Wintry weekend

In light of the fact that a number of people sent me this week’s New York Times Travel section’s 36 Hours: Madrid, I thought I’d share with you my own 48 hours in the city.


14 hrs

There’s nothing better than discovering a new and different place to eat in your own neighborhood. I’d walked by Raíces del Mundo (“Roots of the World”) a number of times before a friend suggested that we eat there. Raíces is a restaurant and fair trade store where you can also take world dance classes or see a show on weekend nights. A rare find in my very Madrileño neighborhood! With the 8-euro menú, we each had a salad from a different place in the world (the New Zealand contained kiwi, soy bean sprouts, lettuce, and a yogurt dressing), a tapa (like a Chilean empanada or a Mexican enchilada), and a drink. The food is good and a welcome change from typical Spanish fare. (An added bonus is that it’s around the corner from my school–great for the days when you just can’t stomach the thought of food from the comedor.)

16 hrs

Wandering through the eclectic Conde Duque neighborhood (just south of my own) en route to buy movie tickets for later in the night, we decided to stop and check out an exhibit at the Centro Cultural Conde Duque. The exhibit, Misiones Pedagógicas (1931-1936), is both eye-opening and well-executed. The so-called Pedagogic Missions, carried out in the pre-Spanish Civil War era of the Segunda República, were destined to bring culture (in the form of art, film, literature) to small villages throughout the interior of the country. The highlights are photographs of villagers completely entranced by Charlie Chaplin’s silent movies, copies of art from the Prado, and books from the traveling library. In a documentary about the project, an elderly woman recounts a memory of her work as a missionary: “When I arrived, the villagers shouted, ‘Communist! Communist! Communist! When are you going to bring the movies?'” For me it was fascinating to learn about this facet of the Second Republic, the most progressive era in Spanish history–too progressive, perhaps, considering the ensuing war and dictatorship.

20 hrs

Forget worrying about strange Spanish dining times: at Cervecería 100 Montaditos you can eat a delicious and cheap meal for under 5 euros at nearly any time of the day or night. This chain is sort of like a Spanish version of fast food: beer, wine, and olives appear on the menu along with 100 “montaditos”–tiny baguette sandwiches filled with everything from jamón ibérico con tomate natural to smoked salmon and cream cheese (salmon ahumado con queso Philadelphia). Almost everything on the menu (it’s like a chit–you check the sandwiches and drinks you’d like, bring it to the counter, and they call you when it’s ready) costs 1 euro, making it a very economical place to eat. We had dinner at the branch in La Latina with a friend who wanted to eat something before an evening flight.

21.30 hrs

On a night that was positively chilly–temperatures below freezing with an unbelievable amount of wind–we wandered into El Jardín Secreto (C/ Conde Duque 2) for something warm before seeing a late movie. Normally, this place is so packed on weekends that you have to reserve, but luck was on our side. Everything on the menu (hot chocolates, teas, shakes, cocktails, desserts) looked so good, we had trouble deciding. After enjoying a Persian chocolate and an “Orient Express” tea, we hurried across the street to the movie theater.

23 hrs

It’s been quite a year for Spanish film. Penelope Cruz is the first Spanish actress in history to be nominated for best actress at the Oscars. But Volver didn’t make it into the best foreign language film category–a different movie did. Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-nominated Laberinto del Fauno is still playing at Cines Princesa in the Plaza de los Cubos (just north of Plaza de España). I highly recommend it.


12 hrs

One of the best things about Madrid is the ease of leaving it for the day. Since it decided to snow everywhere in Spain besides Madrid this weekend, we decided we couldn’t miss seeing it. Our destination was the walled city of Avila, best known for being the home of the mystic Santa Teresa, an hour and a half northwest of Madrid. The snowy Sierra de Guadarrama came into view almost as quickly as we got going on the A-6 highway. As we climbed to a pass in the sierra, the temperature dropped to -4 degrees Celsius (it had been 7 degrees C in Madrid) and, descending the other side, trees were laden with half a foot of snow. In Avila the temperature was -2 and the streets were still snowy. We wandered around inside the walls, enjoying the frigid but sunny day, and ate a bocadillo on a bench outside St. Teresa’s convent. We made sure to try the famed yemas de Santa Teresa (candied egg yolks) before heading back to Madrid.

21 hrs

Madrid is full of fantastic and varied places to eat, but sometimes there’s nothing better than a homecooked meal. For under 20 euros at the neighborhood supermarket, we made a feast of fresh ravioli with a hearty homemade tomato sauce, garlic bread, salad, a nice Rioja, and even ice cream. Cheers to that.


12 hrs

Though I’d considered joining the crowds at the Rastro (Madrid’s amazingly enormous Sunday flea market), some friends convinced me to do it indoors at the Reina Sofia. So we ogled Picasso’s Guernica, cubism, and surrealism alongside the hordes–the museum’s free until closing at 14.30 hours. An unexpected discovery was a room on the 2nd floor with photographs of Madrid during the Civil War (which I swear were a new addition!).

2.15 hrs

With a group of Casa Granada novices in tow, I returned to my beloved Sunday lunch place. We were a big group and luckily arrived just in time to beat the rush. Just as we sat down, hordes of people started piling into the rooftop dining room. We ordered a series of delicious raciones and enjoyed the relaxed and smoke-free (!) ambiente. The views across the southern sprawl of Madrid will never cease to amaze me.

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