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.
Madrid, the big, bustling capital of Spain, is still just a small village at heart. It’s not just the coffee shop owner who greets me with a smile, it’s the doorman of the building down my block, the window washer, the fruit shop owner and the lady at the pharmacy.
Spain is warm and easygoing (with 300 days of sunshine, you’d be easygoing too) but, above all, it’s affordable. Even here in Madrid, the country’s cosmopolitan capital—which has been my home now for nine years—I can live a comfortable life earning as a freelance writer.
I make more than enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment in a safe and charming area of town ($985 per month), afford farm-fresh produce and groceries ($280 per month) and still enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine out with friends (beers can cost as little as $1 in some spots).
The tree-lined, monument-filled streets are walkable, though public transport is a simple and cheap option, with buses and metros on every corner ($2 per ride). Either way, you won’t need the hassle of a car here and it’s a pleasure to stroll through Madrid’s lush public parks, bustling squares and pedestrian-friendly streets. The cultural scene is thriving here too. Museums like the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen are brimming with stunning works of art from all the greats…Raphael…Dali…van Gogh…Picasso… Every time I visit them I discover something new.
Even though I can’t stop inhaling the delicious food, the fresh, non-processed ingredients and Mediterranean style of eating—large lunches, light dinners and plenty of olive oil and seafood—ensure my waistline hasn’t yet expanded (walking everywhere probably helps too). Once you try the Iberian ham and savoury Manchego cheese, the rest is history. The tapas-style meetups, where many plates are ordered and shared among friends and family, allow you to sample everything under the sun, all washed down with a $2.80 glass of Rioja wine.
Nights in Madrid are alive with activity. Once spring rolls around and the days are longer, the whole city comes out to play. Groups of friends huddle around barrels, sipping beers while watching a soccer game, elderly gentlemen play cards and drink whiskey at rickety tables, women chatter on patios and kids happily run around cobblestone plazas. Restaurants and bars are filled with whole families: babies, children, grandparents and friends. And if it’s a fancier, sit-down dinner you’d prefer over tapas, a three-course meal with wine will only run you $26 to $40 per person.
And let’s not forget the Spanish siesta. A culture that not only permits but encourages a midday nap is one that I’m proud to be a part of. Living in Madrid means a slower pace of life and waking up with a smile each day…to that perfect cup of coffee.
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