The International Olympic Committee are getting ready for a huge announcement this weekend: who will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games? The 3 contenders have been preening their feathers, flexing their muscles and showing their best side.
And it’s all come down to this.
Will current favourite Madrid claim this incredible honour?
credit: Víctor Peña
credit: Tonymadrid Photography
Will Tokyo be able to overcome the negativity surrounding the Fukushima disaster, and prove to the world they have the passion to host the best games yet?
credit: Brendan Skinner
credit: Stuck in Customs
credit: Jun Takeuchi
credit: Stuck in Customs
Or perhaps Istanbul, making its 5th bid for the games, will finally be able to show us all just what their flourishing economy, young population and widespread support will give to a transcontinental games.
credit: Christopher Chan
credit: Kıvanç Niş
Who would you like to see hosting the 2020 Olympics?
Many of you dear readers are travelling to Spain for your summer breaks this year. With that in mind, we thought it worth reminding you of the culinary delights that are in store for you. Madrid is renowned for having the widest selection of Spanish culinary delights. Whether you’re from the north of Spain and call them pintxos, or the south and call them tapas, this style of cooking and eating is so enjoyable because it is incredibly social.
From intricately designed to heartily prepared, every town, each beach-side resort and practically all the bars and restaurants will have a selection of bite-sized meals for you and your companions to work your way through. Our favourite traditional delicacies are:
a) tortilla de patatas
b) lomo Iberico
c) jamon y melon
d) pimientos de padron
Enjoy this photo menu of what’s in store this summer in Madrid, and have a delectable weekend.
Tomato and goat cheese salad, jlastras
Pimientos de Padron, su-lin
Oreja de la plancha, deramaenrama
Oysters in the shell, xmatt
Oliver skewers, shaggyshoo
Lomo Iberico, jlastras
Jamon con foie, jlastras
Brie, anchovy, mixed pepper & balsamic baguette, Allan Reyes
Tortilla de patata, jlastras
patatas bravas, arsheffield
baguettes of pimiento, goat cheese, anchovy and cherry tomato, PromoMadrid
Featured image by Javier Medina
Pedro Almodovar probably didn’t need to say that his latest movie is his ‘gayest film ever’. Short of having Gloria Gaynor selling popcorn on its opening night ‘Los Amantes Pasajeros’ couldn’t be more high camp.
But, much as we like a film set entirely on a circling plane waiting for a convenient ‘crash landing slot’ and featuring air stewards in body-con uniforms lip-synching disco anthems, we can’t deny feeling a little cheated by the notable lack of one essential in this latest Almodovar outing: Pedro, where’s Madrid?
The director may have been born in La Mancha and his home town, Calzada de Calatrava, is very proud of its famous son, but when it comes to making movies Pedro Almodovar is Madrileño to the core; he doesn’t do adoring, he doesn’t do postcard, he seldom does pretty but his take on Madrid is the city at its louche, sexy, seedy, enchanting and irresistible best.
We’ve no doubt Almodovar will be back filming in Spain’s capital very soon. In the meantime here are a few of his finest Madrid moments for you to enjoy. As the man says, ‘I like the idea of helping people to have fun.’
El Rastro Flea Market, Barrio de Ebajadores
When 17 year old Pedro Almodovar first arrived in Madrid in 1967 he worked Sundays at El Rastro. 16 years later this huge flea market, one of the oldest and most famous in Europe, featured in the opening sequence of the young director’s first movie ‘Labarinto de Pasiones’ (1982). El Rastro is in the centre of Madrid and open from 9am to 3pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Get there about 10.30 for a browse around the 3500 stalls and shops and you’ll be ready for a tapas lunch in one of the local bars or cafés. Then spend the rest of the afternoon catching up on what you missed in the morning. Good for: young designers selling clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery; rare and collectable books; paintings, drawings and art supplies; and at Calle Mira el Sol, movie memorabilia – of course. Kids furiously trading cards and magazines is a not to be missed moment of young Madrileño passion.
Café del Circulo de Bella Artes, Calla Alcala 42
Victoria Abril and Peter Coyote sit surrounded by ludicrous Belle Epoque opulence, she looks gorgeously sinister and he muses on the ease of murder. The film is Almodovar’s ‘Kika’ (1993) and the opulence is courtesy of Café del Circulo de Bella Artes. As part of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the Café del Circulo is almost sacred in Madrid (the Academy’s former pupils include Picasso and Dali and the Café has an astonishing art collection spanning five centuries – yes, that Goya on the wall is authentic). This is a superbly decadent place to pay tribute to the lush, overblown, melodramatic darkness of Almodovar and it’s also excellent for breakfast – popular for Sunday lunch so get there early – and there is no shame whatsoever in taking a drink at the bar as early as 10am (you’re on Spanish time in Almodovar’s Madrid remember).
Plaza Mayor, Calle Mayor
‘La Flor de mi Secreto’ (1995) involved quite a bit of dancing and while we couldn’t find the location for the pas de deux with Marisol Muriel and Joaquin ‘any old excuse to get my shirt off’ Cortés, we can point you to Plaza Mayor right in the centre of Madrid. Here, one of ‘La Flor de mi Secreto’s’ main characters dances alone in the early morning across the vast deserted square surrounded by upright bourgeois architecture. We’re thinking you won’t have Almodovar’s clout with the local council so you’ll have to brave some crowds but Plaza Mayor’s worth it for deep fried calamari sandwiches and cold cider.
Cine Doré, Calle Santa Isabel
Cine Doré is one of the unsung heroes of Almodovar’s disturbing and touching ‘Talk to Her’ (2002). In Madrid’s hectic but seductive Anton Martin District it’s a beautifully restored 1912 cinema showing up to four programmes a night for a few euros. Classics, foreign language (not Spanish), documentaries and indies show every evening except Monday. The cinema is also next door to the National Film Library and doubles as their screening room so little seen gems are not unusual.
Cementeria de la Almudena
If you like a cemetery (Almodovar does) this is the largest one in Europe. Over 5 million souls rest in 120 acres under monuments ranging in style from Neo-Classical to typical Madrileñan. Don’t expect leafy and wistful like Highgate or parts of Montparnasse, this is a typically austere Spanish cemetery but fascinating all the same. Almudena makes brief appearances in quite a few Almodovar movies notably ‘Volver’ (2007) and ‘Carné Trémula’ (1997).
Lavapiés District (close to El Rastro)
With its narrow winding streets and alleys, skinny buildings and endless balconies Lavapiés not only turns up regularly in Almodovar films it’s also one of our favourite places to stay in Madrid. Lavapiés was originally the city’s Moorish quarter, then mainly a working class district and now it’s Madrid’s centre for alternative, artistic, ethnic and 24/7 something going on somewhere.
Museo Chicote, Gran Via
Not strictly a location in any Almodovar film (although the neon and traffic insanity of the Gran Via are writ large in ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ (1988)) Museo Chicote is a Madrid icon and has played host to the likes of Hemingway, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren et al in its time. Today it still attracts movie stars, Madrileño ‘it’ types and Pedro Almodovar. 1930’s decor, seriously good DJ’s after midnight and claims that over 100 of the world’s most famous cocktails were first mixed here.
Bocaito, Calle Libertad
One of the best tapas bars in Madrid and a favourite haunt of Almodovar who’s quoted as saying, ‘Bocaito is the best anti-depressant ever’. Fantastic olives and jalapeno peppers are another good reason to go.
Madrid is all over almost all Almodovar’s movies and, while he’s had flirtations with the likes of Barcelona and Toledo and even Santiago de Compostela, it’s the capital he comes back to time and time again.
We’ve scratched the surface and given you a few ideas (we hope). But to be honest Madrid, like every great European city, makes you feel like you’re in a movie anyway. So our last word on the subject has to be: visit Madrid and make sure you’re as glorious as Penelope Cruz or as elegant as Antonio Banderas at all times and you’ll be just fine.
Los Amantes Pasajeros (I’m So Excited) opened in the UK on Friday 3rd May 2013.
This blog post written by Keith Jenkins of velvetescape as part of our #housetripping series.
Madrid, the capital of Spain, is arguably one of Europe’s grandest cities. There’s something for everyone in this city. The explorers among us will enjoy discovering hidden corners of Madrid in its historic neighbourhoods; the art-lovers will gasp in glee at the treasures of world-renowned museums such as the Prado and the Thyssen; and the foodies will experience many mouth-watering moments at one of the city’s many tapas bars and markets. For those looking for a romantic moment (or two) with a touch of luxury, Madrid is the place!
The best part about Madrid is that it’s a relatively inexpensive city. In this sense, you can treat yourself to the city’s luxuries without burning a hole in your pocket. Here are a few tips to help you experience Madrid like a local, with a dash of indulgence and romance!
1. Get in the mood for Madrid
Travel can be a hassle so it’s important to arrive in good spirits, with the knowledge that you’re in good hands. I’ve discovered that staying at a luxurious holiday rental gets me into the right mood very quickly. I like the fact that I’m greeted by a local who isn’t afraid to share their secrets of the city and provide any assistance I require.
HouseTrip has a stunning collection of luxurious apartments in the heart of Madrid, with owners who will go out of their way to make sure you’re comfortable. I especially liked this palatial apartment housed in a historic complex a stone’s throw from the Opera.
Other HouseTrip apartments I enjoyed included this gorgeous pad near the Plaza Mayor and this artsy studio just off the Gran Via. Luxury is all about the small touches and the owners of these apartments excel in providing a distinctive touch to a guest’s stay, thereby getting you into the mood for Madrid in no time!
These HouseTrip holiday rentals offer surprising value-for-money – imagine staying at a luxurious apartment for a fraction of the price of a five-star hotel, with the added bonus of meeting a friendly local upon arrival who will make you feel right at home.
2. Eat, drink and feel like a local
Once you’ve settled in, forget about the city’s main tourist attractions – there’s plenty of time for that later. Instead, head for the Mercado de San Miguel. This market isn’t really a market in the strictest sense of the word. Rather, it’s one big, happy, culinary paradise where locals and visitors mingle and enjoy good wines and fine tapas. Grab a glass of cava to celebrate your arrival in Madrid, then stroll around the market (glass in hand) and indulge yourself in a huge variety of tapas, exquisite hams and desserts. The Mercado is guaranteed to get you and your partner into a fabulous mood and you’ll soon be chatting with the locals and feeling like a true Madrileño!
Another wonderful way to get acquainted with the city’s culinary, historic and cultural scene is to join the Old Madrid Tapas Tour. Your guide, Andrés, knows all about the city’s history and secret culinary gems. He’ll take you and your partner down some of Madrid’s most romantic streets, exploring various tapas bars only locals know about, and he pairs each tapas course with exquisite wines/ports from his private collection.
3. Save time for some R&R
Madrid is best explored on foot as it’s so compact. Most of the main attractions and museums are within walking distance of each other. After a day of exploration, treat yourself and your partner to some R&R at one of the city’s spas. One spa I can recommend is Hammam Al Andalus. You can opt for a full hammam treatment (steam bath, scrub and massage with aromatic oils) or simply sit in one of the heated pools. The beautiful tiled vaults and arches in the underground chambers, lit by Arabian lamps and candles, are simply soothing, and dare I say… romantic!
One last tip. There’s nothing more romantic than a sunset stroll… at least, in my book. Pack a few tapas (or pintxos, the posher north Spain version) with some wine and head for the gardens at the Royal Palace just before sunset. Sit on one of the many benches and enjoy the changing colours of the sky and the light reflecting off the grand palace. It’s a moment you won’t easily forget!
Featured image by dMad-Photo.
Ah, tourists, you can’t deny they get the best of everything just by dint of sheer volume and an almost supernatural ability to queue.
There they are. All over the Eiffel Tower in their cheery Crocs like demented toddlers. They’ve nailed every palazzo and plaza. The Blarney Stone is a personal photo opp. And, unless you know a night watchman at any of Europe’s museums (or you’re in a Woody Allen movie), buy some postcards; the real thing usually looks about the same size over a sea of heads.
But should we be beaten?
The Eiffel Tower attracts almost 8 million visitors each year. Image by Dunnock_D.
Should we resign ourselves to solitary armchair travel, trying to replicate the magnificence of Europe with nothing more than a few soggy chips, a jar of mayonnaise and a sachet of cappuccino mix?
No we should not. The time has come to take back the cobbles, the castles, the cathedrals, the architecture and art, in fact anything that’s even had a brush with a pair of Rohan convertible chinos in the past decade is now fair game. Because if there’s one thing tourists like even less than trousers that don’t turn into shorts, it’s winter.
Royal Palace of Madrid. By Martin Hapl.
This is the season to actually visit the visitor attractions and not stand in line for hours with people who look like they were knitted out of rough, brown wool. You can take guided tours and hear the guides. And you know all those things like funiculars and covered boats and miniature trains? They’re really quite good fun when they’re not packed. So what three cities might win you over this winter? We thought, Prague, Madrid and Florence.
Piazza della Signoria, Florence. By Gaspa.
Yes, we are actually going to suggest that you stroll across the Piazza della Signoria in Florence (in winter there’s even enough room for a skippity run if you like). Have a look at Michelangelo’s ‘outdoor’ David. Make your way to the Uffizi – less of a gallery and more ‘most famous museum in the entire known universe’. And get in without having to queue.
There are 45 rooms in the Uffizi so this is the perfect place to try out a guided tour. Make sure it includes ‘Cosimo’s Commute’ AKA the Vasari Corridor, designed by Cosimo I to let the Medici Family travel from Palazzo Vecchio (work) to Palazzo Pitti (home) in blissfully commoner-free 16th century style. Part of the Vasari crosses the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s most famous bridge and still home to the city’s goldsmiths and frighteningly expensive jewellers – nigh on impossible to get near in summer.
Uffizi Gallery all to yourself. By funebre.
When you’ve ‘done’ the Uffizi it’s just a short walk to the Galleria Accademia. This is where they keep the real David and yes, he’s much taller than all those plastic statues would lead you to believe.
Have a drink on at least one of Florence’s piazzas. The Signoria and Repubblica might be like all ten circles of hell in summer but they’re very pleasant on a winter afternoon. Not warm of course, but it’s advisable to wear clothes in most public places these days. And you can watch the Fiorentini; a uniquely courageous people brave enough to live in this beautiful city even during the summer.
Piazza della Signoria. By Gwenaël Piaser.
The Madrileno are a little more elusive during the winter months. The capital of Spain can be chilly and the lure of some rich Rioja and a plate of tapas hard to resist. But don’t worry the city itself isn’t holed up in a bar. In fact it’s business as usual in Madrid, just a lot less people to share it with.
Parque del Retiro. By Alex E. Proimos.
One thing we know about tourists; they don’t like wandering too much. Handily enough Madrid has three of the world’s most famous museums forming a triangle in the city centre; Museo Reine Sofia, Museo del Thyssen-Bornemisza and Museo del Prado.
Reine Sofia is where you’ll find Picasso’s Guernica. The Thyssen-Bornemisza collection covers the 13th to late 20th century. And Del Prado, what can we say? Unless you live under a stone, you’ll recognise the masterpieces in this museum. And, even if you ignore our advice on guides elsewhere, the ones in Madrid really are extraordinary.
Picasso’s Guernica. By Tab59.
Churros and hot chocolate on the Plaza Mayor is a winter box you have to tick. But don’t eat on the Plaza. Leave through one of the square’s Arco and look for somewhere small and busy, in winter that means it’s full of locals.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid. By Bjørn Giesenbauer.
You want Calle de Preciados for shopping and Plaza de Santa Ana for bars, cafés and flamenco. Yes, it’s the dreaded ‘F’ word. And winter in Madrid means not only can you see the great dance in action you can take classes too. A great souvenir is the mark of a true tourist and we can’t think of anything more delightful for your family and friends than the gift of seeing you Flamenco.
Flamenco. By somebody_.
Prague doesn’t offer much in the way of dance instruction but in winter it really doesn’t need to. With freezing temperatures, almost certain snow and some of Europe’s most ethereal architecture, dancing would look a bit show off. Happily, tourists seem to prefer Prague’s unbearable summer humidity which leaves winter free for you to do what they normally do, in peace.
St. Vitus Cathedral. By James Whitesmith.
Unlike Florence and Madrid, Prague doesn’t have hugely famous art collections, but what it lacks in paint on canvas it more than makes up for on its streets.
Take advantage of the Old Town Square’s relative calm and even if you don’t go into any of the buildings just wander about. It looks strangely like a movie set, but in a good way – especially once you get over thinking of the 14th century Tyn Church in terms of Cinderella’s Castle. On the hour be sure to stand in front of the Astronomical Clock and see the Apostles – it shouldn’t be cute, but it is.
Old Town Square. By james_clear.
Winter’s also the time to cross the famously famous Charles Bridge and ascend to Prague Castle. If you’re lucky the bridge will be snow covered for extra drama and Prague Castle is the biggest in Europe so it’s not too shabby either.
Pont Charles. By Panoramas.
And of course there’s the beer. Visit Prague in summer and you’d be forgiven for assuming that the rest of Europe was dealing with the problem of binge drinking by giving out free tickets to the Czech Republic. But winter’s perfect for enjoying some of the country’s most famous export without a stag party chaser.
So find a cosy bar, place your order and have our permission to feel just a little bit smug.
You made it as a tourist, you saw what all the fuss was about and now you’ve got the hang of it you can start planning next winter’s invasion.
Image by Mait Jüriado.
Featured image by zabozrut.