Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Madrid, Spain

Ola. ¡buenos días. cómo estás?

Jamon for breakfast? Sure, why not. 

Where do I even begin with Spain. All I can think about is all the mouth watering jamon and all the tinto de verano DC and I consumed when we were travelling through Spain. Good food and booze followed by daily siestas.. now that is what life is all about.

Eat all the Jamon

First stop in Spain is Madrid. One of the very first things you will notice when in Madrid is that the Spanish sure love their iberia jamon. It is everywhereeeee and it tastes so bloody amazing. I used to be someone who wasn't too crazy about cured meat but that was until Spain. The country that changed it all. The jamon on the other side of the world are to die for. There is just the right amount of saltiness and fattiness; it just melts right in your mouth, especially you have it with a slightly toasted bread roll...

A trip to Spain is not complete without some paella

The other must have in Spain is of course, paella for lunch (not dinner, unless you want to make it even more obvious that you are a tourist). DC and I checked out La Barraca as it seemed to have quite a long history of serving up paella since 1935.

The moment the paella arrived, my eyeballs were rolled so far back from being so gobsmacked by the smell of all saffron. With your first mouthful, you are guaranteed to get a strong aroma of the seafood, the zestiness from the lemon together with the crunchy rice grains. Sadly it didn't have a crunch base but at least all the flavours were bang on. Madrid isn't the home of paella in Spain so I can't really comment on how "authentic" it was but nevertheless, it was a mind blowing experience.

dark chocolate for the win

Another item to add to the eating list is the famous churros from Chocolateria San Gines, which are like no other churros I've ever had before. They have a warm fluffy centre with a super crispy outer, which you then dip into the rich dark chocolate. It was a sweltering 40 degrees that day and even in the heat, those churros were still dam delicious.

how cool is this caved restaurant!

If you have some extra time in Madrid, you should also check out El Restaurante Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world that opened their doors in 1725. If you do go, I would highly recommend booking a table so you have the true experience of dining in the original decor (i.e. the 'cave restaurant') located downstairs. Otherwise, you will get a walk-in table which are located on the ground floor and looks like a typical European restaurant.

Insanely crispy suckling pig

The suckling pig is Botin's signature dish. After taking your first bite, you will definitely understand and hear why. You can hear the crunch of the crackling echo through the restaurant. Ok that is probably a bit exaggerated but the peeps on your table would certainly be able to hear it. The other dishes however were unfortunately fairly salty which made it difficult to finish everything. In saying that though, dining in the world's oldest restaurant is certainly a bucket list item in the food spectrum of life and I am glad I was able to tick that one off the list as it isn't something we can do everyday. 

Mercado de la Paz

Last but not least are the food markets in Madrid (and all of Europe). We are talking cheap, real authentic, hearty food. The best part about these food markets is that they open till late so after many tinto de verano's and after the munchies, the food market is going to be your place of glory. 

DC and I checked out Mercado San Anton which is more like a food court styled food market, Mercado de San Miguel, one of the liveliest culinary spots in Madrid and of course, Mercado de la Paz, one of the oldest food markets in Madrid. If time is of essence, checking out a food market is the best way to give yourself the opportunity try as many of the local eats as possible. If you are also going during the day and want to avoid the crowds, try and go before noon. Shortly after noon, the definition of personal space cease to exist.

On a different note, I thought it was worth while sharing a couple of minor tips:

  • Madrid is split into two parts; the modern part (Grand Via) and the old historic centre (slightly off Plaza Mayor). DC and I stayed in Grand Via - to travel to this area from the airport, you can either catch the metro however there are endless amounts of stairs which could be fairly difficult if you have a lot of pieces of luggage. Alternatively, if you want to avoid all the stairs, you can catch the Aeroshuffle, which  is  much easier (9 euros pp plus 3 euros for additional baggage in excess of a check in luggage + handbag).
  • Spain in general is one of the countries that is infamous for pick pocketing (ranked second after Czech Republic). We were luckily enough for not to be pick-pocketed in Spain but we did have a few sly glances throughout our time there so just be smart. Keep jewellery to a minimum and try to get a bag that has several layers of fabric so even if they do slit the first layer, its more difficult for them to get to your personal belongings. 
  • As Madrid is located in the heart of Spain, it can get pretty dam hot. It got so hot for us that both DC and I got heat strokes. So if you can, avoid going to Madrid in July and definitely August because you will be in for one heck of a heat wave, particularly where all the heat is trapped between all the buildings. 
Finally, please check out my video of Spain! Would love any feed back about the video or simply share your experience of Spain and whether there are any places you can recommend going?

Next up, Barcelona. 

Until then, gotta go eat!!


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