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The Cuesta de Moyano book market

The Cuesta de Moyano book market

What is there not to love: with its back against the botanical gardens, little old wooden cabins stuffed to the rafters with books on every theme you can imagine, from 19th century erotic prints to a first edition of Harry Potter in English. Located on a sloping pedestrian street which leads from the Retiro to Atocha station, the Cuesta de Moyano book market, though perhaps not as ancient as the Rastro market in Lavapies, has existed here for a century.

The Cuesta de Moyano book market

You could spend an entire afternoon browsing here, taking your time to just enjoy the quiet atmosphere. Because that’s what this place is all about, a place where little changes, an oasis of tranquillity in the eye of the storm that is Madrid with its traffic and flowing currents of people.

Each of the booths has its speciality, even though most of them have a general literature section as well. Some of the specialities include a focus on Latin American authors whose works cannot be found elsewhere in Spain in booth 17, or booth 27 focusses on books published 50 years ago or more, whereas booth 16 has specialized in books with strange and funny covers. The market also hosts many cultural events, to see what’s on these days, to know more about each booth’s speciality or even to see interviews with the shop owners, see here.

For those in doubt about the ruinous effect of literature, starting from the market you can cross Calle de Alfonso XII and enter the Retiro park through the Puerta del Angel Caido. Here you proceed up the hill to a height of 666 meters above sea level (fact!), which is no coincidence because here you’ll find the only statue of the devil in a European capital, a dramatic statue of Lucifer crowning the so-called fountain of the fallen angel. Find a bench here to sit with your new book and contemplate on the strangeness of life. Whether on your lunch break or after class, the Cuesta de Moyano book market is a little gem of a place less than 5 minutes walk from the school and deserves an unhurried visit.

Ode to a local bar in Madrid

This is our second post on places to go to eat or drink closeby to the school. This is an ode to a local bar in Madrid.

This bar will not feature in any guide, it won’t become a lonely planet hotspot or feature in a New York times article entitled something like ‘If you visit only one bar in Madrid’… It’s what might be known in England as your local, or in the US as a diner. But it’s in Spain and as such it is neither of these things, it’s a ‘cutre bar’ and we love it dearly. Newcomers to Spain may be confused by the napkins on the floor, that is until they find out that this is actually a custom, some other countries’ traditional bars have sawdust on the ground, here people throw napkins on the floor. Some, now equipped with the knowledge that this is normal might find themselves still confused, I find it endearing. It makes the place look well used, not flawless and sterile but much frequented and visited daily.

Becoming a regular, it turns out doesn’t require coming there for years, but a week or so before you get greeted when entering, and soon afterwards you don’t even have to order anymore, they’ll know what you want. Without fail this should be a ‘cortado’ (you may know this one by now as the big chains are starting to market it as they’ve run out of new Italian names) and always, a ‘pincho de tortilla.’

You don’t need to pretend to know much about tortillas, nor that our opinion will count for much in the controversial tortilla debates (ok ok, -with- onion, the potato -finely- chopped, and all very lightly fried) but theirs is the best. No, really, it is just the best. At least one of our students goes there every single day for his second breakfast and so eats their tortilla every day of the week, and claims to still relish the moment his break arrives and he can rush over there and tuck in.

Ode to a local bar in Madrid

Another plus for him is that visiting the place so often has resulted in him being able to practice his Spanish in an environment that is now familiar to him, where the people know him and are always patient with his grammar and pronunciation. We always recommend people to use this approach; become a regular somewhere, invariably it proves to be really rewarding!

Restaurante Leyga – Calle Alberto Bosch, 7, 28014, Madrid

Tips for choosing a Spanish school in Madrid

Alright, you are thinking how to choose the best Spanish school in Madrid! You have already shown considerable wisdom in your choice of location, let’s stay on a roll and see some tips for choosing a Spanish school in Madrid. Now you may be wondering why this Spanish school in Madrid would offer advice on choosing schools, and how neutral this advice can be but we’re just going to say straight up this article will definitely contain some subjective opinions; actually, you might as well stop reading now, we are the best.

Tips for choosing a Spanish school in Madrid

 

But seriously, there simply is a whole range of different schools out there, and some may claim to appeal equally well to everyone, but in reality some will be better suited to some than others. We are a school managed by a team of teachers, our main goal is to acquire a fair wage and be happy doing what we love; teaching and managing our own school in the best way. We are not going to make lists of schools, but more specifically what to watch out for, and we will explain where we fit in the picture.

Tips for choosing a Spanish school in Madrid

Accreditated by the Instituto Cervantes

You should check out if the Spanish school is accredited by the Instituto Cervantes. This means that the courses meet the highest standards of quality. This factor is essential, but Keep it in mind that there are a lots of accredited Spanish schools.

Types of People

Some of the schools cater to larger numbers from specific countries, or some of the bigger chains will be geared towards language holidays for teenagers for instance. A good variety is what is generally considered best for learning effectively, and that is what you will find here at Cronopios. If you cannot always continue to converse with classmates in your own language, or if your course group contains people who can’t speak English then this is actually a plus, you will need to use your Spanish when talking to them whether in class or during the after school activities. This might sound daunting, but in fact these people share your level after all, you will find it is easiest to talk to them without feeling self-conscious. When you first realise that you can communicate with the people around you this is a real pleasure.

Size

There is of course a range of sizes, from smaller schools like ourselves with 9 classrooms, to ones that are part of large international chains, offering different languages in locations all over the planet.

Pay attention when doing your research; some of the larger schools act like some hotels do on travel sites, they pushily market themselves, they consistently do very well in search engine scoring but this is the result of a lot of chasing students for reviews, and even offering freebies in exchange for better reviews. In other words, some schools game the system. The fact that they have the best ratings and are at the top of search engine results is, shock horror surprise!, not the result of simply being the best at what they do. Be critical when looking at ratings, just as you would elsewhere.

Price

Perhaps most important to many people, price is unavoidably a major factor in one’s calculations. There are schools out there that come up as the best in search results, and then cost the most, but this is not a real guarantee of the best quality, as explained above. Cronopios consistently offers prices below average for intensive courses because of our commitment to affordable education.

Even though they do not offer intensive courses, the cheapest option is actually to take lessons from the official government language schools. But they have limited capacity and at times the quality can vary. Furthermore, if you do not speak Spanish, actually getting registered can be a challenge as the process is not exactly streamlined and there are no English speakers among the admin staff. All in all though, if you do get a place, and a good teacher then this can definitely be a very good option.

Again, be wary, there are private schools which offer bargain bin prices on their courses but these will often be of low quality, will not deliver on promises such as the number of teaching hours per week, or employ teachers under exploitative conditions, which takes us to our next consideration:

A fair deal

You might be surprised to find this aspect listed here, but if you consider the effect some aspects of tourism and travel on have on Madrid and its people it actually makes sense. Spanish language courses are a hugely lucrative business and yet the Spanish as a foreign language teachers sector is rife with bad working conditions. In other words, your teachers are actually quite likely to be working for near minimum wage, without decent contracts and are generally expected to work unpaid over hours if they want to keep their jobs. This school, Cronopios Idiomas, was specifically created as a teacher’s cooperative, it was founded by our teachers a few years ago because of these specific inequalities and injustices in the language school sector in Madrid and Spain in general.

How to choose the best Spanish school

If you want to be careful about choosing a Spanish school in Madrid you will have found that it isn’t always easy. First of all read the reviews written by students. Once you find yourself here in Madrid you might find it easier to make choices by visiting some of the schools, or asking around at one of the language exchange evenings that take place on every weekday in bars across the city.

Spanish Republican romanticism

So you’ve come to Spain, and are looking for some of that Spanish Republican romanticism? You’ve read Orwell and Hemingway and now want to feel a bit what they felt, but you’re on your lunch break from Spanish classes at Cronopios Idiomas? Then El Alambique Taberna (calle Fúcar 7) is one really good place to go, first and foremost for the hearty food and wine. But also in terms of atmosphere this bistro has got so much going for it, photos from the republican era, lots of Flamenco paraphenelia, to poetry randomly tacked to the walls.

In terms of the food, try the berenjenas con salmorejo (pictured), and the revuelta con morcilla. The former is breaded aubergine with, well, what is basically a cold soup but is put into service here as a sauce and it works beautifully! Salmorejo could be described as gazpacho’s heartier sister. It’s also a soup which must be served chilled, also has peppers as one of its main ingredients, but is creamier and less sharp.

Berenjenas con salmorejo

Berenjenas con salmorejo

The revuelta, which is scrambled eggs with morcilla is made subtle with something called hierba buena which takes what could be quite a heavy dish and gives it a lighter twist. I don’t want to use hyperboles, but it can’t be denied, it really is very good!

The atmosphere can be described as follows: The place consists of two rooms, a bar area and in behind a small dining room. The former is filled up with a beautiful chaos of ‘objets trouvé’, old radios, tin cocoa cans, a tiny organ that apparently plays the internationale. The latter is decorated with many framed pictures, 30ies festival posters, black and white portrait photos, you get the idea.

What is also interesting to see is here the mix of anti establishment vibe going hand in hand with good music and good food. One of the other themes, apart from Spanish republicanism is clearly flamenco culture. And not so much the mainstream kind for the tourists but the gutsy kind that still comes out of the often arduous life experience of Gitano (gypsie) people. You will find this place to be practically a shrine of sorts for flamenco heroes like Cameron de la Isla.

To sum up, many a satisfying caña have been drunk here by the author! It’s the kind of place you find yourself starting off with a drink and a tapa or two and end up spending the evening and eating your fill. If you’re a Spanish Republican romantic worth her salt, then Alambique is the place for you.

Nuestra escuela está rodeada de arte

Our school is surrounded by art

We are lucky enough to find our school located right in the middle of the so called Triangulo del Arte, or golden triangle of art. Yes, it’s a bit of a touristy name, but you have to admit it has a catchy ring to it. The reason the triangle has been given this name is that the three most important museums of the city are a few minutes from each other (and from Cronopios Idiomas): Prado Museum, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza.

To start off with, if you’re taking afternoon classes at Cronopios Idiomas and you come out thinking ‘I could really do with seeing some of the greatest works of art in the world for free, and I want to walk less than 200 meters!’, well then you’re in luck because the Prado museum, which hosts paintings by the likes of Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, Rubens, Titian, Velázquez, Rafael, Albrecht Duerer and so on, opens its doors to visitors for free every weekday between 6 and 8 pm.

If you’ve seen all the 1500 works of art the building houses, or if you want to see some world class modern and contemporary art instead, with a tiny bit more effort you can walk to the Reina Sofia museum in 5 minutes where you can completely sate yourself on its collections of two of the masters of 20th century Spanish art, Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, with as highlight Picasso’s overwhelming work Guernica. Free entrance is possible on mondays between 7 and 9 pm, as well as from Wednesdays to Saturdays at the same hours.

Not enough you say? More masterpieces spanning the 14th to the 20th century? More Impressionism, as you won’t find that in the other two museums, with works from Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh? Well your luck still hasn’t run out, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a couple of minutes further north from the Prado has all this and over a thousand other works as well. Here also there are hours when entrance is free, better for those taking morning classes; on mondays between 12 and 4 pm.

And, in addition to these three temples of art, we also have very close to us other cultural centers that we recommend our students to visit. For instance, the school finds itself directly facing the lovely Retiro park, which houses the Palacio de Velázquez and Palacio de Cristal where you can find temporary modern art exhibitions which are always accessible without charge. I could go on and tell you how cool the Tabacalera in Lavapies is for instance, but you get the point, if you think learning a language should go hand in hand with discovering culture then here you’re exactly in the right place!

Our school is surrounded by art

The almond trees begin to blossom

When spring approaches and the sunlight feels warmer, the almond trees begin to blossom. In Madrid you can enjoy this natural phenomenon at the Quinta de los Molinos Park. This park is in the northeast of the city and can be reached by Metro (line 5: Suanzes station).

In addition to the almond trees, there are many other plant species such as olive trees, pines and eucalyptus. The park has two areas: a romantic style garden and an agricultural area. The park is also home for buildings of cultural interest.

 

The most common adjective in Madrid

Which is the most common nickname in Madrid? Majo, for sure, a term that as Real Academia de la Lengua means “someone who is loved due to his/her flair and simpathy”. Although is a very common term, we madrilenos don’t use it for everybody. When we use it we really mean that we like the person, that we feel at ease with him or her. We may not be that sincere if we use sinonyms as kind or nice when talking about someone.

Besides, this term is very useful to understand our personality. During 18th and 19th Century we used to use it to name people from the working class that have a particular way of talking and speaking. This particular mood was characterized by a certain impertinence in showing class pride.

People who live in Lavapies were called Manolos and Manolas, while Malasaña ones were called Majos y Majas, chulapos y chulapas. These two appellatives are still used today to refer to typical clothes from Madrid. These characters were very important during 19th Century and in fact they appear in many of Goya’s paintings.

La maja vestida de Francisco de Goya

"Los fusilamientos del 3 de mayo" de Francisco de Goya

Seamstress Manuela Malasaña

2nd of May is Madrid’s region festivity, and they eay to remember heroes and heroines who rebelled against French occupation in 1808. One of the people who rised up was the young seamstress Manuela Malasaña.

She, along with many others, was killed by French soldiers, in the neighbourhood that nowadays bears her name. In an unequal fight, soldiers and civilians organized as guerrilla. brought face to face with the powerful French army until 1814.

Francisco de Goya, "Los fusilamientos del 3 de mayo"

Francisco de Goya, “Los fusilamientos del 3 de mayo”

The word guerrilla popuralized at that time and it’s used since then in military jargon all over the world.

While in Spain, civilians and the army struggled to get free from the invasor, in Latin America people used the opportunity to become independent from metropoli.

Shabby bars

Shabby bars

If somebody tells you about shabby things, you may not be willing to buy it, mostly when talking about electronics, as you will think it’s old fashion outdated staff. Neither you will like a shabby present on your birthday. And of course nobody likes going on holidays and staying in a shabby hotel.

This word expresses negative qualities, but not only. Shabby, cutre, is a very madrileño adjective, very useful to describe some sort of urban culture in our town: when we use this word in Madrid, it may have positive meaning. Many madrileños are fond of the kind of bar in which we feel more confortable: traditional bars full of greasy tasty food, inexpensive drinks and no pretended glamour at all. Those shabby bars, “bares cutres, bares de viejos”, have its own charm: there we have fun meeting friends, talking loud, and drinking and eating withouth concern at all about money or figure.

Shabby bars

The best craft beer bars in Madrid

Madrid is a city with a thriving nightlife and a lot of bars to have good times with friends. In this post we want to recommend you the best craft beer bars in Madrid.

One of the most common traditions in Madrid is meeting for pub crowling, “tomar cañas”. Before lunch, before dinner, any time is good for “cañas”. Meeting friends at the bar, usually standing up, having beers while talking about other’s life and facts, football, politics or TV series.

It is a nice way to be in touch, a good excuse to go out and have time together. “Cañas” are perfect for this informal meetings, as they are small and light, therefore you can drink them on feet, and still be on your feet on your way home.  The type of beer we usually dring is pale lager.

We know that many foreign students like a larger variety of beers. Fortunatelly, apart from “tomar cañas”, in Madrid you can find a broad range of beer bars. These are the best craft beer bars in Madrid:

IRREALE   /   FÁBRICA MARAVILLAS   /   CERVECERÍA L’EUROPE   /   FOGG BAR   /   BAR CHINASKI   /   LA BUENA PINTA   /   CASA ZOILO   /  CRAFT CREW MADRID

the best craft beer bars in Madrid