I'm going to Madrid

For a week in December, I am going to Madrid. Is there anything I should buy while I am there? I will be working, so I won’t get to see much. I will also be five months pregnant, so I don’t know how much walking around I will feel like. Is there anything that would be good to see in the evening that doesn’t require much walking?

Well, if you go to nearby Toledo, you’ll want to buy some cutlery. Toledo was historically known for great swords They still produce them there, along with some very nice knives.

Will you get saturdays off? Public museums are free on Saturdays. Unless you’re severely allergic to oil paints, being in Madrid and not visiting El Prado is a sin. And there is a store directly across from the central door (I think that one is Velazquez door) that has a lot of nice “touristy” stuff at decent prices. They have Toledo stuff (swords, little metal items decorated in gold-and-black), cordoban (engraved leather), etc. My brother was looking at sword prices when we were there, and the prices in that store were actually lower than in Toledo.

From Madrid you can take day trips by train or bus (lots of organized trips) to Toledo or Cuenca. Cuenca is a town that foreigners don’t even know exists but it’s absolutely worth visiting. The Casas Colgadas (hanging houses), overlooking a gorgeous canyon, are now a Modern Art museum. More expensive day-or-weekend trips by AVE to Cordoba and Sevilla (but even the AVE is cheaper than Amtrak - Amtrak is highway robbery!)

You will find all kinds of music. If you like opera, you may want to look for zarzuela recordings (there are also zarzuela plays quite often, Madrid has a large theatre offer): it’s sort of a light opera in Spanish.

You may have some problems getting knives on the plane to bring home with you.

Just need to put them in the luggage. I’ve assisted the Guardia Civiles on three separate occasions with dumb tourists who don’t understand the notion of “Thou Shalt Not Bring A Three-Foot-Long Sword Upon A Plane”. A couple of them even claimed it wasn’t a weapon. Argh, it ain’t a gun, but it sure as snow in Saskatchewan in the winter is a weapon!

I went, and it’s just gorgeous, this medieval city scraggling up and over a cliff plunging into a deep river gorge. Even the scenery out the train window on the way is beautiful. (Unfortunately, the best way to visit it is on foot, up the opposite bank of the aforesaid river gorge, but it’s not that difficult.)

Well, I had forgotten that El Prado was there. I will do my best to see that. I quite like El Greco and Goya.

In addition to the Prado the Thyssen-Bornesima is very nice as well.
Go sit in one of those nice chocolate cafes and get fat on glorious glorious churros y chocolata. Mmmm.
Oh, and when you order to jamon tapas and the waiter tries to upsell you into the “Jamon Iberico” emphatically say no, because they will charge you more than you can believe.
Try the vermouth on tap. Surprisingly nice.

Unfortuntately, vermouth is out. I am pregnant.

I also recommend a trip to Toledo. It’s an amazing town. I encountered a bunch of really rude people in Madrid, and didn’t care for it, though the hotel I stayed at was very nice. I was also quite freaked out by the food markets, which had dead chickens (feathers and all) dangling from the ceilings, skinned whole rabbits laying out on display, etc. It was just a little too grisly for me. LOVED Toledo though.

I recommmend Segovia or Avila as well.

Four food tips: 1) the definitive chocolate y churros are to be found at Chocolatería San Ginés in the alley of the same name. It’s hard to describe the location of, but all guidebooks list it. Best consumed at 5 a.m. after dancing all night, but it’s like liquid sex at any time of day. 2) you can go your entire trip eating your meals in bars if you like. Especially breakfast. 3) the Museo del Jamón (there is a branch on each of the two streets leading off either end of the southern face of the Puerta del Sol), though touristy, has cheap and good sandwiches. I usually reach a point where I no longer wish to do the hunt-down-a-restaurant-for-lunch thing, so having this big and tasty thing really obviously there was a great help. 4) No matter how homesick you think you are, do NOT go into a Starbuck’s. They will charge you four euro for the same crappy coffee you could get at home, when you could go next door into a grungy little bar and get caffeinated liquid sex, a.k.a. café con leche, for 1.20.

I avoid Starbucks here, certainly will avoid them in Europe. I am not supposed to eat deli meats or anything that can carry listeria like lettuce or sprouts or vegetables which cannot be easily scrubbed, so I am a little worried about sandwiches. I will definitely try the café con leche. I am supposed to go to el Prado on Friday after work. I wish I had the time to go to Toledo or the Casas Colgadas as they sound marvelous.

I am packing tonight and leaving in the morning with a stopover in Frankfurt. I have most of the day there Sunday, so that should be nice and give me time to recover. I usually get up at 5:20 am and I don’t think I will need to get up quite so early there. I am staying at the NH Lagasca, so if anyone knows anything interesting near there, I would love to hear about it.