Monday, November 14, 2011

Tapas, Paella and Flamenco in Madrid

Was in Madrid for 2 nights and 3 days on work. The schedule @work was packed but I was determined to catch a little bit of the local scene when I was there. After all, it is not everyday you get to go to the Spanish capital. My company had booked me into a nice hotel but it was completely north of Madrid and I realized that the historic city center was in the South. So after a long day of work I took the metro from Plaza Castilla to Sol on metro number 1. The metro was packed with people and like metros around the world everybody on the metro seemed to have an own story of their own to tell.

Sol definitely seemed to be the center of Madrid. The place was swarming with activity, I walked to the Plaza Mayor which is one of the best known plazas in Madrid. This even seemed to be the place where a lot of bullfights had taken place. Obviously this time there was no time to find out where a bullfight could potentially be happening. With regards to food, Tapas seemed to be the way of life here, the lanes were lined with many of them. I jumped into one of the Tapas bar and tried out one of the tapas which was a soupy looking one which had thin slices of Spanish chorizo in it.

 Of course my expectations were quite high but it turned out to be just ok but the small platter of Arbequina olives in balsamico was really delicious. Also tried out the steamed mussels dressed with a flavorful vinaigrette and that was also yummy.

But the Paella that I had for dinner on the first evening at the restaurant Portobello was a true treat. Paella is a word that originates from the Latin word patella which means pan and especially because the dish is cooked in a large steel pan that explains the reason. The dish itself I found out is cooked with a special type of rice called Bomba rice which originates from the region of Valencia in Spain. This rice is cooked with saffron , different types of fish, broth and other Moorish spices – so as you can see a perfect blend of cultures and the influences from the past.

Looks like my journey turned into a complete foodie experience. The Iberian ham is something that I have to tell you about. I am not usually a ham person but all my colleagues told me that this is the best ham that I could possibly have. The book on Madrid in my hotel room had also pages of praise dedicated to the Iberian ham also known as Jamón ibérico in Spanish. It was really fascinating to see how they cut the meat into these super thin slices, and for those of you who love your meat out there you definitely need to try them. They were indeed a delicacy!

But the best part is yet to come. After a long day at work on the second day, I promised myself that I would have dinner at my hotel restaurant and get ready to catch my flight the next afternoon. But then I learnt that the Real Madrid stadium called Santiago_Bernabeu was right around the corner of my hotel. I had to walk up there and check it out, it was already past 19:30 pm and unfortunately it was past visiting hours. Anyway I walked around a bit and realised how exciting it must be to watch a football game in action and also see one of the best clubs in the world play.

My disappointed self decided not to sulk and decided to go into town and find a nice place to have some dinner. I found a nice little Tablao called Arco de Cuchilleros – Tablao is a theatre/restaurant where flamenco shows are performed daily on a wooden platform. I had to pay for the show and a drink was included and guess what to my surprise it cost me only 12 Euros!!! I chose a nice Sangria for the evening and was really excited to see an authentic Flamenco performance in Madrid. You can forget about having dinner but you can definitely go there for the show. The show lasts for one hour and the flamenco dancers with their special shoes used the wooden surface to produce unique sounds that resonate in my head even now.

The dancers had so much of energy and after every performance they cried out sounds of support like ‘Olé!’ Though I was quite tired when I walked into this place, l was brimming with energy when I left the place and thought about the last Flamenco performance I was lucky to see in Germany.

I was really happy that I made it to a real flamenco performance when I was there. At the same time I was really happy to note that the next day I would be on that flight back home all set to narrate my adventures from Madrid to my loved ones at home. Madrid again is a place chalked out, for a much more relaxed get away.

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