Thursday, 10 January 2008


There is something about landing on Spanish soil that makes me deeply happy. It is hard to be gloomy even momentarily in a country where you start every day at the humane hour of eleven with crisp churros accompanied by a hot chocolate so thick you could stand a spoon in it.

To me this is a country of indulgence, relaxation and the most intoxicatingly rich culture I have ever encountered. After my visit to Barcelona earlier this year I was firmly convinced I could happily spend a lifetime in Spain and even a few days in Madrid on this trip were enough to lift the spirits and leave me smiling for weeks.

Perhaps unsurprisingly my holidays are structured around gastronomic delights. After the consumption of the aforementioned pastries are the best hours for some leisurely sight seeing before the customary lunch hour at 3pm. No visit to Madrid would be complete without a morning at the Museo del Prado. With the most exceptional collection of masterpieces, it is impossible not to be moved. Squares such as Plaza Mayor have a delightfully rich atmosphere but the overpriced meals in tourist haunts dotted around them are best avoided.

It's a joy just to wander and you can easily stroll from the Prado to the Palace at the other end of town. Surprisingly the historic quarter of Madrid is sufficiently quaint and small that within hours the geography seems familiar. Although Barcelona will always be my first and greatest love, I adored Madrid. Its grand architecture and majestic monuments stand in contradiction to the slower pace and quieter nightlife.

Of course all that walking will leave you famished but fortunately sustenance is to be found in the laneways surrounding Calle de Postas. Unpretentious cervecerias or beer bars are filled with the gentlemen of Madrid enjoying a drink and a cigarette. A plate of jamon and a cold frothy beer will only set you back a few euros and is almost customary at around 1pm. If you adore charcuterie as much as we do you’ll struggle to go past the chain known as Museo del Jamon dotted around town. Lined with deli counters packed with jamon, cheeses and pastries surrounding a bar where shoppers, tourists and locals stop for a beer and plate of chorizo, it’s the type of food chain I wish we had back home.

If you’re ready to sit down to lunch at 3pm and already in the area it is hard to go past Restaurante Rodriguez on Calle de San Cristobal, steps away from Calle de Postas. With three course lunches starting at around ten euros including wine and coffee, you would be hard pressed to find better value for money. The restaurant is filled with Spanish families raucously devouring platters of paella and finishing with a light flan or some seasonal fruit. Grandparents dish up portions of grilled whole fish while grandchildren joyously run around the table. It isn’t hard to understand that you’ll inevitably require a siesta after dining at this establishment but you won’t be alone as the city winds down for the late afternoon hours. Given the Spanish affinity for late dinners, it’s only fitting you prepare yourself for a long night.

Refreshed and ready to take on the town, an excellent place to start is Las Huertas. This street of cervecerias and tapas bars was recommended to me by a friend with a wonderful knowledge of food and drink and a better understanding of the Spanish language than I could ever wish for. When in Spain we have always tended to graze on tapas rather than sitting down to a heavy meal in the evening. I adore this approach not only because you get to experience a wider assortment of food but because you get to meet more wonderful people. A champagne and garlic prawns here, sangria and octopus salad there with cold beer and a terracotta dish of spicy chorizo to finish perhaps.

You will get countless recommendations about where to find the best cuisine from locals, perhaps that perfect custard filled pastry to seek out tomorrow morning. The willingness of the Spanish people to share stories about their own lives and the secrets of their cities is what draws me back to this place. Not only is it sensationally beautiful and filled with the most wonderful food, history and culture but the sort of people you would like to spend your life surrounded by. As we wander home in the early hours it’s all too easy to start planning a move to this wonderful country so that every day can be so exciting and perfect.


Wendy said...

Spain is one of the places I'm considering going to this summer. This post has just made it a much stronger contender!
Loving your travel posts. :)

glamah16 said...

Once again you've captured it perfectly.Safe Travels.

Katie Zeller said...

I agree with you on both counts - Barcelona is my favorite but I do love Madrid...Including having dinner at midnight.
Great photo of the post office! (I think...)

Cynthia said...

Okay, Spain was always on my list of places to visit in this lifetime but after reading your post, I now have to make it bold and double-underlined :)

Truffle said...

Wendy- I really hope you go! I absolutely adore it so perhaps I'm biased but I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Glamah- Thanks so much! It's lovely having you reading along.

Katiez- I think you're right! I love the Spanish way of life. It's so wonderful.

Cynthia- I hope you make it very soon. I can't even begin to capture what a fantastic place it is.

Thistlemoon said...

Sounds like a wonderful place to visit! Love that hot chocolate!

Lucy said...

I whole-heartedly agree.

And don't you just love the Museum of Jamon?!?!

Beautiful images.

cin said...

we're off to Spain & Portugal later on this year and I am SO looking forward to trying some of the things you are describing here!

Truffle said...

JennDZ - It's a fabulous city! The hot chocolate was sinfully good.

Lucy- thanks so much for all your recommendations. I thought it was brilliant!

cin - I'm sure you'll have an amazing time! Wish I could go back there right now.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I've said before you should be a travel/food writer. This is the city where friendship became a love affair for me and for that I love it even more. Great writing Truffle.

Johanna GGG said...

I wish I had your fine advice when I was in Madrid - unfortunately it was a town visited in time of stress and I can't remember it with fondness - but seeing the cup of chocolate does make me crave some chocolate and churros!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I have yet to travel to Spain. You have convinced me that I have to put it on my list of destinations.

Truffle said...

Amanda - I'd love nothing more! You're absolutely right about Madrid. Thanks so much :)

Johanna - I'm so sorry you visited in less than perfect circumstances.
I hope you can return one day, if only for churros and chocolate!

Bellini Valli - I can't sing its praises enough. Such a wonderful country!

ilingc said...

Dear Truffle,
Your post has really psyched me up for our trip to Spain this weekend! Although we are only going to south of Spain to Malaga.
I can't wait to gorge myself on the churros, jamon, tapas and paellas! Omg, I'm drooling already.

Love your photos of Madrid. I will so be looking out for all the spots you've visited when I get myself to Madrid.

Happy Traveling =)

neil said...

What a great holiday you had, there is definitely something special about the Spanish and how they approach life in general. You seem to have captured that here.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I've always wanted to try one of those super-thick. eat-it-with-a-spoon hot chocolates, ever since I saw a travel show about Spain a few years ago. Now, reading your post, I've decided, I really need to go. Soon. Enjoy!

Barbara said...

Ooh I'm so so jealous.

winedeb said...

I am such an armchair traveler nowadays. Thank you for taking me there!

KellytheCulinarian said...

Beautiful photos! I hope to make it there someday.

Annemarie said...

Oh how I love those hot chocolates, and the Museo of ham *really* cracked me up. Hope you continue having a fab time!

Ivy said...

Although Spain is not on the top of my list I sure hope sometime in the future to be able to visit it, especially the Prado museum but nowhere near the bulls.

Truffle said...

ilingc I'm so jealous! Can't wait to hear all about it!

neil - I adore their way of life. Just wish I could bring it home!

Susan - they're wickedly good! I hope I can manage to recreate them at home.

Barbara- Thanks so much for reading along!

windeb- Thank you for popping by! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

Kelly Mahoney - I hope you do! It's such a wonderful place.

Annemarie - thank you so much! I think it's definitely my kind of museum!

Ivy - I avoided the bulls too but the Prado was just incredible!