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Madrid – Our Introduction to Spain

May 31, 2011 by Chelsea Slone

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Madrid, the spontaneous and energetic capital of Spain, is home to more nightclubs and tapas bars than one could ever imagine. The bustling streets fill at all hours of the night up until the wee morning, and if your not hoping from place to place in this city, you’re obscenely breaking the unspoken Spanish set of rules. However, if you get tired of the traditional cider beverages and loads of tapas Madrid is also home to the most impressive art collections in all of Spain, found at the Prado and the amazing Reina Sofia museum where some of Picasso’s finest work is found.

As I am sure you know, tapas are a major part of the Spanish culture. In fact, socializing, drinking, and enjoying small snacks might be the biggest part of the Spanish culture. With Madrid being our first stop in Spain we decided to do a night tapas tour to learn about these delicious things ourselves, before jumping into the game on our next stops. While tapas can be anything from olives to cheese or little slices of bread with delicious toppings, the original tapa started off much different. The word “tapas” literally means “to cover”. The tradition began when King Alfonso X of Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between his meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that all taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a tapa. The tapas served on top of the common glass of sherry, and often used as a drink cover in between sips to keep the fruit flies off the sweet wine. The toppings often included salty ham or chorizo, increasing thirst. Due to this, bartenders began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry to increase their alcohol sales. Eventually the tapas became as important as the sherry! Over the many years tapas have been such a tradition in Spain they have changed even more and now are mostly served as small popster of food. We tried many different specialities in Madrid including blue cheese to eat while drinking cider, octopus with chili seasonings, and so much more. We even enjoyed the anchovies… Something we never went near at home! But you can’t forget, once you have the speciality of the tavern and your drink of choice, it’s time to head right on out the door to find the next place.

Another delicious Spanish culinary delight we discovered is the “chocolate y churros”. This hot chocolate thick enough to eat with a spoon is to die for… If it doesn’t kill you first. In my opinion it takes like the best warm chocolate pudding you’ve ever had, and you just can’t go without some churros to dunk inside the delicious cup of goo. Churros can be best described as sticks of funnel cake, jut a little crisper! This little Spanish delight can be found in small cafes all around the city, but the famous Chocolateria San Gines is the place we discovered the wonderful treat!

Since I’m on the topic of food, I must mention our visit to Botin, the oldest Resturant in the world (listed in the Guinness book of world records). The Resturant opened in 1725, and was not only known for being a favorite of Hemmingway’s, but it is also said Goya worked here before becoming a painter. Their speciality, suckling pig, which I must say is too greasy for a frequent visit, but pretty delicious for a one time affair.

As I stated previously there are far and few things to do other than live up the nightlife and see the art in this capitol city. Our visit to the Reina Sofia museum was definitely a highlight to our time in Madrid. Picasso is an artist in which we both happen to love, and one of his most famous works of arts lies in this modern museum of art in Madrid. While photographs weren’t exactly allowed, we happened to sneak a pic, without flash of course, of the well known Guernica battle scene to share with you all.

While there isn’t a whole lot of sight seeing to do here we did visit two of the most famous squares in Madrid, the Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor. Plaza del Sol is considered to be the meeting place for many people as well as one of the busiest places in all of Madrid. It contains the actual point to which all of madrid is measured from, even though it is not considered to be the actual center of the city. This square was where one of the many gates to Madrid was located. In Plaza del Sol lies the famous bear with a madrone tree, which is the symbol of Madrid. This symbol is found all around the city in a much smaller version on drains, newspaper stands, awnings, and etc. Plaza Mayor, only a few short blocks from Plaza del Sol, is much more traditional looking. Built in the 17th and 18th century during the Hapsburg era, this large rectangular square is surrounded by beautiful buildings and examples of old Spanish times. For example many of the street signs were written on a tile with a picture drawn beneath portraying the name for those who could not read. In previous years the square was used to host bull fights and many other gruesome activities, but today it sits as a beautiful square filled with cafes and local art work for sale.

Our visit to Madrid was a perfect way to start out our adventures through Spain. We learned so much about the culture through the people and how they enjoy their food and endless night life experiences nearly every night of the week. We are ready to soak up more of this lively atmosphere at our next stop, Barcelona. See you there!

Hasta Luego,


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2 thoughts on “Madrid – Our Introduction to Spain

    • Wishing you safe passage and an aamizng, enriching trip.I am looking forward in anticipation to your trip postings and I am sure I will salivate over your trip photos.Will you be purchasing a lovely leather pair of shoes and a handbag on your trip?Remember that if you find a pieceof furniture that you must have – you can arrange to have it shipped to your home. Buon viaggio!Ciaofluerdelyis

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