Saturday

Espana


Madrid the medieval city, rocking with its pubs, cafes, discotheques, nightclubs, open late into the night, besides of course it being, the cultural capital of Spain.

How this city loves to party is witnessed by the fact that we were stuck in a traffic mess at 315am one night! That’s why I guess *nomads of the night*! J Madrid is without a doubt probably the most social city I’ve ever been to.  It comes alive at night after 10pm.  Restaurants and bars stay buzzing all night. Night clubs don’t get busy until after 3am and normally its only tourists that you find before 1am.  Public transport is excellent with a train service and bus service.  You don’t need a car here. People have pigs as pets here:) 



Throughout the centuries, Spain has been the stage of many clashes between civilisations.


Constant battling between Iberians, Celts, Romans, Goths, Visigoths, Jews and Muslims, particularly during medieval times, explains why many Spanish cities were born as fortified strongholds.



In most cases, these fortifications were first built by the Romans and later expanded on by the Visigoths, in an attempt to fend off the Arab invasion of the 8th century, resulting in some truly spectacular stone works, plenty of which can still be admired today.


The only way to feast the eyes and soak it all in, is to venture outside the old citadel, brave the weather which soured from sunny/cold to bone-chilling rain for us, walk over the bridges and by the river to unearth some of the prettiest sights along its city walls.



In some ways  Madrid is an image of Paris-   many traditional cafés with the vibes of the literary, artistic world hob knobbing and clinking their glasses while deep in debate or discussion over a period in the past.  Best part of our trip was when the tired feet could walk nomore, we’d flop in one of the easiest access cafes, and watch the world go by. The café we dropped in to, had a lively mixture of elegant older Madrileños,  writerly types and families with kids - our time there  was livened up immeasurably by the toddler at the next table insisting that she was not, in fact, a toddler but a very convincing monkeyJ. Ohh who am I kidding- the key reason, to go sit inside one of these fab cafes/bars- it’s hard to look cute in sleet. And the damn weighty snuggly’s – seriously tire you out. So we’d often find a café or a bar, unpeel some of the layers, and get warm again.

My soaked map looked like this and we had hardly ventured about  for more than few hours- brrr I can still feel the cold rain!

I probably come from a city starved of parks and walk abouts, because everywhere else in the world, people put a huge emphasis on their green spaces. If you are familiar with the concept of the living wall, then Spain boasts of such beautiful spaces.


Not only are these places big on look and feel, they have cafes that serve fantastic coffees and art galleries engineered around the art gardens . Spaniards value nature, sitting in the sun and open air, are considered a blessing.  We saw some  nice exhibits of paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, fiber art and jewelry at one such garden cafe.

Moving away from these posh surrounds- we reached  restaurants frequented by mainly Spanish people.  Given our aversion to tourist traps and ridiculous costs, some of these restaurants we discovered were 99% local clientele. Chico bar was tucked away in a lovely plaza with some tables set outside to catch the weak soft sun, while most were seated indoors for comfort from the cold.The bar area was large and done up very trendy.  We had a 3 course lunch here and were back here again for breakfast the following day. The food was excellent, the staff helpful and an additional bonus of free WiFi.  The veggie platter is huge, and pretty satisfying.  
  
Moving on, this city is also home of bull fighting in Spain, the massive bullring is popularised by the Arabic Moors of the 12th century.

The architecture of the place has a more ancient look than it actually is. Ticket prices depend on where you are seated. There are differences between seats in "sol" and those in "sombra" - the sun or the shade, with the latter being more desirable and hence of course more expensive.

When visiting Segovia the locals pointed out that this castle inspired Walt Disney to base his Cinderella castle on this 9-century-old castle.


So, now you know. Here, we were delighted to find a churros bar frequented by the locals and tourists alike.


People have this as a ritual for breakfast, enjoy it as an afternoon snack or stop by for a nightcap after an evening in town. The churros and chocolate combination is something, I think, I could happily both start and end my days with on a daily basisJ.  I guess it is a good thing that we don’t live permanently in Spain or that would be a very real temptation. Don’t feel guilty about having these when in Spain by the way, there is a lot of walking one does in these parts.  

Am steering away from the regular touristy things we saw and did, because once you are in Madrid there is no way you will not  see the Puerta Del Sol, The Royal palace, the Prado Mueseum, the main railway station with the tropical garden…There are so many stereotypes about Spain and the Spanish people, some are true and some you will discover naturally. 


All seems lovely when we wear the tourist hat. But look closely and you discover Spain has a huge unemployment problem especially with young people with an estimated 50% under 25 years of age out of work.  So tourism is their bread and butter in many ways

We found a bar called San Chirano, primarily focused on authentic – and cheap – flamenco shows, was so perfect if you’re looking to catch a bit of dancing without having to fight with a thousand tourists or pay tourist entry prices. We very accidentally landed in a street called Aruzo cal  which was boiling with life. It was quirky and a little crazy but there were some great spots playing live music, serving enormous hamburguers with Jack Daniels barbeque sauce, very friendly staff, great unbeatable atmosphere to chat up with the locals.


We were taken to the flea market literally inside the Railway Museum – old second hand used stuff on sale. The locals do come here to buy bargains every month.


The countryside while driving thru from Madrid to Toledo you see a city with a unique blend of Arab, Jewish, Christian, Roman, and Visigothic elements. Toledo is largely an elevated and rocky place, on its 3 sides  looped in by the Tagus River - a thought struck me here, most *countryside* is breath-taking -- tt’s our cities that rob us of our breath! Why don’t the architects of big cities (like ours) build cities *around* nature?




14 comments:

nkitt said...

I had no idea about this fortified side of madrid, all I knew was the unlimited party and beautiful girls.

Great write up and photos as well, you living what most of the people dream for (y)

sagar said...

Some blogs speak with their pictures, some with words, you create visual magic.. good job..

melinda said...

I much prefer your posts, than just visual salivation:) There is too much to know!! Beautiful post Mee, cant wait to read about Ibiza!!

ashish said...

All that you say is true, true true- a delightful country, with picture perfect spots, where ever you look! Awesome food, great wines and beers but but but- the only let down was the lack of decent desserts. After a gorgeous meal they gave me a bowl of dry, flaky mini chocolate croissants which didn’t really do it for me. A chupito of excellent ‘La Gallega’ Orujo des Hierbas made it up though. You know I love meeting all kinds of people- I met a lot of people while I was here, including a big group of Mexicanas on their jollies. With all the good food, wine and company, I rolled out of there a very happy man!

sanjiv said...

Ive never been to Spain, but it is definitely part of my bucket list! Reading your post makes me wish to be there soonest. Hopefully soon

Mike said...

I wish I was born in Spain, or had family there- would love to stay there. Did you go to Huertas (also known as Barrio de las Letras)- thats a very popular area for going out at night with lots of tapas bars lining the main pedestrian street Calle de las Huertas and the side streets off it.Personally I like to start on Calle de Jesus at the bottom of the hill and head up Huertas to Plaza Santa Ana, which is another great spot for pintxos. People here are known as “los gatos” or the cats because they like to stay out so late. Despite being accused of being a tourist trap, with prices to match, I find madrid has my favourite tapas bars on this strip, just for the bizarre decoration which covers every inch of the ceilings and walls. Los Gatos back room - I love the eccentricity of having bull fighting paraphernalia mixed with classical and pop art treasures and spend all my time in here just gazing at it all. Did you manage to see a bull fight game?

Jim said...

I found Madrid too expensive and not often did I see high qlty. Searching for budget places is a challenege by itself in Madrid. Wonder if you discovered this ritual about the Spanish when you visted Puerta dela sol? It is the pin point geographic centre of Spain, the reason why the capital is located where it is. The eastern gate of the city used to be here, hence ‘Gate of the Sun’.
Spaniards come here on New Year’s eve to eat 12 grapes as the square’s clock chimes 12 times, a custom that is broadcast live on TV to the rest of Spain. Charming ain't it?

gita said...

Lavapies is well placed for all the main galleries and would make a good area for lunch after a long morning looking at the masters.
Hey Mee! We spoke about Picasso’s highly moving ‘Guernica’ at La Reina Sofia, you should have mentioned that in your blog- to comprehend Spain’s modern history, its a must visit, yea?:) We also loved ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ painted by Hieronymus Bosch over 500 years ago and now hanging at the Prado along with the Spanish masters. I would revisit those galleries again. And once out, so many cafes with blue cheese and delightful coffees (and equally bad ones too!)

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Sumit said...

Well written with beautiful pics.

Rahul... said...

Awesome read and amazing compilation of pics again:)
Loved you ur post especially that pic of a pig, it lukd just like some small dog lol :)

Best thing about these cities as you rightly said is that they are built close to nature and kinda resonate well with it.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful post. Looking forward to read more about the world through your posts :)

Sumit said...

Ah ah So lovely pictures with post. Fell in love with this place.

shreya said...

Such a wonderful place. The pictures attracted me the most to read the blog completely. Wish to visit once. Very nice.

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