Last August, my brother and I made a very spontaneous decision to chase La Vuelta, Spain’s pro cycling tour. 8 days out from an international trip means insane airfare, but we were determined to go. In order to make that happen without exhausting our coins, we booked a flight from D.C. with a layover in Madrid. Our parents were flying in two days later so we could all train southbound together, giving Bro and me 24 hours to zip our way through the city.
Without an itinerary, a standard practice I enjoy when travelling solo, we were game for whatever the city’s energy shared.
Still, we managed to come across and relish in key spots you must see and experience if you find yourself with veinticuatro horas to spare.
Matute 11 Suites
If you’re into luxurious stays but don’t have luxury dollars, check out this old royal’s private residence-turned -extravagant, inexpensive boutique hotel. It boasts chic suites with a kitchenette and ivy-laced facades views from your French doors window. If you get lucky, you can cook and enjoy your creation in your own courtyard.
Mercado San Miguel
It’s pretty much a smaller version of NY’s Chelsea Market, but you have to go. The upside is that you can walk around with your wine in hand as you would your Kombucha. Make sure to get some croquettas, some sparkling rosé, and a mini ice cream cone as you exit.
Clockwise: TukTuk Asian food truck outside of Mercado San Miguel; Croquetas at La Negra Tomasa; Alleyway leading to Chocolateria San Gines; Calamari cones at Mercado San Miguel.
Calle Humilladero, 4
You can’t say you had an authentic Spanish moment if you bypassed eaing a tortilla, Spain’s quintessential choice for breakfast, mid-afternoon snack, and even dinner. Find yourself at El Buo (the Owl) and order the goat cheese and caramelized onion egg pie. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen and eaten in egg form. The ooze is enough to dish out $14. Make sure there are 6 of of you. It’s large and will have you walking around the city with a takeaway bag, otherwise. I did that. And because we had a kicthenette (see above), I enjoyed it for breakfast the next day.
Churros, Chocolatería San Ginés
They blew my mind the first time I ate here back in 2007.
It was sheer luck that exactly a decade later, my brother and I were aimlessly walking down a street and the corner looked entirely too familiar. Flanked by serenading musicians, the lines were wrapped around the narrow corner. Indeed, we found ourselves in the same I was marveled with 10 years prior. The difference this time: it was mediocre, at best. The hustle and energy was the same, but the flavor wasn’t there. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t as hungry. I still recommend it for you. It’s an iconic corner full of vibrancy and a lot of chatter from all over the world. You can’t beat a local experience like that for $5.
Cuban Cuisine + Musíca, La Negra Tomasa
Some Cubans I know refer to Spain as the “motherland.” Yeah, they colonized us, but I’m not going to go that far. I will, however, perch myself up in a cozy restaurant owned, managed and run by Cubans, making lunch or dinner that much more authentic. The four walls are a shrine-of-sorts to all things Cuba, pre and post Fidel. I can recite and cook the entire menu, it’s that classic. You should order the ropa vieja with sweet fried plantains accompanied by two mojitos, which requires one young lady’s hard work. She started lining up about 200 glasses while we ate lunch.
Sangria, Bar Inclan
Modern, hipster, ambient, a bit loud, and eclectic, all in one. Maybe not all the adjectives you’d settle for while travelling, but their sangria is solid. The Romanian bartender was super cool and knew well the history of his new home.
Rooftop at Melia Reina Victoria
I felt like I was in Ibiza. Sexy, good drinks, pretty people, and a great view. And this dope, pink plant wall which I want to replicate in my place. Downside: the line to get in is college-kind of unnecessary. And, no food. Sip responsibly.
GO SEE, ETC.
Parque Dalieda San Fransisco
Plaza Mayor + Rub Bear’s Belly at Puerta del Sol + Museo del Prado
Thanks to my bro for a lot of these pics. Stay tuned for the next installment in this Spain series.
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
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