Our first week in Madrid ended (and second weekend began) with exploring some less popular museos in Madrid: El Museo del Metro, El Museo Arqueológico de los Caños (at the Ópera metro station), and the Biblioteca Nacional de España. We enjoyed and would both recommend taking some time to check out the Metro museum if you ever find yourself in Madrid. It is free and also lots of fun to see how the metro functioned and looked in the early 1900’s.
The Museo Arqueológico Caños wasn’t nearly as interesting — it is free so if you are nearby and feel like dropping in go for it, however we wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for it. We also discovered that unless you have a pre-approved pass for research, the Biblioteca Nacional de España is no longer open to the public. They do have a museo (which is free and open to the public) that goes into the history of media and publishing with lots of interesting publishing artifacts and old books. We ended up checking it out since we were there and found it somewhat fascinating. After sharing a homemade picnic lunch outside the biblioteca we decided last minute to stick around Madrid into the evening and enjoy some live music. Our week had been focused on seeing all the Madrid attractions… we were now ready to settle into being ‘locals’ for the next few days. Amanda had recently read about a local free jazz club Populart, and both being big jazz fans, we decided to explore some more bar/tapas spots around the city (now that it was 7:30pm — when the cafés were open and lively) before the first jazz show at 10:45pm. Working our way back to Calle de Cava Baja where we grabbed a couple of cañas at the very busy Posado de la Villa, from there we strolled past the Palacio Real and took in the amazing sunset and view of the freshly snow covered mountains.
For the first time all week the weather was fairly warm — that mixed with the fact it was Friday had the streets and plazas filled with people of all ages. We stopped into one more café, A’Cañada, where we enjoyed some great free tapas with our drinks (more than the typical plate of nuts/olives, but still not the mounding plates like El Tígre, however really great quality). It was in this barrio, on Calle Jesus, that we found thousands (literally thousand) of people lined up of all ages down three different streets leading to one building (and they were still lined up just as long after three hours). They were waiting for something… we assumed a theater or opera premiere.
After Ben asking several people (in Spanish) what they were waiting for we were able to piece it together. They were all waiting in line to go to the local church in order to pay respects to an image of Jesus as the Queen and Spain’s highest cardinal were there. We snagged a paparazzi-style photo of the high cardinal Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela, who is involved in choosing the next pope, as he was leaving the church.
After filling our bellies with beer and muchas patatas (prepared many ways: patatas braves, tortilla, patatas baked with garlic…) we managed to get to PopulArt just in time to snag the last table available. By the time the music started the place was packed, mostly with people standing. We ordered two coffees for an outrageous 8€ total (we later asked and found out the price of the drinks double when there is music since entry is free). However, the music was amazing and worth the price of the two coffees. As long as you keep your beverage consumption to a minimum we would highly recommend this small spot for some free live music.
While we wanted to stay to watch the music longer, we left at 11:45pm, just in time to catch the last metro to the bus station to grab a bus back to Pozuelo. Saturday morning Robbie invited us to join him for a run in the very large and beautiful park of Casa De Campo. We parked near the zoo and warmed up by jogging to the ‘track’ he planned to do some training on, which was a 2-kilometer cross-country style loop. In fear of getting lost (as Amanda had the day before on a run) in the large park we decided to stick to running a couple laps on the trail and then doing some yoga while Robbie finished his run. The day was beautiful and warm — which we welcomed after a week of mostly cold and cloudy weather with some snow and rain mixed in.
After starting our day with a couple hours of fresh air and exercise we headed into Madrid to meet Ben’s tio Gerar (the oldest of the uncles) and his wife, Mimi, at El Museo del Jamon for lunch. We enjoyed a typical shared style meal with plates of jamon, cheeses, calamari and croquettes. We also got to try Oreja de Cerdo, which is a local dish of fried pig ear (Amanda isn’t very fond of it, but Ben enjoyed the taste… but the texture takes some getting used to).
That evening Robbie had put a lot of effort into getting all the cousins together for dinner and a night out in Madrid. While not all fifteen cousins were able to make it out (it would have been a miracle if that had happened — trying to coordinate with those who did come was a project in itself), we did have a good turnout of seven cousins and three partners to make our group a total of ten. Inés took us to a fun bar/restaurant El Hombre Moderno where we shared some smaller plates. From there we headed into the streets (which were packed full of people) to find a place to dance that would suit everyone in the group (not an easy task).
Tarik took the lead and managed to negotiate with a promoter on the street to get our group free entry into Sideral Bar and a couple rounds of free chupitos for everyone. As a group we danced, shared drinks, and enjoyed ourselves before attempting to head out to another location on the town. Ben and I were able to find some “junkielatas” (ManCan for us Americans) for 1€ each from one of the many ‘street beer vendors’ to enjoy while we searched for our next bar. It didn’t take long after walking around and losing Ricardo that we all decided to call it ‘an early night’ at 3am and head home. Even though we didn’t get our boogie on all night as we had expected we found the night very enjoyable (being with family and having a chance to dance bit) and managed to dodge the popular Sunday hangovers of Madrid. The next day we got to see a demonstration of tio Emilio’s intreticate train system he has started been constructing over the last five years. Both of us were amazed that he had constructed every little piece of the system (from the plywood levels for multiple tracks to the detailed houses the trains pass by).
Later that evening we joined Paloma and Tarik for hookah (which Amanda is always ready for) and more Spanish cooking. Paloma made a couple small tortillas for us, as well as gazpacho – the Spanish cold tomato soup with peppers that we all enjoyed and was a nice break from heavier dishes. We spent the evening in good company switiching between English and Spanish and planning for our excursion (two weeks later) to Valencia. Robbe managed to join us for the later part of the night before we all headed home together for bed.
With the rainfall being more frequent throughout the next few days we decided to slow it down. No need to be soaked rats for a week. We started the week off easy relaxing, looking at activities for the week, and planning future next trips/trains/buses online. Rhuna (the house dog) joined us for a couple of evening walks before the always amazing dinners that Patricia had planned each evening. On Tuesday we woke up early for a day excursion to Toledo (which we will recap in our next post). It was a good day trip outside busy Madrid, and a beautiful ancient medieval city.
The remainder of the week we relaxed with a trip to the local library, games of cards, and some last meals in Madrid. While passing through Atocha station on one afternoon we happened to stumble upon a “supernatural event fair”. We decided to take some time to walk thorough and soak up the ‘bunea energi’a’ (tarot card readers, palm readers, reiki, incense sales, etc), before eventually making our way to Casa Patas for our orientation lunch with Pueblo Ingles (a program we are volunteering with to help Spaniards learn English).
Casa Patas is an iconic restaurant on the ground level, and on the subsequent floors above is a flamenco academy. We had paella in the restaurant while meeting the other ‘Anglo’ volunteers and then went upstairs for a short flamenco performance from some local students. We spent the rest of the afternoon in a local tea lounge, Bomec. The inside was peaceful and couples have the options of sharing a ‘boat bed’. We opted for a small table instead so we do some writing while enjoy foreign teas. The décor was absolutely beautiful and an unexpected oasis from the busy Madrid streets.
We spent our last hours in Madrid (at least for the next couple weeks) with Ben’s cousin Inés. She had inited us to the Alfi Theater for a show performed by the group Yllana called Muu2!. The group is known for their satire comedy using very little spoken language. We weren’t sure what to expect but ended up laughing so hard we were crying. This particular performance was specifically about the Spanish traditional bull fighting. After the show we joined Ine’s and her friends at Casa Julio, another ‘famous’ tapas spot nearby. The group ordered several dishes. The new tapa of the night for us was a tortillita de camarónes, which was flat like a pancake and made with shrimp, unlike a traditional tortilla. We ended our week on Thursday with big hugs and kisses for all the family as we planned to wake early Friday morning and leave for our Puelbo Inglés program. We knew the week ahead was going to be a busy and structured one, yet we still had little expectations or understanding as to how exactly the next week would go.
So with that, early on Friday morning Patricia drove us to the local train route so we could be swept away to the next adventure. Our time in Madrid had been amazing, and despite inclement weather somedays, being with the family and cousins made it really feel like a home away from home. Now time to turn the tables and spend a week with 2 dozen Spaniards sworn to an oath of English. This should be interesting!
A big big thank you to all the family in Madrid for the hospitality and helpfulness, and extra thanks to Emilio’s contingent of the family for letting us stay with them, cooking, and helping us with logistics, etc!!!!