12th November 2018
I sit here in chilly Burnley writing this post exactly a week after me and my dad landed in Manchester Airport, marking the end of over a year of me working and living in Madrid. As I mentioned in my previous post, he came over to visit for the last four days of my time in the city, and naturally we got up to all sorts of mischief…
As my dad had arrived during the celebrations of El Día de todos Los Santos, or All Saints’ Day, we had to head to buy a few sweet treats that are eaten accross Spain during the festivities. Heading to La Mallorquina, an age-old bakery bang in the centre of the city, we grabbed some buñuelos (similar to profiteroles) and huesos de santo (literally “saint’s bones”, marzipan stuffed with sugar and egg yolk).
After we’d tried these sweet delicacies, we began our ascent towards the north of the city to eat in one of my favourite lunch spots: Casa Dani. This restaurant is famous for its tortilla (Spanish omelette) and menú del día (set lunch menu), and serves some of the best authentic Spanish food in the city, situated although it is across a few stalls in a hidden market.
We were lucky to have arrived just before swathes of locals descended on the place, and so managed to grab a lovely spot where we were treated to a three-course meal including oreja a la plancha (fried pig’s ear) and lentejas (lentils with chorizo). Once stuffed to the brim, we left the market and headed for our next spot: Chamberí station.
I wrote about this abandoned Metro station a while back, but I knew that my dad would appreciate snooping around the old tunnels, and that he did! He also grabbed a photo of me stood by one of the old advertising billboards down at the platform, as I noticed that it combined two of my true loves: old typography and lightbulbs.
After this we headed back to the centre for a beer, and then descended through Lavapiés as the sun set, stopping for some bao along the way. Once we’d stuffed ourselves and reached the southern end of Lavapiés, we headed back to Madrid for a tipple in a secret sherry bar which has stood pretty much untouched for years and years!
The next morning, Saturday morning, signalled the moment I had to move my suitcase and belongings out of the apartment in which I’d been living and into the hotel to spend my last two nights with my dad there. With two pairs of hands to help out I was soon unpacked in the hotel, and we returned to the city centre for the next day of frivolities.
Our afternoon began with a trip to Bodega de la Ardosa, a classic must-do when in Madrid. The bodega is a dusty old bar which is always packed out, but the secret that the locals know is that if you clamber under the bar itself, you will reemerge in a hidden room around the back where you can be served the best tortilla in the centre of the city!
After sampling the tortilla there, we wandered through Malasaña, stopping at a couple of street markets along the way. Working up more hunger, we eventually grabbed a table at Ojalá, which my parents had enjoyed during their last visit, and ordered lunch.
Lunch was as lovely as ever there, but I particularly enjoyed a fancy coffee that I treated myself to, which came full of cream, dulce de leche and a shot of Bailey’s. Don’t mind if I do!
We then wandered idly round Malasaña and the rest of the city for a while longer, before catching a bus down to Retiro where the plan was to hire a couple of bikes and cycle around the picturesque park. With time passing us by as it did, however, and with the bike hire shop busily attending to other customers, I deemed it too late in the day to bother as we’d a table booked for our meal later.
The place I’d booked for us to eat at was at the other side of the park though, and so we walked through it regardless, stopping on a terrace overlooking the lake for a pre-dinner coffee.
The surprise place where we’d be having tea (what we in the north of England call dinner, if you’re getting confused) was an Asturian restaruant, as I wanted to introduce my dad to a bit of Asturian culture as best as I could without taking him up there – and I could think of no better way than through the region’s amazing cuisine!
The restaraunt did not disappoint, and we gorged our way through four delicious courses, all washed down with the natural cider which is typical of the region – well, what else were we going to drink? My dad even had a go at pouring it out from a height as is done to aerate the bitter cider. I sent all this to Kevin, my friend with whom I’ve spent many a tipsy weekend in the region, and he was very much approving.
After heading to bed with bellies full of delicious cachopo, fabada and chorizo a la sidra, I had a Sunday planned which would take us out of the city and into the mountains for a slightly different day of exploration. We headed up to El Escorial, one of my favourite spots for a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the centre.
Up in the little town we were first treated to yet another slap-up meal as we nipped into a little bar that I have been visiting since the first time I paid El Escorial a visit last year. The place is run by three generations of the same family, so there’s always great conversation and even better food to be had!
We then skirted the outside of the huge monastry that dominates the skyline, snooping through the gardens until my bladder commanded that we head back into the town to find a bar for a coffee and a much needed toilet break!
After a quick stop in café, we headed into the bowels of the monastry to explore the basilica which sits at its heart. My dad was stunned by its interior, which is much darker and more gothic than the typical church interior. Unfortunately photography isn’t permitted inside, so you’ll have to make do with this selfie that we took in which you can see more of us than the building’s façade, rendering said photo rather useless.
Having worn ourselves out on the slopes of El Escrorial, we eventually headed back to the train station and returned to Madrid, where we alighted in Lavapiés to spend what would be my last evening there. To mark the occasion I’d arranged to meet up with one of my best friends that I’d made whilst there, Napo, and the three of us went out for some beers and a delicious pizza meal together. Me and Napo then waved each other off for the time being, and me and my dad had one last cheeky drink in Lavapiés before turning in for the night.
The next day was Monday morning, and although we’d to leave the hotel room and stow our luggage away for the day, I was determined that we’d make the most of our last 12 hours in Spain – especially as we weren’t due to fly until 9pm anyway!
The day’s main activity was to be the bike ride that we’d not managed to squeeze in a couple of days prior, and so our first stop was the bike hire place to pick up a bike for my dad. As I did when my sister and her boyfriend visited a while back, I grabbed myself one of the city bikes (well, I might as well use the credit I had left on my BiciMad card) and we headed into Retiro park to explore its expansive sights on two wheels.
After returning the bikes and wandering back through the park, we had lunch at another spot which I shall miss rather dearly – the delicious burger chain Goiko Grill. There I introduced my dad to their monstrous and delicious burgers, and we stuffed ourselves to ensure that there’d be no chance of us getting hungry at the airport later.
Burgers eaten and a couple of beers drank, it was time for one last stop before heading back to the hotel to pick up our stuff – it was churro time. One cannot visit Madrid without enjoying a plate of the crispy treats dipped in creamy chocolate, and I certianly wasn’t going to leave without having one last fix!
All too soon came the moment in which we’d to head to the airport, and so after picking up the luggage and an irritating delay to our departure time, we soon found ourselves landing in Manchester just after midnight. My mum had kindly driven there to pick us up, and so we made our way back to the comfort of our house in the countryside, making just one quick stop for a cheeky McDonalds’ drive-thru on the way.
As I said at the start of this rather long post, I have indeed been back in old Blighty for a week now, but I shall have to reserve all updates on what I’ve been up to since my return for my next update. Right now it’s getting quite late, and I’ve some knitting to attend to!
I’ve flown a thousand miles and aged 50 years along the way…