Madrid’s Split Personality… A Tale of Three Cities

Back to Madrid, and this time a visit to McDonalds is out of the question… With a whole week to explore the delights of the city with local friends and family I have certainly had an eclectic experience of Madrid’s many characters. Whether it be hanging out with african pumpkin drummers and sipping coffee in a literary cafe in quirky La Latina; enjoying churros and suckling pig in the touristy but charming oldest churrería and bodega in Madrid; or sipping cocktails on the roof of a palace and taking tapas at Lateral with local friends about as far in from La Latina in character as possibly imaginable.

I begin in La Latina. As I write this I am stood at the bar of a place I very nearly missed. My cheeky leaf through a travel magazine at a news stand one day lead me to a tiny cubby hole dishing out the best cocido there ever was in Madrid, or so the people say! This corner of the boho area of Madrid is named Malacatin after a beggar who used to play guitar for his glass of wine at the wine bar originally frequented by bakers, bricklayers and local workers. I attempted to secure a table in vain, but the characteristically accommodating nature of the Spanish staff allowed me to pull up a stool at the bar and have a degustación (taster) of cocido. And thank goodness I did as this €5 dish went a long way, any more would have been overwhelming. A traditional cocido is made up of morcilla (black pudding), ternera (veal), garbanzos (chickpeas), chorizo, patata, caldo (broth). So many flavours and texture in one warming pot of hearty goodness.

Sensational Cocido at Malacatin

Sensational Cocido at Malacatin

Another favourite hang out during my week’s stay was whiling away a few hours with a book and a café con leche in Cafe Molar, a cafe with bags of charm and community-spirit close to my brother’s apartment. It was here that I saw an advertisement for a yoga class showcasing the immediately recognisable Churro, an old friend and housemate from our Tarifa days! This lead me on another adventure to the quarter of the free spirits of Madrid where I saw my old friend again and also came across a charity group with a mission to embrace African culture in all its richness. We sat for a while, enjoyed the music (created by dried and hollowed out pumpkins) and then moved on on our adventure which took us to see a completely different side of Madrid…

Favourite Spanish Breakfast Surrounded by Books in La Latina

Favourite Spanish Breakfast Surrounded by Books in La Latina

… A cocktail on a palace rooftop! During this part of my stay some local university friends treated me to an elevator ride to the top of Palacio de Cibeles, a building so stunning I would not have dreamed any old someone like me could enter for a casual cocktail. Looking down over my mojito on to the quarter below this ‘Knightsbridge of Madrid’ was only a stones throw away yet worlds apart from the bohemian flair of La Latina.

These friends also took me to Lateral, the hang out for young middle class Madrileños. The first time we went my friend Gala and I had just been washed up from a summer in Tarifa, therefore our attire was not quite fitting with the young gents in jackets and girls in dresses. The food was such a treat all the same and we quickly lost ourselves in the array of twists on Spanish classics. This most recent visit was my third time and it did not disappoint, extremely good value for the capital city!

The High Life of Madrid... Party in a Palace

The High Life of Madrid… Party in a Palace

… And finally the tourist in me came out to say hello…

The good old tourists, I often forget that I am very much one when in Spain as I have lived here and studied the ins and out of the culture. This does not stop me from chuckling to myself when taking a picture of a scrummy plate of food with my iPad… Touristy spots are as such for a reason, else the masses would not flock to them. I have had positive and negative experiences of tourist spots here in Madrid. I will start with the negative so as to end on a happy note. When visiting several years ago with my grandparents, we did our Ernest Hemingway trail due to my grandpa’s fascination with the literary cafes that he and other big names of his art frequented. My mum and I decided to go back to ‘Café de Gijón’ on his behalf this time round. The same wood panelled walls and ghostly presence of great artists and writers were present, but I am afraid to say the food and drink were subject to mass production and unenjoyable. A more positive experience was La Churrería de San Ginés which, despite being packed full of tourists speaking every tongue imaginable, managed to retain its charm and most importantly its deliciously velvety drinking chocolate in which light and crispy churros are dunked in and disintegrated.

Being Tourists at Mercado San Miguel

Being Tourists at Mercado San Miguel

I truly enjoyed every minute of each side of Madrid, even the cringeworthy tourist moments. This wonderful city has many more edges and personality traits, but to speak of them all would leave me here all day. In the end it’s about finding that little corner that becomes the place you love most and making the most of it, whilst appreciating that there is a whole different world just around the corner. Take London, my current city of residence as an example… a whole new kettle of fish with about as many character traits as a psychitzophrenic chameleon…

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