Tag Archives: Madrid

Look Up Look Down: The Legs Of La Latina

Spotted on Sunday in Madrid. There’s always something going on in La Latina! Perfect for travelwithintent’s Look Up, Look Down challenge, I thought 😉

What is this monstrosity, you wonder...

What is this monstrosity, you wonder…

Now it makes a bit more sense. Or not...

Now it makes a bit more sense. Or not…

La Latina is also the part of town that host an enormous market, El Rastro, every Sunday. There will be a post coming up on this shortly.


A Cake Rant: Strudelgate

Apple strudel. It’s a simple concept. You roll out some pastry as finely as you possibly can (it may be flaky pastry or non-flaky strudel pastry, we don’t want to be too fussy here), you spoon on the apple filling, and then you roll it up into a foot-long tube shape. In the oven it goes, and plated up, a decent slice should look something like this:


See the swirly whorl?

“Strudel” is a German word that can mean any of following things: whirl, swirl, whorl, whirlpool, vortex, eddy. If you look at the pattern of a strudel slice in cross-section, it’s quite obvious why this delectable dessert item bears this name.

There is a point to all of this pastry preamble, as you’ll see in just a tick. The actual story goes like this:

On Sunday, Maria and I were out and about in Madrid, desperately hunting down some exciting cake after a fabulous luncheon (more on this in a subsequent post). Now, Maria isn’t normally all that much into sweet stuff, but *somebody* has been a very bad influence on her…

Eventually, we located a promising café. It happened to have apple strudel on the menu. As you can probably imagine, I was as surprised as I was delighted, and promptly ordered it. But then, this arrived:


Exhibit A: Does this look like strudel to you???

You don’t need to have an advanced patisserie degree to know that this ain’t no strudel, this is streusel. Apple streusel cake (Apfelstreuselkuchen), to be exact. “Streusel” comes from the German verb “streuen”, which means, of course, to “strew” or “sprinkle”.

The evidence speaks for itself: This thing the waitress shoved under my disbelieving eyes and flaring nostrils was all streuselly and not even a bit strudelly.

Granted, streusel and strudel have a fair few letters in common, but so do duck and dick. Not at all the same thing.

I was getting myself ready to stomp into the kitchen and give the chef’s streusels a bloody good strudelling, but gluttony got the better of me. Before the forensics team had any chance of bagging the evidence, my fork had invaded the crime scene, and a great big chunk of the offending article was making its way down my gullet.

And… it turned out to be a really fine piece of streusel, dammit!!!

Maria ordered a brownie, which was also pretty good

Maria ordered a brownie, which not only looked like a brownie and tasted like a brownie, but which was, indeed, a brownie. And a pretty good one at that.

Got any pastry impostor stories you care to share…? Or other menu items that were sold as one thing, but turned out to be something else entirely?

[Here’s a pic of my favourite kind of streusel cake 🙂 ]

Great Cajun Food… In Madrid!

Yup, you read that right…the culinary delights of steamy New Orleans right in the dusty heart of Spain… who’d have thunk it?!

So, Saturday night, my pals Carmen and Olga hauled me into Madrid to check out this restaurant called Gumbo. Not the most original name, granted, but I shall forgive them, because the service was so good, it almost made me forget that I was in Spain!

Carmen had eaten at this place before and survived, so we knew it was unlikely to be a disaster. We hadn’t booked a table and we were really lucky to get in…


Any guesses as to what we had for our first starter?

Fried green tomatoes, of course!

Fried green tomatoes, what else?! Olga’s allergic to tomatoes, so she was forced to pass on those, but she mopped up the 1000-calories-a-droplet sauce with great gusto.

Our second starter: Baked mussels, lovely and cheesy :)

Our second starter: Baked mussels, all lovely and cheesy 🙂 Could have done with a tad less salt, perhaps, but otherwise perfect.

Carmen and I both had the Jambalaya for our mains. Just look at those glorious blackened giant prawns! Olga had a beef dish, which was fantastic, but, unfortunately not very photogenic.

Carmen and I both opted for the jambalaya for our mains. Just look at those glorious blackened giant prawns perched on top of the rice (which had quite a kick to it, let me tell you!)
Olga had a beef dish with creamy mashed potatoes. The meat was as flavourful as it was tender, but, unfortunately, it didn’t rank as the most photogenic of entrees. You can just about make out a glimpse of it in the back.

Banoffee pie. It had to be. A more humble (but not at all bad) carrot cake in the background.

Dessert…? Absolutely! Banoffee pie. It had to be. A more humble (but not at all bad) carrot cake in the background.

Would we go back there?

Hell, YES!!!

[Here’s the link to Gumbo’s website, in case you want to check it out for yourself.]

Madrid Town Hall By Night

I took this picture last night, while out and about in Madrid with Team Tapas.

Madrid Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

Madrid Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

Am trying to fall in love with a city, which, at first glance, I didn’t really take to. It will soon be my home, so I better make an effort. I think it’s slowly happening…

There will be a food post to follow…


The Writing’s On The Wall…

When I got back from Key West a couple of weeks ago, I found this wedged into my bathroom window:

"For Sale or For Rent"

“For Sale or For Rent”

Although I didn’t know the sign was going to be there, it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise. While we were on our Christmas break together in Lisbon, I told (my landlady) Sofía that I was planning on leaving Toledo this spring. She said she would put up the place for sale very soon, because it would probably take ages to shift it.

Ever since Spain’s construction bubble burst its overbloated, bribe-infested guts in 2008, selling property has become extremely difficult. The same goes for finding tenants. With a youth unemployment rate of around 55%, young people have little choice but to keep living with their parents. Forever.

The local housing situation is probably worst in Toledo old town, which, although of overwhelming rustic beauty, is very inconvenient for daily living, to put it mildly. Car access is restricted, parking (even a bike) is virtually impossible, the internet is excruciatingly slow, noise travels like through a megaphone, burst water pipes are a monthly occurrence. And let’s not talk about the horrors of cockroach season. In its glorious past as Spain’s capital, Toledo’s historic centre was home to 30,000 people. The present headcount is around 9,000 and dwindling.

When I moved here in 2011, I knew that Toledo wasn’t going to be my home forever. I was reluctant to move to a big city first off, because I didn’t want to get sucked into the parallel universe that is the expat community. My prime objective for moving to Spain was (and is) to learn Spanish, a feat more easily achieved in a small-ish town with few foreigners skipping about. And this strategy has, on the whole, worked quite well for me.

My linguistic obsessions aside, I’ve been finding it hard to build a satisfying life for myself in Toledo. Having said that, I’ve made a bunch of lovely friends here, I certainly don’t want to poo-poo that.

Essentially, what it boils down to, is this: I miss London. Or maybe not London per se, but what it represents: A bustling capital, where the whole world is at home. I miss having an extensive array of cultural and educational offerings and, even more importantly, convenient access to food from all over the planet right on my doorstep. Toledo may have the most succulent tortillas, the tastiest hams, the most flavoursome of (Manchego) cheeses, the smokiest of picante chorizo….

…but every once in a while, all I want is  some decent sushi. Or proper Chinese food from northern China, not that generic gloopy pap that is served up in Chinese restaurants all over the world (except in China). I want a curry that’s actually HOT. I want grocery shops that sell coconut milk, brown basmati rice, soba noodles, rice crackers, pitch-black German wholegrain bread. I want a cake that’s not a flippin’ muffin or a brownie.

Also, I feel the need to connect with a small handful of expats like myself. The blogs are great, but they only go so far. I miss speaking German with people who are not my family. I want to speak REAL English with a Brit who shares my set of cultural (UK) references and unsanitary vocab. I need people who understand, on an emotional as well as on a practical level, what it’s like to move countries.

Some of you may vaguely remember a post I wrote almost a year ago, contemplating Barcelona as my next destination. Well, after a lot of umming and ahing, I decided against it. Why? Because it’s not compatible with The Prime Directive, i.e. getting to grips with Spanish good and proper. Although Castilian Spanish is, according to what I’ve been told, sufficient for navigating Barcelona, it is the capital of Catalonia, and the official language there is Catalan. If you’ve been watching the news, you will know that the whole issue is politically very sensitive. I might well encounter situations where people in Barcelona will reply to me in English rather than in Castilian. I’ve consulted with my besieged brain, and it threatened me,  in no uncertain terms, with a permanent nervous breakdown if assaulted by yet another language.

To be honest, I simply lack the motivation right now to pour tons of effort into learning a “boutique” language spoken by so few people, but it would bug me no end if I couldn’t understand the signs and conversations around me, and if, when out with a group of local friends, they’d be forced to switch languages in order to include me in their conversation. It would make me feel like I was right back at square one, and after having worked so hard at it over the past couple of years.

So, Madrid it is. It may not be as beautiful as Barcelona, and there’s not a beach in sight, but it offers a number of advantages, besides speaking the right language. For instance:

  • It is close to Toledo (just 80km away), so I will still be able to see my friends fairly regularly. They like going to Madrid for things like exhibitions, food, cinema.
  • My Portuguese teacher, who I’m growing rather fond of, also teaches in Madrid, so I can keep up my lessons with her. Besides, I shouldn’t have any trouble finding some willing Portuguese bods in Madrid for language intercambios. I’ve not managed to find anyone in Toledo.
  • Most of my friends in Toledo have lived in Madrid and some are actually from there, so I can tap them for local knowledge and contacts.
  • Madrid has excellent public transport connections to the rest of Spain (and, of course, the rest of the world). I don’t have a car, and I detest driving, so this is a huge plus point.

I’m in no immediate rush to move, but I’d like to be out of here before the beginning of July. I need to do my research… I’m looking for an affordable neighbourhood which has character, but isn’t too grubby.

Do any of you happen to know any Madrid-based bloggers I could cyber-stalk?

Which Way? Harbour, Aquarium, Airport

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an entry for Cee’s Which Way? Challenge. This series of shots comes from the Iberian Peninsula, which I currently call my home. Although, I’m many miles from there right now, on a houseboat in the sunny, sultry “Floribbean”. There will be a rash of posts from Key West over the next few weeks, just so you’re prepared 😉

Taken inside Lisbon Harbour terminal, with the warm glow of the sunset casting an arresting pattern onto the walls and metal beams

Taken inside Lisbon Harbour terminal. The warm glow of the sunset is casting an intriguing pattern onto the walls and metal beams

A walkway connecting two of the buildings of Lisbon Aquarium. Taken on a horrid, stormy, rainy day. You can see how wet the path is, despite being covered by a roof

A walkway connecting two buildings at the Lisbon Aquarium. Taken on horrid day with lashings of rain and wind. You can see how wet the path is, despite being covered by a roof. I got totally soaked crossing it.

Madrid Airport

Madrid Airport

Madrid Murals: Freaky Flies And Perky Prick

During the outing to Madrid last week (where we ate all that sushi), I came across some graffiti wall art:


A viking elephant… my flash seems to have given him red eye. The flies are making me feel all itchy…

Note the "Fuck the police" and "Eurovegas No" additions

Note the “Fuck the police” and “Euro Vegas No” additions

The “Euro Vegas” project, which was meant to create a massive gambling resort just outside Madrid, has been hugely controversial. Incidentally, it was reported yesterday that the whole thing had now been cancelled. See this BBC business news article for details.

With regards to the police comment, in mid-November, Spain introduced new legislation, which stipulates extortionate fines for insulting police officers and also the, uhm, Spanish flag. This has created a tremendous uproar, as these laws are seen as a hostile attempt to curb the growing number of (overwhelmingly peaceful) street demonstrations against the government’s ineffectual economic policies.

OK, I won’t bore you any longer with politics. I realise that you only clicked on the post to gawp at this one:


A radioactive codger… best not to get too close…

I dunno what this is… but it sure is colourful 🙂

That bird is far too puny to finish off the ghastly worm, and that lady has a rather hairy stalk.