It’s only when I leave Madrid do I realise how much I’m still deeply in love with it. I guess you could say it’s an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” situation.
It was on a recent trip outside of Spain, when I found myself reminiscing about my adopted city after being gone for just three days. “You know, Madrid really does have it all,” I said to my Spanish husband who cynically smiled in silence. He is, after all, my constant sounding board of complaints about “his people”.
You see, despite my love for this city, there are some days when I would swear that Madrid is trying to kill me. Chaotic traffic, impatient crowds, staring commuters, and a stifling heat can make even the city’s most dedicated admirers yearn for something else. I’ll even admit to day dreaming about cheating on Madrid with Germany or even Italy.
But my realistic side knows that this is nothing more than a fool’s fantasy; I’m totally in love with Madrid and it will always be that way.
However, when I find myself having a back-to-back series of “one of those days”, I know it’s time to hit my favorite Madrileño spots looking to revive my sometimes wavering love for this city.
Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long to remind myself that Madrid is and always will be, the City I Love:
Tranquility Now! … in Madrid’s Capricho Park
There is no question that Madrid is a walking city. Strolling is a national past time in Spain and, in the capital city, it’s performed as an art form on sidewalks citywide. Among the labyrinth of streets and interconnected neighborhoods, you’ll find no shortage of paths to wander around aimlessly. And if it’s greenery and scenery you’re looking for, Madrileños and tourists alike head to the main city park, Retiro.
Personally, though, when I desperately need a dose of tranquility, I scoot out of the city center and get my stroll on at the historic Parque Capricho. Previously home to Dukes of Osuna, the park dates back to 1784 and was designed by the Duchess herself, Doña María Josefa de la Soledad Alonso Pimente. It’s now a serene paradise, home to a small palace, a duck pond, beautiful sculptures, incredible flower gardens, and a myriad of hidden surprises including buried bunkers from the Spanish civil war. All this beautiful history creates one very peaceful escape from the city’s bustling center.
Flamenco in Madrid?
True flamenco aficionados will stubbornly tell you the only place to see flamenco in Spain is in Andalucia and I cannot dispute this. (Although I will say that the caves at Sacromonte are nothing but a tourist trap. There, I said it.)
However, if you do find yourself in Madrid and you feel the need to see, hear and feel that impassioned clickety clack of gypsy heels on la tabla, you have to visit Las Carboneras. It’s an intimate scene filled with some of Spain’s best flamenco dancers and well worth the somewhat pricey entry fee.
The Belly Rules The Mind – Spanish Proverb
Madrid’s culinary scene is vibrant, creative, and meant to be heartily explored at various times during the day. With a ridiculous abundance of restaurants and tapas bars, you’ll never go hungry in Madrid.
Among the many options the city has to offer, there are always a few stand out places in the city and once such place is Madrid’s new Isabella market. Free from the throngs of tourists and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds found in the city center, Isabella offers a wide selection of international fare along with some traditional Spanish gourmet treats. Not only is the food outstanding, the market also offers a relaxed respite for weary travelers and sullen expats as well.
So whether you’re just visiting Madrid or, like me, trying to rekindle that expat spark, these three places will take you off Madrid’s heavily beaten paths in the city center and let you inhale the beautiful scents, sounds and tastes of what this fantastic city has to offer.