A weekend in Madrid
When you live in Dublin, in the heart of the Ever-Raining-Land, picking weekend getaways usually boils down to one question: IS IT SUNNY THERE? We have two couples of friends who we love going away with: we have been to Berlin together, Rome, and several Irish locations. When we picked Madrid as our next destination, it was with the firm intention to enjoy some Spanish sun and get to wear our collection of shorts and light tops. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was not meeting our expectations. Rain, grey skies and low temperature were predicted, and we got the lot. Our two first days were, therefore, cold and rainy - but this was the only downside to our getaway, which otherwise most certainly exceeded our expectations.
Our AirBnB was located in front of the Mercado de la Cebada, near the metro La Latina. The place was absolutely perfect for 3 couples, very central, spacious and quite cheap. We loved that we would walk around everywhere easily and admire how pretty this city is. We loved discovering the famous Plaza Mayor, the Gran Via, El Retiro park, the Malasaña area.
On the second rainy afternoon, we decided to visit the Museo de la Reina Sofia, which hosts at the moment one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen. Called Pity and Terror, it tells the story of one of the most famous paintings of all time, Guernica by Picasso. I was mindblown by the art as well as the great staging of the exhibition, giving excellent background information about the history of this painting. The entrance was free on a Sunday and yet it wasn't too crowded. I absolutely loved every minute I spent in this museum.
On the third day, enthused by the sun that was finally shining, we spent a long time in El Retiro park and rented some mini-boats on the lake. We enjoyed until the last bit of sunshine from the rooftop of the Circulo de Bellas Artes, a museum with a splendid bar on the top.
Another reason that brought us to Madrid was the food. Tapas are usually seen as a not-so-refined meal, probably because of some tourist traps which sell you nasty pan con tomate and stuffy tortillas. Except for our very first meal that was just average, we only had beautiful meals. Tapas can't lie: if the quality of products used is low, it will be tasteless at best, inedible at worst. Trying little pieces of a lot of different things is my favourite way of eating - I get bored with dishes that have the exact same taste from the first bite to the last (with the notable exception of lasagna).
Eating in Madrid was a real joy for me as I got to try about 50 dishes in 4 days. I strongly recommend La Pescaderia in the Malasaña neighbourhood and El Mercado de la Reina on the famous Gran Via, stunning for both the food and setting. On the first night, we tried to get a table in a small eatery called Casa Gonzales but gave up at about 11:30 pm (getting a table on a Saturday night for 6 in a such a small place was probably a bit ambitious). We ended up next door, in la Taberna del León de Oro, where the food was still lovely, the wine cheap and the waiter really sweet. He tried to speak to me in a very cute French and recommended us to try El Mercado de la Reina - we are so glad he did. We had a lovely paella at Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas - just at the bottom of the Plaza Mayor, hence the bill that was higher than average, and some delicious cocktails in a bar called Del Diego.
But I think what struck me the most about Madrid was its people. Every single person we met on this trip was super friendly and helpful, in spite of our poor level of Spanish. We loved the young and lively spirit of this city that, in spite of the crisis they went through, still breathes happiness.