17 May 2018

A few from Madrid

Hola! It's been a while. And in that while, I've taken a bit of time out from London and headed to a different capital - Madrid. I spent a whirlwind 3 days there and I was sad to go. It felt like a second home by the time we left.

As a Londoner of almost five years (can someone please tell me where the time has gone? Seriously) I equate cities with being BUSY and HECTIC and FAST. Even if you don't work in central London, there's always a vibe that you're not doing enough, working hard enough, walking fast enough... and often at the end of the week having had no plans after work, I'm drained.

So it was super weird, and wonderful, and refreshing, to discover that Madrid isn't like that. At all. We were very lucky that our work colleague lived in Madrid for a year to study, so we got loads of inside tips and recommendations. Thanks, Jen!

When in Madrid, drink Tinto de verano (red wine and lemon)

We stayed in Malasana (this apartment, if you're interested), which is around the corner from the university and also the best place to stay, having er, stayed there. I'm totally biased, but it was a fantastic location. We were within walking distance to all the sights and surrounded by loads of amazing bars and restaurants. It felt like everything was on our doorstep.

We arrived hungry, at 4pm, so walked about 50m down our road to Carmencita Bar where we took advantage of the lunch deal of a salad, drink and coffee (or dessert) for 10 euros.

I had an artichoke salad the size of my face, and Helen had a similarly hefty chicken caesar.

I would have preferred it unseasoned (it was too salty) but it was very filling.

We shared what might be the best slice of carrot cake I've ever had in my life, and I had a coffee.

Go for the carrot cake alone

After making some tinto de verano of our own and settling in, we headed out for dinner (late - people don't eat dinner here until at least 9.30pm) at Ojala.

Downstairs is a mini beach, with floor cushions, low tables and low lighting. 

The food was nothing special, but the atmosphere is relaxed and young. It also happens to make a great date spot... there were lots of people getting very cosy in the corner, and my friend was sure we were sat near a couple on a first date. Visit for a few tipples and follow the Spaniards into the night.

Our first brunch - and every brunch thereafter - was spent at our colleague's recommendation, federal. It's not fantastic value for money, but the choice is incredible (we actually had to message Jen to ask her what to have, so distressing) and the coffee is fantastic. Even if you don't go every day like us... you've got to try it at least once. 

I was hideously hungover the following morning, and wolfed down the veggie burger a little too fast but look how beautiful that egg is...

It did get very sweet, which leads me to... everything here was very sweet. All the food, all the drink. We bought some salt and vinegar crisps and positively inhaled them because ohmygod, SAVOURY. It was odd. Different palettes, perhaps?

And you're probably sick of all the food photos. So what else did we do? Actually, not much - we filled time in between meals wandering, drinking and getting a bit lost. But that's my favourite way to spend my time, so...

We took out a rowing boat at jardin de retiro. I tried to row for about 2 minutes to give Helen a break but I didn't know which way my arms were supposed to go so gave up. Luckily she was very into it and very good at it, otherwise we'd still be floating there (actually, that's a shame, maybe I should have grabbed the oars back).

It was such a gorgeous day, so afterwards we bought overpriced gelato and chilled in the park grounds. Then we travelled back through Chueca and, you guessed it, ate more food.

There's a (kind of) funny story behind this Spanish omelette. We discovered that in Madrid they don't tend to do little tapas, but 'big tapas'. So you tend to share two, maybe three dishes. The omelette was 9 euros, and we went to order two. The waitress, who didn't speak much English, was like 'no, no! they are grande, one is for four.'

Then after deciding on one, she brought it over and we laughed, because it was indeed HUGE (dinner-plate sized) and HIGH, and we managed about half before feeling like we were going to keel over. I can't imagine what we'd have done with two.

We then made our way to Circulo des Bellas Artes for the view, and an Aperol spritz.

The glass was so large that a fish could have lived in it if it'd been full of water. Possibly.

That view tho

I'd say both the park and the rooftop are musts, especially if the weather is good.

This lady says so. And I wouldn't want to argue with her.

Having caught the 'views' bug, we had a few more drinks (I don't think I can stomach any more homemade tinto de verano after this trip) and made the pilgrimage to Temple de Debod for sunset.

Everyone was there - it's *the* place for sundowners - and keen to get that golden hour snap. I was just keen to get the below...

We were quite underwhelmed by the temple itself - when I assured my friend that yes, that was it, she was like 'what? really?' - but I'm sure it's far more mystical and magical when not surrounded by tourists drinking and snapping away.

That evening we attempted a big night out, Madrid-style. It started with us trying to eat dinner twice (no one was eating at 9.30pm; we didn't return again until 11.30, drunk and full of crisps) at Bodegas Rivas and consequently not being able to eat our tapas, then going back to ours to drink, exhausted, then deciding to take a 45 minute power nap so we could go out. It  ended with me waking up at half past 4, fully clothed and in my make up. With a banging headache.

So after brunch, I begged my non-coffee-drinking friend for a much needed caffeine fix at Toma Cafe. It was so cute and again, about 3 minutes walk away from our flat. 

 My cappuccino had a swan on it and it made my hungover heart happy.

We then did the tourist route, admiring the Royal Palace and the Catedral de la Almudena.

Afterwards, we sat with a glass of reviving sangria at Plaza de Mayo, people watching and soaking up the sun, followed by a delicious paella at Mercado San Miguel

For dessert, we grabbed churros from the infamous Chocolateria San Gines, and chowed down on them at home.

I left my camera behind on our final night out, but it was a doozy. We hit up Vacaciones and had the most INCREDIBLE nachos I've ever had in my whole entire life. Everything about them was delicious, from the tangy guacamole, to the chunky tomatoes and 'please give me seconds' sour cream. Go there. Get them. Have no regrets. Washed down with a couple of cocktails, the experience was a treat.

I'm getting seriously nostalgic for this place now - we had such a blast. I'd love to return.. Hasta la vista, Madrid. I'll be back.

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