For someone who currently lives in Madrid, I don’t write nearly enough about this great city. I guess it’s like the saying goes: the grass always seems greener on the other side. Well, the grass is rarely green in dry, sunny Spain – but the sky is (famously) blue, the buildings vibrant, and the lifestyle even more so. So let’s back-track and return to a few of the places I’ve been (re)discovering these past few weeks…
My stomping grounds. My hood that gets its nickname from the cultural center of the same name. It has an overwhelmingly local feel to it despite being in the midst of a capital city. It is also an area sprouting new cafés, boutiques and hip locales every other week. Most recently, I tried the crêpes at Crêperie Olive (Calle Conde Duque, 24) and while they don’t live up to my Parisian point of comparison, they’re still good, an affordable alternative to the full brunch menus of the area, and made in a quaint joint decorated with books, trinkets, magazines and notebooks for writing your passing thoughts in.
A post dedicated exclusively to this neighborhood will surely follow (soon!).
TEMPLO DE DEBOD:
Not far from Conde Duque is Templo de Debod. My current running route takes me around this ancient Egyptian temple in one of Madrid’s largest parks – Parque del Oeste. The 2200 year-old temple was gifted to Spain from Egypt in 1968, as a thank you for Spain’s help in saving Egypt’s Nubia temples from destruction. This park is also where you go for amazing views of the Royal Palace – where the contrast of two very different cultures can be seen at a single glance.
I recently went to check out the Guerrilla Girls exhibit (free – until the 26th of April) at El Matadero – an old slaughterhouse and livestock market now turned into a cultural center, which makes space for art exhibits, open-air cinema, and a monthly, organic farmer’s market. It was home to Spain’s National Ballet headquarters for a few years before the Madrid city council chose to dedicate it to sociocultural use. Its green areas and open spaces make it one of Madrid’s best places for hanging out on a lazy Sunday afternoon, throwing back a few Mahous with friends.
EL BARRIO DE LAS LETRAS:
I do not know even a fraction of enough about this once-literary hub. It was the home to the great Spanish writers Cervantes and Quevedo and is nestled between three of Madrid’s largest museums. And while its streets are still narrow and cobbled, the neighborhood is changing too. Vegan cafés are taking the place of old Madrileño cafeterias, independent art galleries are making themselves at home and avant-garde design shops are not intimidated by the area’s deep-rooted tradition. Luckily, new and old have found a way to blend together in this barrio and, if you look up, the buildings still take their original form.
Bordering Conde Duque is Malasaña – Madrid’s haven for “alternativos” (translation for “hipster”). If you want a bar that plays ’70s disco music, you go to Malasaña. If you’re looking for the next gourmet burger stop, you go to Malasaña. If you’re looking for vintage rags (and well worn-in leather shoes), you go to Malasaña. If you’re on the hunt for independent bookstores with a penchant for unique, obscure, “literary” literature, you go… (you guessed it) to Malasaña. One of these bookstores is Arrebato – who have been fighting the “death of print” since 1999.
My first apartment in Madrid was in the vibrant area of Lavapies. An immigrant’s neighborhood, it is the best place to go if you’re craving authentic ethnic food. In fact, you’ll often have no choice as the waiters of the main avenue’s Indian restaurants will be out on the street waving a menu in your face. Lavapies is also a great place to go to for local gigs, open mic nights, and colorful street art that mirrors the neighborhood’s overall mood.