February in the UK is cold and wet and often miserable. Which is why it’s the perfect time for adventuring abroad. At the end of Feb, me and Beth went to Madrid, in search of tapas, art and a blue, blue sky. It did not disappoint.
Look at that sky.
Flying at a reasonable time from Gatwick meant we could travel down to London on the day of our flight, which was awesome, though getting up at 4am was not fun. It meant that we got into Madrid at 2pm, giving us plenty of time to struggle with huge suitcases on the metro and to find our hostel before it went dark.
Our hostel was TOC Madrid and it was a like a good hotel. Quirky, polished and having rooms with balconies, we were really impressed with TOC. Because we’re adults now with shiny paychecks to blow, we stayed in a private room at the hostel (Which was still cheaper than staying at an actual hotel), rather than in a dorm, and it was so cool to be able to eat our lunch on a teeny tiny balcony.
Balcony, balcony, balcony
When we’d siesta’d (4am is too early to be up, guys), we headed out into central Madrid to have a wander round. We headed to the Puente de Toledo aka the Bridge of Toledo. Very pretty, surrounded by gardens that’ll probably be better when it’s not February and dark. Then we ended up at Las Bravas for tapas, which involved two different kinds of squid. Tapas is pretty great though it helps when you know what is you’re eating.
Points for you if you can guess which two things are made of squid.
On Saturday we headed to the Musuem of Romanticism for breakfast, where it became apparent to us how little Spanish we know. Breakfast was delicious, but we decided not to go round the museum in favour of finding Caxia Forum. It was a great decision.
Caxia is pronounced Kai-sha by the way.
Caxia Forum is an art gallery that looks like it’s floating and has a four storey wall of greenery next to it. It was a gorgeous day and the living wall was very impressive. Of course we went into Caxia Forum, which had an exhibition of Joan Miró’s work. He was modernist or post modernist – either way it was a lot of fun coming up with faux artistic reasons for the art.
Four storeys. Four whole storeys.
After stopping off in the excellent shop at Caxia Forum, we headed across the road to the El Retiro Park, which is a public garden with a couple of art galleries. Madrid loves its art. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours with baguettes and beer in the sunshine. We eventually wandered to the Palacio de Cristal which is a beautiful art space in the park before we headed back for a quick siesta and then headed out for food.
The Crystal Palace of Madrid is gorgeous.
We went for paella, because when in Rome. The restaurant was called La Paella de la Reina and Lonely Plant (my go to guide book) recommended it. The paella was great, though we struggled for half an hour to get the bill, because every time I caught the waiter’s eye, he’d smile and walk off.
The next day was Sunday, and according to all the literature, the thing to do on Sundays in Madrid is to go to the flea markets. So we did. Streets full of old paintings, second hand clothes and general tat/antiques. As always, the weather was glorious and it was lovely if a little crowded.
And then we had the best brunch ever. La Central is a bookshop who not only have an excellent selection of books, but had the one of the best meals I’ve ever had. For €23 euros you get, mini pastries, juice, tea or coffee, a main and a pudding. Of brunch. I had eggs benedict for the first time and a chocolate crepe (not at the same time), and the juice wasn’t bog standard orange or apple. No, it was fancy with over three ingredients and tasted fantastic. Simply incredible.
After a relatively lazy day, that evening we went out looking for drinks. After some seriously great burritos, we wound up in a down at heel bar for cocktails before we went in search of another watering hole.
We sucked at finding places to drink. But it all worked out when we found a swish looking bar who had local beer. They also had a band playing who were American metal folk. It sounded pretty much like you’re imagining.
Monday was our last full day in Madrid and we began in the district of Chueca, where we found some amazing niche shops, some fabulously expensive clothes and some really lovely people. We ended up at a café called La Linda where they have their own juice and some pretty great toasties.
Chicken, brie, mustard and honey.
Later that day, we tried to go to the palace but it was closed for an official event. So we wound up in Costa surrounded by a lot of English speakers before we headed to the Reina Sofia, one of Madrid’s most famous art galleries. On certain days, you can go for two hours in the evening for free, and me and Beth love us some free art galleries. And so we ended up at the Reina Sofia after dark.
Being in an art gallery in the evening was quite exciting. I was less impressed with the actual art gallery. From having interactive art that you weren’t allowed to interact with to endless rooms of paintings with no context other than the name of the piece and the name of the artist, it wasn’t super fun. So we left.
Our hunt to find food using the guidebook didn’t work very well, with all three places we headed for being closed. So we went to MacDonalds. They have a big mac but with chicken burgers. It was so good. So good.
Much chicken, so good.
On Tuesday we packed up and bade the hostel farewell, before heading back to the palace. This time it was actually open and we got to go round the very impressive building. Built to show off wealth and power, it’s still achieving those goals. Particularly the room where the wall paper is made out of porcelain.
Eventually we had to leave, after having the best burger at Bacoa, we took the metro back to the airport and the plane back to England. Our flight was delayed and then cancelled so we got an extra few hours in Madrid but in the airport wasn’t an ideal way of spending them.
Madrid was an incredible city and I’d go back. The art was great, the food was amazing and it has a constantly blue sky. What more could you want?