Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Madrid, Madrid, Madrid !!!

It’s quite normal to think about Barcelona as a lively city. And it's true. No doubt about it. It's also normal to think about Madrid as a less funny place. Well, this was at least my impression. And it's false. The truth is that Madrid is a never sleeping city !!! And, still against the idea of mine and many others, it's very nice and packed with a lot of amazing spots.

One of the best secrets ever to deeply live a place is to visit it with a local. Also for a non tourist journeyman it's almost impossible not to be caught in the net of some tourist-buster (fake local restaurant, bars or night venues...). Unfortunately is not possible to have a local friend in every place. Sometimes we must do everything on ourselves trying to skip all the tourist-buster.

Fortunately I have a lot of friends all around Europe & the World. And one of my best friends has lived in Madrid for more than four years: she is a crazy Mexican with Italian blood in their veins and in Spain she has found the perfect mix of USA & Europe. And a couple of hundreds of friends too. What else can ask for a short trip to Madrid ?

My expectations have been fully satisfied. Madrid is really wonderful. The locals are fantastic. I have felt strange and mixed emotions during the trip. The place could be modern and old at the same time. After a long walk in the commercial district around Puerta del Sol I have found myself having lunch (at 4 o'clock p.m., very normal here in Madrid) in a old restaurant where the time seems to have stopped 50 years ago!

Probably its useless to give a list of the best places to see. Any kind of travel book (Lonely Planet it's always the best) can provide all the details. Much more better than me. But for sure I can give some advice to avoid the "tourists route". To sleep a good place is the Room Mate Mario Hotel. There are many belonging to the Room Mate brand in Madrid. I have choose the Mario one, very close to the Opera. Great position. Sophisticated with a nice touch of design. Very nice boutique hotel at affordable prices (135 EUR for the wide junior suite). Very close to the Hotel it's possible to find a great Mexican restaurant. The name is Entre Suspiro Y Suspiro. It's a real Mexican restaurant, not a Tex-Mex. Food is great but a little expensive (40/50 EUR each). The place is really nice, elegant but not overcrowded.

During the night Madrid never sleeps. It's impossible not to find something to do. A wonderful idea is to have a couple of drink on the roof garden of the Melià Hotel situated in Plaza Santa Ana. This Hotel used to be the place where the toreros spent the days and nights prior to the "Corrida". Now it has been completely refurbished. It's a very chic hotel and on the roof top you can find a bar and have the best glance of the city at night. Very exclusive. It's worth a visit for a couple of drink. To continue the party it's a must to move in La Latina, a part of the city crowded by locals drinking and having fun in one of the thousands bar spread all over the area.

Late night it's absolutely necessary a stop at Cock bar. A very famous place where many famous writers, artists and filmmakers meet all together for a drink and a chat. Very peculiar. Surrounded by clouds of smoke (yes, in Madrid is still possible to smoke in public areas) is possible to have a drink in this fashionable and elegant bar and talk about the Movida with the ones who started it. I had the chance to drink a very good Mojito while my friend (at 4 o'clock a.m.) was talking with a smiling Pedro Almodovar. For the one really full of energy I suggest a visit at Toni 2 (Toni Dos). Possibly after 4 o'clock in the morning. It's an unbelievable place. Ladies and Gents from 30 to 80 years old meet together in this bar and sing all night long with the help of a piano player and tons of cigarettes and alcohol. Very strange but absolutely a piece of everyday life in Madrid.

Last but not least it'n wise to have a lunch (from 3 to 5 p.m., not before) at a marvelous Taberna (old restaurant). Don Paco. It's in Caballero de Gracia, near Plaza de Cibeles. It's a musuem of the Corrida and with a few money you can have incredible food & drinks. It's almost impossible to find a tourist here. It's a real Spanish restaurant. With great feelings. It smells Spain in every corner. Don't loose it!

Madrid is much more than one could imagine. Having the chance to visit it (at least in part) with the eyes of a local makes it even much better.

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