Friday, June 17, 2011

A (non-Time) Traveller's Guide to Madrid

 by A. Faris
Before I start writing a story, locale is one of the first things I try to pin down. Paris is supposed to be the city of romance, I know, but I find the idea of falling in love in a fun city more appealing, being of the give me humour over pants dropping passion, though preferably both sort of thinking. Okay, so they did not get to see much of it together, most of the action being in the bedroom, but Madrid, dear readers, is quirky and fun.
1. Biblioteca Nacional
Library. Library. Library. (That's pretty much it. But the reading populace understands.)
2. Museums
Go to Museo Del Prado for a good overview of European, especially Spanish Art. You need days to see everything, if not months so going to their website to for a To-See list, is advisable.
The smaller (but charming) Thyssen-Bournemisza with its highly personal bent to art collection is interesting, if you have the time. And Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, if you like modern art.
3. Not a museum: Museo del Jamon
I had to give this a pass when I went by the one at Gran Via, not being a big fan of ham, in particular its smell. Heck, I hate the smell of chicken too. And mutton....
To this day, I regretted it, for it seemed so quintessentially Spanish and their love affair for ham – a love affair that sees their salads sprinkled with the stuff; a personal hell for vegetarians.
If you love ham (and especially, jamon serrano), this is the place for you, with wall to wall displays of various types of ham that you can buy. It's like a museum, in that it is a paen to ham. Only you can take it away with you!
4. Churros and Horchata
You must try churros: a deep-fried snack, soaked in syrup.
Cloyingly sweet, it reminded me of a drier gulab jamun (an Indian sweet). Like it or hate it, at least you tried it. In the same vein, a glass of horchata de chufas can be cooling in the heat, but there is a bitter aftertaste to the chufas (tigernuts) that might win it some detractors. least you tried it?
5. Palacio Real de Aranjuez (The Royal Palace of Aranjuez)
About an hour away, the palace holds the gardens of Aranjuez. If you liked Concierto de Aranjuez (and I can recommend Andrea Bocelli's divine rendition), there is something magical in standing in the gardens that inspired the song.
And, finally, something that requires a time travel machine:Palacio de Comunicaciones/ Palacio de Cibeles. 
What's that? It is the main Post Office, I kid you not. Sounds way better in Spanish. Well, actually it WAS the main Post Office until taken over by the city hall in 2007. Sigh.
When I went, I had posted a letter from there. I love to post letters home from foreign countries. First, you see the locals. Trust me on this, even smack-bang in the centre of town, the post offices rarely hold tourists (other than nutty me).
Second, you are usually forced to speak the language, to hilarious effect, at times. Like asking when my letter would be expected to arrive. Cue, confusion of Donde (Where) for Cuando (When) in the heat of the moment. Post Office guy gave me a WTF look, and went: You wrote the address, love (Again, sounded much better in Spanish).
Finally, queue, if you have to, for a proper stamp that involves licking and pasting, not that mundane sticker passing for a stamp these days, to post a postcard to yourself and you get an instant souvenir.
Mounting the high stone steps up to a huge post office gave me kick. Not for Madrid a plain ol' post office. No, it had a palace.
Okay, so you can see the (gorgeous) building now. But it's not a post office, dang it!
 Wings of a Butterfly has Madrid, a werewolf heroine, one rather cheeky hero and time travel. Phew. Released today!


  1. It's always fascinating to see the settings of a story. Makes it all the more real.

    Congrats on your release!

  2. I feel like I've done a bit of travel before breakfast! Congrats on Wings of a Butterfly, I'm always a fan of werewolf lovers and yours is mucho sexy!

  3. From A. Faris (Blogger is being mean and won't let her post on her own blog!) ~

    Thanks Jessica and Kate! Madrid is one of my fav cities and revisiting it via writing had been as fun for me. :)

  4. Loved the post, thanks for taking me on an armchair vacation to Spain!