Archive for the 'Lavapiés' Category

Madrid mornings

This weekend I had a strong hankering to hang around Madrid, get stuff done, and do some madrileño things. Above you can see nine images from the two mornings I spent out and about in the barrio. (I mean morning in the Spanish sense, that is from when you get up [pretty late] until when you have lunch [earliest 2 p.m.]).

A number of those are taken in the Mercado de San Fernando, where we enjoyed cañas and tapas and window shopping Saturday morning before heading, via the gone but not forgotten Centro Social Okupado Casablanca to Bar Benteveo for their delicious lomito.

Sunday morning included an errand at the Rastro, where I spotted a banner citing the current fight over public education, and a walk through nearby streets before some tapas at one of Madrid’s oldest tabernas.

A quick walk through the neighborhood

My bike had been feeling a little rough lately, so on Monday I took it over to the friendly folks at Otero to let them have a look at it. I had a feeling it was due for a tune-up, and it was. In fact, it was way overdue. I had no brakes left, front or rear, according to the mechanic on duty. The headset was a bit loose and the chain needed tension. It had been nearly a year since I’d done anything to the bike, so I guess that explains it.* The shop was quite busy, so I left the bike for them to work on and walked home.

Maybe it was because it was a sunny afternoon after a week of clouds and rain, perhaps it was the time of day (about 5 p.m., just after siesta), it was probably just that I hadn’t taken a walk on those streets in a while, but I got home feeling really happy; I’d passed new businesses and people about enjoying the afternoon, running errands, going home. In my quick walk home I came across a newish bike coop on calle Embajadores and a cute natural-looking café next door. Then I decided I might as well dip into the recently renovated Mercado de San Fernando to see what everyone’s been talking about.

Among the things I saw in my quick vuelta around the mercado were a craft beer shop, a vegetarian prepared foods stall, a delicious-looking panadería, and an organic fruit and veg shop, all mixed among the traditional bars (see above photo) and non-perishable goods shops.

Yes we’re in crisis, but life goes on!

*And, as I’ve now confirmed, brake shoes wear out incredibly quickly in this town, mainly because of the extreme dirtiness of the city. Add rain and it’s even worse—I guess like giving your brakes a chemical wash. Cyclists beware!



I leave the piso just before 7.30 tonight to cycle to yoga, all suited up with my reflective gear. But wait—bici’s not there, where I left her half an hour earlier locked to a tree two floors below our balcony. What?! My mind reels. Did I forget to scramble the combo? Did I lock her to the post next to the tree? And my gaze lands on a tightly wound coil just below the curb. The lock. It’s cut, cleanly. Must’ve taken all of five seconds.

La calle es de todos

The street is for everyone. I saw these words stenciled on a building in the center of Madrid while wandering around with a friend last week. It seems an appropriate thing to say about Madrid, where so much life is concentrated on the streets. I’m not just talking about the homeless people here, who sleep on benches, building entrances, and in parks, or the crippled beggars who sit in the middle of the sidewalk on Gran Via and ask for change. Or even the groups of teenagers who congregate in the alleyway under my window late at night. I’m talking about all Madrileños, old and young, Spanish and foreign, pijo and alternativo. I’m talking about the West Africans selling pirated DVDs on the streets and in the Metro entrances, the gay couple embracing outside the Palacio Real, the Pakistani man smoking a cigarette outside his non-smoking locutorio, the Ecuadorans picnicking in Parque del Oeste every Sunday, the Peruvian musicians playing in Sol.

I’m talking about Lavapiés, probably the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the center of Madrid. I was there three times in the last week–one night for a kebab, one night for Indian food, and today as we looked for a less crowded alternative to La Latina to eat outside on this cloudy, chilly, but not rainy day. It was just our luck to come across a terraza with an empty table just north of an enormous drum circle congregated in the plaza. Now, Lavapiés has become semi-trendy among Madrileños who dig the ethnic food and the alternative Spanish tabernas, the art and music scene, and the wonderful old architecture. But whenever I go there I can’t forget what one of my female Spanish friends told me once: that she had been really interested in taking a flamenco class at El Horno, a dance center in the neighborhood, but had ultimately decided against it based on the fact that the class would end around 7 p.m. and the streets would be full of immigrants just standing around and looking at her. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a terrible shame to give up the class for that reason. La calle es de todos, ¿no?

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