Saturday, September 15, 2012

Staying entertained in Madrid

Pretty soon I will be leaving Barcelona on my way to Madrid, well, as you're reading this, I'm already on my way actually. I love that I can leave scheduled posts to be delivered while I'm away! I have been researching a ton of information about the two cities that I will be visiting while I am there for five days (in case you forgot, those cities are Barcelona and Madrid) and here's the lowdown on what I want to see and do during my time in Madrid! Of course, I won't see all these things and there's so many beautiful museums to visit. There's no way I can see it all in my short time there, but... It'll be an adventure none the less.


Of course, I only REALLY have two nights and two days in Barcelona and one and a half days in Madrid and only one night, which I know means I won't see all of these things, hell, I man not seen any, but at least I know I have options and I can let you guys know what there is to see for your next visit!

Stay up late to feel the cantaor’s passion - To the initiated, flamenco is perceived as a joyful, colorful form of song and dance. In truth, it is really about the suffering endured by the Andlucían gypsies, expressed in performance style. Be prepared to stay after midnight, however, because that's when the star dancers and singers unleash the passion, power and grace.

Turn on the vermouth tap - Madrileños famously have a Sunday drinking habit, it’s all part of the attractive, leisurely tapas culture. (And guess who'll be there on a Sunday?!) A lesser know tradition, however is haciendo el vermut (doing vermouth). They drink the sweet red concoction, made from sweet white wine blended with herbs, flowers, fruit peel, seeds and plants, with ice and a slice as an aperitif for the big Sunday lunch, or alongside tapas.

Celebrate creativity in the slaughterhouse 10 - A century-old neo-Mudéjar building that was once the heart of the city’s meat trade is now showing its sensitive side. Matadero Madrid, created from the old municipal slaughterhouse by Madrid’s City Council is a vast space consisting of ten different buildings.

Indulge your shoe addiction - Madrid is a major producer of footwear, with the Valencia and Alicante areas dominated by shoe factories. For shoe shoppers, the street to tramp down is Augusto Figueroa, in the heart of Chueca, where you’ll find numerous outlets for factory samples. Otherwise, it’s to Salamanca for top-dollar leather goods from the elite Loewe brand, or Mallorcan gorgeousness from Farrutx and Camper.

Develop a montecado habit - Montecados are melt-in-the-mouth, pale cookies made with aniseed and almond and lots of fat. They’re one of the heaven-sent specialties of the baking nuns of the Convento de las Carboneras, whose sweet confections are handed out to customers through a grille, as this is a closed order.

Allow a green thought in a green shade - Madrid’s luscious botanical gardens – Jardín Botanico – are right by the Prado museum, but once you’re inside, among more than 30,000 plants from around the world, you feel as if city life has been put on hold. The same is true of the less well-known but larger Parque del Buen Retiro, which does not demand that you treat it like a museum (Botanico does) and where you can cool off in the shade of, what I'm told is, a 200-year-old tree.

Imbibe an Intellectual vibe - It’s easy to go on a Hemingway bar crawl in this city, as there seem to be few places where the writer did not drink. He and other international press hacks, along with decorative drinkers Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner, all downed cocktails at the Museo Chicote, along with just about every Spanish writer, actor or artist of the last 60 years. Hemingway reserved Cervecería Alemana for his daily beer.

Dine in an old-timer - Anywhere billed as the world’s oldest restaurant is going to have the tourists beating a path to its crumbly portals, but El Sobrino de Botín is as famous for its roasts as for its longevity (300 years old and counting.) 

Celebrated past diners include King Alfonso XII’s sister in the 19th century, and more recently, Hemingway, of course.

Eat cake in a sweet old-period place - With the same décor and counter as when it opened in 1830, the lovely old pastelería known as Antigua Pastilería del Pozo is a beauty, and its cakes are little pieces of perfection.

Witness a bloody miracle - If you believe in miracles, Madrid can prove an auspicious city break. Many of the churches are wreathed in legend, and have statues’ feet to kiss and fonts to pray to if you need celestial help with your love life. The weirdest augury of great things, however, has to be the phial of blood, which purportedly belongs to the doctor saint Pantaleón, contained in the Convento de la Encarnación. This 17th century convent attracts lengthy queues of the faithful on the saint’s feast day, July 27, when the contents of the phial miraculously liquefy, bringing great things for all those who witness it. Too bad, guess I missed the suddenly liquid blood...

Teléferico Madrid

Get high - While I'm sure there's plenty of exactly what you were imagining when you read "get high" available in Madrid, I was thinking along the linesof height. See Madrid from a new angle in Teléferico Madrid cable car, which takes you on a 2.5 km trip over the Casa de Campo, or take the stomach-lurching glass lift up the communications tower known as the Faro de Madrid, which, at 92 m gives the best views over the whole of the city.

Sup it and see - Madrid is an oenophile’s playground, so tour companies arrange trips around the fruit of the vine. For the casual taster, however, the city’s respected bodegas (wine shops) provide a valuable viticultural education. While we all know how much I love wine, I don't think that a full tour will be in the cards. I won't really have the time to explore the city if I go that route.
Real Palacio de El Pardo

Pick up the thread - Many people visit the Real Palacio de El Pardo to get an eyeful of Generalísimo Franco’s private rooms – decorated to his own specifications 1970s style – but spare some time to admire the stunning tapestries hanging in its otherwise gaudy interior. 

Invest in the Paseo de Arte - Culture vulture? Buy yourself an art passport. For a measly €15, or so, this ticket is your key to what has been called, slightly facetiously, Madrid’s Golden Triangle – made up of the city’s three art palaces – the Prado, the Thyssen and the Reina Sofía.

Pork out at the ham museum - Dotted around town the various branches of the Museo del Jamón are a sight to behold, with dozens of hams dangling from the ceiling. You can sample their wares at the bar or in their restaurants. 

Let Goya be your guide - Subversive artist Francisco Goya was possibly the least respectful court painter ever. Evidence of his mastery and mischief can be seen at the Prado, where several rooms superbly represent every stage of his turbulent career. His painting The Family of Charles IV was described by Hemingway as ‘a masterpiece of loathing’ as it clearly demonstrates his disdain for the bewildered monarch and his nymphomaniac womenfolk. 

Feast your eyes at sundown… - Sunsets in Madrid are stunning, magenta affairs – the pretty purple haze on the horizon is created by the pollution, unfortunately. Still, you have to get your kicks where you can these days, so admire the hues and views from one of the terrazas on the Paseo del Pinto Rosales – the Bruin, a wonderfully old-fashioned ice-cream parlor with a terrace, where some of the flavors are decidedly Heston Blumenthal…olive oil, tomato and cheese, anyone?

... and at sun up - As breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially in Europe, and possibly more so in Spain, you should take it in lovely surroundings.
Parque del Oeste in Argüelles

See that everything in the garden’s rosy - Do not leave Madrid without basking in the Parque del Oeste in Argüelles, one of the city’s most attractive spaces. In May and June the rose garden is heady with perfume and the spirit of healthy competition – an international rose contest takes place here at this time. The park has grand views of the Palacio Real and the incongruous Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple that’s miles away from home.

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