Lois W. (can you believe it, we have two Lois’s on the tour), Nichole, Sherry and Brian are meeting for breakfast and then off on the Madrid Hop On Hop Off tour. I was off early to walk to Plaza Santa Ana to meet my foodie tour. I was so early I stopped for a traditional Madrid breakfast (so I found out while on tour) of Cafe Latte and churros. I knew I needed to save room for all the food I was about to eat on tour.
Luke, originally from Maidenhead, England, was our trusty guide. In University he studied Spanish and Russian – quite the combination – and after a year each in Madrid and Moscow he chose Madrid to settle down. Good choice I would say! There were 10 of us, 9 Americans and me, the one Canadian. It was a great group of adventurous spirits and we had fun.
Madrilenos eat 6 meals a day, yes 6, however many are more like snacks.
At Mantequeria A. Cabello – Plaza de Matute 13, we sampled the ‘first’ breakfast which consists of something light – toast, jam, or biscuits (cookie). We sampled a variety of honeys and jams that were very different to Canada – banana, apple & cider, and Cherimoya fruit, also known as custard apple. We then tasted the olive ‘juice’ of extra virgin olive oil and it was amazing. Although it tasted similar to oil, it was pure with no additional oils added and did not leave any oily residue. Did you know that Spain produces the most olive oil in the world? Italy is actually the second largest producer and Greece the third! To finish we tried a fig infused with brandy and then wrapped in chocolate. My, my, my, this suited my taste buds. It was delicious!
On to the next stop, Chocolat – Calle de Santa Maria 30, for our ‘second’ breakfast, porras (larger style churros) and chocolate. We served a cup of the most delightful chocolate to dip our porras in to and then invited to drink the chocolate! Knowing what is ahead of us, I opted to just dip.
Back up the Calle de Huertas we stopped at the Fabrica de Patatas Fritas y Churreria – Calle Cervantes 9, for freshly made potato crisps (chips). The ‘factory’ provides churros to the cafés and bags of potato chips to all the bars in the area.
Next to the Casa Gonzalez – Calle Leon 12, for a selection of four different cheeses, a soft mild Arzua, Idiazabal – a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, San Pelegrin – hard cheese from goat’s milk and Cabrales – a naturally aged blue cheese aged in natural caves in northern Spain.
From here we headed to a local “working” market, Mercado de Anton Martin – Calle Santa Isabel 5, where the locals shop and not a tourist market. Locals build relationships with their favourite merchants and it becomes more of a friendship rather than a business transaction. As a matter of fact the butcher started up a romance with the lady the owned a deli and five years later they are happily married!
The market held your typical meats, vegetables, and other necessities as well as specialty stores of olives, prosciutto and other local products. Each tasting spot was a delight and we all left very happy and looking forward to our next stop.
It was 1:30pm and time for our Vinos & Tapas stop at Los Gatos – Calle de Jesus 2, It is very common to have wine or beer at lunch in Spaon. We North Americans justified the early hour by saying, “it’s 5:00 somewhere”. We were treated to sweet red Miro Vermouth (a little sweeter and less alcohol content) meant to be drank over ice. Served with it were Tostas – slices of scrumptious french bread topped with a variety of meat, prawns, cheese, and were delicious!
Here we learned that if you were sitting at the bar, you were to throw your garbage, i.e. napkins, underneath the bar. The amount of garbage on the floor indicates the popularity of the pub should you happen to arrive during a lull period when there are few customers. A large collection of garbage indicates you just missed a great party and hence the popularity increases.
Our final stop was dessert at a local Galician bakery, Pan de Pi, for baked Tetilla cake (Galicia is the province where Santiago de Compostela is located). It was a nice small morsel and resembles the baked New York style cheesecake. Our guide, Luke, explains that the Gallegos (from Galicia) have a quirky sense of humour and here is the story. In ancient times in Santiago, there was a statue of a woman with very large breasts (tetas in Spanish). Across from her was a statue of a man staring directly at her breasts. When the Catholics arrive in Santiago, they were horrified and had the breasts cut off. This incensed the Gallegos, and in response they named their cheesecake Tetilla and to this day a soft cheese is produced and formed into the shape of a breast. Quite the story.
Our tour complete, I walked back to Puerta de Sol plaza and decided to take the Hop-on Hop-off bus on both it’s routes. Madrid has a beautiful centre and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the sun on the top deck enjoying the scenery, although my jet lag did catch up with me!
Enroute back to the Siete Islas Hotel, I stopped at the Hotel Europa patio for a cafe latte followed by a glass of red wine. The streets were filled with quaint cafés and hundreds of people jostling their way through the crowd. It was a great way to finish a wonderful day. As the sun got lower in the sky, I wandered back to the hotel and bumped into Margaret and Caryl, who had just returned from their tour of Toledo. We decided a quick bite in the cafe lounge of our hotel would do the trick for dinner – after all their food was delicious.
Although I was extremely tired, I managed to stay awake watching Spanish TV until almost midnight!