When we arrived home after our night one adventures, Michael and Miguel were finishing entertaining guests on their terrace, because of course, and offered us gin and tonics to chat about life and our trip thus far. Michael is a former New Yorker who moved to Madrid (goals) to live with Miguel, who is originally from Toledo. They recommended Toledo or Segovia for a day trip, and after some research we decided on Segovia because of the STANDING ROMAN AQUEDUCTS. But more on that later!
Day two was Sunday, aka sleepy church day in the Catholic-based city. Since museums are open on Sundays, we decided to make this our art day- the Reina Sofia is free starting at 2 and the Prado is free from 5-7pm on Sundays, and we love free!
We wandered through the uber cool La Latina neighborhood and El Rastro, the Sunday artisanal fair along Madrid’s streets. Admittedly, it was very congested and not really our thing since it resembled NYC’s summer street fairs almost exactly. But if you’re looking for cheap t-shirts and souvenirs, it’s definitely your thing.
Barrio La Latina is beautiful, with colorful, winding streets adorned with flowers galore. We stopped for lunch at Mas Al Sur based on a recommendation from one of Doug’s friends, and ate shrimp in garlic sauce that truly made me think for a moment that we had transcended to heaven. Our only mistake was ordering the small portion along with some other taps. NO. Order the large portion, order two or three of them, and eat ONLY THAT with bread to soak up the rest of the garlic sauce. I have since had multiple dreams about this dish and awoken in tears to realize that I was not, in fact, eating it again.
This brought us to the free Reina Sofia line, which was long but definitely moved once 2pm hit. And guys. You MUST go to the Reina Sofia. The Picasso exhibit, specifically Guernica, makes any line worth it.
After two hours with Queen Sofia and Picasso we took a coffee break at one of the probably overpriced cafes near the Prado. We had time to kill, but not quite enough to fully do the Parque de Retiro, and were in need of a pick me up, so fine, 5 Euro for a cappuccino it is.
After this, we waited in the MUCH LONGER line for the 5pm Prado. I stand by what I said, though: free museums are worth the lines. Especially when they house the masters! Prado is MASSIVE, so unless you have the whole day to really do it, it’s worth giving yourself a game plan. Ours was pretty simple: catch the Big Guys and take in whatever we come across on the way. This took us to Goya, El Greco, and Velasquez’s colossal displays with plenty of other Spanish artists peppered throughout. Another two and a half hours later, we were awe inspired and HUNGRY.
This dinner, we were on a mission. PAELLEA. Michael told us of another favorite haunt of his and Miguel’s called La Barraca on Calle de la Reina. It doesn’t open until 8:30 on Sundays, bless the Spanish and their impossibly late dinners.
La Barraca definitely expects you to have a reservation, so I would recommend making one, though we were seated perfectly comfortably in the basement nearest the bathroom. Hey, a seat is a seat as long as it has some award-winning paella in front of it. And heads up – their paella comes in sharing portions only, a minimum of two people per dish. Don’t go if you’re single! You will feel embarrassed and end up hungry.
We shared a classic paella with shelled shrimp, because I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to seafood and don’t like to see the faces of my fish. If you tell me that eyeballs and tentacles are appealing to you, I will tell you that you’re lying and saying that to look cool. Eating eyeballs is only gross, not cool, sorry.
Doug is very into eating anything local and authentic, so I know he would have gone for the eyeballs and tentacles but agreed to the shelled version to appease me. A true compromiser.
The maitre-d presented our giant skillet of steaming paella to us so that we could approve it and allow it to be served. Basement bathroom table or no, I felt royal as heck with all of that power.
The dish was simple and delicious, red rice with fresh shellfish and secret special paella spices. Admittedly, the portions were huge and filling and defeated us pretty quickly, but this definitely made it feel worth the price.
Paella conquered (sort of), we headed back to Chueca. We tried to get into the elusive rooftop bar The Tartan Roof, which was impossible even on a Sunday. Apparently it’s quite the attraction if you’re willing to wait, which we were presently not. Next time!
Last stop: Casa M&M where we booked train tickets to Segovia for Day 3’s adventure. Check back next week for all things SEGOVIA.