alimentos y bebidas

Hola, readers!  If any of you can remember back to your high school Spanish classes, you might know that the title of this post is “Food & Drinks.”  After a month hiatus from travel, we spent this past weekend in Madrid, Spain, and I can say with absolute certainty that the theme of this visit was the delicious food (primarily in the form of tapas) and tasty drinks (primarily in the form of sangria).  Expect a lot of photos of what I ate. 🙂

We arrived last Friday afternoon to a much dirtier looking city than I was expecting.  Luckily, the hotel had posted a sign in the elevator letting us know about the street cleaners’ strike…or I would have assumed that was normal.  Here’s a glimpse:

Street trash.

Street trash.

Piled up in some areas!

Piled up in some areas!

Thanks hotel for letting us know!

Thanks hotel for letting us know!

At the hotel, we met up with our friend, Ben.  (You may remember Ben as our gracious guide during our stay in Paris or as our guest during the Queen’s Day celebrations last Spring.)  Upon arrival, it was determined that we were all starving and ready to start our intake of tapas.

Along the way, we passed by some of the main sights in Madrid, such as the Palacio de Cibeles, a former postal office and now the town hall of Madrid.

Quite the post office, right?

Quite the post office, right?

We also passed by this cool vertical garden at the CaixaForum Madrid Museum.  Pretty cool!

Seems like a lot of maintenance would be required...

Seems like a lot of maintenance would be required…

Then we took a peak at the Metropolis building.  Beautiful, don’t you think?

Quite the building!

Quite the building – this is just the top!

A full view.

A full view.

We made our way to the Puerto del Sol – literally the center (kilometer 0) of Madrid.  Here we snapped a quick photo of the Bear and the Madrono Tree statue – the symbol of Madrid.  We also admired the beginnings of a giant Christmas tree that was unfortunately not completed while we were there.

Symbol of Madrid - we all felt this tree resembled broccoli.

Symbol of Madrid – we all felt this tree resembled broccoli. (Building of the Christmas tree in the background.)

As you may remember, I mentioned that we were starving when we started out on this journey…and we covered a lot of ground before we finally found a highly recommended pit stop: Chocolateria San Gines – a churros cafe opened in 1894.  Did I mention that this place is literally open all the time – 24 hours a day, every day.  So you can always get your churros fill!  We didn’t fully understand what we were ordering, but we knew we wanted the churros and chocolate dipping sauce.  What we ended up with was a TON of churros and chocolate dipping sauce!!  And it was heavenly!

The adorable location.

The adorable location.

Amazing!

Amazing!

Showing us how it's done.

Showing us how it’s done.

From there, we passed through the Plaza Mayor, a gigantic square.  It appeared there was an event that evening, as chairs were being set up throughout the square as we passed through.

A portion of the square.

A portion of the square.

Loved these balconies surrounding the square.

Loved these balconies surrounding the square.

Then the food journey continued in an area called La Latina, known for their many tapas bars.  We started out with ‘Pintxos’ (another word for tapas used more in the North of Spain and in the Basque country).  We ordered their staple six pintxos special, which was a variety pack including a couple burgers, a fried sausage, some sort of black bean and rice with quail egg thing and some fried cheese.  Random, but tasty.  I also took this opportunity to try my first sangria of the trip.  It did not disappoint.

The platter.

The platter.

I should point out that it was now about 6:00 pm.  If you are familiar with the Spanish, you might be aware that a typical dinner time is around 9/10:00 pm for them.  So as we wandered the streets, very few places were even open.  I’m talking doors were boarded up and looked as though nothing had been open for years.  Here’s the best shot I could get of this:

Walked by this place on the left later - it was packed!

Walked by this place on the left later – it was packed!

So we decided to stop in a little “Cerveceria” for a beverage until then.  This is when we discovered just how cheap things were…we got a bucket of 5 beers for 3 euros!  This bucket even contained ice…  It was a little odd though, as we felt like we were in an ice cream shop or something – bright lights, blue walls – it didn’t feel like a bar by any means.

Bargain brews.

Bargain brews.

After waiting until the opening time of the tapas restaurants (mind you we were still the earliest people and clearly tourists), we stopped at Almendro 13, still in the La Latina neighborhood.  Here we had some more tapas: tortilla w/ jamon (this was a ham omelet obviously), chorizo rosca (basically a ring of sandwiches) and a bocadilla w/ jamon (a small jamon sandwich).  We saw that everyone around us had ordered the same thing – some chips with eggs and ham – we clearly didn’t get the specialty!  At this point, we were starting to fill up, so we didn’t get it.  BC was sad.

Looks good, huh?

Looks good, huh?

We decided that we could handle one more stop, so we went to Casa Lucas.  This place seemed a little more upscale and the food was delicious!  We had a ham & cheese croquette and this chicken with soy sauce and a corn mousse thing…they were SO GOOD!  I was incredibly full, but I had to eat it anyway.

Rocking the corner of the restaurant.

Rocking the corner of the restaurant.

The croquettes.

The croquettes.

The chicken and corn amazingness.

The chicken and corn amazingness.

That was it – all the tapas we could take in for one night.  We decided to head back towards the hotel, taking in a few night shots of the attractions along the way.  It was at this point that we stumbled upon what would become my favorite thing in Madrid…the Mercado de San Miguel.  This indoor food market was WONDERFUL!  It was high quality food in a market/vendor-type setting.  It was probably for the best that we had filled up already that night, so we didn’t go crazy here.  We decided to put it on our must-do list for the following day.  Here are a few shots from the market:

The outside.

The outside.

A meat stand.

A meat stand.

Loads of olives!

Loads of olives!

Empanadillas...

Empanadillas…

Fresh produce too.

Fresh produce too.

I was attracted to what I thought was dessert, but I was even more intrigued to find mozzarella...

I was attracted to what I thought was dessert, but I was even more intrigued to find mozzarella…

We walked back by the Royal Palace and the Alumdena Cathedral, which were both beautifully lit up.

The Cathedral from afar.

The Cathedral from afar.

Up close.

Up close.

The Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace.

Passing by the palace.

Passing by the palace…just like an evening walk in downtown DSM.

Back by the Metropolis and the Town Hall for some night shots…

Love the lights.

Love the lights.

Such a pretty old post office.

Such a pretty old post office.

And a cool fountain - why not.

And a cool fountain – why not.

The next morning, we set out to see something other than the food industry of Madrid.  But first, a little taste of America…DUNKIN DONUTS!  For three expats, this seemed like the logical thing to do for breakfast.

Why wouldn't you?!

Why wouldn’t you?!

First cultural visit…the Prado Museum.  This Spanish National Art Museum is said to be among the greatest museums of art.  It features both Spanish and other European artists, and we focused on the masterpieces in our guide by artists such as Velazquez, Goya, and El Greco.  I think the painting we all found the most interesting was The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch.  We spent about 2 hours jumping from masterpiece to masterpiece.

Outside the Museum Entrance.

Outside the Museum Entrance.

No photos allowed - but I snuck a quick one.

No photos allowed – but I snuck a quick one.

Next, a stroll through the Parque del Retiro, a very large public park in central Madrid.  We visited a lake full of small boats with the overlooking Monument to Alfonso XII.  Then we made our way to the Crystal Palace…a beautiful exhibition space that was once a greenhouse in the park.  It was a beautiful day, and the park stroll was definitely a great way to spend our time.

The entry of the park.

The entry of the park.

BC's panorama of the coolest trees ever.

BC’s panorama of the coolest trees ever.

A pretty path.

A pretty path.

The lake and monument.

The lake and monument.

Stunning fall colors!

Stunning fall colors!

The crystal palace - loved this.

The crystal palace – loved this.

Inside the crystal palace.

Inside the crystal palace.

We then continued our culinary tour, with a break at Stop Madrid – where we were told to have the sangria.  We met up with an EY expat friend, Stephanie, who just randomly happened to be in Madrid the same weekend.  After some sangria, and of course, more tasty jamon (ham), we had decided to head to the stadium where the Real Madrid ‘soccer’ team plays for a little tour.  Along the way to the nearest metro stop, we decided to go in a small establishment for a drink…primarily to use their restrooms.  It was here that we discovered that the Real Madrid team was currently playing a match at their stadium…so a tour wasn’t really an option.  Thank goodness for the restroom stop!  Also, I would like to take a moment to thank Spain for giving us a little snack every time we ordered a drink.  At this place, we got chips, olives and potato salad for free…

Sangria pitcher.

Sangria pitcher.

Happy to have some sangria!

Happy to have some sangria!

Our tasty jamon iberico plate.

Our tasty jamon iberico plate.

We decided to spend a little time and watch with the locals.

We decided to spend a little time and watch with the locals.

We decided to head back to the hotel and take a short siesta before dinner, so we didn’t head out quite as early as the previous evening.  Plus, I might have made a few purchases that I didn’t want to carry around all evening! 🙂

It was on our way back that I stumbled upon a small place called IOWA…maybe you’ve heard of it?

Found this really funny.

Found this really funny.

We also decided that the time had come to visit the Museo de Jamon (or the Ham Museum).  These ham shops were all over the city and we had been having a lot of discussion about them throughout the weekend.  We stopped in for 1 euro bocadillos – ham sandwiches.  They were really tasty!  (Can you tell that ham is quite popular here?!)  Apparently this is a good place to stop for a beer and a sandwich before heading out for the evening.

He was really excited.

He was really excited.

The scene - again, we must be too early.

The scene – again, we must be too early…it is packed at night.

That will be 3 euros.

That will be 3 euros.

Post-hotel break, we headed back to our great discovery on night #1 – the Mercado de San Miguel.  This time, we brought more of an appetite.  We thought the first order of business though, was caffeine…  This is what we found…

Some crazy coffee beverages.

Some crazy coffee beverages.

Next up, we found a little spot to sit and enjoyed some paella.  I had never had paella before, so I was pretty excited about it.  And it was quite tasty!

Of course, cooked in a large batch.

Of course, cooked in a large batch.

First paella!

First paella!

The boys also enjoyed some meat from the “Meating Point” vendor.  As for me, I was done eating for the day!  After that, they were too.  We decided to call it a night.

The next morning, we didn’t have a lot of time before we left town, so we headed straight towards La Latina where there is a enormous Sunday market called El Rastro.  I had expected a farmer’s market type environment with lots of food and also goods for sale.  I was a little disappointed to find that it really was more of flea market with lots and lots of stuff on the cheap…  Also, some police women had told us as we approached the market to be mindful of our pockets/wallets, etc. so I wasn’t 100% comfortable to begin with.  We made a pretty quick pass through, and then stopped for another ‘tortilla’ for breakfast.

The only shot I took at the market - it went on for blocks and blocks!

The only shot I took at the market – it went on for blocks and blocks!

The view along the way to the market.

The view along the way to the market.

 

We chose to visit Madrid on somewhat of a whim, but what a great weekend it turned out to be!  We really enjoyed the vibe of the city, and obviously, their tasty treats!!

In other VERY exciting news, we have a new nephew born this week (on 11-12-13…), Westen!  We are so excited to meet him over the holidays back home.  Congrats to Kalsie and Dustin, and of course, big brother Owen!

Also, in other news…we are going home in a month, so we decided the time had come to begin decorating our place for Christmas!  Unfortunately, this happened, putting a damper on our excitement:

This is the worst.

This is the worst.

But luckily, I was able to save it after a lot of time tampering with each and every light bulb – so now we have this!

Let the season begin!

Let the season begin!

We have a pretty full month prior to heading home – jamming in as many travels as possible!  Stay tuned for more!!

Until next time,
-MK-

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