I recently moved to Madrid, the fifth largest city in Europe. The city, which like the rest of Spain, naps in the afternoons and comes alive at night, is not only massive in size, but it’s also overflowing with culture. Much like the melting pot I’m used to on Grand Cayman, Madrid is home to interesting people from all over the world. Due to its reputation of being open, accepting and sunny almost year-round (sound familiar?), Madrid attracts more than six million tourists each year in addition to having a vibrant expatriate community.
As someone who has grown up and spent my entire life on a tiny island, moving to a sprawling city with about 6.5 million residents in its metropolitan area can feel overwhelming at times. But despite Madrid’s extensive landmass (233.3 square miles), its public transportation system makes getting around the city easy. Between the metro, bus and trains, there is no shortage of transportation for someone like myself who does not wish to drive.
I am no stranger to Europe, having travelled to different countries in the continent from the age of 13, so I knew what I was getting myself into. However, it never ceases to amaze me how absolutely small some things can be. Transitioning from a small island to a large country like Spain, I didn’t think I would have to squeeze inside a 5-by-3 foot lift with all of my luggage and shopping.
Sidewalks are built for one slender person walking single file and public toilets usually don’t leave much room for moving around. Even taking a trip to my local grocery store, while a fabulous experience due to the low prices of food and wide range of products, can get quite tight. Aisles are usually one-way paths, so dragging around a rolling basket full of food can be challenging. I don’t stand and stare at the cheeses for too long, lest I hold up a line of people waiting to walk past!
On the upside, a week’s worth of food shopping costs me only somewhere between €30 – €50, which is about the same in Cayman Islands dollars.
Shopping is my favourite thing to do in Madrid. Almost everything in Spain is either made in the country itself, Portugal, which is right next door, or somewhere else in the European Union, so there are never any crazy import prices.
Some of the products I find in the grocery stores have familiar names, but unfamiliar flavours. For instance, Ruffles potato chips come in Jamón (ham) flavour. I was brave and tried them; they’re smokey, savoury and delicious! I did not expect them to taste as good as they did, although the picture of the big ham on the front of the package is a bit of a turnoff.