If I am what I eat, call me Bocadillo de Jamon: Madrid

11 Apr

After a weekend of no sleep and beach parties in the Barcelona sun followed by a couple days of detoxing on the pristine Ibiza beaches, I couldn’t imagine how Madrid could get any better. Besides the little bump in the road when the airport ATM ate my debit card and absolutely no one could help me, Madrid quickly proved me wrong and stole my heart! Above all reasons to love this lively capital city is a wonderful man by the name of Chimo.

This is Chimo!

This is Chimo!

I have found that spending time with locals makes a travel experience 10 times more enjoyable and unforgettable. I was extremely lucky to be connected to Chimo because he is the cousin of my mom’s Marquette roommate’s husband. Chimo adopted the 4 of us girls for a couple days: Wined and dined us, but mostly wined as he tried and succeeded to get us pretty tipsy by midday. For our first meal in Madrid, Chimo took us out for an authentic Madrileno lunch. We first tried to meet him for our reservation at a restaurant in the city, but when we showed up the gates were up and it seemed closed down (Holy Week shenanigans..). Change of plans: Chimo arranged for us to meet at Casa Carola a bit outside the city, so we hopped in a cab and he met us there on his bike.. Harley that is. Yep, he’s a badass dad. Chimo took charge and ordered the table Cocido Madrileno, a traditional stew from Madrid. It was a rainy day in Madrid, so this hearty soup did the trick!

The base: stock and noodles

The base: stock and noodles

Beef, Chorizo, Pork Belly & Blood Sausage

Beef, Chorizo, Pork Belly & Blood Sausage

Chicken, Beef Bone Marrow & Jammon Iberico

Chicken, Beef Bone Marrow & Jammon Iberico

CHICKPEAS! Cabbage, potatoes, and carrots

CHICKPEAS! Cabbage, potatoes, and carrots

We went back for seconds.. or thirds.. fourths? I can’t remember. As much as I was paying attention to how delicious our meal was, Chimo’s stories were way too distracting! He definitely wins coolest father for life award! We heard of his wild experience running with the bulls and another event where he ran to the center of the arena and had to crack open a bottle of beer before the bull charged him, or else he couldn’t take the beer! What Europeans do for a drink, I tell ya! As if we weren’t stuffed enough at this point, out came dessert.

Flan

Flan

Arroz con leche

Arroz con leche

Torrijas - taste like french toast!

Torrijas – taste like french toast!

And the best for last! As if the wine during lunch didn’t already do the trick to the 4 detoxed girls, Chimo ordered 2 bottles of the Spanish version of grappa called Aguardiente and Orujo de hierbas. With the exception of Chimo because he’s a champ, the unanimous favorite was orujo de hierbas because it was sweeter and stung less. He had to practically shove it down Madison’s throat, but once it was down she kept coming back for more! “Arriba, Abajo, Al centro, Al dentro!” 

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"Do it, bitch" - Chimo

“Do it, bitch” – Chimo

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Now it was time to walk it all off! We got a tour of the city from the best, wisest, and funniest tour guide in town: CHIMO! We met back up in Puerta del Sol which is a sight in and of itself. This place is loaded with hooligans. You feel like you’re in an amusement park and it doesn’t feel safe. The costumes weren’t even good, they were cracked out versions of Spongebob, the Smurfs, Mario, and Spiderman with a beer belly.

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Before leaving the square we stopped to pop a squat on Spain’s “Km 0” point.

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Chimo took us past the Opera House to the enormous Palacio Real and Catedral de La Almudena.

Holy Week procession

Holy Week procession

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You can’t really escape the gypsies and hooligans in Europe. Gypsies with their squeaky toys and headless business men congregated in the other famous plaza in Madrid, Plaza Mayor. We soon discovered how fun it is to hang out here in the late hours of the night with our 1 euro bocadillos de jamon as Luke pets babies in their mom’s arms…

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To finish off the tour, Chimo walked us around El Mercado de San Miguel right outside Plaza Mayor. This semester abroad has made me a big fan of the public markets and that much more excited to come home to Milwaukee’s. The best paella we had in Spain was right here in the San Miguel market. We also had the churros with chocolate and drinking the leftover chocolate from the cup put us right over the edge! Chimo couldn’t leave us without feeding us some sort of alcohol, why not Vermouth! I’m not used to seeing something other than beer on tap, but the sweet Vermouth de Grifo was a nice fruity change.

Paella with squid ink

Paella with squid ink

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Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Vermouth de Grifo

Vermouth de Grifo

Our first night we met up with Luke and Brad who met us here from Seville. Right up the road from Puerta del Sol we discovered this unbeatable deal of a bucket of Heineken for 5 euro at Bulevart. We were sold! The big Spain v. France World Cup qualifying game was on, so it was fun to see the place riled up with sweaty B.O. smelling fans from both sides. Luke flooded the bathroom (adding to the stank) and we befriended a lonesome guy who we saw hanging out with drug dealers and prostitutes the next day. Oh the friends you make in Europe..

hein

Day 2 and Round 2 for Tapas con Chimo!! After buying a pair of handmade espadrille sandals from Casa de Hernanz right outside Plaza Mayor, we met Chimo a couple metro stops outside the city at La Repanocha de Tapas. The owner and cook is Chimo’s friend Quique and everything he made was melt-in-your-mouth outstanding!!

Quique and his ladies

Quique and his ladies

Some people don’t like tapas, or don’t understand them, but that’s because they’ve never had tapas like this before! The name derives from when people didn’t want bugs in their drinks so they would cover them with their plate of food, therefore “tapas” comes from the Spanish word “tapar” meaning “to cover”. Just like yesterday, we let Chimo take the reigns and the food never stopped coming.

Spanish omelette with tomatoes and onions

Spanish omelette with tomatoes and onions

Goat cheese salad

Goat cheese salad

Cecina - say it with the Spanish accent (Allison's fave!)

Cecina – say it with the Spanish accent (Allison’s fave!)

Bacalao with avocado

Bacalao with avocado

Blood sausage spring rolls

Blood sausage spring rolls

Tripe (Cow stomach)

Tripe (Cow stomach)

Entrecotte from the Esla Valley

Entrecotte from the Esla Valley

Tangerine and Mascarpone ice cream

Tangerine and Mascarpone ice cream

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

There’s no way anyone could possibly say they don’t like tapas after a meal like this one. We undoubtedly had enough food, but it was so delicious that I could have gone back in for seconds! Allison had to excuse herself from the table when the tripe came out, but everyone else dug in and devoured it, scraping the bottom with pieces of bread. Once again, no meal with Chimo is complete without the digestivos: Orujo blanco and Orujo de hierbas.

hierbas

Chimo left each of us with flash drives full of Spanish music, aka my new favorite playlist. None of us wanted to say goodbye. It felt like we had spent weeks with Chimo and it was all coming to an end. But not to worry because we all planned a Route 66 road trip together, so the good times will continue!

CHIMO, YOU DA MAN!

CHIMO, YOU DA MAN!

I won’t bore you guys with “museum talk”, but we spent the rest of the afternoon museum hopping from El Museo del Prado to La Reina Sofia. The Prado is one of the world’s largest museums, neck-in-neck with the Louvre. La Reina Sofia has wild modern art and is the kind of museum where you’ll find a massive crowd starring in deep focus at a blank white canvas on a wall.. WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT I DON’T?! As cheap college students we discovered the free entrance deals for the Prado 6pm-8pm and La Reina Sofia 7pm-9pm. A quick (free) walk through both is definitely worth it just to say you’ve gone!

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I was most surprised by how cheap Madrid is! If you’re smart, you could spend close to nothing and still have an unbelievable time! Which was very relieving as Allison took on the role as my Sugar Mama and paid for everything after my debit card dilemma. Besides Bulevart, we found a few other awesome dirt cheap places for food and drinks! One of the chicest looking is called Copas Rotas (right outside the walls of Plaza Mayor) and caught our eye with it’s unbeatable 1 Euro glasses of wine, beer, and tapas! The bartenders were gorgeous too.. you can even hear it in the sound of their voices as they call your name to come grab your tapas. I’d let them grab my tatas any day..

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Next may be our favorite and easiest to find: Museo de Jamon. It’s a chain all around the city. As Madrid’s ‘fast food’ stop, we ate here at least 1 dinner, 1 lunch, and a couple late-nights while we were there. A ‘cana’, small glass, of beer is 1 Euro and their addicting Bocadillos de Jamon are also 1 Euro. Literally it’s just crispy bread and a few pieces of their Iberian ham and just like that it’s mouthwatering, but Brad made sure to pick up some BBQ sauce to layer on and sweet baby Jesus that took it to a whole new level!

Got dat "secret" SAWCE

Got dat “secret” SAWCE

This last place was introduced to us on our last night by Chimo’s nephew Luis, his girlfriend Maria, and a group of their friends and is called 100 Montaditos. It’s also a chain and had a Panera-like feel except with cheap beer deals! For 2 Euros you get a pint of beer from the tap and a sandwich from a huge selection. From Jamon, to pollo asado, to tuna, to brie and patata, they had it all! Although I had a bocadillo de jamon stuffed in my purse for a snack on the walk home, I couldn’t pass up this steal! If you’re sick of beer, we had Tinto Verano (similar to sangria, but simpler). Ah, every sip brought be closer to sweet summertime!

100

Luis

Luis

Maria

Maria

It was so good that Al, Brad, and I made sure we made it our last stop before the airport the next day. Nothing says Spring Break like a little flight pregame and some Bocadillos de Jamon!

If that doesn't scream happiness..

If that doesn’t scream happiness..

Last thing on the list for a Must-See in Madrid is Parque del Retiro. It reminds me a lot of Vila Borghese in Rome because they’re so huge and there’s so much to see and do. Right near the front there’s a giant pond where everyone rents out row boats, and you’ll always find those jackasses trying to capsize. On the other side of the pond, past the statue, are more beautiful gardens, gazebos, and we even came across some vicious peacocks. Not sure if their screams were mating calls or if they were planning an attack on us.

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Lesbianest..

Lesbianest..

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If this “foody” post doesn’t scream “I’m my father’s daughter” I don’t know what will. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Big Rich!

At the end of the week, the 4 of us unanimously agreed that we preferred Madrid to Barcelona, although was greatly influenced by the incredible time we had with our new friend Chimo! That said, we loved all 3 cities and could not have planned a more perfect week! Still can’t believe I just spent Spring Break in Spain.. This life I live is unreal. I don’t have many weekend trips left, but my exploration of Rome continues and is sadly coming to an end way too soon. BRB as I go ball my eyes out!

Until next time,
Ciao!

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One Response to “If I am what I eat, call me Bocadillo de Jamon: Madrid”

  1. Rich daddy April 12, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    I’m excited by your realization that travel is 10x better when you do it with well informed locals.
    I’m not sure I like it that your experiencing all of what Europe had to share while I’m eating Manish water (Goats Head soup).
    Love Dad

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