Meandering through Madrid

My husband and I just spent 3 days in Madrid, Spain. It took almost a full day to get there with all kinds of flight issues and such but I was determined to not let that get to me and decided to put mind over matter and make the most out of the short time there.

Our hotel was north of the center of the city in the Conde Duque district,  but walking hoteldistance to almost everything. After settling in to our room we took a stroll (even though it was raining) to meet our daughter and her boyfriend at a local restaurant that they had found. On the way there, we spotted numerous fun looking tapas restaurants and bars. It seemed likely that this would be another eating holiday.  I was quite tired and not hungry after the big travel day so just had a cocktail before we crashed for the night.

The next day we had  a delicious breakfast at Federal Café, a super popular place opened bkfstby a couple of Australian expats who first started one  in Barcelona. It’s full of lots of healthy and tasty options and excellent coffee. I loved my avocado toast with poached egg and felt energized and ready for the day.

Before heading to Madrid, we did do a bit of research and found a company called Devour Madrid that does some amazing tours around the city. While I hadn’t actually booked anything with them, we arranged to meet with one of their guides for a chat. Luke Darracott is an Englishman living in Madrid who  loves all kinds of food, wine and traveling. He’s also a tv host for a variety of food/travel shows and so I was pretty certain we’d hit it off.  I showed Luke a list of tapas places our wonderful friend in Almeria, Maria Virgina sent us and he loved her selection. At the top of the list, was Casa Toni so we made our plan to go there that night.

While the rain was holding off for a bit, we strolled over to see the Royal Palace, one of WP_20180309_12_52_13_ProMadrid’s main attractions. There was too long a line to go in so instead we headed over to the Sorolla Art Gallery, a recommendation from Luke. It’s a beautiful house with sculptures, ceramics, furniture and jewelry as well as the artist Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida’s paintings.

As dinner is quite late in Spain, with most people eating after 10PM we first scheduled to see the flamenco show at Casapatas. Starting at about 8PM it was an hour and half of almost nonstop music and dancing and was rather exhilarating. By now, the tapas places around were open and starting to fill up so we quickly made our way to Casa Toni where we were taken to a table upstairs and promptly brought a bottle of local Madrid wine while waiting for our food. This place is known by the locals to have some of the best traditional tapas such as pigs ears and lamb intestines and so, yes, I had to try them. I’m not a fan of the pigs ears but the lamb intestines that were fried and wrapped around a vine were really delicious. We also had some chorizo (some of the best I’ve ever tasted) and a really good eggplant dish, patatas bravas (fried potato cubes with a spicy sauce)and some prawns with garlic.

We woke up to more rain the next day and so decided to visit the city’s History museum to get a better understanding of Madrid’s evolution as an urban city. It’s a small and easy museum to navigate and also free to enter.

We then took the metro to the La Latina district to check out the Mercado de La Cebada, a 2 story  indoor market full of stalls with meats, vegetables, fruits and seafood as well as some newer wine and beer bars and where on Saturday, the seafood aisles become a crowded and festive eating and drinking extravaganza. Thankfully, Luke met us and handled the ordering and found us a space so we could take part in this local happening. We had a very nice local Rueda wine (all of 7 euros) with mussels, octopus and delicious white anchovies.

Finding out how much I love cheese, Luke then took us to a tapas bar nearby that had an amazing assortment of cheese along with all kinds of local wines by the glass. In fact, the place called Almacen de Vino was actually a storehouse for wine that used to hold wine in casks and then sell it to the locals. The tiny place was packed and the smell of cheese wafted all around. I got to taste about 3 different types while sipping some nice monastrell.

Back on the metro, we now headed to one of Madrid’s best wine shops, Lavinia, located in the elegant Salamanca district. This large store has a restaurant upstairs where we sat down with a glass of sherry and some complimentary tapas before I browsed around and found the sherries that I ended up purchasing.
WP_20180310_18_19_04_ProAfter a full day of almost non stop eating and drinking, it was a simple snack and drink before heading off to bed.

The final day in Madrid was cold and windy but thankfully, not raining. Deciding it would be a good day to shop we headed to the biggest department store in Spain (and in fact, Europe, El Corte Ingles.  We went to the one on Plaza Callao since we heard it had an entire floor dedicated to gourmet food and drink. The Gourmet Experience, as its called, is on the 9th floor and has an amazing outdoor terrace with beautiful views of Madrid. We managed to get some photos before rain began again and browsed the amazing display of hams, cheeses, olive oils and other Spanish delicacies. If only I could take it all back home with me.

Heading out to the Gran Via, we popped in and out of shops until we were hungry for a bite. The rain had picked up, once again, and we needed to find a place in a hurry. Fortunately, we were right by a pretty place called La Carmen in the Plaza del Carmen and found ourselves in this friendly, stylish and very comfortable restaurant. The menu was diverse and reasonable and we shared some excellent roasted pork ribs, bull’s tail risotto, a cheese and sausage platter, spicy potatoes and the popular, fried squid sandwich. A couple of glasses of albarino and I was completely satisfied.

The rain had now stopped so we made the plan to walk back to our hotel. On the way, my daughter spotted an authentic looking Vienese café and we reenergized with coffee and hot chocolate.

We made a stop on our way to see the Temple of Debod, an Egyptian mtemonument dating back to the 2nd century BC. It was gift to Madrid  and reconstructed there in 1972. It’s located in La Montana park near the Plaza de Espana that has more fabulous views of the city and surrounding mountains.

Our final meal in Madrid was at the charming and cozy El Jardin Secreto (Secret Garden), for a light dinner and a couple of glasses of wine. My husband had pig trotters that were super moist and tasty and I had a crepe filled with cheese that was simply okay. While the food might not have been the best in my opinion, the cute atmosphere was worth the visit.

The next morning, we had a quick bite at the hotel, filling up on Spanish ham and cheese before our easy taxi ride to the airport.

The three days were complete and I am thrilled that this short trip was so gratifying.

Cheers and all the best,









All the Best with Zita Keeley in Almeria, Spain

From filming on Holland America Line Mediteranean Cruise – MS Oosterdam