Thursday 31 May 2012

On Our Own Again - Madrid and Bilbao

Our family holiday ended with a teary departure at Malaga Airport. My sister, brother-in-law and mother flew back to England. We on the other hand headed to the bus station, on our way north to Basque Country.

It was a long trip, so a quick overnight stop in Madrid was in order. Tia had visited here before, and after a long bus ride, I didn’t feel up to hitting the big attractions, but I did enjoy walking the streets. For a city it was pretty impressive with big plazas like Plaza Mayor and Sol. We were looking for dinner, and stumbled across a place that was quite busy with Spanish speaking patrons. Peeking inside we saw many ham legs hanging from the ceiling and thought, mmm … jamon.

We elbowed our way to the bar and order a plate of jamon iberico on fresh bread with some tomato based sauce and a beer - tasty to say the least. The Spanish really do know how to cure meat. We were a hundred metres down the road when Tia insisted we take a photo of the place so we could remember the name. It turns out we just had jamon at the Museum of Jamon …

Madrid Streets
For dessert we scouted out one dish that kept eluding us, chocolate con churros, which seemed to be a popular midnight snack and so finding a location for our treat was easy. We order two mugs full of chocolate, loaded up on a dozen donut sticks and dipped, licked and crunched our way through the thick, rich brown sauce.

Chocolate con Churros - Madrid
Another bus ride took us to Bilbao, the capital of Basque Country. It was a vibrant and culturally dynamic city that also had that relaxed, carefree feel. This could be seen in the variety of architecture, where old classic buildings sat comfortably beside very modern, brazen statements such as the titanic Museo Guggenheim.

Angles of the titanium clad Museo Guggenheim - Bilbao
Angles of the titanium clad Museo Guggenheim - Bilbao
Angles of the titanium clad Museo Guggenheim - Bilbao
Everything seemed to gel well together; nothing seemed out of place. We spent a day walking and sight seeing around the small city centre, which really clicked with us.

Foot bridge over the river in Bilbao
The prey of a giant spider near Museo Guggenheim - Bilbao
This was also the first place where we sampled that sixth food group, Basque Country pintxos. These amazing two-bite sized dishes were a real eye-opener. The thing to do here was to do a txikiteo (do a bar hop) while eating the specialty for that particular bar. For dinner we would sample about four bars and have a couple of pintxos at each, a great way to spend the evening.

Beer and Assorted Pintxos - Bilbao
Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Potato Cake) - Bilbao
We also had our first menu del dia, basically a set menu that changes every day. So for lunch we found a restaurant that looked popular and was not too expensive, and ordered our three-course meal inclusive of a drink. I went for a wine and Tia chose water; however we had no idea that the complimentary beverage was not just a glass but a whole bottle worth. Little wonder that the Spanish need a siesta after lunch - a ritual that we both enjoyed soon after, together with many locals in a nearby sunny park, sobering up from lunch.

No comments:

Post a Comment