The first thing I observed upon arriving in Madrid was the immaculate and gorgeous architecture of the city. Stunning. The city was full of tastefully colorful and interesting buildings and of course charming European cobblestone and tree-lined streets. Spain’s wealth and power of the past was immediately evident and a stark contrast to that of Portugal. The feel of Madrid was interesting, sleek and fast paced city yet at the same time easy going and relaxed – quite a different feel.
So my good friend Molly had studied abroad in Spain for a semester and gave me a fabulous list of things to eat and places to visit – let’s just say this served as the official tour guide for Madrid.
First up – the Gourmet Food Market San Miguel Market – aka a foodie’s paradise.It’s an all glass building covered in gorgeous ironwork – a sight for the eyes as well the stomach. As you enter, you are immediately torn about which direction, which stall to visit first – all the food looked incredible! There was a seafood stand with actual octopus, sea urchins, and giant fish with huge teeth- so cool! And of course, tons of tapas and wine bars – so incredibly hard for me to settle upon some! I ultimately settled upon 2 tapas on bread. One was a nice rustic white bread topped with perfectly caramelized onions and goat cheese. The other was also on a toasted piece of rustic bread topped with a slice of cooked eggplant, smoked salmon, and a petit hard-boiled egg. And a glass of Spanish red wine to go – a Montalvo Wilmot Syrah Roble from Finca Los Cerrillos. It was a delicious lunch! And for dessert, (well one of my two desserts I had for lunch), I got a mixture of fresh yogurt mixed with Amaretto cherries and caramel – mmm so good. Then, on the way out of the market, I saw my absolute FAVORITE gelato place I had found in Paris 2 years ago – AMORINO’S! I was so excited and being that gelato is my downfall, I had to get a scoop or two. Oh it was delicious, coffee, hazelnut, and amaretto.
After lunch we went on a great free walking tour – 2 ½ hours and lots of info and history about Madrid – and fantastic way to meet people and that’s just what I did. I meet some other American girls who, like me, were fellow foodies and traveling around Europe. We all went around together the rest of the day and visited the gorgeous city of Madrid in the brilliant sunshine!
|Ellie et Kristen! Fantatic gals from the states!!|
First up after the tour, a stop at the famous San Gines Chocolateria – open since 1894 – and open 24 hours a day. Basically the Café du Monde of Spain and for the famous Spanish dessert of Churros and hot chocolate. So basically the churro is a long piece of fried dough that you dip in a mug of hot melted chocolate. Quite a tasty little afternoon snack if I say so.
From there, we visited what I probably enjoyed the most about Madrid - the incredibly splendid Retiro Park. This park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the 19th century when it became a public park and man was it magnificent – 350 sprawling acres filled with immense green space, a peaceful lake, immaculate flowers, sculptures, musicians, and even a stunning glass building. There are two experiences from this park that I will not forget. The first was sitting next to the lake, basking in the sun, people watching, and listening to a Spaniard play peaceful music on his guitar. It was a picturesque moment that was incredibly soothing and like right out of a film. The second was watching the sun set behind the immaculate glass building next to another lake. I could not have asked for a better view of the sunset. Such a fantastic afternoon.
|Oldest oven in World|
|Oldest Restaurant in World|
From there, we just meandered the streets of Madrid, discovering little nooks and crannies full of charm. We even happened upon this little unassuming outdoor market where I found some great items on the cheap! Gorgeous sterling silver and amber stud earrings for only 5 euros and a darling genuine leather purse for only 15 euros after a little haggling (love it)!
For lunch, we went back to the gourmet market – so many delicious options.This time I settled on two tapas again. One was toasted bread topped with Spanish smoked ham, huge chuck of fresh mozzarella, roquette lettuce, tomato, and a red pepper chutney. The other was a traditional Spanish tapas of toasted bread topped with homemade salsa and a fried egg. Both were absolutely delicious and quite fresh. For dessert, I had another traditional Spanish dessert of a palmier dipped in chocolate.
Considering that all the museums are free from 6-8 every night, we decided to visit the famous Prado Museum, which contains one of the largest collections of European fine art – Goya, Rubens, Velaquez, Titian, and the list goes on and on just like the museum. Not only was the artwork stunning, the building itself was gorgeous as well!
All in all, I had a lovely time visiting cultures different than that of America and of France. I love discovering European cities!