As I was making my purchase, his works were being swarmed!  He was giggling in disbelief!!  I think he sold almost all of them in about 5 minutes!!

I left the exhibit feeling exuberant, absolutely delighted!  I was so happy to see Dario so happy and supported by all of his friends who were so happy to be there as well.  

Cheers, Dario!  I am so proud of you, El gran artista!    

If you are in Madrid, I suggest you check out the gallery and make a purchase; it goes for a good cause and you get to see some unique pieces of art.  If you ever get invited to a special exhibit, go!  You can always see unique pieces of art and even buy a little something special to hang on your own blank walls.    
Dario pointing out one of the purchased cuadritos, I left mine there till the exhibit is over!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Table for two, please!

El Paraguas
“They have no tables available for tomorrow.”  I inform Boss 1 after I tried to make a reservation at one of his preferred restaurants.

“Oh, what a pity.  How about Paraguas?  I always get a table at Paraguas.”

El Paraguas is one of the most prestigious restaurants in Madrid, some may say I am incorrect but it is the restaurant "to be seen in".  It has Asturian food (northern Spain) and it is where all of the politicians, businessmen, footballers and everyone else who is a somebody has eaten there or eats there on a regular basis.  I have yet to eat there despite the fact that I know the owner and her husband and I love fabada.  I have eaten at their more casual bar-restaurant the couple just opened called Ten Con Ten on Ayala, 6 and I really liked it.   

“Buenos días.  Quisiera reservar una mesa para 2 a las 14:15 para mañana.”

“Hay perdona, Señorita pero estamos completos mañana.  ¿Quiere usted que le ponga en la lista de espera?  A veces, tenemos una cancelación.”

“Sí, perfecto.”

“¿A nombre de quién?”

“Boss 1.”

“Oh, es Boss 1.  Siempre viene a comer aquí…es MUY guapo…aye, es MUY majo…vamos a hacer todo lo posible para darle mesa.  Siempre le damos mesa. ¿eres Sarah?”

“Sí, soy Sarah.”

“Aye, no reconocí tu voz.”

The entire telephone conversation made me laugh.  Her voice was oozing with ooo-laa-laaaah musicality, almost like she would have invited my boss to her bed, if she could have of.  She basically told me that they always give my boss a table, he eats there regularly and that he is very hot.  ¡Por Díos!

I have to call fancy restaurants and hotels on a daily basis to make reservations and about 80% of the time, the maitre recognizes my voice.  I used to be embarrassed about my strong accent; 10 years abroad and it is like I am fresh off the boat.

The next day, she confirmed that Boss 1 had a table, per usual.

When I used to be able to eat pizza, (I think that it is the food I miss the most) I would order a LARGE pizza every Wednesday at 20:00 when the best pizza joint in the hood opened for the evening.  Most of these Wednesdays, the gitty Brit would come over and we would drink vinitos, gorge on pizza and watch a TV series.  Here’s how the call went:

“Buenas tardes, me gustaría pedir una pizza familiar.”  Family sized pizza which is the largest is almost the same as an American large.

“¿Con la masa extra fina, extra salsa de tomate y queso?”

Luckily, you can’t be seen at the other end of the telephone because without fail and regardless of the fact that I would call every single Wednesday at 20:00, I would flush with embarrassment.  She knew exactly what I wanted to order; extra thin crust, extra tomato sauce and cheese, so much for being original.

“Sí, perfecto.”

I would give her my número de contacto and she would confirm my address as I was in their database and inform me that it would cost 12 bucks and be at my door in 20-25 minutes.

Another call I make on a weekly basis is to the Costillas.  I have been calling once a week for 1 or 2 large racks of ribs for about 5 or 6 years.  That call is one of my favorites and could be a recording because the conversation rarely varies.  I LOVE my ribs.

“HOLA!”  I try to accentuate my accent even more, if that is even possible.

“Hola Sarah!

"Me gustaría pedir dos costillas grandes para llevar y las quiero....."

"....bien hechas con las patatas fritas aparte y salsa barbacoa?” he finishes my sentence.

“Sí, perfecto.” I chuckle.

“¿Cuándo vienes a recogerlas?”

“Cuándo tú me dices.”

“¿20 minutos?”

“Perfecto, nos vemos en 20 minutos.”

So, 20 minutes after my call, I go to pick up my 2 large orders of well-done grilled pork ribs with the barbecue sauce and the fries in a separate tin container.

I used to be self-conscious about my accent until a Spanish friend insisted that it is part of who I am.  This friend also reminded me that I have such a strong personality and that I am so expressive that if I didn’t have my strong accent, then I wouldn’t be the person I am.  I have been told that no tengo pelos en la lengua, meaning I have no fear to express exactly how I feel at any given moment which sometimes makes me meter la pata more often than not (put my foot in my mouth - yum!).  I can also count on the accent for sticky situations and I confess that I often use it to lure people so I can get my way.  It is also very convenient to never have to say who is calling, the person at the other end already knows who it is and I have only said “¡Hola!” 

If you are trying to learn a new language, my advice to you is that you embrace who you are, try to do the best you can with the language and SPEAK.  Have fun!  ¡¡Meter la pata!!  I was told once by one of my professors that you should repeat exactly what you hear.  Well, for some people, like myself, I try to repeat exactly what I hear but most of the time, it comes out of my mouth in the “Sarah version.”  Try to speak in the language with whomever you can, whenever you can, watch TV, listen to the radio and music and read in that language, after all you know what they say, the only way to improve your language skills is to practice as “practice makes (most almost) perfect.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Madrid through my eyes

Here are some photos of Madrid....it was taking forever to upload my photos and I got so impatient that there are only 4 photos....Enjoy.


La Caixa Forum - Free Exhibits - Paseo del Prado

Faces of Madrid

Ministry of Agriculture - my favorite building

Operación Bikini - Take 2

Pharmacy Window Display on Calle Huertas, Madrid

I have a big butt and I cannot lie….

I’ve got cellulite on my thighs…that was my rendition of Sir Mix-a-Lot.

Boy does time fly!  Seems like just yesterday when my co-workers were reminding me that it was time for “operación bikini”.   I feel like I am experiencing a bit of Ground Hog’s Day!  Since I wrote a post last year about operación bikini, I will try to make this post a bit different. 

In Madrid, there are farmacias, parafarmacias, and perfumerías located just about on every block.  The Corte Ingles has an entire floor dedicated to creams, make-up, body wash, toothpaste, nail polish, and they even have a farmacia located in almost every Corte Ingles.  As you take a stroll down almost any street in Madrid you can see the flashing green neon signs for farmacias and parapharmacias and perfume shops within a short distance of each other.  Why are there so many?  How do they all manage to stay in business?  Aside from medicines, each of these venues sells shower gel, there are over 1000 different brands and savory scents, some more natural than others some more potent then others, some are foamier than others, etc.  I remember the first time I went to get shower gel, I think I left the drug store with a nose full of the stuff from trying to squeeze the bottle oh so gently so none would spill out but just enough to get a waft of the scent.  I felt triumphant after I selected my shower gel.  Habitants of Madrid LOVE their shower gel, which I find a bit unbelievable, especially after a ride in the metro during operación bikini season. 

One of the worst things about operación bikini season is the stink in the metro.  There are really no words to describe the stench but if I had to choose a couple, they would be RANCID, ROTTEN, NASTY, ODOROUS, and GROSS.  I travel by metro several times a day and to top it off, my height causes me to be at armpit level that can sometimes take my breath away, and not in a good way.  It makes me wonder if anybody actually uses shower gel.

Another major part of operación bikini season in Madrid is the number of anti-cellulite creams.  Almost every beauty line has one.  Just recently I was walking around the center and every single drug store window display offered some sort of magic in a bottle.  Women become obsessed with the products.   

Some of these magic potions are for piel de naranja, orange peel looking skin, some promise to make you loose two sizes by using their gunk twice a day, some are for use in the night and promise that you will look better in the morning, some promise to get rid of that celulitis difícil.  I could go on and on.  I have tried several and some actually do work but some of them smell worse than some of the armpits I have smelled in the metro.

Times are changing but many Spanish women are not into exercising so, if a cream promises to change something that could be changed with a bit of exercise, why not?

I asked Fruitcake about anti-cellulite creams and he said they are a timo (a hoax, scandal).  I am not going to deny the fact that when I see a photo of a flat torso or perfect legs with no sign of cellulite, I am a total sucker.  That is what we call good advertising. 

I have tried 3 different brands of anti-cellulite creams, one of which is Elyancil (see photo).  Spaniards swear by it.  I used it for two months (buy one get one free promo) and found absolutely no difference in my legs that are inflicted by the orange peel syndrome.  I also tried one that was supposedly made of natural ingredients and it actually worked after a month or so of using it but it smelled awful.  The smell would actually last for days even when I hadn’t used the products.  I walked around more self-conscious about the weird smell than the cellulite on my thighs. 

Per usual, I decided to send out a SMS to my girl friends to find out their opinion on anti-cellulite cream.  Most of them responded to my text message within minutes.  One recommended Bioderm and Clarins while another said that she had no idea about the creams but that diet and exercise work just fine.

I happened to be having vinitos with two girl friends at the time and one of my friends who takes very good care of her perfect figure said the following:

“Hay que usar las cremas durante todo el año para que tienen afecto.  Se puede usar las cremas baratas durante el otoño y el invierno pero hay que usar las caras durante la primavera y el verano.  Ejercicio y dieta y tomar mucha agua es clave.”

She basically stated that the creams needed to be used year round.  One can use the cheap creams in the fall and winter and then use the expensive ones in the spring and summer.  She said diet and exercise are the key along with drinking lots of water.  She recommended Somatoline for the night or Roc anti-cellulite.  She also said for a cream to be affective, it needs to be used in the morning or the night.  If you don’t have much, it needs to be used in the night. 

My other friend said that 10 sessions of lymphatic draining at a beauty clinic works wonders for cellulite but you need to have money and time.       

Effective advertising is most definitely more effective than the creams although for a body gel to be effective, it must be used.  If you want to make the best of the operación bikini season, I would say go the traditional diet route by drinking more water, eating more fruits on an empty stomach, eating a salad a day, take the stairs when possible, walk the extra distance, and select a shower gel that reminds you of spring.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A lovely lady marries her Principe azul

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

“Sarah, stop acting like a princess!” My dad would constantly scold me as a child when I was acting like a dainty brat.  Sarah, with an “H”, is a Hebrew name that means “Little Princess.”  I have never liked to get my hands dirty and when I don’t like something or don’t want to do something, I put my foot down, absolutely refuse to take part, and I suppose to my father, it was like I was acting like a little princess who was not going to be ruled over by anybody.  

I think that many women dream of their own fairy tale wedding and have at some point imagined themselves marrying a handsome Prince.  Who doesn't dream of being a Princess?  In Spain, single women say they are waiting for their Principe azul, their prince charming.

On Friday, millions of people got to witness Catherine Elizabeth Middleton marry her Principe azul, the handsome Prince William.  She is no longer a “commoner” but Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge.  I watched the Royal Wedding from work on three different internet sites because there seemed to be so much traffic on all of the sites streamlining the wedding that when one got cut off, I would click on a different tab so I wouldn’t miss a single detail.

I admittedly got a bit obsessed with the Royal Wedding which the Brainy Boss couldn’t understand because according to him, North Americans should be against all British Royalty after we protested against their reign and their tea taxes over the United States through the Boston Tea Party back in 1773.   

I was posting links and updates like a maniac on my Facebook profile to the point that two girl friends wrote on my wall that I was cracking them up with all of my Royal Wedding updates.  I was actually cracking myself up as well!  I decided that if I was going to post updates, I might as well do it royally!  I had so much fun!  I LOVE weddings and I LOVE looking at the outfits.  I wasn’t the only one who was so attentive to the Royal Wedding as a dear friend in the States was also updating and she sent me a Facebook invitation to the Royal Wedding!  She woke up at 4:00 AM US time and had a bunch of friends over for scones and tea and they all dressed up to watch the wedding.  Another friend and her daughter wore a “fascinator” (I call them hats or hattinis) during their breakfast.  A sorority sister who is currently living in the UK attended a “Royal wedding street party” where everybody got dressed up and celebrated as those in the United Kingdom were given the day off for the historic event…the list of those I know overjoyed by the event goes on.

At 13:50, I left my office and zipped over to a friend’s house in a taxi to watch the first public kiss of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the same balcony his late mother Princess Diana had her first public kiss for millions to see 31 years before.  To everybody’s delight, the newlyweds shared not just one kiss, but two!  My heart soared with happiness, I could feel the love.  Many hoped for a hat trick, I thought it was sweet.

There has been a lot of criticism of her dress, I thought it was perfect.  Every single detail of the dress was handmade in the UK.  I thought Kate looked absolutely stunning.  I think that designer Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen could not have captured Kate’s sense of style to create a dress so lovely, classic yet modern and graceful with such intricate detail that made it look like the glowing Kate was floating down the aisle to marry her Principe azul.

There has been a lot of criticism about the amount of money spent on the wedding in a time of crisis, I think the Royal Wedding was just what the planet needed, a little break from all of the horrors of every day life, a reminder that despite tough times, wars, Tsunamis, and all the other crap going on, that love exist and that love is stronger than any negative happenings.

I am simply delighted that I got to witness the Historic moment of the Royal Wedding and I wish the Royal couple a life full of love and happiness.  If you are still waiting for your Principe azul, I wish you all the best and may your wedding be just as much as a fairy tale as the one millions got to enjoy.  If you already have your Principe azul, always make your heart dance with two kisses, not just one.

El beso real

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shopping in Madrid...espadrilles....


It is the Semana Santa in Spain and most people have gone on holiday except for about 7 of us at the office.  I have been referring to the Holy Week as Días Santos as I only have holiday on the national ones, Thursday and Friday.  A couple of weeks ago a personal shopper had contacted our office to have a meeting.  I found the request a bit strange being that I work at a small Private Equity firm whose investments are in Iberian Mid-Market companies and most of the people that request meetings with me are for hotels, telephones, printers, event planning, catering, etc but her studio is located right near our office and I have always wanted to be a personal shopper, so I decided to take advantage of the fact that my bosses were away and made an appointment.

So off I went to meet with Be Chic Personal Shopper.  I entered the beautiful building on Calle Monte Esquinza and her studio was just as lovely but I was a bit surprised.  I expected racks of clothing and tons of shoes more like how I have seen Rachel Zoe’s studio on TV.  This personal shopper has just recently opened the studio and it is not yet finished.  She offers a myriad of services and lucky for her the personal shopping business is still a relatively new concept in Madrid.  I thought that she lacked a bit of pizzazz but perhaps that is my North American nature popping through.  I wish her the best.  I, personally, am a great shopper and love shopping for other people.  I usually give my bosses great ideas for their wives so I don’t think my office will need her services.  

My favorite type of shopping is for birthday presents and SHOES!  Every year I ask my mom what she wants for her birthday about a month beforehand so the package will arrive on time for her special day.  This year I decided to go off the beaten path and I gave her a Pandora charm in the shape of a fish because up until about a month ago, I was convinced my mom was a Pisces!  It turns out she is a Aries, the ram – thankfully, my mom loves the sea so she interpreted the gift as such rather than my minor blunder of the Zodiac. 

Usually, my mom requests a couple of pairs of alpargatas, espadrilles in English.  She LOVES them!  Here is an email from 2006:

hope all is well. wore my pink espadrilles last night. greatly admired by all. love you”

My adorable mom in her espadrilles
In Spain, the alpargatas can be found everywhere and lately, I see them in all of my fashion magazines.  Doña Leticia, the future king of Spain’s wife even wears them.  Who knew that ropey shoes could become so popular centuries later?  They are relatively inexpensive as well, even cheaper if you don’t have to ship them to the States.

I am not the biggest fan of the ropey Jesús shoes.  I owned my first pair of flat alpargatas a little over a decade ago, bought them in Málaga during my junior year abroad and more recently, I had a pair that weren’t the typical flat ones.  Due to my height and love of high heals, I can no longer were flat shoes.  I find that the flat alpargatas are deathly uncomfortable because they are just so flat and have no lining so it feels like you are walking on rough pavement.  My first pair was black (surprise, surprise) and my second pair had a nice wedge in a celestial blue with a strap around the ankle and the lining had hot pink and orange polka dots.  They were very cute but they got VERY dirty.

After a bit of research, apparently that ropey sole is made of jute and the unisex shoes, originally for peasants, date back to the 13th Century and the King of Aragón.  The shoes were and still are hand made in near the Pyrenees; Cataluña and the Basque Country (northern Spain) as well as Bangladesh and France. 

Here is a lovely article that was published in the New York Times in 2005.

 If you are in Madrid and would like to buy some espadrilles, here are some stores that carry the classics:

La Alpargateria
Calle García de Paredes, 74

Casa Hernanz
Calle Toledo, 18 (right outside the Plaza Mayor)

The Princess Leticia buys hers here (very expensive for ropey shoes but they are a bit more fun):

Calle Almirante, 24 or Calle Claudio Coello, 51

On a side note, when I told Izzy that I was writing about alpargatas/espadrilles he really couldn't understand why.  I wasn't sure why either being that I am not a number one fan of the shoe.  I explained to him that it was because they were everywhere, almost like they are taunting me into buying a pair.  He told me they could only be found at a particular place near Calle Princesa.  When I said I wasn't familiar with that one he explained that it was a big, round type of bread filled with ham and cheese.  I started started laughing and explained that I was writing about shoes.  He is apparently more into the food department!!

Happy Shoe Shopping!!