Madrid is a city that provides the traveler every opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture. From paella to tapas and Flamenco to street markets, the opportunity to fall in love with this beautiful city and its people is abundant. Oh the things you will discover when you allow yourself to get lost on the side streets and off beaten paths of Madrid. The city will open up and share with the traveler her secrets and beauty.
It has been two days since arriving in Madrid. The jet lag is subsiding, and our bodies are becoming accustomed to a much different eating schedule. It is 10:30 pm and we are scheduled to meet a couple who has agreed to show us around the city, and give us the tapas experience that only locals can provide.
Tapas are quintessential Madrid and the tapas bars in this city are too numerous to count. We begin in an area within walking distance of the famous public square, Puerta del Sol. Like many cities, there are those places that cater to the visitor, and then there are those that are favored by the local. It is in these local bars that we were fortunate to find ourselves sharing plates of olives, jamon serrano, anchovies, gulas, shrimp, morcilla, and tortilla de patatas. Of course, we washed all of this wonderful food down with glasses of local beers.
How do small, shareable plates of food that are consumed late into the evening translate into an experience worth writing about? It is in the word shareable. During our time in Spain, we shared tapas with strangers who have now become friends. In so doing, we have made our world a smaller and friendlier place. You see, during those nights we didn’t just share food and drink. We shared with each other our cultures, languages, and even a few jokes. I truly believe that if you want to get to know a place and remove cultural barriers, simply begin by sharing a meal with someone. Now when we return to Spain, we will return knowing that we can reach out and connect with our new found friends for another round of tapas.
So you are ready to travel to Madrid and eat your way across the city. Los Gatos, Cervezas La Fabrica, and La Dolores are all great places to get started. All of these are located minutes from each other and make for a great evening of tapas and beer. Lastly, throw out your hesitations, and simply order what looks good, chances are it will be delicious. Salud to you all, and if you make it there, drop me a comment or a picture of you on your tapas crawl.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
First of all, London is one of those cities everyone should visit. It is a place that seamlessly combines the old and new. And like most metropolises it caries the grit and grime of a busy city, but London’s beauty is unequivocal. There are truly so many things to see and do, and I have always said that if there was a capital city for the world, London would be the one.
London is truly a remarkable city. I had the pleasure of visiting during the Christmas and New Year celebrations and I wanted to share a few things that I think a visitor might consider while visiting London.
First, when traveling, try and walk as many places as you can. And when you can’t walk, take the public transportation options. Generally they are easy to use, affordable, and offer so many new opportunities to explore a city. London is no exception, the tube and bus options are both easy to use. You can read more about how to get and use the #oystercard here. Lastly, don’t forget to #mindthegap and look #right then left before crossing.
Of course when you walk, you are naturally taking the slowest method of transportation. And it is when you walk, that you will truly discover some of the best places. For example, one evening while walking, my wife and I noticed quite a crowd outside a smallish size restaurant. Curiosity got the best of us and we discovered what was quite literally the best fish and chips we have ever had. If you visit London, you must visit the Mayfair Chippy. Get reservations, they are always packed, we just got lucky. 😉
Pubs and Beer, this may be a future post. But for now, pubs and beer in London. The Pub or Public House has been a fixture in London for nearly as long as people have inhabited the city. London offers a wide range of variety for the thirsty traveler. When you are ready for a pint you will find an opportunity on nearly every corner. These pubs vary in that some are definitely catering to the tourist, while others are most certainly local haunts. Pick one and pop in for a pint and possibly a meal. Three pubs that I really enjoyed while visiting London fell squarely in both categories. The first was a little pub tucked away named Victoria’s. This pub located in Paddington offered coziness and quintessential pub vibes. And while it had a mixture of locals and visitors, it truly was a comfortable place with a full selection of #fullerbeers and great food. If you find yourself in London, check out Victoria’s, you won’t be disappointed. The other pub I suggest for a pint is the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, check them out on #tripadvisor. Now due to the historical significance and cool factor, the Cheshire Cheese fits squarely into the touristy vibe I mentioned above. But, let me qualify by saying this, Charles Dickens was known to drink here. It can be tough to get in and get a seat in the original bar area (reservations can be had) as you walk in the front door, but the pub winds itself in and around and up and down, so be patient, find a seat and have a pint. You’ll be glad you did. Towards the end of our trip, we found ourselves exploring the area near and around Parliament. As hunger and thirst rapidly approached we found ourselves staring at the Red Lion Pub on Parliament Street. Now the Fuller’s Brewery owns the current establishment, but a pub has stood at this location since 1434. The food is great (see picture below) and the atmosphere is outstanding. And with the pub’s proximity to many of England’s government offices, you never know who you might be rubbing shoulders with that day.
Having been founded in 50 AD, London is truly a historical city. And as such, has many amazing things to see and explore. From palaces to pubs and churches to cathedrals, one will not be without an opportunity to experience the historical fabric of the city. And to make this history convenient and accessible, there are a plethora of museums to visit. The most obvious museum I would recommend is the British Museum. Not only is the museum affordable (entrance is free, but they do recommend a £5 donation) it truly gives the visitor an opportunity to explore so many wonderful artifacts from around the world. Checkout the museum’s website for suggestions on what to see based on the amount of time you have. Another recommendation for a visitor to London is to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is truly magnificent. The most current building was consecrated in 1697, survived the Blitz of WWII and has been the site for many historical services (Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married here). Plus if you don’t have claustrophobia and can manage the climb up the 528 winding, sometimes narrow and low steps to the top of the dome, you will have access to some of the most amazing views of the city.
One of my favorite activities while travelling is shopping at street markets, bazaars, or local antique stores. These are great places to pick up little gifts for yourself, or those back home. And one of the best street markets that I have been to is Portobello Road. One can spend hours traversing this approximately 1000 meters of antique shops, street merchants, and clothing stores. And when you are tired, find one of the local pubs I mentioned above and pop in for a pint and a refresh.
If you have been to London, you know one blog story is simply not enough to speak to all of the amazing opportunities that London holds for her visitors. I know that I will be returning many more times to try and discover more amazing adventures in this remarkable city.
Remember, go travel and explore. Not only is it good for the soul, but you can truly grow as an individual when you experience other places and other cultures. Get outside of your comfort zone, for when you do, you will find that you grow stronger.
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