We had three full days, and one early morning to experience Madrid together. Before going to Portugal, I had a chance to walk my friend, Christy, around the city center. We touched based on main places like Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel, and Sol. But now it was time to pick and choose the more local/expat iconic things to do. Christy wanted us to do things I had not experience yet in this city; I wanted to bring her to places that as a local, I cannot get enough of. So here is my list of Madrid’s Can’t-Get-Enough-Of experiences:
- Baobab – eating in this hole-in-the-wall Senegalese restaurant is an experience I never regret, and crave way too often. This blog entry will give you more details on my favorite place to have dinner in Madrid! https://letsgosomewhereblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/tired-is-not-who-i-am-anymore/
- Matadero – I first visited this place for a Bicycle Film Festival a couple months ago, and I will recommend it to anyone who visits Madrid. It’s a creative center for modern art, located in an old slaughter house that will give you inspiration and wanderlust. Christy and I went to check out an exhibition titled SELFI by Mexican artist, Darya Von Berner. This piece highlights our generation’s self-interest, and visitors are the center of attention – as we often perceive ourselves. You have until July 31st to check it out! For more information, go to http://www.mataderomadrid.org/ficha/5104/(selfi).html
- Palacio de Cristal – located in Retiro Park, this is one of my favorite places in Madrid! It is absolutely beautiful, unique, and surrounded by nature. I always feel like my life is a fairy tale when I visit this place. It is free, and it usually has some art exhibit going on inside. This place reminds me how much I have come to love Madrid in just 8 months. Check out this blog entry for pictures and details https://letsgosomewhereblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/i-needed-poetry/
- J&J’s Books – I have to admit I have only been to this fantastic bar twice, but that’s only because there are SO many things to discover in this city. However, “I have to go back to J&J’s” is always in the back of my head as a weekly reminder to never neglect a chance to have a glass of wine here. It is an expat bar in Malasaña neighborhood (right by the Noviciado metro stop on the red line). The underground area is packed with old books in English, which you can purchase for 1 or 2€. Christy and I happened to be the only ones there when we went for a drink at 4:00pm, and we had a blast reading a short story book out loud.
- Wandering – we did a lot of wandering in the city. It is the best thing to get to know Madrid. We happened to walk around Gran Via at the right time, and got to see the Madrid procession for holy week (which was a great cultural experience we had not planned on at all!). We also enjoyed the beautiful view of the city from the Templo de Debod, and had a spontaneous delightful lunch in Chueca. Chueca is a neighborhood made famous by the gay community, where they hold a lot of pride festivals. As we wandered around in starving mode, we walked into a place called El 26 (which is really close to the Chueca metro stop on Calle Libertad 26). We ordered a giant chicken paella, and somehow got talked into a bottle of red wine by the waiter…It was exquisite, delicious, and coincidentally our last lunch together in Madrid! As we were spontaneously tipsy (or drunk…it’s a fine line) by 5:00 pm, we went home to take a nap before continuing our “last day together in Madrid” celebration! Which brings us to #6…My absolute favorite spot in this city…
- Amargo (Place to Be) – located in Calle Pez 2, this place is without a doubt, my favorite spot to meet up with my girlfriends for a bottle of wine, and live music. They have a free show on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The atmosphere is so in tune with all my emotional and artistic needs for a perfect evening in the city. Candle lit, wooden tables, and soulful singers performing big hits with a guitar or keyboard…This is the place to forget about the world, and live the moment. Their patatas bravas, and their hamburgers are a dream, so go ahead and try those while you’re at it. Show starts after 10:00 pm, and you must make a reservation! For more information, check out their website: https://amargoplacetobe.com/
Naturally, Christy and I ended our one week adventures at Amargo. We reserved a table with my roommate, and her two visiting friends. This kind of place is always more fun in groups! The singer covered songs such as Valerie by Amy Winehouse, Beat It by Michael Jackson, All of Me by John Legend, and my personal favorite, Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. Sing out loud without shame, this is Spain, and the performers will appreciate your enthusiasm.
The following morning was rough. We had a somber, dark train ride to the airport, and it was impossible to feel upbeat. We sat down at a café, where I ordered the very popular Spanish Tortilla, and Christy ordered Patatas Bravas. A tortilla is pretty much eggs and potatoes made in a nice “cake” shape. Patatas Bravas are fried potatoes with an amazing sauce that can sometimes be very hot, depending on who makes it! Spain turned out to be very gluten-free/lactose-free friendly, something that had concerned Christy because she is very allergic. “I can’t believe how well I ate here. I feel like I really got to experience the culture through food.”
When Christy returned to our table from the restroom, I was so startled – she caught me in a moment where I was trying to hold back the goodbye tears – that I jumped dramatically, making the man sitting near us very nervous. Most people look on edge at the airport these days. But we continue to travel, and live our great, adventurous lives despite our fears. “Let’s meet in another country next year,” Christy suggested. Yes, let’s. Let’s live a wild life where we meet in foreign lands, eat food we cannot find back home, and let the waiter talk us into things. Let’s, let’s, let’s.