El Corte Ingles

England has Harrods, Liberty's, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, the House of Fraser, John Lewis, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, and British Home Stores.

So what does Spain have? El Corte Inglés! Literally translated, 'The English Cut', because originally the shop started off as a small tailors in central Madrid (in the street that links Sol and Gran Via). So it was the famous English tailoring that inspired the name, and nothing to do with our numerous department stores. The tailors opened in 1890, but it really began to flourish from 1934, when it was bought out and expanded by ambitious young Asturians who were inspired by the department stores they'd worked for in Cuba. These days El Corte Inglés can be found all over Spain, recognisable for their Brutalist (or maybe just ugly) architecture that makes no effort to fit in with its surroundings. But like it or not, they're a part of modern Spanish culture, and are pretty hard to avoid shopping in - some items are surprisingly cheaper than elsewhere, and generally, because they're huge, they have a wide variety to choose from.

Above is a sketch of the closest El Corte Inglés to me, just down the road in Goya (in fact, this is only one half of it, there's another similarly giant building on the other side of the street). Although generally department stores make me claustrophobic/frustrated/homicidal - I do find myself going here for several reasons:

1. as the name implies, it does have certain English items I can't find easily elsewhere, most importantly good quality cheddar cheese

2. a very well stocked bookshop (including an English section, although I mostly like to look at all the Spanish graphic novels)

3. emergency art supplies for when the better art shops are on their ridiculously long lunchbreak (nearly all the small shops here close between 2 and 5pm, which I find really irritating given that that's usually the time I want to go shopping)