Sunday, 7 June 2009

Ingredients for a classic Madrid weekend

1. Language practice with wine and food - invite Spanish and Venezualan friends home for traditional English cuisine (curry)

2. Visit the enormous Madrid book fair in Retiro park - tomes in dozens of languages, catering to tastes ranging from obscure Manga to far left Argentinian political polemic and pretty much everything else you can think of. Note to self - next time don't leave it until twenty minutes before closing time to try and browse the 357 stalls.

3. Drink coffee in Plaza Chueca - Chueca is Madrid's gay district and if a visitor couldn't work that out from the number of same-sex couples ambling hand-in-hand, the barrio's mixture of saunas and shoe shops would probably give it away. We sat on a bar terraza sipping our drinks watching local colour in the form of a young man who looked like he'd been kicked out of the house by his boyfriend that morning, hit the bottle in despair and passed out on a stone bench at the side of the plaza. As we watched, he crumpled gently onto the ground among his flowing scarves and other belongings and was covered with a coat by a solicitous passer-by. "He's been sleeping there since this morning," she told a table of lads who were also enjoying the spectacle.

4. Have a cana in La Latina. We avoided the temptation to go inside the dingy-looking but gloriously named Latina Turner and opted for another of the many funky bars in the area...

5... then ended up in La Alhambra in the Sevilla area, an authentically feeling Spanish bar, for another cana and some patatas con salsas.
6. Watch the Madrid version of Critical Mass swarm around the glorieta beside Metro La Latina - as it was Saturday evening, it didn't cause much of a traffic gridlock, but there was a big chequered flag, some colourful wrestling costumes and a goodly number of cyclists shouting and blowing whistles. Five minutes of carnival, if nothing else.

7. Eat left over curry at home.

8. Get up early(ish) on Sunday morning and go to the Rastro to hunt for bargain sandals. There were plenty in evidence, but I was too fussy to actually buy any. A pleasant stroll, though and we enjoyed the didgeridoo player and the man creating an incredibly haunting tune using 24 glasses and his fingertips. We didn't buy the CD though.

9. Drink fresh orange juice and cafe con leche on the terraza of Taberna Tirso de Molina and buy flowers (in Theo's case) from the neighbouring stall to present to the wife. Aw!

10. More Spanish practice - meet friends fresh from the European vote for a few drinks outside a bar in Atocha. Olga's husband Fernando speaks no English, so it was another excellent opportunity to give our newly acquired language a decent airing. I found myself actually understanding a fair bit of what they said to me too - yes!!

11. Go home and eat more left over curry.

12. Finish the left over fruit crumble as well. Yum.

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