Best Workspaces in Madrid

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[This post originally appeared on the CIEE Teach In Spain blog.]

If you’re like me, you can have trouble getting work done in the comfort of your own home. Writing a blog post turns into scrolling through Pinterest, and scrolling through Pinterest turns into trying to make “The Ultimate Fudgy Brownies” at 2:00 in the afternoon on your only day off. So, I’ve learned that I need to get myself out of the house in order to be productive. This has become a really great way to get to know Madrid and I’ve found several cafés and workspaces that I frequently convert into my office for a day. Here are my favorite places to set up shop to get work done, or meet up with friends to research destinations for our next weekend trip.


Café de La Luz

A relaxed atmosphere with the scent of burning incense flowing through the air makes this cafe a great space for whipping out your laptop while sipping on a coffee. I suggest ordering their chocolate milkshake—it comes with a little side of popcorn! Make sure to get there earlier in the afternoon because it tends to fill up by 5pm.

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Espíritu 23

This adorable coworking space features a quiet work atmosphere and a full-service café where you can order a coffee or tea to keep you company while you work. They also have an outdoor space with artistic murals where you can work during warmer weather.

La Bicicleta Café

This café/bike shop hybrid is a great place to meet with friends or work on group projects. Laptops are only allowed at certain tables, but there has always been open space when I’ve arrived. The large tables and café atmosphere makes it easy to talk with friends or colleagues while sipping on a coffee. You don’t have to be as quiet as in a coworking space. I should mention that they also have AMAZING chocolate cake.


The Shed Coworking

The tranquil atmosphere at this coworking space makes it a perfect place to get work done. I almost didn’t even notice time passing. They also have a gorgeous terrace, and free coffee and tea in their self-service kitchen!

Lolina Vintage Café

The vintage vibes of this café make me feel like I’ve traveled back in time. The comfortable seating area on the basement floor with couches and antique chairs is a great place to get work done and then enjoy a cocktail after business hours.


Scenic Madrid Views You Haven’t Heard Of


[This post originally appeared on the CIEE Teach In Spain blog.]

Whenever I travel to a new place I like to get high. That is, I like to find high ground or a tall building from which I can view the surrounding area. It always helps me orient myself in a new place and, of course, it’s a great opportunity for photos. Oftentimes, sites with great views can be hard to get to, crowded, or expensive. So to help, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite views in Madrid that are cheap (or free) and easy to get to. Whether you’re looking for the perfect photo op or just a lovely place to watch the sunset, these sites are ideal.


1. El Parque del Oeste

Wander through the rose garden in El Parque del Oeste and then take a gondola ride up to catch a view of the palace and Madrid disappearing beneath you. The ride totals 5€ for transport to the top and back and it was worth it for how unique these views are.


2. El Corte Inglés (Plaza de Callao, 2)

At the top floor of El Corte Inglés right off of Gran Vía, there is high-end food court style dining with stunning views. Enjoy your lunch while looking out over the Madrid city center. Many rooftop bars offer views of Gran Vía but some require an entry fee and are only open in the evenings. El Corte Inglés offers the same great views, but in a more relaxed environment with a delicious variety of food and drink.


3. Cerro del Tío Pío

El Parque del Cerro del Tío Pío (also known as “Parque de Las Siete Tetas” by locals) is known for its seven rolling hills and beautiful view of the sunset over the city and mountains. Located in Puente de Vallecas, a fifteen minute ride from the city center via metro line 1, this park is popular but never overly crowded. You’ll never be fighting for space to see the view which makes it a favorite spot for a sunset picnic with friends or a date night.


4. El Templo de Debod

Though the Egyptian ruins of El Templo de Debod are a beautiful sight during the day, the sun setting over the hill behind them is even more stunning. You may have to deal with crowds at this time of the evening, but if you arrive early, you can enjoy a gorgeous sunset. Groups of people enjoying drinks and music on the grass only add to the lively atmosphere. What’s really amazing about this site is the uniqueness of the view. Don’t forget your camera and a picnic blanket!


Living Outside of Madrid’s City Center


[This post originally appeared on the CIEE Teach In Spain blog.]

Shortly after arriving in Madrid, my fellow teaching assistants and I were scouring rental websites, competing for affordable rooms in the most desirable neighborhoods in Madrid. During this time I heard from a lot of people, somewhat vaguely, that they were looking to live “in the center.” Many of them did end up finding a place in the city center and living there definitely has its advantages: nightlife, reduced travel times, access to shopping and dining. I was initially also set on living in the center; however, when I had the opportunity to rent a recently renovated apartment just a five minute walk from my school for only 300€/month including utilities, I knew it was too good to give up. Unfortunately, this meant abandoning my plan of living right in the center.

I was a little worried that living outside of the center would be isolating and keep me from making friends, leaving the house, or being able to appreciate everything the city has to offer. Thankfully, that has not been the case at all. Living right next to my school gives me more free time in the mornings and evenings. Without a long commute, I am able to enjoy life in Madrid even more. Living in an area that feels more like a neighborhood with parks, schools, and families has also allowed me to explore a new area that I otherwise may have never seen. I also live in an apartment with a good amount of communal space, modern fixtures, and two terraces. These kinds of amenities are really difficult to find in the center unless you are willing to pay top dollar. I have many friends who live in small rooms with no windows in apartments with little to no communal space. They were willing to sacrifice these things for location. It’s really just about your priorities and what is important to you in a home.


If you’re planning on living outside the city center, however, I definitely suggest living near a metro line that can get you easily into town. I live right next to line 1. This has kept me from feeling isolated because I can just hop on the metro with my abono (unlimited rides for just 20€ a month) and be almost anywhere in 15-25 minutes. It also helps to live with or near a friend. This way, you can plan to do things together in your own neighborhood, share a cab after a night out, or hang out without having to brave the crowds of the city center.

I can confidently say that living slightly outside the center to be closer to my school, have a recently refurbished apartment and lower rent was the right decision for me. I love my neighborhood and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by living where I do. What I lost in location, I gained in time and money, and that is totally worth it for me. The housing hunt can be stressful and competitive, so don’t miss out on an amazing opportunity by limiting your apartment search. Things often seem to work out when you keep an open mind!

Stay Well While Abroad

[This post originally appeared on the CIEE Teach In Spain blog.]

Navigating healthcare while abroad can be very daunting. Even when living in the U.S., working up the energy to make an appointment with a doctor can feel challenging. Though I don’t often get sick, moving to a new country and working among children put my immune system through the wringer. Among my friends and myself, we have had several experiences with the Spanish healthcare system and have learned a few things worth sharing about staying well abroad.DSC_1388

Unfortunately, I failed to properly prepare for my health before leaving the states. I would suggest getting your flu vaccine (or any other vaccines you need) before leaving the states. They’re not hard to get in Spain but you usually will have to pay or make an appointment, while many pharmacies in the U.S. offer free walk-in flu vaccinations. If you are on birth control, I would also suggest getting that sorted ahead of time so you have enough to get you through your time abroad. My insurance would not cover more than three months of birth control at a time, so I made an appointment in Spain to have my prescription renewed. Many of my friends were able to get long-term options for birth control like IUDs, an implant, or a shot before leaving for Spain, so that they would not have to worry about it while abroad. I have also been told that if you bring the packaging for your American birth control pill, and help the pharmacist translate the name to Spanish, they can give you refills of an equivalent medication without a prescription from a Spanish doctor.

My CIEE orientation leader said that his biggest advice for healthcare in Spain is “don’t get sick.” This might sound harsh but it’s definitely easier to put a little more time and effort into preventing illness than it is to constantly be headed to the doctor. Get your vaccinations, drink zumo de naranja, and make sleep a priority. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to get sick between jet lag and working around children. So, exercise, drink fluids, and get some veggies into your diet– your body, your students, and your bank account will thank you.DSC_1349 2

If you do get sick, however, Spain thankfully has several options. Your first line of defense is the pharmacy. Pharmacists in Spain are well trained and can usually help you with less serious illnesses right there in the pharmacy. Medications are also much cheaper in Spain. I’ve never paid more than 4€ for medicine while here.

The company I teach abroad with, CIEE, also provides us with iNext travel insurance which we can use at private hospitals. A representative from HM Hospitales was present at the CIEE orientation to talk about their services available to English speakers, and I definitely suggest taking advantage of them. When you’re sick, the last thing you want to worry about is a language barrier. I and many of my friends have made doctor appointments through HM Hospitales’ service for expats. They were able to make same-day or next-day appointments and provided us with great service in English. The only downside is that you must pay upfront and then apply for reimbursement through your insurance company. Still, the prices should be cheaper than those in the states. These are great options for non-emergency situations but the Emergency Room should obviously be your first choice for emergencies and life-threatening situations.

My orientation leader also mentioned that Centro Sandoval offers free STD screenings. There may be a wait, as this is a free service, but it’s nice to not have to pay for something as important as sexual health.

Another point of anxiety when it comes to getting sick is missing work. The Language Assistant’s handbook says we are allowed four paid sick days with a doctor’s note. These rules seem pretty strict and that’s why the advice, “don’t get sick,” is so justified. If you do fall ill and have to miss school, be sure to reach out to a doctor’s office or hospital right away to get an appointment. Even if you think you will be okay without medication, make the appointment so that you can get a doctor’s note and then apply for reimbursement through your insurance. If you’re a little sick but think you can make it to school— go. If you seem too sick to be around kids, there’s a good chance your director will send you home early or even right away. Ultimately, the children’s safety and health are most important.

Hopefully these little pieces of advice from the experiences of myself and others will be helpful and alleviate some of the stress of navigating healthcare in a new country. It can be a daunting task, but with a little help from your local resources, it is definitely manageable. I always feel very empowered and accomplished after picking up my medication at the Spanish farmacia knowing that I am making my health a priority, even while in a foreign country.

A Rehabilitated Overpacker’s Guide to Packing Light


Overpacking is a pretty universal problem and people are always surprised when I tell them I only travel with a backpack. When packing for weekend trips, I always limit myself to a backpack and a purse. This works well for most budget airlines in Europe, as they usually make you pay for anything more than one small bag. Even in the cold weather, snow, and rain I have been able to stick to these guidelines. I’d say I’m a rehabilitated overpacker. So, I’m going to share my secrets for packing light, even in the dead of winter.


Secret #1:

My first secret to packing light is probably the most disappointing and it’s just about the last thing a traveler in the age of Instagram wants to hear: let go of your vanity. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that packing light is more about mindset than anything else. I am someone who loves clothes but I’ve discovered I love not having to lug around a big suitcase even more. I now pack with practicality at the forefront of my mind.

DSC_1138Secret #2:

Invest in clothing items that are appropriate for a variety of activities: weatherproof black boots that are comfortable enough for a walking tour and cute enough for heading to the basr; a raincoat with a down insert that can be worn in rain or cold weather; long sleeve crop tops/blouses that can be worn as insulation under a chunky sweater during the day or as a going-out top at night.

Secret #3:

Wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane. I always wear my heaviest coat, chunkiest sweater, and thickest pants on the plane. I dress in layers so that I can shed these warmer items if I get hot during the trip. Keeping these larger items from taking up room in your bag is definitely worth it.

Secret #4:

Don’t fold—roll! This secret is as old as time, but it really works. If you want to save space, roll your clothes up like little burritos instead of folding them. This somehow magically makes all of your clothes smaller and helps save space in your bag.


Secret #5:

Check the weather, make an itinerary, and plan your outfits accordingly ahead of time. One of the pitfalls we often run into when packing is focusing too much on the “what if” scenarios. What if it gets warm for one day? What if I go out for a fancy dinner? What if we decide to go swimming? The best way to avoid packing stuff you don’t need is by making a concrete plans. Know what the weather will be at your destination and know what activities you need to pack special items for. Traveling can always bring up the unexpected, but try to cut out those “what if” thoughts as much as you can while packing. And, if you end up going to a fancy dinner that you’re not appropriately dressed for, well…it’ll be a fun traveling story for later!

Finally, I’ll leave you with my packing list for winter weekend trips. Hopefully this will help you the next time you’re trying to avoid paying extra for checked luggage!


Toiletries & Makeup:

-Travel toothbrush

-Mini toothpaste


-100ml shampoo

-100ml face wash

-100ml conditioner

-100ml body wash

-100ml moisturizer w/ SPF

– Foundation

-Beauty blender


-Mini powder

-Highlight stick

-Tinted brow gel


-Mini eyeshadow + brush


-1-2 lipsticks

-Hair brush

-Check to see if accommodations have hair dryer before packing travel hair dryer.


-1 pair of jeans

-3-4 pairs of socks

-4-5 pairs of underwear

-Lightweight pajama pants + top

-Warm sweater

-2 long sleeve crop tops




-Hair bands

-Statement earrings (to dress up my outfit for an evening out)





-Metro card



-Portable phone charger

-Phone charging cord

-Power outlet converter





-Empty water bottle

-Eye mask

-Mini hand lotion

-Any medications


Wear on the plane:


-Chunky sweater


-Weatherproof boots


-Scarf (depending how cold at destination)

Everything Can Go Wrong, But It Probably Won’t: The Highs and Lows of Moving Abroad

View of Palacio Real de Madrid

I knew that moving abroad would be stressful and that I would have to deal with a lot of logistics. I knew that I would have to get a visa extension, a bank account, an apartment and a phone plan all in the first month. For someone who gets overwhelmed by going to the post office, this laundry list was daunting but it was something I was willing to deal with in order to realize my dream of moving to Spain.

Looking down to corridor from Plaza Mayor

What I didn’t account for was all the unexpected stressors and inconveniences that come with moving to a new country. For me these included: losing my American SIM card, my laptop completely breaking down two weeks into my move, having to get a new laptop shipped from the U.S. in order to have an English keyboard, and losing access to a lot of my apps and accounts due to my phone number change and new laptop. As you can probably tell, technology is not my friend.

This series of unfortunate events had me running around an unknown city, making multiple phone calls in an unfamiliar language, and spending money I had not originally budgeted for. However, while I endured some sleepless nights and a few emotional calls to my parents, I was able to get it all worked out. And that’s what I have to remind myself.

I’ve learned that my outlook and attitude have more power than any of these inconveniences. Sometimes, something as simple as losing your SIM card can seem like a huge disaster when piled on top of other stressors. Things can start to look pretty bleak and I am definitely guilty of overreacting at times when one small thing goes wrong, but I’m getting better.

Palacio de Cristal in Retiro Park

The thing about travel or living abroad is that everything is augmented. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, and sometimes having to make a customer service phone call in Spanish seems like the most impossible task. But, we persevere, and we make it to the other side. Oftentimes, we emerge stronger and more empowered because we accomplished something that we never would have had we just stayed in our comfortable little bubble.

It’s such a cliche, but travel isn’t just about exploring new places, it’s about exploring the depths within ourselves and pushing past what is familiar. Though it can be uncomfortable at times we should all go somewhere, do something, meet someone new. It’s not always the beautiful scenic view of an ancient city. Sometimes it’s getting lost while trying to reach your visa appointment; but the lows make the highs that much more beautiful and that’s why I found myself on an plane one month ago moving to a new country in search of new adventures.



Big News, Big Changes


If you’re in any of my close circles, this probably isn’t news to you. However, if we haven’t caught up in a while, or are strangers—first of all, thank you for reading! Say hi and let’s connect! Second of all, you probably don’t know that I’m finally taking the leap and moving to Spain in September.


This is something that I have wanted to do since I stepped off the plane after my semester abroad in college. I spend every day missing the sights, smells, flavors, and vibes of Spain. True story: I recently cried while watching the Lizzie McGuire Movie because I missed living among the European scenery so much. I applied to teach abroad programs for the past two years since graduation. However, neither year seemed like the best time. I was just getting my feet under me after college, I didn’t have the money saved up to travel, or I didn’t get placed in the region I wanted.

This year, I applied to a new program and was placed in Madrid. Everything seemed to align. I have some money saved, my boyfriend is moving to Maine around the same time, and I feel like I’m in a stable enough place to introduce some change and uncertainty into my life.


However, since I’ve been wanting to do it for so long, I forgot how much of a leap this move would be for me. As my departure date moves closer, I find myself becoming more and more anxious and uncertain. Every day a new worry pops into my mind. Will I be able to make friends? How do I find an apartment? Will I be homesick? Is this the right choice?SONY DSC

If you’ve looked at my Instagram lately, you’ll notice that all of my content and captions are overwhelmingly positive, even sappy. While this positivity isn’t disingenuous, it is still only part of the story. I have been using relentless optimism as a coping mechanism to avoid drowning in the terrifying ambiguity of these next few weeks.

This unwillingness to grasp the depth of my feelings about the move has bled into in my real life as well. Almost every conversation I have with someone about moving goes like this: “You’re moving to Spain? Wow, that’s so exciting!” “Yeah, I’m excited.” End of conversation. I’ve been keeping my anxiety about the move close to my chest because I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the amazing opportunity to travel, or like I’m not looking forward to all of the adventure it will bring. That said, change always comes with uncomfortable feelings, they do not mean that the change is not positive.


Sometimes my emotions get the best of me, but I’m trying enjoy my last few weeks in the U.S. to the fullest extent. Spending time with my boyfriend and family, taking a trip, and enjoying some time off of work are all I need to focus on right now. I know that moving to Spain will come with its challenges, but worrying about them will only make the transition harder. I am lucky enough to have people and things in my life that make it hard to leave, and I’m even luckier to have their support during this new chapter.


This whole experience has reminded me the it’s never too late to make a change in your life. Often, you and your worries about the future are the only thing holding you back from doing things that will make you happy. Even if it’s just in a small way like trying a new food, or going to an event where you don’t know a single person, jumping into the unknown is what makes life exciting. So at the end of the day, yeah, I’m excited.