SPAIN IS GOD’S COUNTRY. I’ve said this for years and will probably never stop. The people, the food, la marcha (the nightlife), the style. The underlying energy that’s constant but not frenetic, with a strong sense of identity that still welcomes extranjeros. My parents took my sister and me to visit as kids, then I returned in college to study in Madrid with my best friend Ianthe, and It. Was. EVERYTHING. It was the reason I wanted to move to NY after school — I fell in love with living in a big city and more so, I fell in love with Spain. While I’ve returned a few times over the years, this time I was going with Anthony. I wanted him to like it at least half as much as I do. The pressure was on.
We arrived Monday morning after flying overnight from the States. We checked into the Westin Palace (thanks again Eva!!), one of the city’s classic hotels, and immediately took a siesta. We hadn’t slept in what felt like 3 days, as we were coming off a wedding weekend in DC. Late afternoon we got up and started exploring. We were close to everything. We had coffee in Plaza Mayor then a few bites and wine at Mercado de San Miguel, a gorgeous glass building with a zillion different vendors selling tapas, drinks and postres. My friend Ricardo, whom I first met when I studied there, came to meet us and we were off. He was an amazing host and tour guide. For the next five days he took us out and showed us everything in Madrid, which was fantastic as I remembered almost nada and got to re-learn everything: the different neighborhoods (La Latina, Malasana and Chueca my favorites for walking around), the parks (there are so many), and the restaurants and bars. So many restaurants and bars. Tapas, vino, cerveza, churros y chocolate. I’ve never eaten so many boquerones, one of my all-time favorite foods for the past 20 years, and I also tried so many foods and drinks that were new to me — I’m told percebes, a shellfish only found in Spain, are an acquired taste, and I acquired it the first time I tried it. I’m dreaming of it now. Also tried kalimotxo, a mix of wine and coke that I didn’t like but Anthony enjoyed. A lot. Days and nights both meant getting lost on windy streets, stopping in plazas for tapas and wine or a beer or cafe, then walking a little more until we found our next thing para comer y beber. If we lived there we’d be 790 pounds. Each. We listened to jazz in Cafe Central, watched flamenco en Las Tablas and spent a night in the club at Joy Eslava. We spent a lot of time there in college and I can’t believe it’s still around, much less how popular it is. Anthony wanted to see the city’s legendary nightlife so Ricardo and I showed him. And he took a very large liking to it. We danced our faces off then, shared a bottle of Dewars (they were on a mission) and got home around 6am. The jetlag has actually worked in our favor this week as everything in Madrid is late, another reason I love it, and most nights we went to bed after 3am and didn’t get up before noon. The day after the club we rolled out of bed mid-afternoon. We also took walks in Retiro Park, the spanish equivalent of Central Park, and visited the building Ianthe and I called home for six months. A woman there told me the family with whom we lived moved a few years back to elsewhere in the city. I couldn’t believe how much the neighborhood reminds me of the upper east side. I didn’t appreciate it as a college kid and also didnt know New York back then. But the whole area was like Madison Avenue. At least I know I’m consistent. We also made the obligatory visit to the city’s big museums, El Prado and La Reina Sofia. We usually max out at about 90 minutes per museum, regardless of where in the world we are, but I think Anthony would have stayed in these longer. He read and looked at EVERYTHING, while I kind of paced around with a glazed look in my eyes. The things I am learning about him on this trip. Needless to say we loved every minute of Madrid. So much that after the first day, we decided to extend our stay a few days. We moved hotels, away from the museums, landing instead in an Ibis Styles hotel in my new favorite neighborhood of restaurants, shops and bars, se llaman Las Letras. The city is so walkable, compact with great things to see around every corner, but I didn’t realize any of this as a student. So I (re)learned the city, along with Anthony, and fell in love all over again. Exploring northern Africa now, in Morocco for a week, then back to Espana to see what else we can discover together (and how much more we can eat). Pictures to come.
Where we stayed in Madrid:
Hotel Ibis Styles Madrid Prado
Where we ate and drank that we loved:
Oh my heavens EVERYWHERE. Just look at this. And go to Cafe Commerce first thing in the morning for churros con chocolate. Or go right now. Screw the morning.