Get interactive at "Mad Improv" theater workshops and shows!

Madrid’s theater scene is brimming with activity. You’ll find live micro-theater being performed in bathrooms and lingerie stores, as well as acting classes and alternative shows scheduled daily throughout the city.

But there isn’t much available in English, which is why I want to introduce you to Mad Improv, an English-speaking improv group that’s been shaking things up in Madrid’s interactive theater scene since 2014.

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

Mad Improv hosts shows and workshops on a regular basis, all run by its cast members in English. Free improv workshops – called “gyms” – are held on Sundays from 5pm-7pm. Gyms are purely donation-based and absolutely everyone is welcome so you never know who might show up. People have even come in on flight layovers!

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

They also hold monthly open shows – called “jams” – where anyone can get up on stage and play improv games. Jams cost €3 with a drink (which probably comes in handy).

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

Locations for gyms and jams vary from Fundación First Team in Sol to Retiro when the weather allows. And right now they have a new set of upcoming shows at La Escalera de Jacob!

So check out their Meetup, Facebook and Twitter pages to stay up to date. Once you attend an event you can also ask one of the organizers to add you to the whatsapp group.

My experience – great way to step out of your comfort zone

I had secretly always wanted to drop in on an acting class, but never got around to it until this summer when two friends, Riju (India) and Laura (Spain), enthusiastically agreed to join me at one of the Sunday gyms. This was in August so the workshop was held in Retiro behind the Palacio de Cristal.

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

An international group of about 15 people showed up – the different backgrounds and languages definitely added an element of fun and spontaneity to the mix. And our organizer, Summer Banks (in the photo below), did a great job at including everyone and making sure the exercises were easy to follow.

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

What started out with simple warm-up games quickly gave way to more challenging improv activities that admittedly made me feel ridiculous. But it’s a wonderful way to get out of your comfort zone, connect with people and laugh a lot. My friends and I left with the feeling that we wanted to try our hands at improv again (and hopefully do it better next time), which meant the fun far outweighed the awkwardness!

Chat with the founder, Ben

Mad Improv workshops, shows and interactive theater in English in Madrid

Just before going to the workshop, I had met up with Mad Improv’s founder Ben Nathan-Serio at the newly opened Plántate Café. After studying drama in NYC and working in the field, Ben moved to Barcelona where he first started working in children’s theater. Four years in he launched his own interactive theater production, The Barcelona Time Detectives, and was also a founding member of BIG, The Barcelona Improv Group.

When Ben came to Madrid, he quickly became involved in Madrid’s English-speaking theater scene and founded Mad Improv in 2014. Ben says, “The reason I started Mad Improv was because there was no improv community here; I wanted to reach out to the community in a bigger way, to get people involved.”

What makes improv and interactive theater so special is that it’s empowering, says Ben, as it allows for genuine human interaction and connection. Not to mention, getting out of your comfort zone is both invigorating and fun.

Live in Theater Spain the Lombardi Case

In addition to Mad Improv, Ben also recently co-founded Live in Theater Madrid, a NYC-based group whose hit interactive show, The Lombardi Case, debuted here in summer. It’s a truly unique and entertaining two-hour event where the audience tries to solve a murder mystery – read our previous article about The Lombardi Case on Naked Madrid!

More to come

While Mad Improv and Live in Theater are alive and kicking in Madrid, Ben just relocated to Austin, Texas, where he’s taking part in a 9-month research lab called The Interactive Deep Dive. And he can’t wait to “come back with some very fresh, invigorating ideas for Live In Theater, Mad Improv and just the city in general.”

So stayed tuned, because we’ll make sure to fill you in on what’s in store.

Mad Improv Info:


Museo Cerralbo, an art lover's dream house

If you’re looking to explore Madrid’s museum scene beyond the famous Prado and Reina Sofia, I recommend starting with Los Cinco Museos, five former mansions that are all perfectly restored and house outstanding art collections: Cerralbo, Lázaro Galdiano, Artes Decorativas, Sorolla and Romanticismo.

These five museums take you on a journey to a different era, allowing you to see and feel what life might have been like when they were occupied. While each one is worth visiting, Museo Cerralbo is my personal favorite. I’ve been here twice – first on my own and then on a guided tour – and both times I was blown away by the museum’s special charm.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Tucked away on a side street near Plaza de España and Templo Dubod, this museum is one of the former residences of the Marquis of Cerralbo, who lived here with his family in the 19th century. Today, everything remains exactly in tact, from the furniture and art pieces to the wall colors and lighting.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

As you walk through its many rooms and corridors, let your imagination run wild, picturing what life was like when this house was actually a home.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The Marquis was a well known archeologist and passionate art lover. He amassed a collection of art, furniture and objects from Spain and around the world that you can see in every nook and cranny. You’ll see beautiful paintings, mirrors, chandeliers and clocks dispersed throughout, and so much more.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The house has two floors. The first floor was where the family actually lived their normal lives, while the second floor is where you’ll find the extravagant ballroom and dining room, for example, that were meant to be shown off to guests.

WhatsApp Image 2017-05-13 at 18.47.31 (1)

Each particular room had a different purpose and decor, acting as a unique exhibition space. Here are a few examples.

The armor collection

After going up the gorgeous stairway (the house was actually designed to accommodate for a unique wooden banister), guests would step into the hallway displaying the Marquis’s armor collection. This is my favorite exhibit.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The ballroom

To the right of the armor collection you’ll find the stunning ballroom. I would certainly like to dance here one day…

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

As you can see, the Marquis was particularly fond of playing with lighting and mirrors to add as much depth to each room as possible. And not an inch of the house was left unadorned.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The library

The library features British-style decor and houses an impressive collection of books in several different languages, some dating back as far as the 15th century. Here you’ll also find one of the largest coin collections in Spain.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The billiard room

Right off the dining room you’ll find the billiard room. In that time, women weren’t expected to join in on the game, so there was a seating area designed just for them to watch as the men played.

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Snapshots of more rooms and objects

There are so many little rooms and corridors to check out, each one providing a window into another era and giving your eyes plenty to marvel at. I don’t want to give away too much, so here are just a few more images to give you a glimpse of the Cerralbo Museum’s collection. But please don’t pass up the chance to see it in person!

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art
Museo Cerralbo by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Photography by Jose Luis Magaña from A Second Art (Facebook & Instagram)


  • WebsiteFacebook & Instagram
  • I highly recommend booking a guided tour in English, Spanish or French
  • Address: Calle Ventura Rodríguez, 17
  • Hours: Tues–Sat 9:30am-3pm; Thursday also from 5-8pm; Sundays and holidays from 10am-3pm
  • Metro: Plaza de España
  • Los Cinco Museos pass: if you want to visit all five of these former mansions turned museums, you can purchase a €12 pass called Los Cinco Museos at any of their ticket offices. The pass gives you unlimited access to all five museums for 10 days, and after that you can enter on Saturdays with a plus one for the rest of the year.

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Boconó Art Wall, Madrid-based photography by "A Second"

About three weeks ago I went into a new specialty coffee shop in La Latina, Boconó, and ordered a cortado to go. The next time I stopped in, I had the chance to sit down with the owner, Carlos, and my friend, José Luis, who happens to be a regular Boconó customer. Our conversation gave me plenty to write about for a first post on Naked Madrid, but there’s so much more to the story!

Bocono Coffee Shop Madrid by Naked Madrid

What do you do with a big white wall?

As we were talking, we couldn’t help but notice the blank wall in need of attention. José Luis, who’s a photographer, took out his phone and started snapping photos of coffee cups located around the café, adding filters and creating unique images. One thing led to another, and we all agreed we should transform that floor-to-ceiling canvas into a photo gallery.


Bocono Coffee Shop Madrid


Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

The process

It took José Luis, Andrea (another friend) and I over a week to get it all set up. I couldn’t possibly count how many hours we’ve spent in Boconó’s basement cutting paper, fitting photos and tinkering with random bits of material. Nor how many trips we’ve taken to the print shop and hardware store. Not to mention how many picture frames we bought, and how many we broke…

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

And today, as I look at the wall, I see so much more than beautiful artwork on display. I see the entire creative process that went on behind it, from the first day we sat down with Carlos at his café and pitched the idea, to the way the photos catch your eye even as you walk down the street and peer through Boconó’s window.

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

It’s thrilling to see how that seemingly random idea is now something real.

Boconó Art Wall

No longer a big white wall, Bocono Art Wall has become a showcase for local Madrid artists. Come and enjoy your coffee and take a look at the featured exhibits which will change monthly. If you’re an artist and want your work to be showcased, get in touch with A Second on Facebook.

Boconó Art Wall by Naked Madrid and A Second Art

Current exhibit – A Second / Art

The first installation features the images shot at Boconó itself – photos that capture the essence of its coffee, ambience and the neighborhood. All photos are by José Luis Magaña, creator of A Second, a Madrid-based platform meant to create, inspire and share art projects in the city (show some support by liking the Facebook and Instagram pages, please!).

A Second Art by José Luis Magña photography Madrid

More to come

Thank you, Carlos, for your generosity and openness to create a space that supports artists in your café. We look forward to collaborating with you on the Boconó Art Wall and other art-related projects that are currently in the works.

Stay with us as we announce upcoming exhibits, as well as other venues in the near future!


  • #boconoartwall
  • Where: Boconó Specialty Coffee Shop (calle Embajadores, 3)
  • Who: @nakedmadrid
  • When: February 17, ’17 (ongoing)

Also read our full article on Boconó, a Specialty Coffee Shop in Plaza de Cascorro




Where to Dance Bachata and Salsa in Madrid

Always wanted to learn how to dance bachata but didn’t want to pay high costs for private lessons? Well, look no further!

It is muy de moda, or very popular to dance bachata right now in Spain.  Each year there seems to be more meet-up groups and more bars offering noches de bachata or noches latinas.  Located right by Templo de Debod, The Host offers three bachata classes followed by social dancing every Wednesday night.
For 8 euros you’ll have entrance to the bar, access to three classes over the course of two hours and a drink (alcoholic or not) of your choice.  You can choose to take all three classes or just one.  If you’re more of a “people watcher” there are plenty of seats at the bar and around the perimeter of the dance floor.  Don’t show up too early though because the first class starts when the bar opens at 9PM.

Where to dance bachata in Madrid

For new dancers, the first question often asked is “Do I need to bring a partner?”  You do not need to bring a partner but you can if you’d like! The classes tend to begin with the basics, which everyone dances individually.  Then, when you do partner up, the pairs rotate so often that by the end of the class you’ll have danced with nearly everyone, you might even remember a few names or have made a new friend by the end of the lesson. On this particular Wednesday, the classes were: modern bachata, Dominican bachata and lastly, sensual bachata.

Where to dance bachata in Madrid

After the classes end and the students watch or record as the dance instructors model all the steps learned, the social dancing starts!  You get the chance to practice what you learned with friends from the class or meet others who are just arriving for the social dancing.  The fun doesn’t end until 3AMIf you’re more interested in salsa, you should join The Host on Thursdays for class (see below).  You’ll also hear a little bit of salsa and kizomba throughout the night but Wednesdays are specifically for bachata at The Host!
  Where to dance bachata in Madrid


  • Address: Calle Ferraz 38
  • Metro: Argüelles / Ventura Rodriguez / Plaza España
  • Facebook

Other classes at The Host:

Tuesday: Kizomba (classes 21:00-23:00 and social dancing until 3)
Wednesday: Bachata (classes 21:00- 23:00 and social dancing until 3)
Thursday: Salsa (classes 21:00-23:00 and social dancing until 3)
Friday: Bachata (classes 22:00-@24:00 and social dancing until 5:30)

Facebook pages and groups on Madrid’s salsa and bachata scene:

  1. Salsa Madrid (page)
  2. Salsa Madrid  (group)

Here are some more salsa places to check out:


For 8 euro you can enjoy classes and a drink at Azucar near Metro Atocha.  It is a smaller nightclub but brings in dancers of many levels.

Tropical House:

Near Metro Plaza de España is the best place to start dancing salsa or bachata as a beginner.  Tropical also offers kizomba lessons on Fridays and Saturdays.


On Sundays at Cats (now called Sala Mitty) you can dance salsa and bachata.  The crowd is great and there’s plenty of room to dance as it doesn’t get completely packed.

El Son:

A close walk from Puerta del Sol, El Son offers classes from Monday through Thursday at 6 euro a class.

La Negra Tomasa:

In Sol but doesn’t feel like it.  Live Cuban music every night and although there isn’t a lot of space to dance, if you love salsa music, La Negra Tomasa is a must.

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Café Barbieri: A 114-year-old Art Noveau café in Lavapiés

Café Barbieri first brought modernist charm to Madrid’s working class district, Lavapiés, in 1902, and although the barrio has evolved dramatically over the last 114 years, the interior of this elegant bar hasn’t changed one bit.

Some things have changed though – Café Barbieri is owned by a charismatic chap from New Delhi and staffed with bilingual youngthings. It also now has a small terrace, but this is not why you’d come here – its appeal is truly the interior.

The whole place is lined with mirrors which back then were a symbol of wealth. These mirrors are now aging well, stained a smoky bronze colour with dots of grey rust creeping in from the edges. The ceiling is framed with grids of ornate girders that are connected to decorative cast-iron beams, typical of older buildings in Lavapiés. Although never on, there are ceiling fans too – something increasingly rare in Madrid.

At the back of the bar is a grand piano on a small raised stage. Almost every evening there’s a live music session often featuring the piano, and this place does food too – typical Spanish stuff but with an edge.

The worn white marble table tops and red velvet seating lining the dining area mark this place out as opulent, but that’s really not the vibe – it’s chilled and cosy and attracts a spectrum of people, from the intrepid tourist who’s braved it down the hill, to the unassuming local who fancies a read of one of the papers on offer.

Café Barbieri by day

Café Barbieri by day

Café Barbieri's beautiful ornate cieling

Café Barbieri’s beautiful ornate ceiling

The grand piano taking centre stage, and look at all those beautiful mirrors

The grand piano taking centre stage, and look at all those beautiful mirrors

Look at that original tiled floor!

Look at that original tiled floor!

The bar has a great selection of spirits & vermouth on tap

The bar has a great selection of spirits & vermouth on tap

Café Barbieri by night

Café Barbieri by night

Café Barbieri is also on the same street as the Greek foodie place, Egeo, so there you have it, your night is planned!


Manzana Mahou: Gourmet Art Experience

Manzana Mahou is the concept sponsored by Madrid’s most iconic beer, Mahou. It’s located in Malasaña (between metro stops Tribunal and Alonso Martinez) at Palacio de Santa Bárbara, a beautiful palace built in 1866. For the third consecutive year, the outdoor space has been turned into a popular terrace designed to provide an oasis during Madrid’s warmest months.
Manzana Mahou by Naked Madrid

The idea behind Manzana Mahou is to bring together art, gourmet food and beer, to create a unique experience. It is open until October 8th, after which it will be temporarily closed until next summer. This year, the stars of the show will be chefs María Marte from Allard Experience, Javier Goya, Javier Mayor and David Alfonso, from Triciclo and Roberto Ruiz from Cascabel by Punto MX.

Manzana Mahou by Naked Madrid

These top chefs will be in charge of creating exclusive dinners inspired by the four resident artists at Manzana Mahou. In addition to this, two restaurants, La Cabra and Tandem will offer a more casual dining experience. La Cabra is a Michelin Star restaurant that will also offer brunch on Sundays from 12pm to 4pm for only 25€, led by renowned chef Javier Aranda, who at just 29 is one of the most acclaimed chefs in Spain. Tandem, on the other hand, is Triciclo’s little brother which has also become a leader in Madrid’s restaurant scene.

Manzana Mahou by Naked Madrid

This year, the outdoor space has expanded, enhancing the experience. Four artists will be exhibiting, Julia Llerena, María Platero, Françoise Vanneraud and PLAYdramaturgia. The latter are a group of artists that create a mix between visual and performing arts, while the first three are focused mainly on visual arts. 

Manzana Mahou by Naked Madrid

Entrance on Calle Hortaleza

Open Monday to Sunday, from 11am to 1am, Manzana Mahou is a great opportunity to try some of Madrid’s greatest restaurants at a more affordable price while enjoying art and a few beers.


Facebook & Website

Address: Calle Hortaleza, 47

Metro: Alonso Martínez & Tribunal

Madrid with Kids! – Tips from a Mom

Whether you’re planning a trip to Madrid or a long-time resident looking for new ideas, Madrid is full of great options to keep your little ones entertained.

You might also like my article on workout tips for moms in Madrid.


Madrid is home to several great parks that offer lots of fun activities.

keep fit madrid by Naked Madrid

Madrid Rio: Why not go for a run with your baby along the park lining the Manzanares River? Parents running with a jogging stroller in Spain used to get a lot of odd stares. The running boom has changed all that and made jogging strollers a trend that’s here to stay. Get yours at Baby Running – an online store with top-of-the-line sport strollers.

Casa de Campo:  Casa de Campo is a huge park housing the amusement park, zoo aquarium with more than 6,000 animals, and a scenic lake with outdoor cafes and boats for rent. If you’d like to avoid traffic jams and screaming kids on the metro, try the cable car for a scenic view of Madrid along the way. You may want to make sure you are out of the park before it gets dark as escorts tend to make their appearance later in the day.

Retiro: Look for a puppet show at the outdoor theatre on weekends and enjoy the many other street performers surrounding the pond at the center of the park. You can also rent row boats if you’re feeling confident in your deltoids, or sit back and relax on the solar boat. If you are looking to get some exercise, Diverbikes across from the O’Donnell entrance rents all different kinds of bikes, and surreys.  Rain driving you and your kids up the wall? Check out the second floor of the library in the park for a space dedicated to babies and children.

Theme parks and zoos

In addition to the amusement park and zoo aquarium in Casa de Campo, your children will also love seeing the animals at Faunia in Valdebernardo. Visitors can interact with cage-free animals, and even feed them. The manatee exhibit and petting zoo tend to be a big hit.

If you have a car, the 30 kilometer drive to Warner Theme Park is the worth the trip. With five different park areas, including Hollywood Boulevard, Superheroes World, Cartoon Village, the Old West and WB Movie World Studios, there are plenty of options to keep everyone in your family happy. Younger kids will love seeing Batman, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Superman while older kids and parents check out the latest roller coasters, log fumes and rapid rivers.

You also have the largest water park in Europe about 15 minutes from Madrid in Villanueva de la Cañada. Aquópolis can get very packed during the peak season so you may be better off going to one of Madrid’s outdoor pools on hot summer weekends.

Summer pool by UCM

Summer pool by UCM

Sports fans

Kids dreaming of becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo will forever thank you for taking them to the tour of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Mini Real Madrid fans will be in heaven as they visit the players’ locker room, the President’s Balcony and even sit on the players’ bench.

Little ones hoping to join Cholo’s squad will love seeing the Atlético de Madrid Museum. Atlético fans will adore looking at the trophies, memorabilia and collection of shoes and balls dating back to 1903.

Kid-friendly museums

If your kids hear the word “museum” and start to groan, several museums in Madrid could change all that.

The Wax Museum has over 450 figures including Harry Potter, Snow White, The Simpsons and Frodo from “The Lord of the Rings”. Look online for special discounts for families.

The Madrid Railway Museum contains a selection of 19th century trains, related exhibits and a wide range of family friendly activities. Take a break afterwards and have a snack in the café located in a 1930s carriage. In Spring and Fall you can also take a ride to Aranjuez on an old-fashioned train, the Strawberry Train (Tren de la Fresa).

Madrid’s Planetarium lets little explorers observe other galaxies, planets, stars and black holes. Children’s workshops are also available for Spanish-speaking little ones.

With huge dinosaur skeletons and weekend workshops for children, the National Museum of Natural Sciences is another good option for families.

Theatre and concerts for babies and kids

Madrid offers a wide range of theatre and concerts designed for babies and children. The bill is constantly changing so check BabyTribu and Sapos y Princesas for the latest options.

Other ideas

Older kids who are into go-carts will love the Carlos Sainz Center in Madrid and Las Rozas.

Little ones may enjoy visiting The Casa Museo del Ratoncito Pérez – the Spanish version of the tooth fairy. The hours change so check their website before going.

Located inside the Kinépolis movie theatre, The Magic Forest is a children’s park with slides, climbing trees and mazes.

Nearly every neighborhood in Madrid has a play center (ludoteca). Find the one closest to you here.

By Marybeth Redheffer

Marybeth is the founder of Baby Running, an online store selling sport strollers so you can stay fit with the little ones in the city! Check out her website and facebook.

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Breaking it to your parents that you're not going home (yet)

This is the time of year when many of us are forced to ask ourselves daunting questions such as: Who am I? Where am I going? What am I doing with my life? Should I stay or should I go? Can I be this happy anywhere else? Am I happy now? Should I continue my education? Should I start my career? Should I be closer to my family?

More often than not, we opt to mañana mañana these questions until this time next year by renewing our contracts as teaching assistants, switching Auxiliar programs, or continuing to hustle however we hustle and upholding the status quo of tapas, terrazas, low rent, and budget-friendly hedonism.

dancing in Lavapies Mercado de San fernando

It is often difficult to break the news of your decision to stay abroad to your parents, especially if they believe with conviction that the American Dream is not only feasible, but that the pursuit of it is the only respectable way to live.

What your parents might expect of you:

While success is subjective across generations and cultures, for many American parents the epitome of success for their offspring can entail any of the following:

  • Acquiring a fancy masters degree and/or PhD
  • Commitment to an uphill career path, working 65-80 hours per week
  • Marriage to another real adult with ambition and drive so that you can be a power couple
  • Owning a house and a fondue set for entertaining guests
  • Being able to do your own taxes and paperwork
  • Assorted antiquated concepts of normalcy that you are critical of after growing accustomed to a simpler life that is lived on your own terms.


Some families want to have, or feel that they deserve, a say in the decision-making process of their progeny to steer them away from a life of permanent squalor. Understandably their patience for the mañana mañana mindset will inevitably run thin. With each additional year that their beloved child spends teaching abroad, earning a wage that would be considered below poverty-level in the United States, parents will inevitably go through the stages of grief for their child’s futures as they were once envisioned.

Disclaimer: I’m well aware that there is no one-size-fits-all relationship between parents and kin. Just as there are parents who do not attempt to sway their offspring in any direction, there are kin who do not care whether or not their parents approve of their lifestyle.

What your parents might say and how to respond:

Below are some predicted comments from your parents that will indicate what stage of grief they are in, accompanied by an advisable response to help them manage their expectations.

Denial: “This is just a phase, you’ll outgrow it.”

  • With Hemingway-esque detail, explain in depth your passion for your adopted city
  • Perhaps Madrid stimulates you creatively in a way that is unmatched anywhere else
  • Maybe your heart was stolen by a person, or the cuisine
  • Teaching English is fulfilling (or at least more tolerable than any alternative)
  • Once you leave, the neighboring European countries will never again be this accessible

Anger: “You’re out of touch with reality. TEFLing is not a Real JobTM.

  • You are constantly learning via exposure to other languages, cultures and ways of life
  • You have either achieved bilingual status or are making progress towards it
  •  Your overworked friends back home  often send you envious messages
  • You are still nurturing valuable resume skills in your teaching jobs:
    • the ability to speak publicly, projecting your voice without fear
    • generating clients and operating your own brand with clases particulares
    • often adapting to changing circumstances
  • Ask them to elaborate on what a real job entails and why having one is so important, seeing as it is common for elderly folks on their deathbeds to voice regretting the amount of time that they spent at the office
  •  Side effects of chasing the American dream include delusion, anxiety, and alienation


Bargaining: “You can live at home with us while you get back on your feet, use the car and eat our food. We’ll keep the kitchen stocked with bagels.”

  • Express gratitude but don’t waver in the face of temptation


Depression: “We had such high hopes for you.”

  • When faced with their disappointment, remind them that you have your own hopes and dreams, albeit unconventional ones.
  • Reiterate that you love and appreciate them despite not seeing eye-to-eye on these matters
  • Stress that while their approval is important to you, it would be a necessary sacrifice if weighed against the life abroad that you have created

Acceptance: “Ok, make your own choices. We trust your judgment.”

  • At this stage thank them for their council throughout your decision-making process.

Although I’m certain that we collectively do not want Donald Trump to rise to the presidency, it would at least make a non-issue of the Should I stay or Should I go debate. Please feel free to share your own experiences breaking the news to your parents in the comment section!

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Courage on the corner: a window into the life of a Senegalese migrant and Baye Fall culture

Barrio Lavapiés can be personified by its many smells: the Indian curries and scents escaping from the ethnic restaurants and the grit of the infrequently cleaned streets. Least subtle of all is the lingering scent of weed and hash smoked by entrepreneurial gentlemen on the corner, who actively solicit the business of passersby. People of all ages congregate and botellón when the weather allows it. There is a strong sense of community here among the international and local residents. In recent years the neighborhood of Lavapiés has become trendy and has been slowly undergoing the inevitable gentrification process.


I was moved by a Vice documentary titled “Storming Spain’s Razor-Wire Fence” that depicts the odyssey undertaken by many African migrants in their attempts to enter mainland Spain via the border shared between Morocco & Ceuta y Melilla. The documentary provided a brutal window into their journeys but didn’t go into any detail as to how those who had succeeded would go on to assimilate. My curiosity was piqued as to potential stories that could be shared by my neighbors in Lavapies if they were granted an adequate platform to do so.

Baobab, an authentic Senegalese Restaurant in lavapiés by Naked Madrid

My close friend Kam “El Profesoul” accompanied me as my barrio ambassador; together we scoured the block, my notebook in hand as we searched for subjects to interview. As an active musician and long-term resident of the neighborhood, Kam has befriended many members of the African community. One such friend of Kam’s was responsive to my interview request and invited us to join him and his crew on the smoky stairs where they were strategically perched. Moha, a bearded African with dignified posture, kept his eyes hidden behind yellow plastic sunglasses. In the background was Zikr music from Senegal playing softly. Moha and his companions identify themselves as Baye Fallsa sub-group of the Mouride Brotherhood that is prominent in Senegal. The ensuing conversation took place in Spanish with my notes taken in English.

My interview with Moha

Naked Madrid Lavapiés interview

Where are you from? Do you feel at home here?

I am from Senegal and I am grateful to be a documented resident of Spain for five years. My family moved here before I did and I was fortunately granted permission to join them. Many of my friends were separated from their families during their journeys or after arriving here because without legal papers they cannot leave Spain. Every resource of value was taken from our Africa and we come here to have a better life. We’ve made this barrio our home. We bring our music, our food our culture and our love.

What do you want members of my community to know about yours?

Baye Fall culture is about respect, love and valor. We don’t steal. We love our neighbors. If we see one of our own misbehave, we confront them and put them on the right path. (During our conversation one of Moha’s peers catcalled a passerby and was swiftly berated by the group, exemplifying these principles.) We believe in nonviolence and love. We’re open to outsiders. See him? My white friend below, we’re teaching him Baye Fall. We don’t fight, when we do it’s not with the world but within ourselves. “Su lucha es suya misma”

What is a typical day like on the corner? What qualities have helped you survive here?

“Si no trapicheos, no comes” – If we don’t hustle, we can’t eat.

Many are obligated to stay in the game, whether or not it’s what we want. We meet a lot of people this way. On a typical day we can work the corners and do our parts in peace and there is no problem. Sometimes we are confronted by the police. I have seen many friends detained and disappeared for not having their legal documents. Without my documents I would not have the freedom and peace that I am blessed with now. To avoid police, it helps to change our clothes several times throughout the day. Without papers, one must find alternatives to contracted work. Many of us have mastered a trade or art form. We’re painters, drummers, singers, sculptors, woodworkers. We are many things. We gather on Sundays to teach our skills to each other and anyone else who seeks it.


The police interrogating my African neighbors in a previous Lavapies apartment

What can be done to improve the assimilation process in the future?

We must be reminded that we are all equal. That we can forget our differences. Opportunities that we create ourselves cannot be taken away from us. We must not fall weak and be foolish. We must be able to ask for help when we need it and then give it back.

What is your happiest memory in the barrio?

There is a yearly grand party of Baye Falls. The exact date depends on the lunar cycle; this past year it was in November. People come from all over to celebrate and dance in the streets. It is beautiful.

How do you feel that Lavapiés is now becoming a “trendy” neighborhood? Are you concerned that it will become gentrified and lose its charm and essence?

The Spanish youth that live in the barrio are not affecting it in a negative way. The students and artists are innovative and have many ideas that could work. They have clear hearts and have Baye Fall in them even if they don’t know it. Lavapiés is the heart of Madrid, let’s not forget that.

Playing music in Lavapiés

Please share any comments you may have, and stay tuned – Dan will be providing us with more special articles like this one over the coming months.

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Gluten free pastelerías in Madrid: Part 2 - La Oriental

La Oriental is a teeny tiny traditional pastelería that offers a whole array of gluten free goodies. Founded in 1950 and currently run by the fourth generation of bakers, here you’ll find locally inspired pasteles, elaborated using traditional Madrileño methods and the best local ingredients. This is the place to go to step into the world of traditional artisan pastries and try some local specialities. Luckily for gluten free foodies, it is central to the city and just a short stroll from the Argüelles metro stop!

When you step into the bakery you are immediately surrounded at all heights by stacks of galletas, trays of mini pasteles, counters brimming with all sorts of chocolates, beautifully decorated tartas, light pink meregues and boxes of assorted chocolate-dipped shortbreads.


Gluten free bakery madrid La Oriental by Naked Madrid

Gluten free bakery madrid

It is not hard to find the gluten free goodies as the shop is covered in ‘sin gluten’ symbols to help you find your way around.

You’ll find delicacies in every counter, including the tall fridge in front of the window, which is jam-packed with tartas, cheesecakes and birthday cakes (see the raspberry cheesecake above, yum!). There is also a counter with an entire selection of rocas, which are chocolates filled with caramelised nuts, in dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate… well, in every kind of chocolate that you could imagine.

Gluten free bakery madrid


Also sitting on nonchalantly on top of the counters, as if they have no idea of the effect they’ll have on you, are boxes of assorted biscuits, which are, indeed, gluten free too.

There are Viennese-style biscuits covered in jam and chopped nuts, star-shaped shortbreads, vanilla cookies topped in dark chocolate and sprinkles, and many more options. In addition to the boxes on the counters, there are also boxes behind the shop front, which the shop assistants will no sooner whisk out for you than you can say ‘sin gluten’.


As well as the shop’s excellent ‘gluten free’ signing, the best part of visiting the shop is being greeted by the shop’s incredibly smiley fourth generation owner, or one of her friendly assistants. As soon as you mention that you are ‘celiaca’ or ‘celiaco’, a whole range of extra delights will be whisked out from the back and you’ll wonder why you never came here before.

The pastel of choice on this visit was one of the ‘bandejas’ of mini pasteles, which I can say are without a doubt the most delicious little morsels I have tried in my natural gluten-free, and non-gluten free, life.

Gluten free bakery madrid

Gluten free bakery madrid

Each tray is slightly different, with six rows of beautifully presented mini pasteles, each little pastel like a mini work of art. You can tell that at La Oriental they take their baking seriously. In this particular ‘bandeja’, there were six types of mini pasteles: a custard-cream topped sponge; a light pastry sandwiched with chocolate cream; dark chocolate cups with vanilla custard filling and chocolate sprinkles; a profiterole-style pastry filled with dark chocolate cream; an orange cream square and, last but not least, dark chocolate cups filled with whipped cream and topped with a raspberry.

Gluten free bakery madrid

Gluten free bakery madrid

The mini selections of pastries like this bandeja are wrapped up in a sweet little La Oriental box with reflective gold lining and tied up with string, making them the perfect treat to buy for a friend, gluten free or not gluten-free, or maybe, let’s be honest, just for yourself.

Gluten free bakery madrid

In addition to this, the tartas in the tall fridge counter in front of the window can also be ordered for special occasions like birthdays, or just selected from the shop on the day (they all look delicious!).

Extra notes

There are also sugar-free and lactose free options. Just ask the owner.
Extra tip: some of the boxes of biscuits already have prices on, but the rest are priced according to weight, so make sure you check with the owner before you select your box.


Calle Ferraz, 47
Tel: 91 559 70 45

Word of the post

I hope that you liked this post on La Oriental. Today’s special word, in homage to the delicious nature of the post’s content, is:

natillas– a creamy custard, yum.


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