Sunday in Madrid

I left Dan to have a lie in, got up and went for a stroll around the area we are staying in. I walked past a restaurant called Casa Labra, which is famous as it is where the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) was founded in 1879.
I popped back to the hotel then we headed out together to Ardosa, a famous cafe nearby, for a bit of breakfast.
I normally don’t ever eat first thing but we need to fuel ourselves here as we are walking everywhere – about ten miles a day. We’ve also had to drink a lot of water to cope with the stifling, sweaty 35+ degree heat.
We walked to Plaza de Espana, a famous square here surrounded by imposing buildings that features a monument to Cervantes, Spain’s most famous writer.
I spotted these in a shop on the way and just had to buy them 😂
We then headed up to the temple of Dibod, an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt here in the 1968.
It was a gift from the Egyptians, apparently as thanks to the Spanish for helping to save the temples of Abu Simbel, which had been threatened by the construction of the Dam of Aswan. Angela suggests it was just an excuse to give a gift to Franco though. There is not a lot of information on Franco or the civil war here. I suspect it is too sensitive and recent. It’s a shame as I am curious to learn more.

We made our way to the Prado Museum, stopping off on our way at a vegetarian restaurant called El Fogon Verde for some salad. We tried some polenta with soy and pak choi too, which we really enjoyed.


Refuelled and rested, we headed into the gallery.

It is absolutely vast and stuffed with masterpieces, so we had to be a bit strategic about it and try to prioritise certain paintings. We agreed our favourite was the ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymus Bosch (what a name).

It is a richly detailed painting and utterly beautiful to look at. You can’t take photos in the Prado but here is a snap I found online.


The left hand panel depicts heaven, the middle earthly pleasures and the right panel represents hell. If you look at it closely you notice there is some freaky shit going on. There is a duck feeding someone strawberries and someone stuffing flowers up someone’s arse for some reason. And that’s on the ‘earth’ section. When you get down to hell, there is a penguin just casually ice skate around. What sort of punishment is that?! Who wouldn’t want to see an ice skating penguin?!

So anyway, we enjoyed the Velazquez paintings a lot, also Reubens and his wonderfully chubby women. We liked Goya’s dark paintings, the work he’d done for the royal family less so. It’s all very twee and inoffensive. Perhaps that is why it is on the top floor.

We had a stop off in the cafe after to rehydrate then wended back to the hotel for a brief rest before we headed out for the evening. We went to eat Mexican food at Barriga Llena on the recommendation of my friend Ella, who used to live on the same road as the restaurant.

We shared pork pibil tacos with beans, guacamole and nachos, with lemon daiquiris. Loved it. The restaurant was also really fun to look at inside and out.
Barriga Llena is in the middle of the LGBT district Chueca, which had a lively and fun atmosphere and a real sense of a community too.

After dinner we went to the rooftop bar of Mercado San Anton.

We met up with a bloke called Giles who I know from work. Great guy. He has lived here for 20 years and was really interesting to hang out with. We discussed Spain, his career, technology, politics in the UK, modern relationships….I think that’s about half of the topics we covered actually. Once it reached 12.30am we had to call it a night. Giles insisted both on paying and on driving us back to our hotel, which was incredibly generous of him. He’s also been providing me with useful tips for where to eat throughout the trip. If you’re reading Giles, thanks!

Incidentally that reminds me what a big thing food is both here and in Lisbon. The vast majority of tips people give you aren’t for sights to see but where to get the best grub and drinks. I really love that as a sign of how highly a country values its cuisine. I hope the UK is becoming more like this too, as we have plenty we can be proud of food wise as well, even if we are catching up from behind slightly in some ways (history of having a bad reputation has held us back I suspect).

Another random thought before I sign off: it can be hard to describe venues here because many of them do not neatly fit categories like cafe, bar or restaurant. Eating and drinking are not separate activities here like they often are in London. Most places sell a bit of both at any time of the day.


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