Last weekend I had the privilege to visit Madrid and visit my friend Ellery (we have known each other since we were in grade school), who has au paired there for the past two months. She was our guide to the city, a huge relief because she navigated and showed us many amazing neighborhoods and markets only locals know about.
Madrid is one of the liveliest cities I have ever visited, distinctly different from Barcelona. We enjoyed wine, music, dancing and so much amazing food. Our first night we ate hamburguesa in the trendy neighborhood of Malasaña paired with cheap beer and my favorite aspect of Madrid…TAPAS! Afterward, we had gin and tonic served with a free plate of popcorn chicken and sliders…at no cost! Too much food, too much happiness. Then, we tried the traditional churros with a cup of molten chocolate and café au lait at San Gines. Heaven.
The next morning we slept in (true to the Spanish lifestyle) and enjoyed a traditional late breakfast of egg, potato and onions with coffee and bread in a market where only Spanish was spoken. We wandered throughout the park El Retiro, enjoying our leisurely weekend. Within El Retiro is the Crystal Palace. I loved the structure and openness of the architecture. The building is absolutely beautiful.
Continuing into the city with no schedule, we sampled olives, sangria and JAMON, a Spanish delicacy which is simply ham, but trust me it is so much more. I wanted to try jamon so much that when we entered a covered market I saw a plate on a vendor’s stand and reached to sample it. To my embarrassment, this was not a sample plate but actually a customer’s meal! The woman and her friend smiled, but protectively said “Ours.” They would not share the magical jamon.
After our siesta snack we ventured to the Cathédrale de la Almudena whose stained glass and ceilings appeared unexpectedly modern. Unfortunately the neighboring Palacio Real de Madrid was closing soon, but we managed to get a few shots in front of it.
Heading back to Malasaña, Ellery led us to Lolina, a café that looks like it’s straight from the late 60s serving the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had. Killing some time before a flamenco show, we played dress up in the many thrift shops littered throughout the neighborhood.
Flamenco is a traditional Spanish dance and music originating from the mountains, used to tell stories. Aching vocals reverberated in our small café, and though I couldn’t understand the words, I felt the passion in my soul. The flamenco dancer moved with such grace and power giving me a new definition to the idea of femininity and what it means to be a woman. Her shoes made also as much noise as a tap dance, yet she kept each beat of her feet in perfect time with the drummer as the chords swelled with the swishes and swirls of her ruffled dress. I was completely mesmerized.
For our last day in Madrid, we wandered through the famous market of El Rasto. I have never seen more denim in my life. Then we filled our day with art in the golden triangle with the Reina Sofia and El Prado, a mixture of modern and classics like Goya, with a wine and empanada break between the two. Finishing with more Spanish cuisine and then a milkshake at a 50s themed diner, you can say our adventure was quite the success.