What to see and where to eat in Madrid

I’ve just come back home after a week spent in Madrid, and I’d like to share with you my highlights of the trip; hopefully you’ll get some good insights about what to see and where to eat in Madrid.

madrid, what to see and where to eat in madrid

Team meetup

Since Automattic is a distributed company and we all work remotely, once or twice per year (considering also the Grand Meetup) we meet up and spend some quality time together. My team (that’s made of Happiness Engineers) decided to have our meet up together with a team of developers who work very close with us on a number of products. We all voted to figure out where our meet up would take place, and Madrid was the winner.

What we shipped in Madrid

Having a meet up is not like going on a holiday. Of course we had some activities planned to explore the city, have some fun and build up our team spirit (remember, we see each other a few times per year but we virtually work elbow by elbow on a daily basis), but we also worked on particular projects that could use some ‘human’ contact and attention to be pushed. In a nutshell, we took advantage of the fact that we were all gathered together to sit down and tackle sensitive areas of our work.

I love working remotely, and that is for sure one of the great perks that Automattic offers to its folks, however I quite enjoyed to spend time talking face to face with my colleagues, and brainstorming many aspects of our daily job that you don’t have time to discuss when chatting on Slack or Zoom.

We managed to ship a demo site for Sensei, a plugin that creates courses and lessons, and to start reordering and amend other plugin documentation that needed some love. We also spent time to talk about new stuff that we are exciting to develop and launch very soon.

The flat where we coworked

All of us (me included) had a hotel room where to crush at the end of the (long) days, a part from two colleagues who stayed in the apartment that we rented to cowork. The flat was literally 3 minutes away from our hotel, in the very heart of Madrid. We had really serious conversations in there, especially at lunch time.

Have to say the place we rented was pretty bizarre and eccentric. I felt like I was in one of Zafon’s book, and I liked it!

Madrid – the city

Madrid is a gorgeous city. It’s warm, lively and elegant. The architecture is very peculiar and elegant; old and modern fuse together in a beautiful, elegant blend. Did I say the city looks elegant?

I managed to visit the most important areas of the city, either by bike and by walk. I also went to the Prado museum, where, among the great statues and paintings exposed, I could admire a series of breath-taking Raffaello Sanzio’s paintings I haven’t seen yet. I’m a Raffaello fan, so I couldn’t miss them.

Mention of honour to the Metro Museum I discovered thanks to my colleague Richard, who’s very passionate about all things metro. It’s a 1950 closed metro station that’s been turned into a tiny museum. It was like jumping back to the past and feeling how the metro looked like a while ago. Even if the station is closed, trains pass by anyway and that creates a weird effect. It was funny and interesting at the same time – and the museum has a free entrance!

The activities

We planned some outdoor activities to do together, as well as some free time to let people choose what to see in Madrid.

We had a three hours bike ride across the city which was a lot of fun! Visiting a city on a bike is definitely the most efficient way to see a lot of stuff. Our tour guide brought us also on the highest tower in Madrid (El Faro de Moncloa) from which we had a beautiful overview of the city. It was amazing.

Bike ride tour Fitbit track.png

Here’s what my Fitbit tracked (+13km). The missing lines are because I forgot to un-pause the tracker after a stop.

Of course I felt off the bike twice, but didn’t crush on the ground (thanks, core muscles!)
The first time I felt I was taking a video whilst cycling, so I didn’t save it because this way there’s no proof that I’ve been an idiot!

We also went for a winery tour in the countryside. We visited three wineries and the summer royal residence (only from the outside), had a lot of wine and learnt more about the winery tradition in Spain. It turns out Spanish wines are very tasty and strong. I didn’t get drunk because I was wise enough to bring some food with me and eat a good amount of water between the tasting sessions.

One of the activities I didn’t particularly enjoy was the Flamenco evening. Don’t make me wrong, the Flamenco show we watched was very passionate and impressive (here are two snaps taken from my Instagram stories: Video #1, Video #2), however it lasted only one hour and then we were kindly accompanied out. They also provided a meal (as a dinner) that left me quite hungry. I’d say the value for money wasn’t very convenient, but we couldn’t know that – the reviews were quite good so probably that’s me being too fussy.

The food

Madrid is a foody city. Wherever you turn, there’s a place where you can have a bite. We had a number of very good meals, although we had some troubles to find restaurants that worked out also for our colleague Rachel who’s vegan. Spain is a country that’s heavily meat-oriented, if I you pass me the word :)

This is my top 3 places where to eat in Madrid:

– Restaurante Taj, an Indian place where my Tandoori lamb was one of the best I’ve ever had in my life!

Al Natural, vegetarian and vegan restaurant

La Botega de los Secretos, a bit pricy but the steak I had was gold.

I had mainly no issues with my food allergies, thanks to my colleagues who looked after me ❤️
Macro-wise, I managed to keep track of my nutrients intake, and I indulged only when we had pizza one night (but I compensated having low-carb meals the day after), and of course I indulged a lot with wine :P

What particularly kept me on track was the early breakfasts, where I had scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt with assorted fruits, baked beans and/or turkey ham, and occasionally a couple of wholemeal slices of bread with honey. That kept me full and fuelled my working mornings, while at lunch and dinner I could have some bread, veggies and proteins (steak or tofu) without binge eating. Of course my appetite was huge as usual, but I walked a lot this week and that explains it all!

Fitbits steps over the last 30 days – Madrid is the last 7 days from the left

Overall, my meet up in Madrid has been wonderful. Our very own Donncha managed also to take some nice photo of myself, which is unusual for me! He’s so talented :)

Hope I didn’t miss anything important about what to see and where to eat in Madrid, but if you have anything to add to my list, please leave a comment below!

Happy Father’s Birthday – a photo tribute to my dad

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Happy Father's Birthday, dad photography, rome, castel sant'angelo

I want to wish happy father’s birthday today to my dad. Not only he’s a great runner and passionate about astronomy, but he’s also an awesome photographer.

This is a pic he took when we were together in Rome at Christmas. He hasn’t retouched it, so I’m publishing it the way he took it. Isn’t it an amazing pic?

Rome was as beautiful as always, but my father managed to get the best out of it with this photo picturing Castel Sant’Angelo at sunset.

Well, what was I saying? Happy Father’s Birthday*, daddy!

Taken at Castel Sant’Angelo, Roma

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*I rarely call my parents ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’, but instead I call them ‘mother’ and ‘father’. They’re not quite happy about it, but to me it’s the highest sign of respect I can show to them, so they still live with it :)

****

Oggi voglio fare gli auguri a mio padre per il suo compleanno in maniera particolare. Non solo mio padre è un ottimo runner e un appassionato di astronomia, ma è anche un bravissimo fotografo. Se lo chiedete e a lui, vi dirà che è scarso in tutte le cose che ho elencato qui sopra, ma credetemi, lui è solo estremamente umile (e non si rende conto delle piste che dà ai giovani correndo, tra l’altro) .

Questa è una fotografia che ha scattato quando eravamo tutti insieme a Roma per Natale. La foto non è ritoccata, è esattamente come l’ha scattata, nuda e cruda. Bellissima, eh?

Roma era fantastica come sempre, per cui non è stato difficile per l’occhio (e la mano) di mio padre trovare l’angolo giusto e scattare questa straordinaria immagine di Castel Sant’Angelo al tramonto.

E insomma, cosa stavo dicendo? Tanti auguri e a cento di questi giorni, padre!

Scattata a Castel Sant’Angelo, Roma

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*Raramente mi capita di chiamare i miei genitori ‘mamma’ o ‘babbo’. Non mi piace, e preferisco chiamarli ‘madre’ e ‘padre’. Dopo tutti questi anni, ancora a loro non va giù, ma io continuo per la mia strada, perché questo modo di chiamarli per me mostra il massimo rispetto possibile :)

My Toronto and Canada trip takeaways

Last September I’ve been in Canada for two weeks. It’s been such an exciting trip! I spent one week in Whistler, British Columbia, for the Automattic annual company meet up, and then one week in Toronto to visit the city and spend some quality time with some of my husband’s family members.

My toronto and canada trip

My Toronto photo gallery

Everyone has a different perception of a city when visiting it. I’d like to share the takeaways and my personal view of Toronto and Canada with you. My Toronto is a colourful, multicultural and vibrant city full of sport, live music and things to do. I’m pretty sure that reflects some of the many souls a metropolis like Toronto may have.

Below you will find the takeaways about my Toronto and Canada trip, but first here’s the Toronto and beyond photo gallery!

[spoiler alert: if you scroll down, there’s also a tiny photo gallery with Whistler’s pics. you can find the rest of them here]

And here are my Toronto’s takeaways:

  • People don’t lift their feet up from the ground when walking, but they trail them, creating a noise I hate big time. Looks like a trend in Toronto!
  • The food at the CN Tower restaurant is actually very good. As a tourist place, you would think of food being okay at max, instead it’s really good.
  • My Toronto is all about food. Perhaps it’s the Italian and Portuguese influence, but you can find a good place where to eat at every corner of the streets, and food is amazing almost everywhere.
  • We’ve got the drinking department covered as well. The local brewery makes an excellent beer, and near Niagara Falls we found a top-notch liquor distillery.
  • Discovering a new city with the family is the best. Franz has some relatives in Toronto, and I loved hanging out with them.
  • I’ve never heard so many languages being spoken at the same time, in the same place. Not even on a London Tube.
  • Lake Ontario is actually big. It’s like 1/3 of Italy! It’s so huge that indeed looks like a proper sea. You can smell the saltiness too!
  • Even if it’s a big metropolis, my Toronto is far from being an overwhelming city. If it wasn’t for the poor winters (under 20C it’s freaking freezing for me), I’d move there right away.
  • Niagara Falls are possibly the most amazing, exciting and breath-taking experience and thing in nature I will see in my whole life. When I was on the boat, staring at them from the bottom, I really felt I was losing my breath. These falls have been there, moving waters and making that noise, for nearly 12 thousands years. You feel reeeeeeeally small in front of them.
  • Whether you like arts or not, you must pay a visit to Toronto’s AGO – Art Gallery of Ontario.
  • Whether you like sports or not, you must visit the Air Canada Centre.

And now, more Canada pics!

Many pictures you can see in the photo galleries above are also in my Instagram account. If you don’t follow me there, you might have lost many funny moments I experience at Whistler and Toronto, since the Instagram stories last only 24 hours.

Top line is: follow me on Instagram!

The importance of the group photos at my Automattic annual meet up

The Automattic Grand Meetup has been a grand success for me. Being almost 498 Automatticians gathered in Whistler, BA, Canada, for one week has definitely paid off for me in terms of many aspects.

Automattic photo 2016 Whistler, group photos

I dare you to find myself in here. Photo by Donncha Ó Caoimh

The workshops and the classes we attended during the retreat are going to have a huge impact in my daily job. We’re there together to have fun, to better know each other, and to learn something new that maybe we don’t have time to expand or study during your daily routine workload.

Group photos = good energy to bring home

Mostly, what I’m going to keep and treasure from now till the next meetup with my colleagues are the group photos we took.
It might sound a bit silly, but I do see a great value in the group photos.
As we work remotely, we never (or rarely) see each other – and the weekly video chats don’t count much.
Being together and feeling the need to shoot group pics is a healthy feedback for the teams.

Whenever I feel alone, working in my daily routine, or in distress because there’s no one online and I need help with an issue, I can have a look at those pics and not feel the burden of this anymore.

One of the main takeaways of this meetup is the energy and the positive vibes I’m bringing home. The people I work with are even kinder and nicer than when i interact with them online. It looks like there are not horrible people working at Automattic! If you don’t believe me, check out this photo gallery I put together with all the group photos we took!

Where to eat, what to do in Corralejo Fuerteventura

I’m just back home from an epic holiday in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. I stayed in the lovely city of Corralejo for a week. Here are some top notch places you must visit if you stop by there.

corralejo, fuerteventura, canary islandsIf you’ve never been to Canary Islands, you must go. There’s the best climate in the world and I totally fell in love with Fuerteventura island, so wild and sunny. Between a sunbathing session and a round of beach tennis on the seashore, I wrote down some notes about this wonderful place. Hope they’re helpful to you if you are planning to go to Corralejo, the city in the very north of the island where I spent seven awesome days of writing and relax.

Bar – Pubs

drink, mojito, fuerteventura, corralejoIf you like all the things bakery, Mas Que Bakery is your dealer. Good internet, nice chicas staff and excellent food, from cakes to sandwiches. Good wifi.

Go to La Marea for a wide range of drinks (alcoholics and soft drinks) and comfy sofas overlooking the Ocean on Calle Maritima (a wonderful promenade on the sea you will never be tired to stroll on). The view is priceless. Wifi OK.

Sport addict? No problem. The Underground Sports Bar has several screens broadcasting football, rugby, cricket and many other sport events that are happening at that very moment. Basic selection of beers (most of them are lager) and only chips and nuts available as snacks. Good wifi.

El Chollo is one of the many bars in the so called Plaza de la Musica. Although we had a good mojito and a huge whiskey, they don’t have any wifi connection. You can’t even pay by card (cash only), so keep that in mind whilst having a sit there. Note for the internet/wifi: 99% of the businesses have free wifi, you just need to ask for their network’s password.

If you want to have a drink on the beach, make sure to have spent at least 15 Euros in drinks to pay by card. We chilled out at Corintia Bar in Playa Blanca and we had to pay cash. The view and the on-the-beach experience was brilliant but our cappuccino was just OK, maybe due to the high standards provided by Mas Que Bakery. Sorry Corintia’s guys. Poor wifi.

Food – Restaurants

paella, eating in corralejo, what to eat in fuerteventuraWe went to several restaurants, but these two are the best worth mentioning.

Meson Las Tejas: gosh, I can’t wait to come back to Corralejo and have another dinner at this restaurant. The paella was perfect. Excellent value for money (we ate A LOT) and – as a plus – the staff was very caring with me and my food allergies. We’ve been told after we had dinner there that the best paella in Corralejo is Meson Las Tejas’!

El Anzuelo:
situated right before Corralejo port, the place is quite nice and humble. The staff speak little English – we spoke little Spanish as well, yet we managed to communicate with no problems, plus the menu is available in at least 9 languages. The food is excellent. We had fish and meat and everything was awesome.

Things to do in Corralejo

beach, what to do in corralejo, fuerteventura, canary islandsIf you love water sports, Corralejo and Fuerteventura are your luna parks. Surf, windsurf, canoa, kite surf, snorkeling, you name it. Prices may vary but you can always get a good deal. If you’ve never tried anything like that, this is the right time to try. Do it.

There are good places to go also if you have kids. Not only kids can attend surf and windsurf classes, but there are also playgrounds for the little ones. The water is not so deep so it’s safe also for little kids (watch the tide though). A minigolf (5 Euros each player for 19 holes) is situated along the main street, while from April until October the Baku water park is open till late.

Don’t miss the dunes in Corralejo, they’re speechless. Really.

Animals

shark fuerteventura, marine fauna, corralejo, canary islandsCanary Islands are Spanish territory, but they geographically belong to Africa. Keep it in mind when stumbling upon 2 inches length beetles. No lions of predators, for the record, but you might meet a lizard at some point. The sea fauna is amazing. Whales, dolphins, tropical fishes and… little sharks! You’ve got the whole range there.

Forget mosquitos, there are none in Corralejo. As our landlord in Corralejo told us, the strong wind wipes them out. Beware of Phlebotomus, though, which are quite substantial. They’re tiny and cute but they sting and can trigger allergy reactions (it happened to my sister a couple of years ago in Italy, she’d been massively stung though).
Forget the fat, dark coloured pigeons as well. Pigeons are slim and light coloured in Fuerteventura! I also saw a lot of parrots flying here and there. That was quite weird for me, but very pleasant as you can imagine.

Miscellaneous

calima, calima fuerteventura, corralejo, canary islandsIf it’s windy, you may see that the view is not clear, like if it’s slightly foggy. People call it calima, it’s basically the desert sand lifted up and suspended in the air by the wind. It’s very cool to watch if from the plane.

Make sure to have some Euros with you whilst landing in Fuerteventura airport – or make sure to pay your stuff by card. The only ATM of the airport is a bit dodgy and sometime “eats” credit cards. It happened to me as soon as I arrived in the island and it wasn’t cool at all. Neither the bank (Bankia) who owns the ATM or the company in charge of the device’s security were able to open the thingy and give me the card back. Luckily I had a backup so my holiday hasn’t been ruined by that – but be careful with that ATM anyway.

Have you got any other good tips for enjoying Corralejo and Fuerteventura? Leave a comment below!