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Saturday, 9 May 2009

Travel Talk: Napptural In Madrid, Spain

As a Spanish napptural, Madrid is the closest city that I can call my home town. It's a place I often return back to and have many memories in. This is my version and insight of Madrid from the past years... the positives and the negatives...

Vegie Ital Life In Madrid
I think this is an exciting time to explore this city as so many new ideas and ways of life are being much more readily accepted than in the past. Over the years, there have been more and more places that are serving and exploring vegetarian/vegan cooking in Madrid. Spanish food is delicious and healthy, but as a vegetarian I still have to admit there are less options on a regular restaurant menu than in other cities, like London - Spanish people love different meats and fish! If you're not a vegetarian, you will LOVE the traditional foods lol. Even when you think you are about to tuck into a vegie dish (which the waiter recommended as a vegie option), don't be surprised to find some traces of meat/fish or non-vegie products for seasoning. This has happened to me on numerous occasions! Salad choices are also served with dairy or fish. However, if you enjoy eating raw and don't mind doing a bit of shopping, there is always a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in the local supermarkets that taste GREAT. I always miss the fruits/veg from there, I can't quite find the same taste and freshness here in London. I don't feel this issue is unique to this city- living a vegie lifestyle can be testing anywhere lol!

As a Reiki healer, it was good to see this therapy being integrated in health services and hospitals. Video above is a clip on it (in Spanish). Although I still feel the UK has a more advanced approach to holistic health than many other places in Europe, Spain is rapidly catching on to using holistic health in everyday life. I was taking a trip to El Rastro (arty market) with my cousin and found a stall promoting yoga to the people. So I got chatting to the person who was running it and he was saying how yoga and other forms of holistic health are being explored and rapidly growing now. Numerous new spas and holistic spots are growing around Spain, which I hope to explore soon!

African & Napptural
Spain feels so different today than 10 years ago. Immigration from South America and Africa has changed the political and social landscape and remains a hot topic in the news. Even though Spain has deep African history and influences from Africa in the past, there seems to be new challenges, changes and transitions in the way Spain views different races and cultures now. My friend commented that this reminded her of the situation in the UK during the 50's and 60's... Spain is behind and trying to catch up. I found this article written in 1987 - it is interesting to see how and if things have changed since then. I know at that time, I did have issues with racism and was the only dark face in my neighbourhood. There were times that I wouldn't see a non-European face for weeks back then lol. It feels strange saying that now because things have really changed since then and there are many South American, Arab and Black faces in the crowd today. I am confident that there will be more organisations and legal representations to move this issue up-to-date and in line with the rest of Europe, although I feel other countries like France still have similar issues.

There are also many influences and changes in music that the younger generation are listening to - like reggaeton, Spanish roots reggae, jazz and hip hop... there are a growing number of night spots to go if you enjoy a mix of this music. If you love reggae music, Europe has a growing amount of reggae festivals all over the place with top artists. Recently, I have found traditional music (like flamenco) and hip hop fused together, which was an interesting mix lol.

As a Black face, I feel people tend to assume I am either British or American, probably because I speak English often (it's my first language). I would say that attitudes towards a Black-British or Black-American person may be very different than to a Black-African... I think it again comes back down to the whole immigration situation right now and testing racial attitudes - Unfortunately, many people have asked me if Spanish people are racist due to the regular racist incidents in sport news with Black players and Spanish sports audiences/crowds. I won't lie, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done! At the same time, I won't let ignorance put me off from travelling - I haven't experienced any racism since a long time ago.

On natural hair: I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of afros on the streets. As for having locs (or "pelo Rasta" as its called in Spanish), there are hardly any apart from a few Spanish guys (like my cousin lol). People do openly look and stare at my locs, mainly through curiosity I think as they probably hardly ever see it- especially on a woman. My Spanish family LOVE my locs and can't seem to keep their hands off lol.
I ((heart)) the public transport - Unlike London where I have to re-plan my train journey over the weekend and mornings due to the many closures and power failures, Madrid's metro train system is easy to use, reliable, clean and comfortable. It doesn't cost you an arm and a leg to get from point A to point B like in London - a simple system of buying a 10 pass ticket will allow you to travel on the metro or bus by clocking it in when you get in at any time. You won't burn up in a hot annoyed crowd like the London underground in Summer as there is air conditioning and lots of spaaaaaaaace lol. People are also very helpful and willing to answer questions if you get lost or need advice on where to go.

Over all, it is a city with a charm about it... it still feels very traditional, with winding roads that lets you explore non-tourist spots. I like the fact that it doesn't feel crowded, even in rush hour. I love cafe culture where you can spend hours sitting outside and watching the world go by, with homemade food and wine. In London, you almost always feel rushed to get off your seat in the many commercial chains of coffee shops with "plastic foods" lol. There is a rich culture of enjoying life around family and good friends which I feel balances out everything.

It helps to learn basic Spanish - unless you are in a very touristy place. If you wish to go off and see local places in the city, people don't readily speak English. So, a phrase book or a few lines will make all the difference!

Like many places, this is a time of change in attitudes and reflection towards a different future so I feel excited about it.

For more information on Madrid, visit - To watch their TV channel, go to Media Hopper (Go to the channels for Spain and you will find EsMadrid in the list). Blogs always offer a great insight into other people's lives and travel, visit the Black Planeteer blog for some interesting travel reads on Spain and more!

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