Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Mast Madrid

Well, if you've been reading the blog, you'll probably know that much to my distress, the travel posts have had to take a forced hiatus on account of a crashed hard drive and a distinct lack of back-up. But you can only keep a good thing (or a bad penny)down for so long, and we are back! This time with a weekend break in Madrid. And boy, did we need the break! Bucharest was getting cold, and rainy and we had just about had it with the crappy weather (okay, it was just me. The kids couldn't care either ways). So, on we hopped to a flight and 3.5 hours later, 'Hola, Madrid!'
The baa-lamb, bless his soul, booked us into a hostel in the heart of the city. Now, now, don't be misled by the 'hostel' tag. The family room was a brilliant room that was clean, quiet (which considering our location was a minor miracle), quirky and all of us, the finicky Pickwick included, loved it!
The Quirky TOC decor

Come morning, (we landed at midnight, so thank God for the city centre bit) we decided to explore the city. Our place was a two minute walk to Puerta del Sol,
It is the symbolic centre of Spain, and busy! Apart form the random comic book characters walking around, we stumbled upon a lovely little cafe that served fresh Tostadas and coffee and croissants.
Loved the giant Christmas tree!
...and looks even better when it's lit up!
See? I'm liking this city already. As with all short break, the best way to see a bit of the city is to take a walking tour.
This particular tour started at Plaza Mayor. which, when we visited was host to a bustling Christmas market.
 The place is a hubub of activity, both then and now, bearing witness to a host of events including, bullfights, public executions and football games.

 Pickwick, who is currently fascinated with history listened with rapt attention to stories of garrotting, but wasn't very enthused about the bull fights.

Plaza Mayor by night
Presently we walked to Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas - A restaurant with an interesting history.
Luis Candela was apparently a Spanish Robin hood- who robbed the rich to give to... his lovers, who may or may not have been poor. needless to say he met with a rather sticky end, leaving behind an interesting take and a restaurant that is served by bandits (or servers who are dressed as them).
While we are on the topic of restaurants, we visited another - Botin, made famous because of Visiting Royalty, Ernest Hemingway and the fact that its the oldest restaurant in the world.
The oldest restautant in the world- even have the Certificate to prove it :)
Also, apparently, it being a restaurant and stuff, the food is pretty good too. (I'll just take a local's word for it. The speciality was suckling pig, and the idea of babe-on-a-plate kind of threw me off)
The plaque outside Botin - Apparenly all establishments older than a century now carry it in Madrid
Madrid sports some interesting graffiti,
and this one in particular is meant to be especially significant.
It says: On water I was built, my walls are made of fire.
And in case you're wondering what it all means, this is why:
The Santa Maria de La Real de Almudena Cathedral with the Muralla Arabe (fortress walls) and the Star of  David

The walls that you see there are remnants of the old fortress, built on a creek,  made of flintstone by the Moors. Both the kids took immense delight in imagining the look on the enemies' faces when they rained arrows and weapons on the wall and the sparks made it look like they walls were on fire!
This image (it's got the star of David, moorish walls and a cathedral) is also a reminder of the time times in the past - before the Spanish inquisition where people were free to practice any religion of their choice without fear of persecution.
The Spanish inquisition though seems to have influenced a lot of the cultures and traditions still prevalent in the country - from children taking on the names of both parents to large shanks of ham of every kind hanging on store windows.
See? I kid you not.
After this visit, we decided to take a break. What is a Spanish holiday after all without a break for coffee and a chat? :) Suitably refreshed with a toilet break to boot, we headed out to the Almudena Cathedral and the Palacio Real de Madrid.
The Cathedral of Almudena

...and the palace opposite
The brief history of the Habsburgs were explained in to us in a wonderful roleplay where Pickwick was Philip I (the handsome), I (along with child 2) was Philip the Lazy and the husband was Philip the... nevermind (he apparently died of gout). The only good thing they had to say about him was that he was a patron of the arts! Whew!
The palace however, is still magnificent and has 1000 more rooms than the palace of versailles! Which is saying something...
Cityscapes and interesting stuff spotted along the way (ruthlessly edited version)

They seem to have a thing for art on balconies

All this history and walking made the baa-lamb very tired and irritable (did I mention he was nursing a man-flu?) and we took ourselves off to our digs to recuperate and gather energy for the evening's performance.
The evening saw us headed to Las Carboneras for the Flamenco - but not before we stopped off for a quick Paella at this fun little market.
The mercado de San Miguel

I loved the eggs- so pretty!

90s flashback!
 The flamenco - what can I say - We loved it! So much passion and speed and the powerful vocals- made for a pretty impactful performance. The little one even battled sleep (practically unheard of for her) to see it!

Their feet moved at lightning speed!

Day 2 - and we were off to see the Goyas in Prado and then head off to el Retiro. I loved the Prado (no pictures of the place, I'm afraid) - the family perhaps loved it a little less. El Retiro was more of a hit- there's something about trees that makes little kids want to climb it.

See those perfectly shaped trees in the middle? Yup, those were the ones my monkeys wanted to have a go at. 

So, much goodly fun and a goodly couple of hours enjoying the park and music. This evening we set out to look for a place called Las Cuevas the Sesamo - apparently serving the best sangrias in town. Well, the cuevas was great on the sangria, not so much on the ambience. Or maybe it was just me and people do like whitewashed caves with oddly placed paintings and writings on the wall.
Yummy Sangria

Amidst questionable art.
I'd love to tell you more about the Madrid nightlife, but unfortunately, that's possibly on another trip (did I mention the baa-lamb had the man-flu?). This trip has come to its end- but not before we sampled the Patatas Bravas from Las Bravas (clearly we weren't too sick for that) and the Churros and Chocolate ans San Gines, and the frozen yoghurt... (this might have been more of a gastronomic trip than a cultural one, perhaps - despite the absence on meat-eaters in our midst)
Churros and chocolate - our new favourite

This shop sells the most heavenly biscuits ever!

That frozen yoghurt is topped with mango sauce and nuts and mango bits *sigh* 
, and encountering a really sick teacher from the kids' School. No, people, not that kind of sick.She's a teacher! And no, children, not the sick that apparently means 'cool' in your world. I mean the really unwell kinds. Who had to be carted away in an ambulance. But, she's making a marvellous recovery from all accounts, so all's well.
So, until, next time, Madrid, you lovely thing, kisses!

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