Relaxing Through Madrid

So, back to Spain. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten to chronicle our last few days in the glorious land of papas bravas and sangria.

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Thankfully I had an extra dress in my bag to serve as a Parque pillow.

After getting back from Segovia, we decided to finally tackle El Parque Retiro, the Jardin Botanico, and have lunch at Sobrino de Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world. Sadly, Goya is no longer a server there (or alive), but he was once, and that was exciting enough for me.

Let’s start with Botin, because starting with food is always a good way to go. When visiting Madrid, go to Botin, and when going to Botin, get a reservation. We were the first people there as they opened for lunch, and we still barely snuck into a table. Also, it’s tough to do a light or cheap lunch, so I’d recommend going IN for this meal. You’re in the oldest running restaurant in the world – you deserve it!

First of all, we shared a carafe of sangria because we’re not idiots, and it was hands down the best sangria I’ve ever tasted. Not too sweet, with the perfect amount of citrus, and refreshingly chilled. I asked what the secret recipe was, but that was a long shot. I remain in the dark about what made it so special but am okay with it, because it entered my body and that’s what matters.

Doug had some gazpacho which was – you guessed it – the best gazpacho either of us had tasted, creamy instead of watery and fresh fresh fresh. We each had salads that were prepared at our table, because of course they were. Now, we didn’t have any meat because we had dinner reservations for Maricastaña that night, but we were seated at the meat-dressing table so we got to watch as the servers lathered ham shanks and slabs of beef with sauces and potatoes. It was a production, it was

choreographed, it was old-world dining meets new-world Michelin standards. The whole event was beautiful.

On our way to Parque Retiro and the botanical gardens, we stopped at the loveliest little bookstore, Desperate Literature. They have books in Spanish, English, and French, as well as some gorgeous classics and a typewriter in the middle of the store where you can let out your inner bohemian writer. I love visiting bookstores in other cities, and Desperate Literature is a gem.

Onward to el Parque. We hung out around the Palacio de Cristal, or crystal palace, a beautiful structure overlooking the Crystal Lake. The lake was full of turtles and the air was delightfully breezy, so this was an excellent resting place (or retiring place, if you will).

Next, the beautiful Jardin Botanico. I love botanical gardens, and Madrid’s is no exception. I felt like I was in some kind of magnificent hidden jungle the whole time, and especially loved the desert room. It’s always nice to be reunited with your people.


On our way home we stopped at Mint and Rose for some handmade Spanish espadrilles (my birthday present from Doug, thanks Doug!) If you want a pair of espadrilles that are extra durable and can be dressed up, Mint and Rose has so many beautiful designs. I am the happiest with my shoes and will wear them until the last leaf falls off of the NYC trees, dammit.

Finally, dinner was at Maricastaña in our fav neighborhood Malasaña. It included burrata, my favorite thing on God’s green earth, sweet potato fries with truffle and egg, and flourless chocolate perfection cake. I was too distracted by the deliciousness to get a photo of my tuna steak dinner, but know that it too was impeccable. We did not want to have to say goodbye to Spain the next day, but I was more than happy for this to be our ultimate Madridian meal.

My next trip to Spain will surely include Barcelona and the north. Madrid, you were an excellent place to start.




Madrid Day 2: Nothing Is Open On Sundays But We’re Into It Anyway

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!


The garden courtyard of the Reina Sofia.

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.

Having just seen art and waiting for more art

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.


A photo Doug took of the local foliage whilst in line for the Prado 

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.

An example from that perfectly illustrates the paella we did not eat

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.