HI! I still exist, despite having been very much off the social-media-radar for a little while. Turns out going to work the day after 36 hours in transit does not induce the best feelings in the world nor does it provide motivation for doing much other than sleeping… But we survived a full week back at work after what felt like just stepping off the plane and being back at our desks. I am finally getting back into the swing of things! Work has taken all of my energy, so personal life goals achieved this week have extended from ‘doing a load of washing’ and ‘buying a glass slide for the guitar I have borrowed from my friend down the road even though I have no idea how to use glass slides’, as well as ‘reading the 400-and-something bloglovin updates that were waiting patiently for me to log in again’.
But I digress… Onto more exciting things… Like an overdue recap of Madrid Part 3!
For years my favourite restaurant was a very popular Spanish restaurant in Haymarket, Sydney, called ‘Encasa’… In fact writing ‘my favourite restaurant was’ in the past tense almost breaks my heart. I think this has to go down as my forever favourite restaurant. I think I spent both my 16th and 17th birthdays there with my friends (because I was obviously a very cool 17 year old), I’ve used it as a great first date location, pre-theatre snacks, as well as many family dinners. Basically, any excuse to go to Encasa I will take. So. To say I was excited about experiencing real Spanish food in Spain is a huge understatement.
Madrid did not disappoint in the way of tapas. We shared an amazing patatas bravas, chorizos, pinchos morunos and of course croquetas galore – the croquetas were definitely a favourite, and something I had never had in my Australian tapas experiences. However, despite how much I just raved about loving tapas, that’s not what I’m here to discuss.
The surprise culinary highlight in Madrid for us was a trip to the oldest restaurant in the world. What? Did I just type ‘the oldest restaurant in the world’? Yes, yes I did. It’s incredible. Still standing having been built in 1725, Restaurante de Botin is a bit of a Madrid-ian hotspot for a good reason. The ovens they use today are the original ovens… Which to put into a comprehensible context for someone like me, means that people have been eating food from the same ovens since before Captain Cook even came to Australia so it’s a pretty long time ago. If sharing in an oven that is older than something you study in year 3 history class is not a reason to go there then I don’t know what is.
The restaurant itself is gorgeous, winding wooden staircases, stylish and rustic and old-fashioned all at once. It was packed, so take heed that you absolutely need to make a booking if you want to eat here, had such a vibrant atmosphere as waiters in meticulous aprons and suits flitted about taking orders and serving the hugest most amazing dishes of suckling pig I have ever seen. Being their specialty, we couldn’t turn it down and the three of us each ordered our own serve of suckling pig which turned out to be way too much food. Once again (this seems to be a running theme in my life?) I was too hungry to take photos, but I can assure you, it was really delicious. Please google image search ‘restaurante Botin’ immediately, you will not be disappointed. Am I disappointed in my lack of photos of the entire experience? Absolutely. Of course, the only thing to do after stuffing yourself with tender juicy pork is obviously to continue the feast back at your hotel with a variety of flavoured ice creams and great conversation. So eat ice cream and converse we did!
The following morning we sadly farewell-ed our wonderful host and spent the morning being miserable about saying goodbye, our misery intensifying further when we also couldn’t find a good place for churros. The Museo del Prado sorted us out though, you can’t stay grumpy at life for long when you’re confronted with a collection of some of the greatest art of all time. The Prado was one of the most incredible galleries I have ever experienced. We were on a bit of a time-limit so could only spend an hour there, but managed to squeeze in a whole bundle of sensational works, the highlight for me being Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights which I could easily have spent all day staring at.
We’d love to go back to the Prado some day and spend a full day there – to do it properly and with the attention it deserves, you would literally need 8 hours there exploring. One day!
Our last stop in Madrid was to the famous Mercado de San Miguel, a hub of gastronomy and a big Madrid highlight for me. We well and truly spent the last of our Euros in the aisles, trying everything from an assortment of tapas, olives and meats to oysters and desserts. The markets themselves are impressive but the food is a whole other level of amazing. The markets reminded me of a less cold and rainy version of the Borough Markets in London, but with the same, excited pulse of people happy to be snacking away and buying beautiful fresh produce.
<< We had several of these, wanting to try different varieties, and they were like a party in your mouth I tell you. >>
<< We also had a few of these guys which varied in deliciousness. Not really knowing what we were in for, there was a pleasant surprise or two, although I think they had been sitting out for awhile and perhaps weren’t the freshest. But let’s blame that on the 34 degree heat… >>
The Mercado de San Miguel is a must-do for anyone heading to Madrid. Whether you’re a food-lover or not, it’s a great place to spend time checking out the food, taking refuge from the sun and soaking in the Spanish culture. We stocked up on a few treats and headed to the Parque del Retiro to share them. You could probably walk, but given our impending flight we jumped in a cab, excited to enjoy our picnic overlooking this majestic situation.
Had it not been so hot we would have used our time here to really see as much of the popular park as we could, but we opted this time to sit in the shade and do some people watching for awhile whilst enjoying our ridiculously expensive but super delicious Iberico ham and other bits and pieces.
<<I promise he isn’t pregnant here. Unless you consider our passports to be children in which case, he was pregnant with 4 >>
And with that we found our way to the airport, jumped on a plane, and landed in freezing cold and stormy weather after three blissful days speaking Spanish, eating beautiful good and doing a lot of chatting and laughing with our dear friend. Did I mention we are the luckiest people in the universe? We can’t think our host and his family enough for getting us there, treating us to such a wonderful experience and allowing me to finally spend some time in a Spanish-speaking country after years of labouring over Spanish textbooks and a period of refusing to watch any movie that wasn’t dubbed/subtitled in Spanish. Let’s just say I can sing a fairly significant repertoire of Disney songs in Spanish now…
Madrid hasn’t heard the last of us… We will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later. Madrid goes down as one of my favourite places ever,
for sure por cierto (see what I did there?) 😉