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Mercado de San Miguel

We blogged about the market in Barcelona which was a large central market with fresh fish, vegetables, fruit, etc. Looking for something similar, we went to the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid:

We found something completely different. It is a tapas food court. But don’t think of the low-quality food courts in malls and airports. This stuff is top quality. You walk around and see a wide variety of delicious looking food, all available in small quantities for 2-4 euro. There are high tables, mostly stand-up, in the center. The glasses in this picture are filled with gazpacho:

Lots of beer and wine is consumed:

and “postres”:

We ate there twice. We could have eaten every meal there, there was so much variety. It was hard to decide what to have. What we did was have something that looked good and repeated that until we weren’t hungry any more.

And then we had churros dipped in thick hot chocolate:

Palacio de Cristal

Madrid has a wonderful, very large park, the Retiro. The park was once the exclusive domain of the Spanish royalty, but after Franco died the new king gave the park to the citizens of Madrid. As we walked through the park we came across, without knowing it was there, the Palacio de Cristal:


The lake has black swans:


Tragically Hip

When I tell people I’m from New Mexico the most common response is some variant of “Oh, I love Santa Fe”. Of course, I am from Albuquerque. Santa Fe has the hip image, a distinctive architecture, an identity. Albquerque is more of a mixing pot with lots of things. It is also a much bigger city.

I am familiar with this kind of competition, growing up in Los Angeles where San Francisco was the hip city and LA was the sprawling, all-inclusive metropolis.

It seems that Madrid and Barcelona have a similar relationship. In the US, at least, Barcelona has a much hipper image than Madrid. It has legendary night life, good restaurants, the whole Gaudi thing going for it, the Ramblas. Madrid is the workmanlike big city.

We felt the same way and so we were surprised when we liked staying in Madrid much better than Barcelona. Barcelona seemed like the busier, more touristy city. Madrid was surprisingly calm, with lots of small streets. It seemed more walkable than Barcelona.

Of course, Madrid wins the art competition hands down with three world-class, wonderful museums.

And you never know what to expect in the Plaza Mayor:

(We took the above in a hurry with Charlie’s iPod Touch camera and it was starting to get dark so, too bad, it came out a little blurry.)