I arrived on the highspeed AVE train from Sevilla at 10:00 this morning (early, I might add), and if anyone is considering traveling between the two cities, you won’t be sorry if you take this train. Modern is an understatement. The seats were as big as business class on a 747, and along the left-hand side of the train, it was single seats only at the window. That’s where I enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire from as we whisked along the rails for the 2.5-hour journey. Cake.
So, where am I right now? Well, I’m sitting in the Mercado de San Miguel off Plaza Mayor. I just helped myself to two pieces of Manchego cheese on toast and a glass of red wine, and I’m watching Madrid live around me. This is actually my second market of the day. Just down from where I’m staying is Mercado Anton Martin. It’s pretty traditional and has all the requisite stalls of a normal European market. There, I bought a bag of green olives from Sevilla for €1.75, and they will be my co-pilots on my journey today as I guide myself around the city. Let’s go olives…we’re hitting the road.
Next Stop: Casa del Abuelo for the shrimp in garlic oil tapa
I don’t even know where to begin about the Gambas a Ajillo at Abuelo. They were spicy, buttery, and I can’t even figure out how that combination is possible, especially since they have no butter in them. In a ceramic dish over an open flame, the man sautéed baby shrimp in olive oil and garlic with a red chili. C’est tout. The taste had me almost drinking the remnants in the ramekin. The restaurant was so small, but actually has two locations, the other at the wedge of Calle de Nunez de Arce and Calle La Cruz, where they serve only drinks and traditional Iberian ham.
The master cutter (no, not an emo with eyeliner) started talking to me over my shrimp, and invited me across the street to try their ham. I obliged and watched a DVD about how the ham from these particular pigs are different: they’re black with longer snouts, floppy ears, and the environment in which they nosh on acorns, which gives them their marble, is totally natural. This ham is actually good for you. Over ham and more Abuelo wine, he and I chatted about his experiences working as a ham cutter at Harrod’s in London under Al Fayed, and also working with chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Jaime Oliver. Where do I find these people? There are no seats at either Abuelo…it’s standing room only, but well worth the €13.30 I spent on three Dixie glasses of good wine, the shrimp, and my ham tasting. I think I was given a guapa discount though.
Casa del Abuelo
C/ de Nunez de Arce 5
Next Stop: Dubliners Irish Pub…in search of the Romanian bartender Court & I met in October
Well, he’s not here, and I just wanted to say hi. Evidently, he works at the bar around the corner now where Court and I bought the blue light glasses. It’s closed right now, but don’t worry–the Coronitas still flow freely here, and are served in buckets if you need a dose of Cabo in the 35-degree weather.
C/ Espoz y Minas
Next Stop: Lhardy Pasteleria
Right around the corner from Dubliners and Abuelo was Lhardy Pasteleria. Their aprons were embroidered with the date 1832, so clearly this place was old. And again, tiny. Different from other places in Madrid, Lhardy is a serve-yourself place where you can sample different strong wines, consommés, and other aperativs. For €2.50, I sampled a tiny glass of Madera wine. It was very strong, and a bit sweet for my liking, but I did like the ambiance in this place. Again, nowhere to sit, but you could tell it wasn’t a place where people linger for long. They’d have a drink, and maybe a snack, and then move on to the next destination. For me, it was Sephora to borrow a bit of the new Marc Jacobs fragrance.
Carrera de San Jerónimo, 8
Next Stop: Siesta
Back at the hostel, I slept off the earlier part of the day in an attempt to ward off fatigue for the evening. It worked.
Next Stop: Plaza Mayor for Carnivale
This was interesting. A man suspended in the air playing a piano as random images and movies were projected on to the top of the piano for the audience to see. I didn’t last long here.
Next Stop: La Negra Tomasa
La Negra Tomasa is a typical Cuban themed bar. In true Bolivian fashion (thank you to my hostel mate from Argentina for informing me of this euphamism), the walls were littered with license plates and posters. And of course, everyone, including me, was drinking mojitos. It was good, but not great. The one in Barcelona trumped it ten-fold. Also, there was supposed to be live, Cuban jazz, but that was nowhere to be found. Perhaps it started later. Time to move on.
La Negra Tomasa
C/ Espoz y Minas (directly across the street from Dubliners)
Next Stop: O’Reilly’s
‘Two Irish pubs in one day?’, you’re asking yourself. The answer is yes. I was determined to find the Romanian bartender, and I did at O’Reilly’s just like the man at Dubliners promised me. It was meant to be a momentary blip on the radar screen, but of course I stayed all night. He nearly jumped over the bar when he saw me, and was pretty shocked to see me back in Madrid. We caught up, I gave him my Essential Book of Foreign Swear Words, we passed it around the bar and everyone cracked up, ate some Nestle Crunch bar, and of course, drank too many beers compliments of the Bristol rugby team (hope they win today). I wouldn’t be making it to the color-changing toilets this evening; no way, no how. Back to the hostel, and into bed quietly to recoup my energy for my last day in Espagna.
€39.50 total for the day (roughly $53). Not bad for a 15-hour day…
Next Stop: Back to Paris for a few days to meet up with Ally!