Sorry home sweet NYC, but whoever named you as the city that never sleeps…they haven’t been to Madrid.
I’ve been living here for about 2 months now. Now, let’s do a quick refresher. I’m a girl from NYC, with this strange, inexplicable love for Spain. You might remember my other article about how my experience in the tiny Extremeño village of Fregenal de La Sierra changed my perspective of the world forever. Well, fast forward 5 months: Since then, I returned back to big ol’ NYC, got dirty sewer water splashed on me from a countless number of yellow taxis, paid for one too many $8.00 beers, ate some really questionable ethnic food that can only be found in underground NYC, and had a damn ball doing it all.
And now I’m back in my other home. Cariño España, with a new year-long adventure ahead of me: Madrid.
For the past two months, I’ve really been observing my new environment, while holding back writing tooooo too much. I wanted my new surroundings to really set in. I wanted to absorb and really internalize my observations of the way of life, people, culture, food, boys…
Because let’s be honest. I’ve realized it’s a huge part of everyday life here. I’ll be dammed, these people have some serious marcha! (Or as we say in English, “stamina.” But doesn’t have the same ring to it…)
Which leads me to debate the one thing that has repeatedly stood out in my mind over the past couple of months:
How the HELL do these people function without sleep? And why in the world is Madrid not known as “The City that Never Sleeps.”
So, let’s have a healthy debate, shall we? I certainly have my own opinion, but I’m going to let you guys decide based on the facts.
NYC Vs. Madrid: Which is Actually the City that Never Sleeps?
Let’s start off with the most obvious one. Bars and clubs in NYC stop serving alcohol at 4 am. It’s the law. Which means 98% of them close. Which means…? Yep, you guessed it! Bed time (or late night munchie time, then bed time…) for all drunkies everywhere. The average NYC “party animal” is cozy in beddy-bye, wrapped up like a bug in a rug (and very passed out) by 4:30 am. And it’s considered a late, wild night when you stay until 4 am closing time! Unless you are one of the very few brave souls, who decide to make it to an “after hours” club, which stays open through 7 am…but those are the extremes. And you extreme people…we applaud you.
Now, Madrid. Discotecas don’t close until 7, 8 in the morning. In fact, between 4 and 5 in the morning is the time things get poppin! It’s the “climax” of the night, if you will. The hips are shakin’, drinks are flowin’, Enrique Iglesias is beltin’, and the crazy kids…well they’re trying to sing along. The energy is viral, and the thought of a “cama” is just about as relevant as flying pigs.
Madrid= 1 point , NYC= 0
Going for “a night out” in NYC? Lezzdoit! This can mean a range of things: From a few casual after-dinner drinks with friends, to a full-fledge “rager” at the wildest club. Whether you’re hittin’ the hay at 11 PM or 5 am, it’s all a “a night out.”
Now, let’s talk about Madrid. A wise man by the name of Ernest Hemingway once said; “To go to bed at night in Madrid marks you as a little queer. For a long time your friends will be a little uncomfortable about it. Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the cafe.” -The Man, a.ka Ernest Hemingway
Fast forward to 2015. This is exactly what went down on my first weekend in Madrid. I guess there’s a reason Hemingway was a genius, right? It was 2 in the morning on a Friday, and we hadn’t yet made our way to the discoteca yet….And I was tired. (Gasp!!) So, I told some of my Spanish friends, “Listen guys, I’m exhausted. I’m heading home.” Suddenly, everyone started yelling at me, as if I had just bad-mouthed their Grandma’s tortilla. “Joderrrr, tia, que coño dices, no vas a salir???!!!??” Translation: “What the flying f**, dude, what are you saying, you’re not going to go out?!” UM, excuse me, dear supportive friends…but I’m out with a Gin & Tonic in hand and it’s 3 in the morning…aren’t I already out?
Lesson learned: This isn’t NYC where the “acceptable” bed time is anywhere between 1 am and 5 am. Next time, I’ll BYOS. Yes, that’s Bring Your Own Sun.
Madrid = 1 , NYC=0
This one’s pretty simple. Madrid metros close at 2 am. NYC subways run all night.
Just a thought…maybe it’s because Madrileños aren’t going home until the sun rises? Either way, sorry Madrid, but I gotta give this one to my home sweet NYC.
Madrid= 0, NYC=1
In NYC, there’s a really popular thing with all the old folks, called “The Early Bird Special.” This is a dinner special between 4:30 and 5 pm, that gives great discount deals on food and drinks. It’s typically an “old person” thing. Why? Because let’s be honest. What person under the age of 70 wants to eat dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon? Unless, it’s a pre-dinner. LOL. Anyway, the old folks finish up their Early Bird Special by 6 pm, and are off to retire into their pajamas for the night.
Now, let’s talk about the “old people” in Madrid. I can’t even tell you how many old dudes with canes I’ve seen out at tapas bars past 11 pm. Whether it’s families accompanied by Granny and Gramps, or a 75-year-old couple sat out on a terraza drinking a caña of beer at half to midnight; the “viejos” of Madrid wouldn’t be caught dead eating dinner at 5 in the afternoon.
Madrid= 1, NYC=0
Ok, there is this magical thing in NYC (and all over the USA) that I have to tell you guys about. It’s called “a diner” (no, not dinner!) and it’s a full 5+ page menu of anything in the world you could want, AROUND THE CLOCK. Yes. A 24-hour sit-down restaurant catering to any and every craving you could conjure up. And sometimes, the quality of the food is even pretty good! It’s super American, super NYC, and super amazing. Craving Greek food? Done. Craving pancakes and bacon? With an ice cream sunday? Comin’ up. Italian food? Check. Mexican nachos? Of course. A diner is NYC’s late night meeting spot after everyone is kicked out of their respectable party-places at 4 am. Now, let’s not forget about the millions of late night food trucks stationed around the city, 24-hour delicatessens, and NY Pizza shops opened around the clock. Ohhhh NY Pizza, how I dream of you…
(Side note: If NYC is in your near future go HERE to find my fave pizza spots around the city! PIZZAPIZZAPIZZA)
Now. In Madrid, the late night munchie scene is growing more and more. I was told that 10 years ago, you couldn’t find anything open to satisfy late night hunger. However, jump to 2015, and you can find some things. But you gotta search, and if you’re not in the center of the city, you’re outta’ hungry luck. And if you’re craving something more complex than mediocre pizza, McDonald’s, or of course…Taco Away, you’re gonna have to go home and cook it yourself. But hey, when late night hunger calls, it’s all “the best pizza you’ve ever had.”
This one’s a landslide.
In NYC, when bars and restaurants are full, they are packed like a can of sardines. And when they are not…well, they are not. It’s totally conditional; What time of day is it? What day is it? If it’s 2:30 on a Monday afternoon, chances are your fave hot spot will be as dead as a floatin’ fish. Now, this doesn’t mean people are taking a “siesta.” LOL. That word definitely does not exist in NYC. But it means they are working their little buns off, without any time to even think about playing.
If you walk down the streets of Madrid at any given hour of the day, you will always find bars and restaurants full of people. Whether they are drinking a caña on the terrace, a coffee with a friend, or tapas “para picar;” Rain or shine, Monday or Sunday, there are always people out. Sunday night at 2 am? Just head over to La Latina. Thursday afternoon with 90% chance of rain? Well, it might as well be a sunny Saturday afternoon in July.
Madrid=1 , NYC=0
As I briefly mentioned before, Madrileños have some serious marcha. And what’s more than that? They’ve got heart; heart without a clock. In NYC, you might find two friends catching up over a cocktail. However, there’s always “somewhere they’ve got to be” after their allotted time slot has expired. Whether it’s home to their significant other, work they need to get done, wash that needs to be cleaned, a bed that needs to be filled…
But not with Madrileños. They’ve got heart to keep on going, and keep on having a good time, with or without the alcohol. Because Madrid is smack dab in the center of Spain, there are Spanish people from all ends of the country, tied together in one central city. The result? If you ask me, the heart of the culture is heightened even more. From Catalonia to Andalucia, to Galicia and Basque Country; the people might have their regional differences, but they all share one cultural aspect in common: The love for life.
It’s a similar lesson to what I learned in my tiny little Extremeño pueblo. It’s not as much the alcohol aspect, but they just love being out and sharing their time with not only friends, but the world beyond their flat. Whether it’s casually drinking a “caña,” grazing on some tapas, drinking a coffee, lingering over some morning churros and chocolate, or spending hours on end at Retiro Park. There’s nowhere to be, no bed to return home to, no clock that’s ticking; just you and your friends. Life is for enjoying, and the world is for exploring! Not sleeping in a bed.
Madrid= 1, NYC= 0.