My top 5 favorite bars in Madrid

My new ‘Weekly Five’

As a way to keep this blog active, I am going to give you these “weeklies”. I am finding a lot of creative ways to keep things rolling, something I should’ve done a long time ago! I know—not much creativity on the name there. But it was the first thing that popped on my head.

The Weekly Five is anything from my top favorite travel destinations, spots within a city, shops, bars, restaurants, brands, and a range of related stuff that people are always searching for.

Here is my first group of Fives (in Spain, of course).

My Top Five Picks for Cocktail Bars in Madrid

I know that the US deploys an army of young people to Europe at the start of every school year—and we all know how much they like the bar-scene—so I came up with a few lists.

Cocktails

Cocktails are really not a specialty of the Spanish. They like their wine, whiskey and beer. So, it can be really hard coming across a good mixed drink even in a big touristic city like Madrid. This doesn’t mean that good cocktail bars—or good bartenders—don’t exist in Madrid.

Here’s a list of bars and restaurants you can’t miss.

Hotel Melia (ME) Madrid

Plaza Santa Ana

If you like chic environments, lounge-style martini bars, you have to go to this bar. Not the cheapest, I’ll tell you that, but it is the price you pay for a good cocktail in Madrid. The drinks are gooood though. The bartenders seem to know what they’re doing. The bar is dimly lit, which (if you know bars and restaurants in Spain) you know how bright everything almost always is. There’s no need for so much light!
One of the (easiest) cocktails that I had the hardest time finding a good mixer for was Margarita. But at ME, they surprisingly make them good enough to calm your thirst until you can have it your way somewhere in the States or in Mexico. Their Manhattans were not so bad either.

The hotel is right on Plaza Santa Ana.  At the same hotel, there’s a rooftop terrace & bar where you can go up from the ground floor in an elevator. There are some guys guiding the entrance, also checking the dress-code, etc., and they think they’re pretty special. But, don’t worry; once you pass that point, it’s actually nice up there. I found the open terrace a bit underwhelming. Not blown away. But you might like the view looking down on the crowded scene on Plaza Santa Ana. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy their bars.
This place is very centric, surrounded by a few subway stops, but the one I find to be the closest is Sol, line 1 of metro de Madrid.

Hotel Urban Bar

Lounge Hotel Urban

This is another luxury hotel with a full cocktail bar. It’s not too far from main attractions. It’s within walking distance from Puerta del Sol actually. The bar area is smaller than that at ME hotel, but the decor is different, more modern, urban. (The restrooms are out of this world! Very well-kept.) The cocktails are fantastic. They have a pretty good selection of cocktails. The atmosphere is perfect to start the night. Have in mind that these areas tend to attract a lot of “pijos” (snobby people) of Madrid, so I guess it falls under the category of upscale, which requires at least no flip-flops.

Urban 5GL also has a penthouse, and I hear it’s very nice. Try it for me and let me know how it is!

The nearest subway is line 1 and 2 of Metro de Madrid.

Lamiak

La Latina on Christmas

This bar is in the neighborhood of La Latina, a place I frequented a lot. Walking up and down calle Cava Baja, you can’t miss this place.  I remember going to this place with my boyfriend and looking at their cocktail menu with glee. For the most part, bars in Madrid don’t have a drink menu and I like to look at the options. The bartender basically said she could make us any drink we wanted if it was not on the menu. I believe my boyfriend asked for the—sometimes never heard of—Martinez cocktail. She mixed it well. Lamiak also has great tapas and delicious desserts.

Weekends are a lot of fun at La Latina because of the contagious energy around you, but bars tend to be overcrowded. We found that visiting places weekday evenings was a better experience. Unless you’re single…and want to mingle.
The nearest subway is line 5 of Metro de Madrid.

Sí Señor

Frozen Margaritas

I wouldn’t recommend the restaurant at Sí Señor (though it’s not THAT bad), but the bar and the Margaritas they make, I do. This is a Mexican restaurant with actual mejicanos working behind the counter, so drinks made with tequila were above average here. I tried their classic and frozen margaritas; both pretty good. The restaurant is on Paseo de La Castellana, right by the Real Madrid Santiago Bernabéu stadium. The place is also ideal to watch the game any day.

The nearest subway is line 10 of Metro de Madrid.

D’Mystic

DSCF4496-Un arco iris en Chueca-Madrid

Just a cool, cozy bar in the gay district of Chueca. I only went there once with a group of friends and I really liked their drinks. There was potential for more visits had I not returned to the States. Their bar menu includes anything from Mojitos to Cosmopolitans.  Their prices are not bad either. I remember there being a cute hidden corner with sort of like a bench and ottomans. I hopped on there and it was very comfortable! The bar area has large windows looking out the street, so you get a view while enjoying a good time with friends—or by yourself. The service is good and friendly. Worth checking out.

The nearest subway is line 5 of Metro de Madrid.

Questions, comments, suggestions, hit the ‘reply’!

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Flying to Spain

trolley, Luggage, Rolltasche

Image via Wikipedia

I got to Spain on the 21st, but this is when I am finally finding time to post what I have written:

Madrid 20, 2011

Today I flew into Madrid from JFK airport. My flight was scheduled for 10:20PM US Eastern Time and I made it to the airport in just about enough time to sit at a café with my boyfriend Chris and my friend Jima. We had a good time.

Unfortunately, when I got there, I realized that my luggage might had been over the weight limit. Luckily, a cautious me brought a huge trash bag in case I needed to send something back home — ha ha! You just never know with airports these days.

At check-in, I got in line hoping for the best. When my turn came, a very rude agent assisted me. My luggage was over the limit for a few ounces other times before and the employees were very kind about it, but not this guy. His main concern was the payment (something he didn’t even know how to explain in the first place), not my satisfaction as a customer. I was willing to take some items out of the luggage and send them home — since I had that plastic bag — but my boyfriend Chris insisted we just pay for it.

Long story short, my stubbornness would not allow me to pay the $120 fee they were asking for in order to cover two overweight bags when I knew I could bring down the weight by just eliminating a few things I didn’t particularly need. So I told the guy I’d go weigh my maletas myself and see what I could take out.

That was the best decision we had made in those 20 something minutes we wasted trying to reason with the guy. The airline policy (AirEuropa, by the way) already explains the limitations, but the guy was very apathetic and rude, making the stressful experience even more stressful. There was no need for that.

Anyway, before we reached the door to go to where the car was parked, we (more like, my boyfriend) decided to get back in line and just pay the difference. This time we got a different agent (thank god) and she was more reasonable — and nice. My carry-on weighed 13 kilos and the limit was 10kg. But, unlike Mr. Rude Guy, the new agent accepted my suggestion to take some books out to bring it down to 10 kilos. It brought it down to 10.08 actually, but she didn’t seem to be too bothered by that and I ended up paying for just one luggage ($60). I would’ve much preferred not paying for any, but $60 is way better than $120!

Despite that stressing situation, we managed to still have time for a drink and appetizers. It was nice getting to relax a little with friends before boarding the plane. Oh, and I almost forgot; waiting to go through security was insane! It is not ever a smooth process, but this was intense. It was the most disorganized airport-related duty I have ever experienced (and in turn it made me reconsider flying with AirEuropa gain). I thought I was going to miss my flight, but the airline pushed the time back a little and I think most passengers were able to get on board. That was a relief.

Visa to Spain

Applying and getting my visa for Spain was relatively easy

After the acceptance letter, it was visa time. The visa process was rather easy. I don’t know if having me on their system, from the time I visited Spain in 2003, had anything to do with the speedy processing. But I showed up at the Spanish Consulate General in late August and got my visa in less than two weeks.

The required documents to obtain the visado to España (as well as the types of Spanish visas) are listed on the Web site of the consulate with jurisdiction over your state. Here’s the Website for the New York consulate, which is the one I had to report to.

Whether you have to go to the embassy in person or not depends on the type of visa being requested. For the language assistants program, they told us we had to request a “Student Visa” because this program is still considered a “practicum”.

After I had all the necessary documents in order, I went online on the embassy Web page and set up an appointment—and this year was hot for appointments since they have a lot of students going to probably every region in Spain for the program. Everything was completely booked, so I just kept checking every morning for cancellations (until I lucked out). My original appointment was set for July, but then I realized that I had not followed the right instructions for the FBI background check—which by the way was a pain in the back this year!–and so I had to reschedule a couple of times more.

Getting the FBI background check and the Apostille

In 2003, I was able to send and receive my FBI background check in less than four weeks (maybe even less) and everything was smooth. Now they require you get what’s called an “Apostille “ (and I’ll explain that next) and that can take several weeks. But first, the background check.

I did everything correctly, except that I sent the background check back to have it apostilled by the FBI, when in fact they don’t apostille. I misread the fine lines.

The process to apply for a background check are listed on the FBI website and this is the form that I had to fill out. If you take a look, you’d realize that it’s quite simple form, right? The only thing I didn’t like about the process was having to pay for fingerprints again when I have been fingerprinted for the FBI a countless amount of time. (Shouldn’t they have my fingerprints in their system by now? When I called and asked, the agent said they don’t keep them, but if I committed a crime I bet those prints would come up in 1, 2, 3!)

Anyway, some people recommend mailing your info through some sort of certified mail, such as UPS or FedEx. However, I can say that I sent mine through US Postal Service (though I did ask for certified) and it was much cheaper than what I would have paid for FedEx, and it got back to me in record time, compared to most people who have been complaining about not getting it on time.

So that was it. What got me confused was the apostille, even after I had read the instructions over and over again. Instead of sending my background check to the US Department of State (DOS), I sent it back to the FBI. Quickly realizing my mistake, I called the FBI so that they could send it back to me and THEN I could forward it to the DOS. It took longer than the initial background request to get it back (about three weeks) and that delayed my visa appointment again.

I then followed the instructions for getting the apostille with the DOS. It was simple—it’s just the wait time that made me nervous because I didn’t know if it was going to arrive on time for my next visa appointment.

It didn’t.

But, I still went to my visa appointment and explained my situation. They said they couldn’t process my visa without it, but at least they did enter my information on the system, and by the time my Apostille arrived—within five weeks—my visa was ready for pick-up.

So the whole process combined was longer than it should’ve been only because I misinterpreted the instructions. Derp Derp. But I now know better, AND I got my visa! Just in time because I’m leaving very soon!

To Spain I go!

Bandera de Castilla-La Mancha (España)

Image via Wikipedia

It only took me like two years to complete the process, but I am finally moving to Spain! So how did I score this opportunity? Well, I’ll explain how it all began first.

When I was a junior student in college, I received a letter in the mail congratulating me for being eligible to participate in a study abroad program. I was ecstatic. That was a big deal for me because, except for the United States and The Dominican Republic, I had never been abroad—and I mean abroad. Besides, I knew the experience was going to take me places, which it has.

For the program abroad I picked Spain. Aside from being the least expensive program offered, it had been a wish of mine to visit one day. It would be my first time away from my family (I was homesick for most of the five-months journey). But the experience was exceptional. I learned so much from it and, once I got back home (and somewhat forgot about how much more difficult Bureaucracies can be in Spain), I promised that I had to go back to Spain one day. I needed to go back and take it all in and enjoy what my nostalgia didn’t allow back then.

So I always looked forward to job opportunities abroad (specifically in Spain) after that. Since I was almost done with school, I did not really want to go back through a study-abroad program again. I contemplated so many opportunities and, in the process, I came across a Mass email message from the director of my Spanish department at Rowan University. It was about a program called Auxiliares de Conversación (language assistant) in Spain. That was back in 2008. I had been trying to do this program since.

I researched it. It sounded great. I wasted no time and applied right away.

They got my application for the 2009 school year, but I didn’t follow up due to personal reasons. Then I re-applied in 2010, for the 2011 school year, and this time I did follow through. I waited a while for a response. (It is a lengthy process.) But I got accepted!

Other demands of the program

I was a little surprised about the age requirement for the program. Apparently, in Spain, it is OK to deny employment based on age—you gotta be under the age of 35 to have a fair chance. Anyway! I meet the age requirement and I’m just glad that I’ll be able to do it.

I got placed at a school after a month or so of being accepted. They informed me that I’m going to be assisting at a language school in Bolaños de Calatraba, in the Ciudad Real region. I’m looking forward to that.

Once I got my letter of acceptance in the mail, it was time to apply for the visa (another tedious process, which I explain on the next post).