Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A walk up my street . . .

Calle de Ricardo-Ortiz, Madrid - the street where I live
If I leave my apartment block and turn right, the first shop I encounter is the Tabac next door. This place is indespensible for buying stamps, getting photocopies, batteries, recharging my mobile phone and a host of other small things I need to do. I love the very cheerful and efficient girl here who always understands my meagre Spanish and random pointing. Phew!

There follows a small bar, a lottery shop, a butchers, a fruit and veg shop, a travel agent with tempting offers, a butchers, a pasteleria and a clothes shop. I cross a side street and peer down into the Chinese-run clothing store with shoes and bags in the window and then I reach my favourite store. We all need a corner shop that sells everything and this is no exception. It is run by a Spanish matriarch and the staff are all Spanish-Chinese. Some of the things I buy here include ice cubes, Nestea, beer, olives, eggs, bread, candles, soap powder, plastic clothes pegs, onions, crisps, chocolate, icecream, chick peas, rice and Casera. There are some dodgy looking Christmas decorations lurking on a shelf and the biscuits coated with chocolate have probably melted so best avoided and I saw some frozen seafood in the freezer that might be useful some day.

Clothes pegs are an obsession of mine as I live in a third floor flat with clothes lines outside my window and I love washing my clothes and putting them out to dry. However the plastic pegs often break and plummet to the ground so I am now trialling the wooden ones - more eco friendly too!

Leaving the corner shop, I pass by the bus stop where I get off the night buses at the weekend. Night buses are brilliant here now that I know which one comes my way and where it stops. The number 7 from Cibeles is my late night mantra! There is a crossing here so I wait until I hear the friendly chirping that says I can go. I glance in the window of the cafe and pasteleria that I should go to more often as it serves great coffee and cakes. Turning the corner I walk past the money exchange place, the dry cleaners, a shop that sells only beds and then cross over to the other side and go by a hair dresser, a pharmacy and a posh frozen food shop where I can buy falafels in times of need! At the end of the street, I come to the main road Calle de Alcala and here I can find every bank I will ever need and a whole host of shops and supermarkets. I like the old fashioned shoe shops here that have a huge shoe display in the window and then all the shoes in boxes on shelves inside - just like the one I worked in back in the 1980s!

My hairdresser is in this street - the place where I got a cut, wash, condition and a curly blow dry all for 10 euros this summer. There are pizza places, an icecream parlour, a shop that sells only pies, a shop that sells everything that you can imagine for your home that comes in plastic and bright colours and so much more! A wander around El Carmen is always rewarding!
I must mention the sign outside the pharmacy that is my benchmark for the day as it tells me the time, the date and most importantly the temperature. There is something consoling about a red flashing sign telling me that it is very hot and I am not imagining it because it says 36 degrees. So hot, that a trip on the metro is a blessing. El Carmen is on the green line which is number 5. It runs to the Casa de Campo and calls at some of my favourite stops; Opera, Chuecca, Callao and Gran Via.
A recent discovery is the commercial market of Ventas which is housed in a huge grey warehouse of a building and is two floors of fish, meat, greengrocers and dry fruit stores. I love it here as every stall is like a mini shop and they are all different. There is a lot of my favourite chrome and the stall owners all compete to show off their wares with elaborate and colourful displays. I love the fish stalls where the fresh produce is literally jumping at me or in the case of the fat snails, crawling! I love the butchers where there are parts of animal I would never choose to eat. I love the fruit stalls where the aroma of melon and soft fruits makes me linger. Shopping for food here is how it used to be in my market town in England where I grew up and I love it!
Just need a tartan shopping trolley and I will be sorted.

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