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Madrid with Friends

Last night we were treated to a night out with Jośe (with whom we are aquainted through Ken’s brother Jeff, who met Jośe recently during Jeff’s stint volunteering at a language academy outside of Madrid), Jośe’s lovely wife Marisol (who speaks as much English as I speak Spanish), Marisol’s cousin Laura (who is on her way to speaking English after a recent study program of her own), and Laura’s husband Jośe Louis (whose name I think I’ve ruined).

They showed us Madrid like only locals can, and it was truly awesome! After meeting up, we walked through Retiro Park on the final day of the annual national book fair, which stretched farther than my eye could see. To give our legs a rest, we were then treated to a chaufered personal tour down the main vein of the modern center, Paseo de la Castellana. We passed Spain’s Stock Exchange, the Treasury, Tax Collection headquarters, and major banks.

Even though it was raining, we detoured to have a look at the Temple de Debod, and caught sight of a rainbow near sunset for our troubles.

Next came the Fiesta de San Antonio de la Florida. Afterall, what could be better than a look in at one of Madrid’s annual festivals, and it was great. We started in toward a food spot well known to locals (we were told) and neighboring the Chapel where El Greco rests his painterly bones. On our way there, I got talked into sharing what I was told is a specialty of Madrid, fried pork intestine.

Do you care to know what I thought of breaded & fried poop shoot, as Anthony Bordain puts it? Well I’ll tell you. Having grown up in Arkasas, I think I can testify that anything breaded and fried pretty much shares that breaded-and-fried flavor profile. It was quite rich and salty with crunch, not unlike fried chicken skin, but with added chew. Bread was a good accompaniment, and—as Jośe pointed out—some wine (acidity) would help to cut the richness of it. Did I like it? Sure. I enjoyed it. Though I’m probably not in need of getting it again all too soon, it was fun to give it a try. (I’m still saving blood sausage for another time, however.)

Back to our preordained tapas stop: as I said, it was right next to the Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida—a big wooden tavern of a place that reminded us of a Munich beer hall—where we all enjoyed chiorzo braised in hard cider, washing it down with—what else?—hard cider. Others of us (Ken wasn’t up for trying the pork bowel sandwiches, either) enjoyed tuna-laced ensalada pimentoes and empanadas to share, as well. With the slightest shred of appetite still remaining, we headed out toward the festival.

The festival was much like you might imagine. It featured various food stalls, carnival rides, a rock band performance, and a few folks in traditional costume. At Marisol’s prompting, we got our picture taken with the traditionally clad folks, and they were most obliging. Super fun! O! And I should mention that we tried soaked chuffa nuts (such as are used to make horchata) and pickled eggplant (which was something I would definately eat all the time if I could find them like this at home).

For one last tapas stop, we were back in the car toward our hotel and Puerto del Sol. Jose told us how the place was part of a chain, but that the food is good. It was. It was Las Bravas at the intersection of Calle de Alvarez Gato and Calle de la Cruz, just a few blocks past Puerto del Sol. They ordered for us some croquets, a tortilla, and (damn, I can’t remember what else, but it was good).

Thanks so much to this group for showing is a memoriable and authentic night. It was a blast. We hope for the chance to return the favor sometime


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