Neptuno v. Cibeles

Neptuno v. Cibeles

As we all know, with sports, comes RIVALRIES!

I found this on twitter. It's a great representation beside  the fact that the fountains are above the wrong teams.
I found this on twitter. It’s a great representation beside the fact that the fountains are above the wrong teams.


We all know the Cubs/Sox and of course, Bears/Packers. Maybe you have even heard of the Real Madrid/FC Barcelona rivalry if you keep up with soccer. However, I am almost positive you haven’t heard of the Atletico de Madrid/Real Madrid rivalry. This one is pretty comparable to the Cubs/Sox…good versus bad as some may say, you choose who is good and who is bad.

As a study abroad student in fall 2010, the very first hotel we stayed at was the NH Paseo del Prado, right across from the Prado museum and the Neptuno fountain. Now, this was the first time I had ever stepped foot in Spain and the only thing I knew about Spain before I got to Spain was, well, nothing. I vaguely remember being in the bus and seeing a big beautiful fountain and having everyone take pictures of it and having no idea what it was even called or that it had any special significance. The next day, we went to the Prado Museum and then we left Madrid for Toledo and last stop, Granada, where I studied abroad. While in Madrid, we didn’t even walk down Gran Via or make it to Sol (that I remember). I just remember staying in the Plaza of Neptuno (that isn’t the plazas official name), and admiring the huge fountain from afar. Looking back, as memories of Madrid, I have the Prado museum and a nameless fountain. While studying abroad I learned a little about soccer (fútbol), too. I learned that Madrid has a football team called, Real Madrid and Barcelona has FC Barcelona, nothing more than that. Four years later, I live in Madrid and I realize, sadly, how much I truly DIDN’T know about Spain and specifically about Madrid when I was a study abroad student. Every day I am learning new things about Spain and Madrid, and I love it even more and more!

Now, let’s get back to our rivalries. First of all, Madrid has many, many soccer teams. Who knew? Apparently everyone. However, the two biggest are Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid. As we all know, I am not exactly a die hard sports fan. However, I do like tailgating (which doesn’t exist in Spain), hanging with friends and cheering along when everyone else starts to cheer. So, what does that mean for me when people start talking bringing up sports teams that I never knew existed? It means that it’s time for me to learn about sports and the culture that surrounds the sport. In Spain, this important sport is soccer. If you are coming to live in Madrid or Spain for that matter, you should probably learn your basics. I will teach you the basics of Madrid soccer. In Madrid, the main teams are Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid. For those of you living in the states, you probably have only heard of Real Madrid because it is the most popular team and yeah, they do win a lot more (Sorry Adri, it’s true, it’s probably even a statistic).

Bernabeu and Calderon. Cibeles and Neptuno. Madridista and Colchonero. Hala Madrid and Aúpa Atleti. Madrid and Atleti. The Derby.

What do all of these things mean? These are what represents each team. In reference to Chicago sports, these things would be comparable to the Madhouse on Madison, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, The Cubbies, The Hawks, Go Cubs Go, Let’s go Hawks or Bear down. Recently the European Soccer Championship took place, for the first time in history it was two teams from one city competing for the title of Champions, Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid. This big rivalry is called, “The derby”. In the end, Real Madrid won, taking their tenth championship title. The “we are the champions” song played on the TV for the next week following the big win! Now, let’s talk about our teams.

Ciebeles vs. Neptuno
Cibeles vs. Neptuno (from Twitter)

Atlético de Madrid

Nickname for team: Atleti
Nickname for fans: Colchoneros, rojiblancos, or indios. 
Stadium: Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Catch phrase: Aúpa Atleti
Place of Celebration: Fuente de Neptuno

Atleti are the underdogs, they are like our dear Chicago Cubbies. However, unlike the Cubbies, Atleti actually does win things! The tickets to the games during the season for Atleti aren’t very expensive (depending on the game). Anyways, when Atleti wins they get to celebrate at Neptuno, the fountain, which is in the city center near the Prado Museum. What do they do there? Sing songs about their team, chant “aúpa atleti”, drink calimocho or beer and party until the wee hours of the morning. This happens after games but it is most important after a big victory. When Atleti won La Liga this year, everyone went that night to Neptuno and then the next day everyone went back to Neptuno because the team came. Everyone went crazy and there was more people packed into one plaza than you could ever imagine. If you are ever in Madrid on the day of a big win, make sure you go to the fountain, you won’t regret it!

Photo by Ana
Photo by Estibaliz
Gabi, the captain of Atleti after winning La Liga against Barcelona in May 2014 from 20 Minutes

Real Madrid

Nickname for team: Madrid
Nickname for fans: Madridistas, merengues, or vikingos 
Stadium: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
Catch phrase: Hala Madrid
Place of Celebration: Fuente de Cibeles

This team is the popular team among people in the States along with Barcelona. It’s the most advertised of all the Spanish soccer teams. Typically tickets for the games are very expensive. When Madrid wins, all of the Madridistas go to Cibeles, which is located at metro Banco de Espana and they, like atleti, party until the wee hours of the morning. Recently, when they won the championship league, the fans partied at cibeles until the time the team made it to madrid from Lisboa at 6:30 in the morning!

My friend Pilar celebrated her birthday watching Madrid win the Champions League and earning a 10th title!
My friend Pilar celebrated her birthday watching Madrid win the Champions League and earning a 10th title!
Plaza de Ciebeles where Real Madrid celebrates (Background, the post office of spain)
Plaza de Ciebeles where Real Madrid celebrates (Background, the post office of spain)

Each fountain is there through the wins and the losses for the fans, along with the police who surround the fountains! I was told that the fans (a few years ago) used to storm the fountains after the victory of their team. It’s only in the recent years that there are so many police (and now even barricades) to block entrance to the fountain because one year, someone took a hand (I believe) from the fountain of Cibeles, it was later returned. Since that incident, no one is allowed in either of the fountains. They say that they don’t want damage done to the historical monuments, alright, understandable, I guess.

Each fountain represents their teams unity and team spirit and the spirit of Madrid. Although the Madrileños wouldn’t admit it, no matter which team they are cheering for, they are always celebrating one victory, Madrid. The heart of Spain and each of their teams in their hearts.


Aúpa Atleti



Recently, I have had a bunch of visitors here in Madrid and it has been amazing! However, when you have visitors, what do you show them? Where do you go? When do you go?

After living in Madrid for the last few months, I think I have become immune to some of the things that used to seem really different to me. Things like, taking the metro, eating dinner after 6pm or cooking with a pressure cooker weren’t the norm, until now.

So, here’s a list of a few things that I like to do as a “tour guide” when people come visit me here in Madrid.

Tapas and drinks

My whole life revolves around food, so clearly forcing my friends and families to eat loads of tapas is my number one priority while they visit me in Madrid. However, when friends visit, you can’t just show them any tapas or choose random bars and hope for the best. No no. Think of it this way, their first homemade croquetas, their FIRST tortilla de patatas, their FIRST EVER TINTO DE VERANO! Now, don’t get me wrong, I like 100 Montaditos for cheap pre-made tinto any day, but If your friends and family spend $1,000 on a flight to come visit, do your research and show them the good stuff. They can’t leave Spain thinking that tapas are only montados, olives or potato chips and that tinto comes pre-made! Oh, Sangria shouldn’t come from a box either! With my visitors, we went to Pintan Tapas, as well as some other amazing bars around madrid!

The family enjoying pintan tapas!
The family enjoying pintan tapas!
Sophia and her first ever tinto de verano!
Sophia and her first ever tinto de verano!


Beans, beans and more beans. I love beans. Lentejas (Lentils), Cocido Madrileño (Madrilenian(?) stew), Fabada (stew), Judiones (big ass beans…that’s a direct translation), I think the list goes on forever because the Spanish love beans and I love the Spanish because they love beans (ok, that’s not the only reason)! In my family, we don’t cook with a pressure cooker, at all. I don’t know many (or any) Americans who do. So when it comes down to beans, we make refried beans from a can, baked beans from a can, and homemade chili…again, using beans from a can. Here in Spain, they use dried beans, soak them in water over night and then throw them in the pressure cooker with many different forms of cured ham and magic, you have some sort of bean stew! After all this bean talk, you can clearly tell that my family and friends got to enjoy some stews while here in Spain!

Judiones in Segovia!


From the street, it’s hard to get a good view of Madrid, make sure you find some sort of terrace to take your guests to! I think any bar would be great! I usually like to go up into the old correos building in Plaza de Ciebeles. I also like to go to the Gourmet floor (floor 9) in the Corte Ingles in Plaza Callao. Also, learn what the tops of the buildings look like so you can show your friends all the places they’ve been! From the Corte Ingles in Callao you can easily see the Palacio Real, the Almudena, Opera, the tops of the four corners of the plaza Mayor and many other things, including the newly reinstated Tio Pepe sign in Sol! (During Christmastime you can see the top of the Christmas tree in Sol too!)

Old and new friends at the Corte Ingles!
Old and new friends at the Corte Ingles!


Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a sports fanatic, nor a fan of bull fights, however, they are a big part of Spanish culture. Soccer and bulls that is. So, why not join the crowd? Who wants to be an independent when you can join the Frente at an Atleti game or go to Las Ventas to see a bull fight? Soccer is one of the biggest, if not the  biggest, thing that unites Spaniards, but, bull fights, not so much. Bull fighting seems to be up in the air, people love it, people hate it, people don’t care. I personally think that if I’m willing to eat the meat, wouldn’t it be hypocritical to be opposed to watching the animal die? It is what it is. Anyways, immerse your friends in something Spaniards love, (even if you don’t love it yourself) so that your friends and family can get a better idea of what Spanish culture is all about!

Soph and I supporting Atlético de Madrid back in April! Now the champions of la Liga!
Soph and I supporting Atlético de Madrid back in April! Now the champions of la Liga!
Aunt Wendy, Kate & Mom at the Bull Fight in Madrid (Las Ventas)
Aunt Wendy, Kate & Mom at the Bull Fight in Madrid (Las Ventas)

Day trips

Any town that is within a couple hours could be great for a day or weekend trip! With my mom and Aunt we took a train for a day trip to Segovia, with my sister we went hiking in Cercedilla and with Sophia we spent a couple days in Valencia. Any of these trips are easy and worth your time if you have it! Don’t forget your cochinillo in Segovia (we went to a restaurant called Lazaro off the Plaza Mayor, I highly recommend it!). Lastly, enjoy some agua de Valencia while in Valencia!

Cochinillo in Segovia (Yep, that's a piglet!)
Cochinillo in Segovia (Yep, that’s a piglet!)
Agua de Valencia (Roughly a mimosa/screwdriver)
Agua de Valencia in Valencia (Roughly a mimosa/screwdriver)

Really, there are so many more things to do, these are just a few! What kinds of things do you like to do when you are showing your friends around the city? To be honest, with all said and done, my favorite thing to do is to just walk around the city. The beauty of Madrid never ceases to amaze me and I love to share it with others! I hope you share it with your friends and family too!