Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Dinner at Rio Frio

Rio Frio is a traditional Spanish restaurant near the Museum district in Madrid. From the outside the restaurant looks a bit nondescript, but inside it is actually quite warm and cozy. There is a large bar inside with generous counter seating, but we were more interested in the al fresco area especially in the beautiful Spring weather. 

Tonight we were having Paella - the famous Spanish rice dish. Dinner started with a simple salad with greens and tuna.

The Paella was served in a large pan. It looked like it could feed a hungry hoard and was really impressive. In reality the pan is quite shallow and each one only got a small serving of the rice. It was really good though - the rice still quite firm and had some bite, and it had soaked up all the flavours of the stock and seafood.

Dessert was a simple ice cream with  pomegranate sauce.

The Paella was delicious and whetted our appetite for our next stop Valencia - supposedly the birth place of this famed dish.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Cuatro Torres

While visitors to Madrid would mostly concentrate on the old town, Madrid also has its modern side. One of the most prominent modern districts is the area called Cuatro Torres (4 Towers). Here you will see 4 skyscrapers designed by big name architects around the world. Henry Cobb, Cesar Pelli and Norman Foster each designed one of the buildings, with the fourth tower by a Spanish architect. The names of the towers are Torre Caja Madrid, Torre de Cristal, Torre Espacio and Torre Sacyr Vallehermoso. Can you guess which is which ? 

As a group the skyscrapers are no doubt impressive. Individually however they just look like the countless number of office towers around the world - without much distinctive features.

The Cuatro Torres is near the Chamartin Train Station,  and you get some of the best views from the station.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Reina Sofia Art Centre

The Reina Sofia Art Centre is one of the major museums in Madrid. Many of the artworks on display here were transferred from the Prado Museum. The Art Centre was opened in 1986, converting an old 18th century hospital building into an art gallery. It houses 20th Century Spanish art - and the most famous work here would be Picasso's Guernica.

In 1999 Jean Nouvel was brought in to build an extension which was completed in 2005. This is another masterpiece by the French master architect. Instead of creating an iconic architectural form that would overpower the existing museum - he chose to create a group of buildings that are quite understated - and covered under a huge metal canopy which shelters a large internal courtyard. Openings in the canopy are strategically placed to let in light during different seasons of the year.

The buildings may look a little bit like office blocks from some angles - but the detailing is exquisite - and the canopy is ever present to remind the visitor that this is no ordinary office building.

If you visit the Museum - make sure that you go to the roof top. It is not usually open to visitors - but talk to the reception nicely and they may accommodate. Here you are literally within touching distance to the canopy and can really appreciate its enormous scale. The shiny lacquered alumnium sheets reflect the surrounding skyline - and fuses the building with its surrounding. It is quite an ethereal effect. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Jamon Jamon

Everywhere you go in Madrid you can't miss Jamon - probably the most popular ingredient in the Spanish pantry. There is Jamon in all the restaurants and cafes, and Jamon shops all over the place. At Plaza Mayor there is the Museo del Jamon - this is not a museum of ham as the name suggests, but rather a popular chain of restaurants with outlets all over the city. If you are a pork lover - prepare to enter your paradise.

Many of the other Jamon shops are just as enticing. I came across this shop in one of the shopping streets with the prized Jamon Iberico hanging all over the ceiling. If you are nice to the girl, she may even let you try a slice of the Jamon.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Puerta del Sol

A short walk from the Plaza Mayor is Madrid's most famous and popular square the Puerta del Sol. This is literally the centre of Madrid - where the radial network of roads converge. The square is semi-circular in shape and has two large fountain in the centre. This is a really busy place and full of people any time of the day. There are lots of popular shops - including an Apple flagship Store, cafes, restaurants and bars around the square. It's a great place for people watching and to soak in the Madrid city life.

Off Puerta del Sol are some of the main shopping and commercial streets in Madrid. All of them have different characters and are great for wandering around.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is the main city square in Madrid and it is right in the city centre. It was built under the reign of King Philip III in the 16th Century. It is a large and impressive square by any standard - measuring 120m long and 90m wide. The square is surrounded by an arcaded portico all round.

The most prominent building in the Square is the Casa de la Panaderia - which belongs to the powerful baker's guild. This building was rebuilt after a fire in 1790. The beautiful murals on the walls were added in 1992.

At the centre of the square is a statue of King Philip III.

Under the arcades are many restaurants, pubs and cafes. Prices here are some of the highest in Madrid, but you are paying for the ambiance and the location.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Madrid 2014 - Mercado de San Miguel

Madrid is one of the culinary capitals of Europe, and a trip here would not be complete without sampling the culinary wonders that the city has to offer. However if you only have time to make one eating stop - make it Mercado de San Miguel.

The market building is a very beautiful cast iron building that has been meticulously restored. The high ceiling and double-tiered roof lets in lots of natural light. One of the most intriguing features is the terra cotta tiles lining the ceiling - which cast a warm glow over the whole interior space.

There are over 30 vendors housed within the market. Some sell premium raw ingredients like meat and fish, but most stalls sell prepared food ranging from sandwiches, tapas, pastries to burger and paella. The choices are really plentiful and all look amazing.

One of my favourite stalls is La Casa del Bacalao. Here they make their own bacalao, but also some really delicious montaditos (open sandwiches) with smoked and cured fish. The cured sardine was a revelation - I had to go back for seconds.

Another great stall is El Pescado Original - a bar with some great selection of montaditos. I had the cured fish with cream cheese, and pork with carrot - both were great.

Cafe del Art serves great coffee and pastries.