MADRID: the city of nightlife, the city of renowned Tapas, home of the Prado & of high culture. Madrid, you did not disappoint!
MADRID is where I spent my holidays, from Christmas Eve to several days after New Years 2016! I was blessed to have been hosted by an amazing FAMILIA ESPAÑOLA who did all the traditional things on both LA NOCHE BUENA (Christmas Eve) and NAVIDAD (Christmas Day). Delicious meal after delicious meal I shared amongst a large table of Spaniards, usually sipping on Great Wine. I had almost forgotten what it was like to be around a big family, lots of food and flowing alcohol (having missed Thanksgiving in the United States this year). . . Though at the table I was playing catch-up most of the time, as my colloquial Spain Spanish is a work in progress. They were kind enough to take breaks to explain certain jokes and stories to me, mostly when they didn’t hear me chime in with a laugh or saw me with a ????? look on my face. I was grateful they didn’t want me to feel left out, and also happy that every so often they’d say MÁS VINO? and then fill my cup.
Both La Noche Buena y Navidad were lovely. . . and fitting in a 2 hour video chat with my family early Christmas morning (Spain Time) which was Christmas Eve in Los Angeles was so amazing. I felt like I almost didn’t miss a beat, partaking in all that family fun via computer from my comfy bed in Madrid. I even slept in my Christmas dress and didn’t wash off my makeup for them. ha! I laughed and cried some; Family, Gotta Love them.
Madrid the dream, Madrid the Reality. . . I close my eyes and remember being a 20 year old little baby last I stepped foot in Madrid (& Europe for that matter). Yes a baby. Anything under the age of 25 I consider a baby. Fortunately for me, being 28 now, I am not a baby anymore, but more akin to a child; not so immature anymore that I could throw a fit on cue in a crowded room. . . but I carry this youthful childlike magic in me, not crushed or tainted by life’s sharp edges or hot stoves yet. Anyway, MARID, ESPAÑA. Toros. Catholics. Catholics? Hipsters. Man buns (or Moños in Spanish). Metrosexuals.
Here live the Happiest people you will meet, once a drink is in hand. Yes, Madrid is a social place. Cañas all around. Tapas a bounty.
My next few days in Madrid were TAPA-licious. TAPAS, you know those envious treats that the ESPAÑOLES/foodies live by, so diverse in form, flavor, inspiration, and of course, usually demonstrating Regional pride. The day after Navidad my surrogate family in Madrid invited me to celebrate a birthday with them at a New Tapas Bar. We Headed over to:
La Sala Manca
LA SALA MANCA en barrio Salamanca was a newly opened place but already I am certain a favorite among Madrileños. I could not believe my eyes when the TAPAS came to our table. Along with a bottle of VINO BLANCO (white Wine) we feasted on tapas of all kinds. The style of tapas was a mixture of classics and reinventions:
- JAMON IBÉRICO – España’s Star Tapa, Cured Ham (pictured above in the center) along with local Chorizos
- PALOMAS (first two pictures) with different fillings like Ensalada Ruso (a potato Salad), Guacamole (my Mexican people food! and FAVORITE), Ropa Vieja (a delicious seasoned shredded beef), cheeses, fish, etc.
- PAN TUMACA, toasted bread with tomato sauce and Spanish olive oil was another Yummy pick.
- Lastly, an “I don’t know what to call it” tapa. I know it had cheese, meat, and veggies like Arugula, light and fresh-tasting.
I am happy I didn’t have to make any decisions when ordering. I absolutely let the locals do the picking and I stuck to the eating **ahem AND DRINKING. SALUD!
EL LAMIAK near Antón Martín serves a style of tapas from País Vasco (a region in the NORTH OF SPAIN). This time, again I let a local do the ordering and I can tell you, he picked well. Paired with CAÑAS this time, what the Spanish call small beers, I was in FOODIE HEAVEN. **Bonus, the space was hip, decorated with Jazz Records on the walls and with original local artwork as well. My tastebuds were quite satisfied and I appreciated the vibe.
Las Cuevas de Sésamo
A lovely Madrid Sangria Night also happened downstairs at LAS CUEVAS DE SÉSAMO, like a Whole Sangria Jug split between just 2 people. . . and a BIG HEADACHE next day. Note to self, a little sangria goes a long way. But I liked this spot and this night. There was a pianist playing for a good while and the place was nearly full of Sangria fans. You’ll have to talk very loudly on a busy night though, over the piano music and over the loud voices of the tipsy locals/foreigners alike.
In desserts, well I searched for a handy list of Madrid’s best spots, but I only physically made it to one shop. Lucky for me it lived up to the hype. LA MALLORQUINA en barrio Puerta del Sol, has been around since 1894, so they must be doing something right. LA NAPOLITANA (de chocolate), yup they were doing this right! Although with heightened tourism in Madrid for the holidays it’s a tight squeeze inside, but I ordered and they attended fast. They are known for quality food at a good price. I think my POSTRE must have cost no more than 1.50 Euro. Inside there is a cafe upstairs, but we didn’t chance trying to get up there through the throngs of people. Instead I posed for this picture outside the shop and took my first bite into the flakey crust, through to the soft chocolate that delicately grazed my tongue. Delicioso/Delicious. I wanted a cafecito to accompany it though. So off we went in search of a cute café which we found in barrio Chueca. As we walked through the streets my dessert exposed to onlookers (just barely wrapped with a tiny napkin that covered less than a third) several locals felt compelled to tell me to enjoy my Napolitana. “PROVECHO” they said, meaning ENJOY IT! I think they saw me as a little strange wandering the streets with my once bitten postre. No worries though, I carefully carried my prize until we settled in the cafe and indulged.
Madrid is a city to explore on foot. Every chance I got, I was walking around, bundled but with no destination in mind. I had plenty of time. Yes, time was on my side and the weather too!
If you want to hit all the “must see spots” by all means, do a google search and make your plan of attack. If you want to truly experience Madrid then WANDER around, eat lots of Tapas, have some Vino or Cañas. . . but most importantly, be open for what is meant for you. I walked the Parque del Buen Retiro at nighttime with a Madrid Local, which had a completely different feel to it at night, gorgeous and peaceful with the statues and structures lit up. We ended our walk on the side of the park that opens to the Puerta de Alcalá, famous for being one of the 5 original entrances to Madrid city, built in 1778. I took a cheeky picture here because it was lit with Christmas lights. So many Christmas lights in Madrid, you’d think they invented them. They love the lights. I enjoyed the neighborhoods of SOL, CHUECA, MALASAÑA, TRIBUNAL, GRAN VÍA by day and by night. I successfully touristed in Madrid, España and you will too.
Want to know about Sunny Málaga (you can read about NOW)!?! SALUD! START YOUR EXPLORATION OF MADRID!!