Truth be told, I didn’t know what to expect from Madrid. I had been to Barcelona where they have the beach and impressive works of Gaudí and the incredible energy along La Rambla. Coming to Madrid would be a pitstop on my way from Lisbon to Munich and an opportunity to catch up with a friend from the area. However, and sometimes luckily for us, things don’t always work out the way we anticipate and my visit to town would be nothing short of wonderful.
Madrid has beautiful light. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I recall my experience of the city. I arrived at sunrise on a Saturday morning in March, the skies glowed soft pink and orange which would later become brighter hues of yellow and white against a brilliant blue sky. It was cold and admittedly I was poorly prepared for it but a sunrise in a new city was worth the icy fingertips and toes.
It was beautiful weather for the time I was in town. On one of the days, I sat in the park watching a group doing yoga; watching others sitting on the nearby park benches enjoying the sunshine and a rest from their walk. While visiting the Templo de Debod I overheard (ok eavesdropped on) a tour guide speaking to his small group, who suggested that the best time to visit this monument was at sunset…and he was right! The reflections on the water, the warm glow and the colours of the golden hour set the scene as the sun crossed the horizon to give the moon its turn to shine. Madrid has marvelous light!
Madrid also has incredible food and one of my favourite experiences was stumbling across the Mercado de la Cebada. It was buzzing inside as visitors lined the passage ways in between the fresh fish stands eating mussels and octopus, sipping on accompanying local wines and enjoying afternoon chit-chat with friends and family. I ordered my portion of fresh octopus tentacles: cut into bite sized pieces, drizzled with Spanish olive oil, dusted with smoky paprika and sprinkled with salt flakes. I shared a nearby table (a board raised on empty crates) and watched the other patrons taking pleasure in their afternoon at the market.
During my stay I visited the Mercado de San Miguel, my latest “for-the-love-of-food” find, with its iron pillars framing big glass windows, high ceilings and rustic feel – this place is a haven for the senses: the smells, colourful food options, drinks, snacks, sweet and savoury. I visited at opening and on another occasion delighted in the ambiance until they kicked us out at closing.
Lastly, let us not to forget the chocolate con churros! I had mine for breakfast, but the desire for these crispy, fried batter sticks dipped in hot chocolate remains at any hour of the day or night. In Madrid I went straight to the source, Chocolatería San Ginés, serving churros since 1894!
I visited the museums and their incredible art works, with not nearly enough time or energy to truly appreciate them as their genius. I tried to visit the National Library but I visited on a weekend with a public holiday and as a result it was closed. As always a run was on the cards and I ran from the Puerta del Sol to the Atocha Station to see the indoor oasis, before finding my way to Madrid Rio, a stunning outdoor space, sculptured park with pristine gardens and elegant pathways. It’s an absolute delight for runners, cyclists and dogs and their walkers alike.
Another city ticked off the list, more interesting food experiences and new friends met and made. Madrid truly impressed and its extraordinary light is forever imprinted on me.