Cycle Happy

I just got my bike card! Last spring these electric bikes were installed all over the center and I just couldn’t get my act together to get the membership card in time to ride them before I left for Portland. The fall was crazy, winter was cold and then my wallet was stolen by the metro. Between you and me I ink part of me was truly terrified to ride a bike here since Madrid doesn’t have a reputation for being the most cyclist friendly. First I bought a helmet and then por fin I got my membership card at the kiosk downstairs. Let’s say I’m a recreational biker, despite just about everyone I know owning a fixie and/or commuting everyday to work on a bike (shout out to my dad) in the States, I would really rather walk or bus most places than deal with the hassle of owning/locking/maintaining a bicycle. My memory is scarred by the slow disassembling of my college bike that someone undertook over the span of a week on campus; it was locked but that didn’t stop them from first taking the seat, then the wheels and finally the handlebars. A slow and public death, I saw new pieces taken everyday on my way to class. It was a garage sale find so replacing the parts would have been way more expensive than the thing itself. RIP blue Nishiki…you are missed…on weekends and sunny bank holidays. The truth is I rode it only when I was late to class and it was heavy as hell!

Okay fast forward two years and here I am with these electric bikes all over the city, a boyfriend who LOVES to rides bikes and a new helmet. Did I mention that it also never rains here? All things go: I got a discount with my metro card so the annual “abono” only runs me 25€ and the bikes are super easy to click in and out of the stations. I put 10€ of credit on my card and have been riding for a month almost everyday – since the price is fixed for the first two hours I never really spend that much, mostly I use them to go up and down hills between private lessons or dinner with friends so it’s cheap. Also since the stations are everywhere I need to be, it’s also awesomely convenient and I’m never searching for a kiosk. I’m crazy about them and love that the electricity kicks in right when you need it. Now we just need drivers to pay a little more attention, I’m actually signaling more than cars are out there but the little side streets are crazy fun and much less crowded. Madrid city center is small so hopping on a bike makes moving around easier and more enjoyable than the sweaty underground metro on pretty much any day! Miguel complained at first, these bikes aren’t real bikes, they’re hard to park, they’re expensive blah blah blah. Then one day I insisted that we ride them to the movies, my treat and he bit -the sheer joy of feeling that electric kick once you start pedaling had him convinced by the time we got there. We made it to the theater in half the time it would have taken in a car. Yeehooo!

We are both now talking about how we can ride to work, lucky for me my commute is in the city. His will require some dedication in the winter but it’s a challenge worth accepting. I’m just happy that I’ve rediscovered biking! If you see the girl with the I 💚 Oregon sticker on her helmet it’s probably me! Don’t run me over!

Docking station in Sol

Good places to ride:
1. Madrid Rio: a waterfront route with lots of bikers and runners, stop to play at the oversized jungle gyms.

2. Retiro Park: avoid people/dogs but take lots of brakes for cold lemonade or ice cream

3. Casa de Campo: the city’s most expansive park on the outer edge of Latina/Moncloa, you could pack a lunch and spend all day there biking through the paved roads or on the cross-country style routes.


el Rastro Market

Everyday life here has become a little hectic, I’ve been traveling a lot and hosting tons of friends in my apartment. A little while back my good friends Florencia and Mansi from Argentina told me they were coming to Madrid to kick off a European vacation. They needed a place to stay and I was more than happy to open my doors (and foldable bed) since it had been years since I last saw them. I lived in Buenos Aires with Florencia when I was in college and seeing her again brought back all those study-abroad twilight memories, tons of dulce de leche and of course she stopped at nothing to tease me for my now super-Spanish accent (hah sorry che…). I was excited to introduce them to my life here though I must admit, its really bizarre to be a tour guide in a country I was only recently myself touring around. These are the kinds of friends that you can just pick up with right where you left off as if no time has passed at all – a welcome thing in the house of an expat. Florencia has not lost any of her wit and between her and Mansi its a hilarious combination of jokes and stories. On the first night in town we ordered pizza’s and caught up, played with the cats and went to bed so they could sleep off the jet lag.

IMG_5609Mansi has become a very fashionable and successful photo stylist and teacher in Argentina and he and Florencia asked if we could go to the Rastro Market, a once-a-week flee market that sets up right around the corner from my place every Sunday. Essentially you can find everything from vintage furniture to nic-nacs but more than anything the Rastro reads clothing. Mansi wanted vintage Levis and Florencia was looking for new shades. Hundreds of tourists and locals sift through piles of jackets, jeans and second hand wearables down a long hill and between usually empty side streets during midweek. I thought it would be a sweet opportunity to invite my talented photographer friend Kaitlin and see what she could snap while we navigated the twisty crowded streets. Maybe I’m under-selling this but the Rastro is actually a huge tourist attraction and an excellent excuse to explore the historic Latina neighborhood while sipping cañas and eating tapas.

We rolled out of bed that Sunday and met up with Kaitlin at a nearby café for some coffee before we began the hunt for Mansi’s bluejeans. First stop at the top of the hill, just past the Latina metro station is a sea of Levis and leather jackets. He immediately found some cool stuff and started bartering with the stall owner when not 30minutes later we lost him. Then we lost Florencia. Losing people at the Rastro is like living a Where’s Waldo nightmare so finding them soon was pretty much out of the question. They remember my address right?? I found some cool palazzo pants, Miguel found a Back to the Future replica Dolorian and Kaitlin found a grumpy old dog guarding a motorcycle who was decidedly more photogenic than any of us. Success. And eventually we did also find the Argentines back at my apartment nearby, phew! We ate lunch together at the Buha, famous for their goat cheese and onion tortilla española, planning the rest of the afternoon and soaking up the sun with sangria.

The next day Mansi and Florencia were off to Paris and the rest of their month-long backpacking trip through the continent while the rest of us were off to start the workweek rested and reconnected.

Follow stylist/professor Mansi on the twitter-sphere @JuanMansillaa and check out more of Kaitlin’s beautiful photos here.