When you think of Spain, Barcelona’s glittering Gaudi architecture and sunshine-filled beaches may first come to mind, but the country has another secret cultural haven: Madrid.
One of my favourite things about wandering the planet as a freelance copywriter is exploring the world’s most beautiful cities. Laptop at the ready, I’ve crafted blog posts in Milan, product descriptions in Vancouver, case studies in Buenos Aires and eBook chapters in Ljubljana. I wish I could say I was equally productive during my recent 10-day visit to Seville, but I must come clean: this place was so physically mesmerising and emotionally beguiling that I got virtually no work done at all!
You could say I ended up where I am in life because of absinthe and Picasso.My first ever trip overseas took me to an ancient port town in faraway Spain. I was in awe of the history, I was a glutton for the delicious food and I couldn’t believe the value I was getting for my meagre funds.
Have you ever spent two weeks in a place and thought ‘Hmm, I could easily spend two years here’? Well Jerez is that kind of city. I was on a six-week jaunt through Spain, exploring the Andalusia region, and after a 10-day stay in Seville, I headed the hour south to Jerez. And I was far from the only one. Tourists, expats and locals alike have been experiencing the beauty of Jerez for decades, enjoying a high quality of life at some of the cheapest prices in Europe.
"I want to show you Barcelona…”It was one of the first things my Hungarian boyfriend said to me. Budapest I might have expected, but Barcelona? As a musician, he had worked all over Europe but fell hard for Barcelona’s many charms. And on our first weekend together there, I was to do the same.
Situated on the Paseo del Espolon, with its interlocking arch of Plane trees, Restaurante Polison was a picture-perfect lunch spot on a mild Iberian afternoon earlier this year. Seated on the sunny patio, Keith and I tasted authentic tapas including Jamon Iberico, Spanish ham drizzled with olive oil and topped with coarsely cracked pepper and served with a basket of fresh bread—and drank the crisp white Albarino wine. The view was priceless and the lunch a steal at under $20 for two. The funny part is, we hadn’t even planned to be there.
It’s more than 25 years since I lost my heart to Spain. On my first visit, its romantic, rich history, its people and the rhythm of the days won me over. These days I spend several months a year there, getting my fill of sun, siestas and serrano ham. (Part-time living in Europe is easy: You can spend 90-day stints on a simple tourist visa.) This year a five-kilo ham, cured to perfection, is already waiting for me. Hey—I’ll have months to eat it.
If you’re considering a visit to Europe—or even a move—Madrid needs to be on your radar. A sunshine-filled cultural haven, this friendly city will capture your heart without breaking your budget. The underlying authentic charm and laidback, understated vibe of Spain’s capital proved irresistible to me when I first arrived. It’s been home for nine years now and I’m still head over heels. Here’s just five reasons why…
Life is easy in Madrid. Each day begins with a stop at the local coffee shop for a steaming cup of espresso with a dash of milk. The owner knows just how much milk to add…and always does so with a smile. My coffee costs just $1.70—a small price to pay for getting my morning off to the best start.
My old life was stress-filled. I was working a lot just to cover my living costs and was left exhausted at the end of the work day. Weekends were spent recuperating…only to have it start all over again on Monday...