It’s very difficult for me to write a short post (or even two) about Madrid.
I lived there for ten years and I consider myself to be a “cat” (that’s how they call people from Madrid, “gato”. Of course I am not, since in order to be called gato, you have to be 3rd generation madrileño.). My formative years were spent there and I just love the place, as anyone who knows me could tell you. I never shut up about it. 🙂
We were in Madrid for 5 days, and I loved every second of it; I dragged poor Sergeant Lunch here and there and I was somehow able to avoid using the Metro for the entire trip (in Madrid even the Metro is bonito, have I ever told you? :D)
Sorry in advance for not having too many pictures, but maybe I can offer you some tips as a adoptive Madrileña.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Calle Fuencarral, (here), which is very nice if you don’t mind some noise (it’s a pedestrian area and Spanish people stay out until late, bear that in mind). Now the good thing about staying there (apart from feeling weird because that building used to be a weird sort of market, a staple of the neighbourhood, now converted into a Decathlon) is that you are bang in the centre. From there you can walk anywhere, which we did.
On day one we stayed in the centre, just strolling around Calle Mayor, Plazuela de Santiago, Plaza Conde de Barajas and Plaza de Santa Ana, eating and drinking our way through the day, which is the Spanish way of enjoying life. All but Plaza de Santa Ana, which is a fairly big square, are lovely little corners of the city centre where you won’t find many tourists. Particularly the Plazuela de Santiago, at the end of the pedestrian Calle de Santiago, a little street just in front of the area where you can find the famous Mercado de San Miguel, is one of my favourite, quiet spots for a beer. If you want to visit a very Spanish bar, you have to go to Mesón Viña. It’s in a little street very close to Plaza de Callao (so again, bang in the city centre). On this little street you will find at least 4 bars, all of the “casposo” style (you could call them “old men’s bars”, if you wish). They look rotten, but people serving you are (usually) very nice, and food is (extremely) cheap and (again, usually) more than decent. With less than 20 eur we had plenty of cañas and 4 “raciones” to share between us. Sharing is essential in Spain, in every restaurant it will be considered normal to order food “para compartir” (to share). The lovely bartender gave us, besides our food, tapas with each caña we ordered. So much so that I had to refuse them twice (to Lunch’s bewilderment). We even got a slap on the shoulder each when they brought us a lomo sandwich. Which, anywhere in the world, is clearly a sign of “I like these two, they are enjoying their stay”. The food is of course nothing out of the ordinary, but it’s nice, and Spanish, and typical. Bread, potatoes, eggs, you will always find comfort in dishes containing these ingredients. That night, in order to digest the food, we went for a stroll to the Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple gifted to Spain by Egypt. There is a nice view over the massive park of Casa de Campo, and on a warm spring night, it’s nice to sit out there listening to some dude playing versions of random songs. We then proceeded to go to José Alfredo, a cocktail bar near Plaza de la Luna. It’s so small you could miss it (Sgt. Lunch actually missed it when he was in Madrid the first time, without me, his experienced and gorgeous guide 😉 ). We made friends with the Italian barista, who prepared for us the most amazing cocktails we’ve had in a long time. One was a “special” Margarita with blue Curaçao and chilli, the other one, the one that really blew our minds, was a sweet whiskey and Laphroaig with lime and habanero oil… Just amazing!
To finish our night on a good note we went to Moloko, one of the few remaining “garitos” (“bar de copas”, we could call them just clubs), that survived the purge in Malasaña, the indie/alternative neighbourhood. Of course, around 2.30 Sergeant Lunch had to drag me home. I was unhappy at that moment, very happy the day after. Well, after I recovered from the hungover, that is.
Sunday was actually a very quiet day, since I wanted to see a friend of mine. We still walked a lot though, making our way all the way to the Canal area and Cuatro Caminos. It’s not a place you want to go to on a short trip, but it’s where my friend lives, and you can still find some good restaurants and bars. There is a nice residential area in between, where we stopped on our way back. In the Chamberí neighbourhood you can find the Anden Cero, a former Metro station now a Museum. Unfortunately, it was temporarily closed when we got there so we ended up going for beers instead at Plaza de Olavide. It is a very nice and closed to traffic square with playgrounds in the middle, where Spanish parents let their kids roam free while they drink and chat away. I prefer this lively square to thechaos of La Latina, where we went for one before going for dinner. La Latina is a “hip”, “young” area (it’s never good when you see too many quotation marks around adjectives), but it’s also full of vultures fighting to steal your seat outside a bar and tables too close to cars to be able to enjoy being in the sun at 26 degrees. We stayed for one in Plaza de Olavide and we stayed for one in a bar in La Latina. Sergeant Lunch, the official visitor, said he would go back to the first one and never to the second one. But if you are “hip”, and “young”, then you will enjoy La Latina for sure 🙂
Our lovely Sunday finished with a lovely burger. It was one of the two concessions we made to non-Spanish food during our visit. Mad Café is a place I miss a lot, with its short menu, nice beers and nice dessert. We had nachos, burgers and a crumble that made me very happy, and very sleepy.
Next week, day 3 and 4, or “the day of the big long walk” and “the day of the concert”.