A Frolicker's Guide to Madrid
January 1, 1970
Tapas and Vino.
I’ve been living in Madrid, Spain now for just over two months, and if I were to use two words to describe my time here, those are the ones I would chose. So many tapas…and SO much wine. Speaking of wine, it’s shocking I don’t have a €2 bottle next to me as I sit cross-legged on the floor of my room’s balcony. Usually I enjoy having a glass or two to flow the words better as I write, but alas, I had a sudden rush of motivation today that didn’t require the extra buzz my fermented grape friends provide me with.
But this article isn’t going to be about the special place Spanish wine holds in my heart. No, instead it’s going to serve as a reference for anyone looking to do some exploring of Madrid, España in a more unconventional manner. Frolicking-style, as I like to call it.
For anybody that knows me, it’s apparent that I have no sense of direction. Hand me a map, it will take me ten minutes to figure out which way is best to hold it. Luckily(!) for my first couple of months here, I didn’t have to do much alone, thus was able to mooch onto my friends’ orientational skills in order to get around. But hey, regardless of you’re orientational skills, you’ll enjoy Madrid. Doesn’t really matter if you get lost, regardless of the corner you turn on, you’ll see something you’ll like.
While you’re getting lost, though, there are 3 places I HIGHLY recommend you check out.
Templo de Debod.
Never in my life have I seen a sunset like the one I experienced a couple of weeks ago. The sky was pink.
And then it was orange. And then it was both. All the while, reflecting it’s beautiful color waves on the Templo’s legendary fountain. The sight was something to behold. It was a moment of pure bliss and magic, as I soaked in the skyline with the warm glints of color spreading across it. I looked to my left, to my right, and behind me, to see the faces of the people around me. Everyone’s face looked to be in a place of tranquility. In that moment, no wars were going on around the world. Unemployment didn’t exist. Nobody was hungry. Everything was perfect. But like every good thing (and in my opinion, every bad thing as well), it had to come to an end.As soon as the bright pink faded into the dull twinkle of twilight, people began to disperse. I remained to enjoy a picnic with some fellow American friends (and Irish friends I’ve made in my university’s program)–vino, cheese, hams, breads, and olives spread over a blanket on the grass. Using the knife on my keychain to slice the cheese, as we laughed the evening away, pointing out the numerous couples showing their affection to one another for the world to see, and appreciating every moment of our new lives in Madrid. Templo de Debod is a spectacle. Whether you go alone to observe the magic of the sunset, or to enjoy some of Europe’s finest jamones, or go with your significant other to kiss the night away, you will leave absolutely marveled.
La Terraza del Círculo de Bellas Artes.
To be quite honest, I’m not too sure what the Circulo de Bellas Artes is, per se. I presume it’s an art museum, based on its name. And while I do love art, I’ve only ever visited this place after museum visiting hours, to enjoy Azotea, the rooftop bar. With just a €4 cover, this place is well worth every cent. My first time stepping off the elevator at the top of the building, I was intoxicated with the feeling of luxury. Granted, drinks are on the pricier end (10€ cocktails), you don’t need to be drinking to enjoy your time here. Located somewhere between Sol and El Retiro, the view from Azotea is stunning. While I’ve never made it before sundown, each time I go I’m struck with the beauty of my new home. I’ve been to many cities, and many rooftops in my life, and while I’ll admit, Madrid isn’t necessarily the most beautiful city in the world, while you’re leaning over the railing, breathing in the the essence of Madrid’s downtown atmosphere, you may as well be on a cloud.
Restaurante Zhou Yulong.
Yes. This is exactly what it sounds like, a Chinese restaurant. Having grown up in the Silicon Valley, I was accustomed to top-notch Chinese food. Sure, as I’ve never been to China, I can’t very well say it was authentic, but I tend to think that when everybody in the restaurant is Chinese, and the waiter has a hard time understanding you in English, you’ve found yourself a good Chinese restaurant. This was what most of the restaurants I frequented were like in California…then I moved to Austin, TX, and suffered in the Chinese food department for several years. Boston had okay Chinese food, better than Austin, but definitely not up to par with the offerings in the Silicon Valley.And then I came to Madrid. I wouldn’t say that Madrid has great Chinese food in general. I did go to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet once, that made me feel absolutely rotten, and made me pretty sad that I wasn’t going to be able to eat good Chinese while I’m here. And thennnnnn, I found out about Zhou Yulong. This restaurant is located beneath Plaza de España, essentially in the parking structure. I had a bit of a hard time finding it the first time I went, but I just followed my nose until it appeared before me. The menu has few offerings, which is the best sign to know a restaurant is good. And while the Spanish translations of the Chinese dishes might not sound too appetizing (“Glutenous Sesame Balls”), everything I’ve tasted in my last three visits have left me with a full stomach, and a happy heart.
Well, I strayed away a bit from the tapas and vino topic…to be honest, I ended up opening a bottle around halfway through this article. But regardless, you’ll find good tapas and vino amidst your adventures getting lost in this city. If you only have a couple of days here in Madrid, you’ll leave happy having visited these three spots–so long as you also took the time to walk around aimlessly and take in the glamorous architecture throughout.
I’m going to set away my laptop now, and do what I do best; people watch from my balcony with a glass of vino in hand. Happy frolicking, my fellow travelers! xoxo