Monday, May 18, 2009

Madrid, here we are!

...tidbit in Madrid...

For Day 1 and Day 2 click here

Day 3 (Saturday) – Madrid
Oh, Spain, the land of jamón Serrano!!! After spending a late night eating and enjoying Madrid, we were very slow to get out of bed and even slower to get motivated. To help, our first stop was to find a nice “cortado” to enjoy. I have always been fond of this small cup of coffee with milk. It hit the spot. We did some shopping along the street “Calle de Fuencarral.” There were fun shops with so many options of clothing and accessories. It was definitely worth the time to check out. We continued walking on Gran Via, one of the main streets in the city. Along this avenue, there are department stores, theaters, restaurants, banks, etc, not to mention the massive amounts of people. There is such a cross section of people, that I think it’s one of the best places to people watch. There are a few streets that are pedestrian only that lead toward “Puerta del Sol”, which is a large square also known as “Kilometer 0” (or the center of Madrid). Nic and I were enjoying our stroll, when, the sky closed and turned black and began raining, not just little drops, but big drops! We ran into a few department stores to do some shopping, “El Corte Ingles”, being one of them. It has just about everything you need for your life (food, clothing, bedding, electronics, books, perfume, etc.). It is a great place to kill some time, which is exactly what we needed to do, since we left our big jackets back at the hotel. The rain let up and we were able to continue our foot tour of the center.

At about 8 pm we headed back to the hotel to change and find dinner for the night. We asked our front desk for some suggestions and we decided to try paella this time, since there was a nice restaurant around the corner which specialized in the traditional rice dish. When we arrived at “La Barraca”, we were given two menus, one in English and the other in Italian. We sat down to read the menus and Nic noticed that there were a lot of Italians around us. The first room had a large, rather loud, party and in our quieter room, there were three other tables all from Italy. Kind of strange, we got a chuckle out of the fact that all the Madrileños were eating at “Mercado de la Reina”, because they had reservations (which we tried again tonight, only to find that they were “completo” again). We were stuck with the Italians at “La Barraca”. We ejoyed a nice bottle of sparkling cava from Codorniu. It was very nice and paired well with our appetizer of cod fritters and some croquettes. The fritters were lightly fried and went down quick. The croquettes were made of a thick béchamel sauce and were nice and creamy without tasting like flour. They were followed by a “Paella Marinera de la Casa”, a beautiful paella with mixed seafood. Which, it was served from a smaller table next to our table. The server would dish up the plates, and then he would remove the “pallera” (the pan used to cook the paella in) and take it back to the kitchen. It was a very lovely paella. The saffron flavor was there but not too intrusive and the seafood tasted fresh and cooked perfectly. Even though a new table of Italians came in, I still felt like I was in Spain.

Day 4 (Sunday) – Madrid - Meet up with Nic’s Dad
With the alarm buzzing and the day at its beginning, we needed to finish packing and check out of the hotel, then we needed to walk to the next hotel, where we would meet up with Nic’s dad and step-mom, Felicetta. Luckily, the day before we had checked the directions, so it was a nice stroll to find our next nights lodging.
We made it there first, got checked in, then headed down the street for another “cortado”. I am the happiest on my travels, when I have a little coffee a number of times during the day. That’s why I love Italy and Spain, there is always coffee nearby. During our coffee stop, Nic’s phone rang and his dad was at the hotel. We paid for the cortados, then went to meet up with them. Everyone was checked in and baggage was in the room. Next up on the agenda, walk around the city.
We met back down in the lobby, Nic’s dad had his guide in hand and had a map of a walking tour. After a few modifications, we head out the door to get a bite to eat, then our tour of the monuments would begin.

We started at the Plaza de España, and headed toward the former Royal Palace and its gardens. On the other side of the palace is the royal Cathedral. Unfortunately, it was closed in the afternoon on Sundays, so we were unable to go inside it. We also continued past the opera house and were headed to the Puerta del Sol, when we had to stop for some chocolate and churros! I absolutely love this thick chocolaty beverage and the fried churros that get dunked in, oh, so carefully. We finished our tour, by walking up the pedestrian zones we had visited the day before and at this point, both Nic and myself were exhausted. Jet lag can hit hard sometimes. We decided that it would be best to get a little rest before we head out in the evening for another late night dinner.

Nic’s dad was waiting for us in the lobby and we decided that we would go to a restaurant that he had heard about, so into the taxi we go. Our driver was very nice and I was chit-chatting with him the whole way. As we were driving around the “La Latina” district he was pointing out good restaurants and other sights we should see. Then, out of nowhere we were there. “Casa Lucio” stood before us. Out we jump and go inside, only to find out that on a Sunday at 10:30 the restaurant was, you guessed it… “complete”. Well, what to do? We head back to where the taxi driver told us about.

“Botin” was our final choice and to our luck, they had a table. We had to wait for a couple of minutes, so they put us behind the bar to wait (not where I would exactly put someone to wait). Nic’s dad was eyeballing the jamón sitting on the counter. We all laughed because we knew he wanted to slice some off for himself and eat it right there. Luckily our table was ready, so off we went to find it. We followed the waiter through the kitchen, which was odd and we politely said “hola”, I mean what do you say to the kitchen staff in a different language? We sat down and our table next to the window and curious enough another door to the outside, that was blocked off. As we began reading the menu, we realized that this was (according to the Guinness book of World Records), the oldest running restaurant in the world, a nice fun fact. It was established in 1725. Wow, that’s old.
Its specialty was traditional Spanish food. We started out with an appetizer of roast
ed red peppers and cod, it was very basic, but flavorful and they both went together so well. For his entrée, Nic tried the “gambas al ajillo”, which were swimming in oil. The prawns themselves were tasty and fresh, but the olive oil definitely was a little too much.

After reading the menu, I knew that I was going to get the “chipirones en su tinta” (baby squid in its own ink). This dish may not look good, given the fact that it is black, but the flavor is very unique and the squid was cooked perfectly. I was very satisfied with my choice and it left me wanting more.

On our way back to the hotel we took a stroll and stumbled across the “Plaza Mayor”, which when lit up in the night was a beautiful sight. Nic was impressed by its beauty and said it was one of the most beautiful plazas he has seen. Definitely a must see for any trip, especially in the evening when it’s full of night life.
On that wonderful note, we headed back to the hotel, because we needed to catch the bus early in the morning for our tour of Andalusia. stop Córdoba…


ester said...

Oh John....I like your full of food...I'm hungry...and here it's only 9.30 in the morning...besos ester

Liesa said...

I loved reading about your vacation. You must of been in food heaven! I know I would have been. I'll get there one day! I bet you brought back so much inspiration for TidBit Bistro.