Breakfast at an authentic chocolateria, strolling past the stalls of one of Europe's oldest original flea markets, lunch in a restaurant dating back to 1725, and tracing the footsteps of Spanish monarchs in what today is one of Madrid's most popular parks. Faces raised to the sun, it is a sunny Sunday in Madrid, and my last day here.
|San Gines' chocolate and churros|
From San Gines it is a short hop to the Royal Palace. The road used to run just in front of the palace, but it is now all pedestrian. The Royal Palace is Madrid's most imposing building, and on my list to visit while in Madrid. But on this splendid day (and with a head a little heavy from the late night before), we walk past the palace to the Sabatini Gardens with a view of the palace instead.
It feels sublime: sitting on the bench in this beautiful park with its fountains and sculptures, watching people nodding off, their newspapers crumpled. No rest for the wicked though, and I am ushered to El Rastro, one of Europe's oldest (and largest) original flea markets. En route, we stop for a quick drink on a terrace with a view extending far across Madrid's humongous central park: Casa de Campo. It looks like forested plains, and I can't believe it is actually in the heart of Madrid.
El Rastro stretches along the cobbled streets of Madrid's Barrio Embajadores, a historical central district. The main drag of El Rastro feels rather touristy, with stalls selling items found at any odd market elsewhere. Still, there are plenty "authentic" stalls run by artists, collectors, craftsmen, and designers alike. For even more unusual brocante, you'll have to come early and dive into all the side streets branching off the main drag. We arrive quite late, and find it hard to navigate through the throngs of people. The atmosphere is lively, buzzing, and entertaining. The latter not least because of the many street bands and performers.
My hooves are burning, and not just from this sunny Sunday morning. It has been a full four days of walking, watching, absorbing, loving, and eating up Madrid. It's also been a while since the churros, and lunch is at least another hour away. In local late-lunch fashion, we booked a table for 3pm. The Mercado de San Miguel is on our way, and we pop in for a pre-lunch vermut and a tasting of butifarra (sausages). Vermouth (a fortified, aromatised wine) is a popular aperatif, and in Madrid often available on-tap. It wasn't the first one that day, nor would it be the last.
Botin has several classics on its menu, one of which is Angulas. Prized (and at 100 euro per order also very pricy) tiny little eel from the Basque region. They look like grayish thin pasta strands.
Not in the mood for seafood (for a change), another classic on the menu beckons: Morcilla de Burgos, said to be Spain's most delicious blood sausage. Made with rice, onions, garlic, spice, and a good pinch of cumin, it reminds me of a fine New Orleans boudin.
|crunchy, delicious morsels of Morcilla de Burgos. The vague shapes in the front are setas: Spanish wild mushrooms. The drink, yes, a vermut rojo with ice and lemon|
But not for long. To the airport I must. I am on a night flight back to Dubai. Never did I sleep better on a plane. But then, never did I have such a gloriously full and sunny Sunday in Madrid.
ps. thank you Carina, Paul, Peter, and Marta. Great company! Thank you Raymond and Mees for a fabulous trip...
Chocolateria San Gines, Pasadizo de San Gines 5, Madrid Spain (website) Note that while the English version says "open 24 hours", in the Spanish version they're open"from 9am to dawn".
El Rastro takes place every Sunday morning until about 2pm. A close-by metro station is La Latina (more information)
SOME OTHER PICKINGS:
A traditional Basque restaurant complete with chequered table cloths and black-suited waiters. The menu offers authentic Basque cuisine, and much to my delight had a dish on it that I'd been dreaming about before even departing for Madrid: Txangurro. It is stuffed spider crab, and oh so delicious! This Txangurro, a goat cheese, tomato jam and onion salad, Bacalao Pil-Pil, Croquetas de Bacalao, and a bottle of crisp, fruity Albarino was all happiness at the table.
Sergi Arola Gastro - modern cuisine/two Michelin star. A separate post will follow
El Boqueron (in a previous post: From Rias Baixas to El Boqueron)
Mercado San Miguel (website)
Located around the corner from Plaza Major, Mercado de San Miguel is a market where you leave your shopping bag at home, and bring a large appetite instead. It is a mouthwatering gourmet food court, from paella to pastries, sausages to seafood, wines, hams, bacalao, pastas, fruits and vegetables even. You stand at a bar, one of the long tables, or manage to find yourself a stool to sit on, and "eat around".
In many ways similar to Mercado de San Miguel, at Mercado de San Anton you bring both: a shopping bag and and a large appetite. I would LOVE to cook with the fresh produce, the beautiful meats, and above all: the seafood I see. But not in Madrid to cook, I settle (no hardship) for the foods prepared on the floor up in this square, open plan market. Upstairs, high tables along the railing look down on this market, and it is an extra tantalising treat as you sip a wine and nibble on your order of seafood, pinchos, boccadillos, grilled meats - all fresh and prepared to order. Another floor up, there is a rooftop terrace, a large wine bar and more eateries.
Meson de la Guitarra
For tapas and drinks, this is one of Madrid's "cave bars", literally housed in a cave: vaulted ceilings, no windows, narrow tables and small chairs. There are several around the area close to Plaza Major. The night we went to Meson de La Guitarra, a music duo from Sevilla performed live on guitar, singing those melancholic Flamenco songs. We shared a plate of pimientos de padron (mild, green small peppers, pan-grilled and tossed with coarse salt - great with a jarra de sangria, even if a jug is rather a lot for two...).
Cardamomo is an intimate Tablao Flamenco, a place for flamenco. Bistro tables and chairs are all centered toward the small stage where flamenco dancers and musicians visibly lose themselves in a whirlwind of dance, song, guitar, and cajon (drum). The passion, the expressions, the rhythm - I was captivated, and would have gone again, had not time run out. I didn't eat here, but they have a tapas menu, and I believe a set dinner as well.
Some excellent recommendations came from A Taste of Spain: a boutique travel group of culinary experts with a passion for slow gastronomy (http://www.atasteofspain.com)