Wednesday, 25 October 2017

9 Nights in Madrid

Source: La Bobia Laberinto de Pasiones.

On my first night I raced through the city at sunset on a motorbike as the wind lifted the hem of my dress above my bare knees... A few days later, an enchanting Colombian girl took me to an ancient tapas bar with no chairs and the best tortilla in Madrid. Then there was the time my friend Martina, a willowy Austrian with Marc Bolan curls, invited me to watch the cult Super 8 film 'Arrebato' at the Filmoteca, followed by vermouth at a bar where they only played vinyl and everyone had long shiny hair. One evening I strolled through Retiro Park, queasy, yet enjoying the dusk cloaking the trees in shadows. 

A still from 'Arrebato', 1979.
Every night was different, and many were calm (noodles, movies on the sofa) so I'll just tell you about my last night. On Saturday, I put on a long striped dress and met my friend Guillermo at the metro, along with an exciting Mexican girl named Mayra. First we went to a classic nightclub that reminded me of some cruise ship disco from the 80s (not that I've been on any cruise ships or to discos in the 80s - but one can imagine - a James Bond set where Grace Jones appears - in a velvet catsuit, right?)

Grace Jones in Vogue

My friend Will invited us there to see his band play. The audience was loving Flat Worms, dancing, drumming their fingers on lanky thighs, and murmuring excitedly, even though it was only seven o'clock, which is practically the middle of the afternoon in Spain. After the gig we walked to a quiet bar called Picnic, where they serve cheap beers and frozen piña coladas. 

madrileño, source unknown.
Next we fortified ourselves at Aio, a delicious Italian restaurant. My other friend named Guillermo, a fascinating young professor, was waiting for us with a round of Aperol Spritzes. Mayra's tales of wildness had everyone laughing. Everyone was getting along swimmingly. Soon we were calling the guys 'Los Tres Guillermos'.

After the feast of pasta and tiramisu, we stepped into a bar with faded rock posters and old covers of Melody Maker collaged onto the walls and ceilings. Girls were drawing on boys' arms; boys were looking at girls, while others played pool in the corner. I chanced upon an empty barstool and began the tower of coats with my sky-blue raincoat. Mayra and I danced to the 70s rock & roll and soon everyone joined us.

After it got too crowded, we ambled through a parade of debauchery in Malasaña, to a nightclub called Trashcan. We checked out the mostly Mod and psych crowd and found a spot near the dj. He was picking out the best 45s. Every song was fantastic. He put on the Buzzcock's single 'Ever Fallen in Love...' Everybody danced and sang along and swerved into each other with that elation that appears sometime between midnight and dawn. We met new friends, danced and hollered, and continued on our disco safari.

I found some pretty girls on the way to the next little club and invited them to join us. The brisk walk was enormously refreshing. We were ready for more dancing and excitement. Much frolicking later, it was the hour to part. To hunt for taxicabs that would deliver us to different corners of the city. We sauntered into the night, half-dreaming of sleep and tall glasses of water.



-Check out obscure films at Matadero or the beautiful Cine Doré. Tickets cost 3 euros.
-Madrid has some of the best art museums in the world. Modern art fans should check out the Reina Sofia Museum. It's massive and maze-like so bring a snack or have lunch and a coffee first. If you like traditional art (e.g. Velasquez and Goya) visit the Prado. The Fundación Canal usually has interesting shows and it's free. The hip contemporary art galleries are on Calle Doctor Fourquet in Lavapies.
-On Sundays, wander around El Rastro flea market for knickknacks, comic books and sexy magazines from the 70s. It ends around 2 or 3 pm.

-Pop into the bookshops and vintage stores in Malasaña (that's vaguely the Dalston/ Echo Park/ Bushwick of Madrid.)
Madrid in the 80s, source unknown.
THE BEST FOOD (All these are carnivore and vegetarian friendly.)

-My favorite restaurant is 80 Grados. Amazing menu del dia (4 dishes & a drink at lunchtime for 12.50). Try the salmorejo with parmesan ice cream, the truffled egg, and the crazy tiramisu. Make a reservation. c/Manuela Malasaña, 10. 914-458-351.
-Bodega de la Ardosa. Casual tapas bar from 1892. Try the croquetas. Veggies can also ask for a salad or salmorejo minus the jamon. Calle de Colón, 13.
-Chan Street. Chinese street food in Chueca/ Gran Via. (Though the menu appears to be non-vegetarian, veggies can ask which noodle dishes can be made with tofu instead of meat.) Try the saucy onion and garlic noodles, and green beans. Calle de Barbieri, 4.
-Casa Lafu. Elegant Sichuan Chinese restaurant. Calle Flor Baja, 1.
-Grosso Napolitano. Delicious pizza. There's one in Lavapies and one in Malasaña.
-Takos al Pastor. Fantastic, cheap tacos. There is always a long line so get there when it opens.
-Pez Tortilla. Cheap, delicious tortilla with unusual ingredients, as well as tasty croquettes.
-Fit Food. Filling salads and cold-pressed juices when you need to detox, or if you're in some kind of California mood. Not all have the fresh salads (there are 4) but this one does: Calle Génova 25. I suggest the avocado, edamame, tofu, mozzarella, egg, and quinoa salad with pesto dressing. They have lunch deals too for 10.


-Bar Benteveo. Low-key, 70s vibes. Near Lavapies. c/Santa Isabel, 15.
-Toni 2. Classic bar where everyone, young and old, stands around a grand piano and sings Spanish songs. Calle del Almte., 9.
-Picnic. Quiet cafe and bar with tea, beer, and cocktails. Calle Minas, 1. Good for chatting.
-Pavon. Fun, mixed cafe/ bar near Tirso de Molina.
-José Alfredo. Cocktail bar. A little pricey. Calle de Silva, 22.
-Or just walk around Lavapies and Malasaña and see what you find!

A bar in Malasaña, October 2017.


-Trashcan Music Club (check for 60s nights, it's either hit or miss, as is Fun House), La Vía Láctea (rock/indie scene, better on weekdays), Lucky Dragon, Ballesta (if Seven Mad are DJing), Apartament, Sirocco (updated November 2019)
-Feel free to add more in the comments - I haven't covered the electro scene here...

Monday, 9 October 2017

An Afternoon at Dali's House!

Last night my father appeared again. We haven't seen each other since we wandered around the neon alleys of Athens. I suggest we go to Cadaqués to visit the house of Salvador Dali.

The next morning we dress in sky blue to get into a surrealist mood. I wear a mini-dress from the 60s with shiny black shoes. My father wears a cotton button-down shirt with blue trousers and suede brogues. On the train in Barcelona, we nibble a picnic of focaccia, carrots, and tea. Two trains and a car-ride later we arrive in the seaside town where Dali lived with his wife Gala.

Dali's house consists of several fisherman dwellings combined together, overlooking the Mediterranean. As expected, it's decorated with imaginative touches: local swans preserved for eternity and suspended from the ceiling, a large glass snail clock, the head of a rhinoceros flanked by wings above a matching stone table with white benches, fake books used to disguise a radiator...

Dali's garden is equally intriguing. Several gigantic eggs decorate the landscape. Next to a long swimming pool there is a bright pink vinyl sofa in the shape of lips, where visitors gleefully pose.

We amble down a hill into town in search of food. Most of the restaurants are closed at this hour. Just when crabbiness is closing in I spot one of my favorite words: GALETTES. We sit at a small table facing the sea. My father orders a beer and tuna cooked in vermouth served in a tin with the letters MF on the front. I enjoy a massive crepe filled with the fluffiest cheese soufflé in the world. The texture is light and psychedelic. It's like biting into sea foam, except the flavor is creamy not salty.
Across the road, a tall woman leads a horse to a wooden bench. She hops on the bench, jumps on the horse and rides away.

After lunch we walk to the shore. Summer has gone but the sun is strong today. I undress and swim in the chilly water, among long silver fish.

We catch a bus through the countryside. As the sun paints the sky rose we pass a small city set on numerous canals. Every house has a boat out front. I imagine on a map the city is shaped like an octopus, each tentacle representing a canal. My father tells me stories about my grandfather, how he was a great dancer, and my grandmother, who met him on a dancefloor in San Francisco. We talk all the way back to Figueres.

Here I am in Figueres


-FOOD: Guer Bakery has delicious little cakes to take on the train. Try the rum cake and the Sacher Torte. For lunch/ dinner enjoy the crepes and tapas at Versatil on Plaça del Passeig, 3.

-Plan your trip several days in advance. You can only get into Dali's house by making a reservation at least 2-3 days before. If for some reason you just turn up, if you're extremely persuasive you can get on the waiting list for that day.

-How to get there: Ideally go by car. Or: from Barcelona you can take a fast train or a cheaper slow train to Figueres. Then you can catch a bus to Cadaqués, which takes 1-2 hours. The bus only goes a few times a day and is often late. Or you can take a taxi in Figueres for 40-60 euros. From the town of Cadaqués it's about a 15 minute walk up a hill to Dali's House. The Dali Museum is in Figueres so if you have time, you might prefer that to Dali's house. Or stay overnight and see both.