Cheryl shops...Spain
So I am back and in one piece after a bit of a skirmish at the Madrid airport (long story short, I was stuck in Madrid; moral of the story: never, ever fly Iberia Airlines). But even while I was sobbing and marooned in a Madrid airport hotel (what's up, Melia Avenida America?), I managed to shop. After all, what else is a girl to do? (Actually, I had to buy underwear because I had run out and god knew how long I was going to be stuck there. But whatever.)

Backing up a bit, our trip started out on a much better foot. We stayed at the Hilton Barcelona, which, lucky for me, was located right smack in the middle of an upscale shopping district. To the left was El Corte Ingles, a gargantuan department store that, MW and I decided, is like Macy's meets Wal-Mart--from the ground floor up, it's like a regular ol' department store, with brand boutiques, a lavish fragrance/cosmetics department, electronics, etc. On the lower level (-1 in Europe, generally), there's usually a supermercado (a supermarket) or, as we encountered in Madrid, a Hipercor, which was literally a Wal-Mart like store with everything from bottled water to patio furniture. Not to mention, most stores have everything from a florist to a pharmacist to a locksmith. Talk about one-stop shopping! To the right of our hotel was L'illa, a huge shopping mall-slash-office building--with a three-level mall (including supermercado, of course). It was at L'illa that we became acquainted with most of Spain's chain stores, the best-known of which is Zara. In Spain, Zara is more omnipresent than the Gap, and the stores are much bigger and (in my opinion) had better stuff. MW and I both dropped several chunks of change there. I'd say the second-most popular chain is Mango, which, rumor has it, is coming to the U.S. (they've already opened several stores in Canada). I bought five tops there for $70--one nice thing about Spain was that everywhere you went, there was a sale (or "rebajas")--none of this clear-out-the-spring-merchandise-in-june-to-make-way-for-fall stuff. There's also Pull & Bear (yes, that's what it's called, amusingly enough), which MW and I decided is like the American Eagle of Spain, and Massimo Dutti, which reminded me of Polo Ralph Lauren (and is Spanish, not Italian). Also popular were the familiar Custo Barcelona, Camper (both of which are Spanish), Miss Sixty, and Diesel (both of which are Italian)--and none of which were more affordable in Spain. Ah, well. I was on vacation. Another good shopping area was the Passeig de Gracia, a Fifth Avenue-like boulevard that stretches from the Barri Gothic (Gothic Quarter) to the Exiample, a businessy district. Along this lovely street, we found everything from El Corte Ingles to the chain stores to Chanel.

In Pamplona and San Sebastian, it was pretty much chain stores, although San Sebastian had some pretty posh little boutiques to cater to all the well-heeled French tourists. It was in San Sebastian that I discovered In Faradis, kind of a Sephora-meets-Ricky's store, where I scored some illegal Elnett hairspray. San Sebastian also has a nice selection of pastry shops, I might add.

In Bilbao, our highly recommended hotel, the Sheraton Bilbao (I'm a Starwood Preferred Plus member, but I might as well have been a princess, the way they treated us), was conveniently located across the street from...a mall! (I swear, I must have some sort of subliminal mall radar.) This one was called Zubiarte and was much less crowded (although a bit smaller) than L'illa. It was here that I finally found a military-influenced jacket that fit (at Zara)--yes, the sizes definitely run much smaller here. Bilbao also has a nice shopping area with an El Corte Ingles and many upscale boutiques, along the Gran Via. It should be noted, however, that pretty much all stores in Spain are closed on Sundays, so while we had time to hit the mall on Saturday (it was open till 11 p.m.--wahoo!), everything else was closed on Sunday. Sadly, shoppers in Spain need a day of rest.

Trend-wise, much of what's popular here is popular in Spain. I saw no cowboy boots, thankfully, but tiered peasant skirts were everywhere (although I did see a lot of girls in minis too), as were the colored rubber bracelets--Lance Armstrong's yellow Livestrong bracelet was the most popular, of course, but I saw all colors out and about. And, of course, the boho look is all the rage. Spanish women aren't as stylish as, say, French women, but they're all thin and they all look like Penelope Cruz, so they have that going for them, which is nice. Refreshingly, the Spanish don't seem to be so gaga over designer bags--I saw a few Louis Vuittons and a Chanel or two, but that was it--no one gave me dirty looks over my Balenciaga knockoff. My only "not so much" moments came when I was looking at jewelry--everything in Spain seemed to be of the "bigger is better" mentality and, well, much of it reminded me of what my mom wore in the '80s. Yeah, not so much.

So, I am back, hundreds of Euros poorer and with a cold, but ready to jump back into the NYC shopping scene. Expect the Week in Shopping tomorrow and other Cheryl Shops regulars to follow.

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