Author Archives: Michelle

About Michelle

Originally from Boston, I've been living and working in Spain for close to 15 years. In August 2006 I decided to leave behind my life in Boston and take a chance over in sunny Spain with nothing more than determination, a sense of adventure and two big suitcases. 15 years later I like to think I'm pretty established: I have a Spanish husband, full time job that's 50/50 Spanish/English, two Spanglish kids, home (apartment) owner, and I apparently talk in Spanish sometimes in my sleep which is as good of a sign as any of cultural immersion. Currently I work as a Program Director in Executive Education at IESE Business School (where I also did my MBA back in 2010). Prior to that I've had experience in FMCG Brand Marketing and Customer/User Experience Research and Design. These days I keep quite busy as a full-time working mother to two young kids. Although I don't have as much free time as before, I still enjoying meeting new people and sharing experiences and enjoy reflecting upon the differences between life in the US and Spain. Customer Experience as well remains an interest of mine and shows up in a number of my posts. Hope you enjoy my blog!

“The fat one” – another year, another loss, with the “El Gordo” Christmas lottery in Spain

Every year on December 21st I have a feeling it could happen, that I might really win something. And every year on December 22nd I get really annoyed when once again I win absolutely nothing. Granted it is the lottery, but for some reason there’s always this feeling that it could really happen with “El Gordo”, the fat one.

There are almost 47 million people living in Spain, so technically, even though the lottery is only here in Spain, my chances aren’t that great. Maybe it’s the fact that the tickets cost €20 so you think you’re really making an investment or maybe it’s all the hype (popular places can have lines around the block to buy tickets if the place has been lucky in the past), but again, it’s the lottery, so really the chances are the same anywhere.

My “El Gordo”, the fat one, loser

What’s interesting about this lottery is it only happens once a year, and it’s a collective lottery. People usually buy it in groups – offices have a number, businesses have their own number, friends get a number together. So pretty much if you know anyone that is going in on one or have any offers from current or past companies it’s almost an obligation to get a “décimo” ticket. I mean imagine if you didn’t get one with your company and everyone else won the fat one and got 400,000€…also it’s a lottery that people start buying and collecting early on in the year (hence the hype).

In any case, again, not very likely for a win to happen. At least I have a full year ahead to buy just as unlikely general lottery tickets to get myself psyched for next year’s fat chance!

Tourism in Saudi Arabia – the new big thing?

Yes, I think so! (once Covid is a distant, bad memory).

I just read a recent article in CNN about all of the incredible changes that Saudi Arabia has undergone in the past couple of years since the new Crown Prince came into power. One of the main pictures in the article itself is interesting, with two attractive women chatting alone at a coffee shop, their long hair perfect and flowing (and showing). https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/saudi-arabia-fun-tourists/index.html

I don’t think this article would have struck me so much if I hadn’t visited Saudi Arabia a few times last year for work. I mentioned in an earlier post in which I asked if Saudi Arabia is the new Spain how you could see how the country was undergoing changes by the day – contacts there were telling me it was even hard to know what the rules were as things were changing by the day (actually this is the same way I feel right now with all the Covid restrictions…). When I first visited (September 11, 2019) I covered my head and was nervous to look at people in the eyes (see post here). By the third trip I felt more confident and comfortable, even visiting a large outdoor mall by myself in the evening without a head scarf (this was after talking with local contacts and assuring myself that this would be fine). Some trip pictures:

I remember having conversations with companies in 2018/2019 before traveling to KSA and listening to Saudi Arabians tell me about all the international tourism plans, infrastructures being built, etc, all part of their Strategy 2030. Inside I was thinking, “Really?!”

Now Saudi Arabia wants to be a top international tourist destination, but is this possible? I think there is still a long way to go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in ten years time it is. Just the pictures alone of the Red Sea resorts, snorkelling, amazing desert landscapes – it certainly has a lot to offer. First, however, the country will have to be very clear and open about its acceptance of all kinds of people and rights for women. They will have to make tourists feel welcome and willing to travel there. Second, they better fix their visa process! The last time I visited there was a new tourist visa upon arrival that had just began (not for me as I was traveling for business). Considering the extremely complicated (and expensive) process of applying for a business visa, I would hope the tourist visa will be much more agile and less expensive.

I would be willing to try it out for sure. Once travel resumes again (in general) and for work, if I have the opportunity to travel back there I would definitely take the opportunity to be a KSA tourist if possible, before travel exploitation begins.

Volava (Spanish Peloton) – big thumbs up!

I’m loving my new Volava bike! I never had or used a Peloton bike back in the US (they launched almost 7 years after I moved to Spain), but I thought this might be interesting to US expats here.

Before having kids I was obsessed with spinning classes; I couldn’t get enough. Then once my first kid was born I couldn’t get enough sleep…

I’m an avid runner and have always maintained that with my kids being born, and it’s also the easiest and less time-consuming exercise to do. However, I’ve still always missed the spinning classes but never returned just because of the time commitment.

We just purchased the Volava bike (a copy of Peloton). I’m obsessed! I’ve already done quite a few of the live classes, and there’s a huge library of recorded classes to choose from. For me the most important aspect is the instructor, and so far they’re all great. Great music, great exercise, and hardly any technical issues (just a little complication with the heart rate monitor). There are classes in English too, although to be honest I prefer listening in the instructor’s native language and haven’t tried out the English ones yet.

Photo courtesy of my 4 year old exercise buddy

Although I do still miss the actual live classes in person where you can look around you and see everyone else struggling (I mean having fun) as much as you, it’s awesome and convenient to be able to do it from home and still have a fun workout. Definitely recommend it if you’re into this – and this is coming from someone who’s an avid exerciser but a hater of gym machines like treadmills, ellipticals, etc.

Getting called out during a live class
My exercise buddy pretending he has a mini Volava

When a “puente” means a lot more than a bridge

This weekend we have a “puente”, literally translating to a bridge, but it’s much better than that. A “puente” is basically a long holiday weekend, some longer than others depending upon the holiday and the number of days. We always have the “puente of December” which includes Constitution Day on the 6th and the Day of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th. This year we have next Monday and Tuesday off since one of the holidays falls on a Sunday.

Due to Covid restrictions Madrid has a perimetral confinement in place from the 4th until the 14th, so we can’t leave the community of Madrid. However, since the restriction in my town was lifted on Monday I’m not complaining – we can finally cross the frontier to another town!

Happy holidays (weekend)!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow? Good thing the pre-packed turkey at Supercor reminded me.

With all the Covid craziness these days I’ve almost forgotten that Turkey day is tomorrow. Although I’ll admit that the endless amount of Black Friday offers coming my way these days are a hint (by the way offers all in Spanish and with no mention of nor relation to Thanksgiving). Given all the restrictions we have with meeting in groups of up to 6 and curfews, and actually not even being able to leave our town at the moment, we won’t be having much of a celebration this year.

In any case I was pleasantly surprised to see a large selection and display of ready-made stuffed turkey options at the Supercor supermarket today. Granted the idea of throwing a pre-made turkey in the microwave isn’t the same, but it’s something. Actually the brand that they have at Supercor is one from which you can order online and receive a fully-cooked Thanksgiving meal. I had it a few years ago at a friend’s place, and it was actually pretty good. But not cheap – almost 100€ for an 8/10 portion box

In case anyone’s interested it’s Cascajares – https://cascajares.eu/es/

Apparently they also have Black Friday…with Thanksgiving Turkeys.

Covid-19: heading into week 4 of our town’s confinement

This is what confinement looks like on a beautiful, late November day… not judging (I was there), but interesting to share. Once again, still very thankful for so much nature close by!

Local confinement + great weather = packed main park areas and terraces

When a sausage hanging on the wall is normal

It didn’t phase me today when I noticed a half-eaten sausage hanging from a nail on the wall in our kitchen terrace. Keeps it fresh right?

Yes… I think this may be a sign of “spanishization”

There he is, the hanging sausage
Right next to the water heater. Makes sense I guess. He’s not bothering anyone

Still in lockdown in Majadahonda, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I haven’t written a post recently since there hasn’t really been much to tell. Since a week and a half ago my town has been in perimetral lockdown, meaning that we can’t leave the town and no one can enter (unless for justifiable reasons like work or medical appointments). Supposedly these restrictions will continue until Nov. 22nd (just in time to hopefully buy a turkey for Thanksgiving).

To be honest, this isn’t something that’s really too much of a hassle, especially during the week since you usually just work and then are at home. And these days a lot of people are working from home anyway. In my case my office is fully open as it’s a campus and we have courses fully running (with strict security precautions), but my weeks are a mix of WFH/office. Where it’s more noticeable is on the weekends since we can’t go very far or to the Sierra for example. All I have to say is thank goodness we have a great mountain/forest area near where we live. So lucky to have our Monte de Pilar so close by! The best discoveries have been the amazing views (according to my kids) of the cercanías trains that pass by and this cool tree hut that my husband found on a bike ride one day. Hours of entertainment 🙂

On a positive note it seems like things may be working as cases in our town have gone down from 700+ /100,000 habitants to less than 500. Slow and steady wins the race? But on a more positive note there’s this news about the upcoming vaccine of course. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but since it’s already being hyped all over the news I will. I’m hoping that by late next spring/early summer we can really be starting to see big changes here. I’m already looking forward to going home to Boston and going to the beach (without masks). Ojalá (Let’s hope!)