We met the tour guide in the Plaza Mayor, a few steps from our apartment. Of course, we got up with only enough time to spare for caffeine and a pastry. Thankfully, the tour was a small group, a total of four people, all English-speaking led by Laurel, who migrated to Spain from Boston. This lead to a very productive and informative tour. We likely stopped at a dozen places, learning history and Spanish traditions along the way.
- Pastry shop was first on the list: La Mallorquina. Tasted both the chocolate and the cream Napoleon. So many pastries and sweets to choose from. Yes, we will be back.
- Next: A candy shop: Vicens. This Barcelona-based company featured a selection of holiday candy traditions that it is now bringing to market year-round. Lots of nougat – hard and soft confections.
- After stopping in the original town square/city hall plaza, we wove through a building to arrive at a convent of sequestered, baking nuns. We rang the bell, ventured down to the kitchen and choose cookies through a window equipped with a lazy susan.
- On to the Mercado de San Miguel, one of the must see places from our research. Here we snacked on amazing marcona almonds (we will be trying to recreate these at home), olive kabobs with anchovies and quail eggs, and drank a glass of vermouth.
- Then we headed to a bar next door for cider and tortilla. Not tortilla chips. A delicious egg and potato dish (which became a daily part of our diet and another recipe to recreate at home). We also learned to pour cider correctly to create the right amount of fizz. Bill was a master.
- Next we headed to Carmen’s, a shop where people go to pick up their mid-day meal and eat at home (or in the park, on a nice day, I would imagine). Here was tasted delicious, warm, melty tuna empanadas.
- We took a little walk past the Opera house to the Bola Tavern and learned about stews. Perfect for a cold winters day as we warmed our hands on a bowl of spicy broth and noodles.
- Somewhere along the route, we heard a unique whistle/song. It was the knife sharpener calling that he was available to work as he walked along the streets.
- Lambuzo – southern style family bar meaning glutton, piggy provided a lesson in olive oil, sherry and crochettes.
- Finally we toured the bars and taverns that were next to the toro stadium (before a new one was built). We learned about the culture, buying tickets and the food enjoyed by spectators. And finished our tour feasting on tapas: sautéed peppers, chirizo, fried anchovies, and mushrooms. Washed down with beer.
After all that walking and eating, it was time to embrace the Spanish siesta culture. Plus my stomach was rolling with the combination of ingredients I had introduced it to today.
Once we felt rested (I admit, I woke Bill from a deep sleep as I was afraid we would miss the opportunity to visit the Prado museum for free. We scurried in the cold to the Prado and enjoyed many of the Goya, Ribera and Velazquz paintings. After a few hours of wandering, we decided we were maxed out on paintings and didn’t see much in the way of other artwork mediums on the map. Time to head out.
As we ventured about, we came across the Lauren’s best place for drinking chocolate, El Riojano. And before we knew it, we were by the Royal Palace. So we took our own self-guided tour. Still somewhat full from the morning tour, we decided a few tapas would be all we need before we slumber. To the San Miguel market!
Luckily, the market was busy, but not crazy. We ate another round of olives to start. I found a cup of tea. And we finished the night with a plate of potatoes and ham and eggs. (Even though Bill seemed to be interested in the octopus and potatoes, he knew my stomach was unhappy. He can be so thoughtful.)