Our final day in the Madrid (and potentially our last day of sun for 2016) had arrived. We slept in until 10 as a treat and packed up our stuff before checking out of the Hotel Exe Moncloa. The hotel had been lovely and gave us the chance to explore an area a bit further out of town but given that the pool was not functioning I definitely don’t think it was worth the price we paid. There are nicer places closer to the city centre for significantly cheaper. We took the metro over to La Latina to where Maeve and Ruaridh’s new flat was to check it out and have a day of Samantha and Maeve’s Eat Madrid Tour. Ruairidh came to meet us at the metro exit and after a few minutes of confusion (each stop has multiple exits so if you are meeting at a metro stop be sure to clarify which exit) we headed back towards the flat. En-route we picked up breakfast at Ruda and despite the torturous wait of almost 30 minutes for 4 hot drinks and 4 pan con tomate enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with some great hipster coffee (definitely not worth the arduous wait) and the traditional breakfast which is a sort of garlic tomato topping for bread and was actually surprisingly tasty. Just not enough to forgive that wait.
We had decided to start our market exploration tour of Madrid in Embajadores in order to explore the Sunday flea market – El Rastro which is located right next to their flat. We wandered around the streets contemplating whether we wanted to buy fur coats, interesting chairs and a lot of fake designer goods and came to the conclusion that in fact we did not. It was still fun to wander around the hustle and bustle and see some of the totally mental things for sale right next to the completely boring. After a stroll we had experienced enough culture and so made the 5 minute walk to Plaza Mayor – probably one of the most famous squares in the city. It is a tourist hotspot (I would highly discourage anyone from eating here) but it gave us the chance to pick up some tourist tat, post postcards and see the wonderful architecture of the old square which used to be filled with butchers and bakers and all sorts of interesting medieval shops. I pulled out my trusty Lonely Planet and we managed to pick out some interesting features such as the carvings at the base of each streetlight which details the different histories of the sqaure. Our next stop on the tour was the most touristy food market but one of my absolute favourites – Mercado San Miguel. As with all food markets we did an obligatory tour to check out our options before I decided on a seafood medley of calamari, boquerones, squid tentacles and prawns. It was pricy at over 10 euros for the cone but it was absolutely delicious and I would say worth the price. The others had a wine and cheese combo and so I tried the tinto de verano a chilled summer red wine which is mixed with lemonade and very refreshing.
We reluctantly left the Mercado San Miguel and made our way down to the Royal Palace of Madrid. Please note that while the palace is open to the public it is still a functioning home for the royal family and so if there is any event on then access to the palace is restricted. It was closed the last time I visited and this time despite it being open, we just took in the grand façade from the outside which is modelled on Versailles. It is a nice building to check out though and I am sure I will make it inside at some point. The adjacent cathedral is also nice, for more info on that and the other things to do in the vicinity check out my previous blog https://samanthasworldwanderings.com/2015/06/20/madrid-architecture-and-tapas/ After taking our token palace selfie we made our way past the opera house (another beautiful building which can be toured for those who have more time). Our next stop was the Mercado San Anton. This was the same market I had visited with Ruairidh for wine on Thursday evening after arriving but there was a stark difference between that and Sunday afternoon. Most of the ground floor was closed this time around which was made up of shops but the tapas bars on the first and second floors were bustling with people. We took the opportunity to again do a scout around and I went for the chorizo with a Sangria, another refreshing alternative to red wine. It was really tasty and nice and light – one of my biggest tips for a food eating tour is to start slow. If you go big early on you are not going to last the distance at the last few places which are often the best ones. We enjoyed some food and chat and treated ourselves to homemade ice lollies on the way out – mine was an interesting mango yoghurt with cardamon and absolutely delicious. We headed on to the next stop on the tour and passed by an interesting popcorn shop called FOL. The popcorn was flavoured with interesting concoctions and made for a great food gift for the foodies among you.
Our final market stop was street food market Mercado San Ildefonso. The décor of this place really reminded me of the hip Paper Island food market in Copenhagen and the multi levels and terraces meant it would be the perfect place to chill out with the friends and drink in the sunshine surrounded by delicious food. Maeve and I did an initial look round and took the opportunity to sample most of the stalls on offer. This resulted in us opting for the roasted pork from Bovinus Luxury with some red wine from the stall right next to it called Taninos Vinacoteca, It was a hard decision and I was almost won over by a yummy mushroom paella and an interesting pork kebab, much stronger in taste than the roast pork we had with just salt in order to savour the flavour of the meat. The market also boasted some cool street art out on one of the terraces making this place one of the most hipster markets we visited. We had one stop left on the tour before we had to catch our flight home and it could only be the majestic Taberna la Concha on Cava Baja. This is one of my ultimate favourite places in Madrid and a return visit did nothing to dispel my love for the place. We opted for a bottle of cava and then each picked a tapa; me opting for the best blue cheese I have ever tasted with anchovies (I have dreamt about this tapa in the period between visits) as well as some of the other fantastic tapas options they offer here. They always provide a complimentary cheese with oil and paprika to start and bread which is also delicious. Soon enough it was time to wave goodbye to the besties and we said our fond farewells after grabbing our bags and hopping on the metro to the airport which was so busy given a football game had just finished. A slight stress but we made it in plenty of time and had to succumb to white hot chocolate from a vending machine and a packet of crisps for dinner given Madrid airports lack of eating establishments. What a fabulous weekend with the best people. We saw, drank, ate and most importantly laughed so much that I am already excited for our next soiree. Barcelona in T- 9 days (not that I am counting).