Madrid - People & Dining

MADRID - The city that never sleeps except in the afternoon!

The capital of Spain is situated close to the geographic centre of Spain and the centre of the Castillian plain.  Because of its distance from the sea and its altitude, 660 metres above sea level, the summers are very hot and the winters cold.  We experienced temperatures of around 38 degrees Celsius the four days we were in Madrid.  It is the epicentre of the political, industrial, economic, cultural, and financial life of the country.  There are over 3,000,000 Madrilenos in this thriving metropolis. 


Added to these 3 million were Denise and Peter from Newcastle and Trisha and Leonard from New York, meeting up for an all too short 4 night stay in the Hotel Suecia which we happily recommend to anyone looking for a place to stay in Madrid. .


On our first outing after arriving we came upon large crowds adorned with the rainbow signifying gay something or other and it soon became obvious that the annual 'Gay Pride Parade' or whatever the Madrid version of it might be was getting under way about 2 blocks from our hotel.


Some of the outfits were, shall we be charitable and say 'a little unfortunate', while others such as the one below were absolutely stunning.



Feeling the need for a drink and a snack, we wandered away from the gay marshalling area and the incessant beat of the 'disco/techno' or whatever it was (read decidedly annoying and way too loud)  music and found a quiet street with a number of bars.


El Olivar


On the fourth attempt we found a place that had Sangria, which we had decided should be a must for our first afternoon, and settled into El Olivar for a jug -or was it two? - of sangria and a selection of tapas plates.



Below you can see the bar area with our host Carlos, whose English, though faltering, was certainly much better than our combined Spanish.



After a glass - or was it two - of the excellent Sangria, Leonard and Peter were feeling right at home.



After another glass, and a bit more 'discussion' with Carlos, we discovered that when not tending bar he was a bullfighter, and the sword and cape on the wall were not just for decoration, but were the real deal.


Here Peter tries his hand with the cape.



We discovered that Carlos was originally from Columbia but his family moved to Queens in New York when he was young and he moved to Madrid to seek fame and fortune in the ring. 


Below you can get a bull's eye view of Carlos when he is not ministering to the needs of his bar customers.



After a very relaxing time in El Olivar we headed back onto the streets for more aimless wandering and looking about on the way back to our Hotel for the obligatory siesta.


By sheer happenchance we managed to find our way onto a street with a number of bars with the magic word 'caipirinha' in their window, and since Peter and Denise had never been acquainted with the delights of the Brasilian national drink we decided to slip in and try one out. Well it was 35 degree outside after all and you need to be careful not to de-hydrate in those temperatures.


Below we see the drinks styled by Trisha.



And Denise and Peter seemed to be enjoying the new experience.



The Oldest Restaurant in the World


While normally each of the four travelers takes care to avoid 'tourist traps' it is not often that you have the opportunity to dine in the 'earliest restaurant in the world'  and that is exactly the claim, backed by an entry in the Guinness Book of Records, of Restaurante Botin, founded in 1725 and still going strong.


So, with some assistance from the friendly and ever helpful folk at Hotel Suecia we secured a booking and off we went.


After climbing three flights of very old and narrow stairs we were seated comfortably in a very old room - well Lenny, ya gotta expect that if it is the oldest joint in the world.



I am delighted to report that the food was considerably younger than the building and we had a most enjoyable, and surprisingly (for a tourist trap) inexpensive meal of local delicacies.


Among the 'starters' Peter's choice of Black Sausage from Burgos was outstanding and a 'must try' for anyone with a fondness for 'black pudding' or similar sausages.


From the Main Courses, Suckling Pig, 



and Roast Baby Lamb were memorable and the Melon tasted as good as it looked for dessert.


As you might discern from the picture below, we also sampled a wine or three, starting with an excellent Cava and followed by an outstanding Gran Fuedo from the Navarra region of northern Spain.



Following this photo we managed to make it back down the narrow and very old stairs before taking a post prandial stroll  through the crowded Plaza Mayor at midnight - (when do they sleep in Spain ?).