Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Madrid’ Category

It was just a short distance to Madrid, but driving into Madrid is no easy task with its heavy traffic, warren of underground motorways and narrow bricked lanes near the centre.

Our view over Plaza Major

Our view over Plaza Major


Our apartment was on the main square (Plaza Mayor), on the 4th floor of one of the fairly dilapidated, but grand buildings surrounding the square. The cosy 3 level, quite old apartment with its low ceilings and wooden floors felt like living in a tree-house! Some of the windows, narrow balconies and the small rooftop garden overlooked the square, so we were always aware of what activity was taking place below us: variety of buskers and street performers; a movie being made and patrons enjoying the many restaurants on the square that close around 2 or 3 in the morning. I was so happy to discover a small, but adequate organic shop just down the stairs, on the square! So easy to quickly fetch some soy yoghurt, tofu sausages or vegan biscuits. Most chocolate shops are open right through the night and only close at 7 in the morning, only to re-open at noon again. It’s a strong tradition among the locals to have a thick, dark chocolate drink at 5pm (so just before tapas time): these are sometimes flavoured with chilli, lavender flowers, orange or coffee. One can easily make a raw version by blending raw cashews or pine nuts with water, then adding cacao butter (for a white chocolate version) or dark cacao powder (for a dark chocolate version). I often made for us a less sweet version in our apartment with thick hazelnut milk, boiled with corn starch and date pulp, then added 80% dark choc blocks or Dutch cacao powder.

Watermelon soup with basil

Watermelon soup with basil

Madrid is well-endowed with numerous organic shops, health shops and vegetarian / vegan cafés and upmarket restaurants. The choice for vegans is broadened further by hundreds of establishments offering very decent and delicious local foods that is inherently vegan. Just by walking and exploring the streets, one is spoilt for choice.
Lunch at Kitchen Stories, off Plaza Major

Lunch at Kitchen Stories, off Plaza Major

I wanted to go into the Prada museum, but when we arrived 45 minutes before opening time the queue already stretched down the block. We opted for walking through the botanical gardens instead: it was laid out symmetrically with box hedging around the variously themed areas, mature trees and a substantial medicine garden. The only tourist attraction we did was the splendid Palacio Real (Royal Palace), which was a royal residence until 1931. There are over 2000 rooms with 50 open to the public. We chose our time well, arriving after 4 in the afternoon. There were only a handful of people in the huge palace. I couldn’t help exclaiming ‘wow’! upon entering room after room of incredible splendour: triple woven thick drapes in embroidered silk with matching silk wall paper; intricately carved Italian-made wooden furniture; black granite statues in the throne room; gold floral vaults and different colours of marble pillars in the private chapel; embossed porcelain tiles with their edges cleverly hidden by sculpted pictures; and coffered ceilings, mostly vividly painted in Biblical and mythological scenes. The 16th C apothecary reminded us a bit of a scene in Harry Potter: there were racks to the high ceiling containing porcelain jars of herbs, flowers, twigs, salts, acids and grains used as remedies for all sorts of ailments. I remarked to my partner that my ‘medicine cupboard’ in the 21st C also contain lots of those same health boosting ingredients, believing in natural remedies myself.

Palacio Real

Palacio Real

Via Verde outside Madrid

Via Verde outside Madrid

One morning at 7 (because it gets unbearably hot later in the day), we cycled another “Via Verde” (the Tajuña Route) – a converted train line, just over 35 km in each direction. The red asphalt path went past peach orchards, sunflower fields and corn farms. Halfway back my partner got a puncture (actually an old one that ripped loose). Sunflower It took us about 12 minutes to repair (luckily we always carry the repair kit with us), and not trusting the patch we tried to get as much distance quickly done before the wheel needed pumping again; however, in the end my partner had to fetch the car.

Our next day was spend like local Madrileños: visiting a bicycle shop to get a new inner tube; going to the dentist (my partner suddenly needed urgent root canal treatment); listening to musicians and shopping at lovely markets. That evening we got tickets to Carmen, performed exclusively as a ballet-flamenco show – absolutely stunning. Usually at night I’d fall asleep to the sound of piano-accordions playing below us on the square and one morning I woke up just before 6am when a man started playing and singing brilliant flamenco music on his guitar – not bad for someone who has evidently been partying all night!

The Bakers' Guild painted buildings on Plaza Major

The Bakers’ Guild painted buildings on Plaza Major

Read Full Post »