Tag Archives: Madrid

Exploring Chueca neighborhood in Madrid

Another 21,000-steps day, according to our iPhone. And another beautiful weather day, high 40s/low 50s, sun, blue skies. The whole city of Madrid seemed to be out strolling. This time we walked west a little further north, along Vias Goya and Acacala, stopping for coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice (my energy booster of choice) at Viena capellanes Goya. It took a few hours to get to Chueca because the route is not exactly clear. But who cares? Lots of interesting scenery and sights, grand plazas and busy traffic circles and monumental buildings with statues and other striking architectural details.

Paella at last.

We landed in Chueca at 2 pm just as the shops were closing for siesta so it seemed the day for a traditional restaurant serving paella. Restaurant Las meigas fit the bill, with tables filled with Spanish people. We appeared to be the only tourists and stuck out a bit. We had to wait 45 minutes for the paella to cook, which seemed a good sign and it was. It was delicious, packed with seafood and chicken and vegetables. We could eat only half of it (it was for two people supposedly) so lugged the rest back to give to our friends/hosts.

Lots of sales in shops this time of year and dirck picked up two really nice buttoned down shirts (60 percent off, but still not cheap) from Loreak mendian, which is based in San Sebastián.

We ended up wandering some more in Malasana, since it is right next to Chueca and on our trek back, we stopped for more coffee and oj at Cafeteria dcandel in the Letras neighborhood, served by a young hipster guy wearing a Red Wings hockey shirt. He seemed impressed that I was from Detroit. By the time we made it back to our friends’ place, with another walk through lovely Retiro Park, we felt like we kind of knew our way around this lovely city that I hope to visit again some time.

A Malasana street shot, with blinding sunlight.

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Exploring Retiro Park and Letras and Malasana neighborhoods — Madrid

Amazing day. The sky cleared, going from gray to blue. the fog lifted, the sun came out, all of which we witnessed from on high through the windows of our friends’ 13th floor apartment. Suddenly we could see the mountains in the distance beyond the brick, stucco, concrete and tile building rooftops.

Best tapas bar

Our day of wandering around Madrid was greatly enhanced by the kindness of strangers, one of whom insisted on paying for our lunch. Our friends too were a huge help. Merida and one of her two big white dogs walked us through Retiro Park, through formal gardens, along dirt paths lined with large trees, past the shimmering glass of the Crystal Palace, grand plaza with sculpture and a big pond where the ducks stole bread bits that merida was throwing to the huge carp. People were out and about enjoying the 50 degree temps on a Monday at the end of a holiday weekend.

Inside best tapas bar. The two women in the top photo, right side, are the Noels who insisted on paying our tab.

Merida pointed us the direction of the Prado Museum and we were off, stopping first at Vincens, a candy maker since 1775, (where we picked up gifts for friends after sampling several cut up soft chunks of what tasted like nougat, fudgy bits, toffee.

San Antonio de Los Alemanes and the storybook facade of a bookstore/printer

And then we dove into the old Letras neighborhood narrow lanes lined with elegant apartment buildings, cafes, tapas bars and the occasional fun little boutiques. We found a cheerful shop called Santacana that has made gloves (1 de las Huertas) since 1896. We bought gorgeous handcrafted knit, leather and felt gloves as gifts. I then asked the stylish shopkeeper if she knew of a good place for lunch.

She sent us to Bodega il Ardoso, in the bohemian Malasana neighborhood, around since the late 1800s. It turned out to be a somewhat famous local secret, a small dark tapas bar, lined with old bottles, photos, paintings. It was filled with people at 2 pm, the start of siesta when shops close and people eat, but the waiter rather brusquely nodded at us and said something in rapid Spanish that seemed to mean “See this opening underneath the bar counter? Duck under it.” And so we did, finding ourselves in a smaller room, slightly less packed with people. We found a spot to stand along a narrow wood counter and got to talking with two women who were eating a gorgeous plate of grilled artichoke. They recommended this and another tapa, the famous potato tortilla, which turned out to be a delicous omelette with egg and potatoes. I later learned the place is famous for Czech beer, which dirck drank.

The women turned out to be mother and daughter locals, both named Noel. They spoke English well, were well-traveled art lovers who knew Chicago and Detroit and even Rochester Minnesota, and operate Airbnbs in Madrid and Pamplona. They were astonished we’d found the bar, which is off the tourist track. We shared a table after another party left and the elder Noel insisted first on buying us drinks and then paying for our meal, which included another delicious dish they recommended, a bowl of crispy curlicues of potato topped with fried eggs. We exchanged email addresses and Airbnb links and they recommended several places to go nearby. Their kindness made our day!

We tried to visit a nearby church with art treasures (San Antonio de Los Alemanes) and cafe (cafe Ruiz) that they recommended but both were closed. The good part was the cool neighborhood around them, with shops like El Moderno concept store on and near corredera Baja de San Pablo. We had coffee at an outdoor cafe in a sunny little plaza. Our new friends also recommended visiting San Antonio de le Florida church for more art.

Dinner in our friends’ Retiro neighborhood was at Taberna La castela, which also turned out to be superb (thank you WaPo for your travel story I chanced upon). We had delicious seafood…grilled sole, tuna, a risotto of sorts with black squid ink, calamari/octopus. Grilled tiny sardine-like fish called whitebait arrived as a free appetizer along with excellent bread. The croquettes had a delicious fishy flavor inside.

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Madrid, Escorial, and Segovia

Very nice of our old friends M & C to up and move from New York to Madrid, where they first met as young children living here with their respective families. Decades later, they are living for several months in the lovely Retiro neighborhood in a 1970’s-era apartment building on the 13th floor with superb views of the city.

Escorial, with dogs, mountains and rainbow

We had an uneventful trip here on Aer Lingus with a brief layover in Dublin, delayed slightly by fog that has hung over the city. Yesterday we had time to stroll along a ramblas, of sorts, a brick pedestrian strip lined with a street with cars on either side. Families, couples, singles, young, old people all strolling on a Saturday afternoon. Very civilized. m &C eat one big meal a day, a late lunch at around 3 p.m. Yesterday we went to a traditional local place, La Hoja (La Fueya) aka The Leaf that was packed with families. We shared big plates of sliced jamon, sliced cheese, grilled artichokes, and then entrees that were big plates of meat, game or fish (wild boar, pork) and then cider served through some ceramic contraption.


Today we packed up the two white dogs (one who looks like our lab mix Millie ) and hit the road for a scenic drive to the lovely town of Escorial, famous for its 17th century monastery/palace, an imposing pile of stone at the edge of a wide plaza. IN the distance the fog rose from the mountains and the sun finally appeared, along with a rainbow lining the mountains like a dandy’s scarf. We strolled into the old city, with narrow lanes lined with lovely old buildings and small plazas, past whimsical Christmas decorations – large paper mache animals, including a cow giving birth and a donkey perched on a stone staircase , as if in mid step. We stopped at a little cafe for tapas – little plates of marinated anchovies, olives, cheese, sausage, an omelette/hash browns concoction.

Cider-serving contraption at La Hoya restaurant in Madrid, sucking cider out of the bottle and carbonizing it.

On to Segovia, a hilltop town with a spectacular Roman aqueduct, cathedral and castle. Isabella, the queen of Castille, was crowned in the cathedral in the 1400s. She dispatched Columbus on his expedition to the new world.) Lunch was at a famous old world place called mason de Candido, around since 1884, in a rambling old building with lots of carved wood, casement windows, painted murals and photos of local and world dignitaries. I didn’t realize until we finished lunch that I was sitting under a photo featuring Jimmy Carter. This seemed like the right place for sangria, grilled baby lamb (crispy on outside, succulent inside), potatoes.

Lunch in Madrid

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Turquoise Trail, Vinaigrette, Shake Foundation, El Rey Inn — Albuquerque, Madrid, Sante Fe

Salads at Vinegarette

Salads at Vinaigrette

After a short but bumpy flight from Phoenix, wedged in a middle seat between two big guys in the very last row of the plane (Ahhh Southwest), we arrived almost on time at the Albuquerque airport where our hospitable brother in law Wellington picked us up in this big red truck (a work vehicle) and drove us to his adobe style house in the southeast part of town. We had a nice family dinner prepared by my sister in law Leah, visited my mother in law who lives in a residential home that house five elderly people (a far better option than the way more institutional feeling nursing home she left in Kansas, and left this morning for sante Fe along the scenic Turquoise Trail, a two lane road though the mountains. True to form, I bought something in the small town of Madrid, although not a rug because our favorite rug shop (Seppanen & Daughters Fine Textiles) wasn’t open.  I bought a flowy sweater at a little shop lining a dusty side street (most of the shops are in worn houses lining the road) and we had an excellent ice coffee at a hippie dippie place called Java Junction (note to self: coffee ice cubes!).

On the outskirts of sante fe, we checked into our usual place, a well preserved (and updated) 1930’s roadside motel, the el rye inn, which I first learned about from my mom in the 1980’s (thanks Mom xox). We had a really nice lunch at Vinaigrette in an unmarked adobe building just south of town that specializes in very fresh salad greens and interesting combos (I had a pear, blue cheese, walnuts , bacon pieces salad in a balsamic, yes, vinegrette…note to self: poach pears in balsamic vinegar; Dirck had the lightest most creative version of a taco salad I’ve ever seen/tasted). We moved onto the Plaza area and finally found a free parking spot (non metered, along a little park by Marcy street and the radio tower.) we window shopped a bit along the plaza and canyon road (dropping in at the Ventana Gallery for old times sake (where we saw $30,000 painting with sold stickers beside them). The southwest adobe architecture is still charming but the shops don’t interest me much so we just wandered. Perfect weather. Sunny, 70s, light breeze.  The railyard district nearby seems to be the more emerging place to be (it’s much more

Shopping in Madrid, New Mexico

Shopping in Madrid, New Mexico

gentrified than when we last visited 13 years ago and went to the great farmers market which, alas, is on Tuesdays and Saturdays …note to self: return on a Tuesday or saturday.)

We stopped for some ice tea and ginger lemonade at Shake Foundation, a hip fast food place made of sheet metal and glass with two takeout windows and what looks like great food (green chili burgers, lamb burgers, salt caramel ice cream, pistachio milk shakes…lunch tomorrow!)



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