Madrid, sí - Week 28 Recap (April 8, 2019)
After Morocco, the first day in Madrid was a dream. Madrid had everything we missed in Marrakech. To-go coffee. Languages comprehensible to us. Sidewalks.
And children, everywhere. We were staying Chamberí, which we had chosen after it topped a list of family friendly neighborhoods in Spain. Proximity to a playground was our number one goal after more than two months in Morocco during which we did not see a functional one.
We arrived in Madrid on a Sunday. One of the main arteries of the neighborhood, Fuencarral, was closed to traffic, and kids of all ages were scootering, soccering, strollering, and running down the middle while a puppeteer commanded an audience and someone created giant two-foot-long bubbles. It was drizzling and it didn’t matter. We ate avocado toast and sighed.
We went to the Prado and the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, we ate churros con chocolate. We split up the days and I roamed free through the streets, feeling at ease and at home in a city I hadn’t seen for 15 years.
Just to hammer home the kid-friendly point, I had discovered a place a few blocks from our apartment that claimed to be coworking plus childcare by the hour. WP and I went. It was tiny, but it didn’t matter. Four desks, four babies, a monitora, and two hours of minimally interrupted work. The days were rainy and the play area was padded and filled with new-to-her toys. There was a bubble machine. I went twice and Mike went once.
We found a English-speaking babysitter through a friend of a friend who lives in Madrid full-time with her two young children. The catch is that she brings her five year old son. We shrugged. WP needs more time with other kids. The first evening he bounced off every wall in the apartment while crawling through our legs. WP was enthralled. We feigned nonchalance but panicked when we got outside. The second evening we stayed out late and they were both asleep by the time we got home. She came two more times. When we ran into them at an English language Easter Party, the son gleefully shouted WP’s name and made sure she got to play with all the toys.
We ate broken eggs with chorizo and croquetas ibéricas and generally gorged on the post-Morocco novelty of jamón. We sipped 2€ copas of vino tinto.
We ate Neopolitan pizza and I had some of the best lo mein of my life. We drank sangria.
Morocco, like every part of our trip the moment it is over, feels like a distant memory.
Here’s some of our top places in Madrid. They are concentrated around Chamberí, our neighborhood, and Malasaña, the hipster neighborhood adjacent, but also include some evening favorites from when we had the sitter and ventured out. My full list can be found on this map.
Mercado San Miguel - it’s on every list for good reason. This old covered market has been transformed into a tourist oriented assortment of typical food and drink from around Spain. Lively and fun atmosphere for a sangria, but hard to get seats so wouldn’t count on it for more than a drink and a bite. Great for your first night in town.
La Blanca Doble - we wanted the typical neighborhood cafetería experience, where you order at the bar and sip a café con leche with your tostada, and chose this place a few blocks from us. WP gripped a giant churro while we sipped our coffees and the regulars ducked in and out for their regular orders. It reminded me of being in Italy.
El Tigre Sidra Bar - there are actually 2-3 of these all on the same block, and they get packed with what looked like study abroad students on a budget. We were the oldest people here and I didn’t care. A giant sidra (cider) came with a huge, randomly configured plate of food, and we squeezed in at the bar and ate and drank and marveled at a system where you pick your exact drink and someone hands you a dinner plate of assorted food over which you have no say to go with it.
El 2D - we enjoyed our vermut and tapas here, but really there are tons of small, packed bars serving drinks and tapas all around Malasaña. Many have outdoor seating such that you never see the atmosphere and the name of the place you’re at is irrelevant as the beer will taste the same anywhere. Malasaña is great to wander on a warm evening to find a plaza on which to grab a table and a drink.
Los Huevos de Lucio - we did very few restaurant meals in Madrid as we tend to prefer to use the time sans baby to hop to as many places as we can getting drinks and snacks at each, but Los Huevos was an excellent dinner. The broken eggs with chorizo were excellent, and the green salad surprisingly also very unique and delicious. We tried to order more but the waitress said unless we were very hungry it would be too much food and she was right.
Sagaretxe - I went here on my own and had the sidra on tap, which was poured from the huge barrel embedded in the wall behind the bar from a distance to aerate it, and several pinxtos while I read a book. It was off hours so the place was quiet, but I’d guess it’s fun when it’s more lively. There’s a full restaurant in the back.
El Rey de los Tallarines - I walked by this place and stopped to read the sign which told the story of how it was the first restaurant to bring lo mein to Spain. I was majorly craving Asian flavors after two months in Morocco but didn’t have my hopes up. But when I walked in a man was stretching, banging, and cutting lengths of noodles (tallarines) for the lunch service. I was honestly floored when I tasted the noodles. I have rarely had lo mein that good in New York or San Francisco. I went back.
Café Federal - great place for breakfast, which is not a popular meal in Spain. The breakfast veggie burger was good enough that it prompted us to discuss whether we could learn to make veggie burgers on our own at home, and the chia pudding with coconut milk was like a little bowl of hippie SF home. The indoors is nice, but the outdoor seating area is just below a small play area, so one of us could continue to hold our coffee cup while WP ran around during breaks in the meal.
Luso Coffee Shop - coffee that would make a coffee snob happy, to go only, which was an amazing luxury after seven weeks in Morocco. The pastries looked good, too.
Espacio Crisálida - music classes, playgroups, and coworking with childcare. Laura, who runs the place, is wonderful with toddlers, and they have a seemingly endless set of toys and activities to keep even the most active kiddos engaged. Warm, welcoming space. Not fancy but totally useful. I wish I had one of these walking distance from my house always.
Plaza de Olavide - quite possibly the perfect playground in the middle of a plaza. There’s a big kids side and a little kids side. The ground is all small stones and sand. There are baby swings. There’s a huge fountain in the center with lots of space to kick a soccer ball. There are 2-3 cafes on all sides and to go thai food around one corner and pizzas around the next. This is the playground you want to be able to walk to for most of your kids’ childhood.