Madrid

January 18, 2013 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Madrid, Spain

I think I ate an entire tortilla española last weekend. Yeah. I hadn’t eaten any of the egg-and-potato omelet since my return to Spain after the holidays, and so I really made up for it. Like a lot.

Now I realize you too may be longing for Spain a bit – after all, my blog posts these days have been filled with more about places like India and Morocco than anything to do with Spain. And I think we can both agree that this is pretty tragic. So allow me to beg your forgiveness with a little talk of tortilla and, more importantly, a list of my favorite places in Madrid where you can get your hungry hands on some.

First, let’s address what makes a good tortilla. The most telltale sign of a good or bad Spanish omelet is its juiciness. Almost nothing in the world is worse than a dry tortilla, and anyone serving one as such should immediately be exported from Spain!!!!!!! (Can you tell that I’m passionate about this?)

A distant second to juiciness is the subtle flavor of caramelized onion (mind you, some tortillas are served without onion, which I think is just silly and unreasonable). Other components come into play of course, but for me, these are the main points that — *in my opinion* — tortillas tend to hit or miss.

Enough of that — let’s get down to business. Here I present you with my list of best places in Madrid to get yourself the perfect Spanish tortilla.

1. Wherever my mother-in-law is (LOVE her). I know everyone thinks their Spanish mother or mother-in-law makes the best tortilla, but you’re all wrong ;). Glad that’s settled. Moving on.

2. Juana la Loca in the La Latina neighborhood serves up proper pincho-style tortilla, with its gooey masterpiece delicately balanced on a slice of baguette bread. In terms of flavor, this one ticks all the boxes. The only downside is that the portion is rather small and, while I realize I can simply set my bread aside (like it is often served), I would prefer this tortilla beauty as a stand-alone.

3. Txirmiri has four brag-worthy locations, making it a great go-to in times of tortilla desperation, which can, honestly, strike at any moment. But truly, they may very well have the most reliably delicious Spanish omelet in town. The portion is generous, always juicy, and salted and onion-ed to tortilla perfection.

3. La Ardosa in Malasaña wins for over-all tortilla experience, though. While theirs can occasionally miss the salt-mark (too much or too little), the quintessentially Spanish bar filled with tiled and dusty-bottle-covered walls makes up for anything that its egg creation lacks.

4. My runner-up is Sylkar in the Chamberí neighborhood, which I lived practically next door to for almost a year without even knowing it (thanks, Colleen, for making that discovery!). The juiciness of their omelet is on point, but often lacks that subtle kick of onion that could elevate it to best-tortilla status.

Alright tortilla fans, I set you free to get your tortilla fix, whether making it at home, or hunting it down here in Madrid.

14 comments
March 30, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Madrid, Spain

Yesterday, Spain’s workers went on strike for another huelga general (general strike) expressing their dissatisfaction with labor reforms. The impact of the protest did not go unnoticed – public transportation ran less frequently, many shops closed, and the city was basically blanketed in trash. Leftover bottles and cans from botellón the night before. Bright-red spray paint splashed across storefront windows. Piles of flyers strewn on the ground from strikers throwing them in the air like confetti. Sure, some of the trash build up was due to striking government workers not cleaning the streets, but, for the most part, it was a direct result of the event itself. Which makes me think: I’m all for freedom of expression, but does an otherwise valid message lose its credibility when it’s at the expense of trashing the city? Hmmm.





An unexpected pleasant (albeit, perhaps over-the-top) sight among the trash-covered streets.
10 comments
February 7, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Expat, Madrid, Spain

When talented photographer Izzy Hudgins asks to take pictures of you in your wedding dress for fun, you say YES.

So that’s what I did. And since you’ve all joined me on my wild journey these last couple of years, I thought I’d share the finished product with you, even though it’s not so travel-related.

The offer was admittedly bittersweet. Even though my wedding was amazing in a million ways, my photographers were generally lost and confused, and my hair chica, while talented, did her own Spanish thing. Certainly not the details that matter most, but having another shot at some decent pictures was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!

So my friend (and fellow Madrid resident) Izzy and I headed out to Madrid’s Casa de Campo – a massive park reserve, scattered with trees and, during this particular time of year, amber-colored leaves. With big hair and an even bigger white dress, I suited up in the middle of a field, while bike riders and cars zipped by on the nearby road.

For this round of wedding dress shots, I stepped up to the plate as my own hairstylist and makeup artist (with curler assistance from a friend). Getting all dolled up minus the stress made me feel like a kid again, but with the added bonus of whistling passersby. Surprisingly fun, really.

Not more than an hour later and we were done. I wriggled back into my street clothes and back to reality. And the result? A handful of shots that I personally think give the originals a run for their dinero. Bittersweet indeed!

No matter where you are, if you’re looking for a well-traveled, talented and sweet photographer, Izzy’s your girl. Now based in Savannah, she continues to make trips to places both near and far – so no wedding locale is off limits. I only wish that we’d met before my big day!

*For those of you following wedding dress fashion trends, I just want to point out that my lace sleeves predate a certain royal wedding ;).






Tags:
16 comments
January 31, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Madrid, Spain, Travels in Spain

When I go home to the States and order myself a drink, I half expect a free tapa to magically appear in front of me. Even a measly plate of sad olives. Instead I get a glass of semi-drinkable, expensive wine with a side of nothing. Sigh.

But then I return to Spain.

To cure this season’s round of tapas blues, I went to Alcalá de Henares – Central Spain’s city full of generously portioned free tapas.

If you’ve ever been to Andalucia’s Granada, then you’re familiar with absurdly large complimentary tapas – tapas so big you should forget any notion of actually going out for a proper meal. Then there’s the Community of Madrid’s Alcalá de Henares (about a half hour outside the city), coming to the rescue for capital-dwellers looking for the same bang for their buck (err, euro).

After having visited the city a couple of times now, I’ve discovered two restaurants that live up to my free, gigantic-grub standard (I have one of those), and have pretty sweet ambiance to match. First up is Los Balcones de Alcalá, which will please you with its Andalucia-style patio area bordered by balconies and hanging plants. If the setting doesn’t do it for you, just lose yourself in a massive tapa. The last time I visited, they served me a mini-plate of fideuà (similar to paella, but with macroni-like noodles instead of rice – ain’t nothing wrong with that!), followed by more free tapas with each beverage.

Another recent discovery is Las Cuadras de Rocinante, with its small unsuspecting entrance nestled in an almost unnoticeable corner of Calle de Carmen Calzado. Until you walk down the restaurant’s long hallway, you won’t realize that it houses a cozy room filled with tables and a bar. My recent visit there came with a nice glass of wine and a fatty cazuela of garbanzo beans that made paying for food seem like a ludicrous idea.

Finally, when stuffing yourself silly with free tapas, the only logical way to conclude your day is with a box of rosquillas de Alcalá – the town’s namesake donut-style pastry slathered in an icing so tasty that I reckon it’s more than finger-licking good, it’s pretty much box-licking good (check out the bakery Salinas in Plaza Mayor).

What can I say – I like big tapas and I cannot lie. I also want to apologize for getting Sir Mix A lot’s classic tune stuck in your head for the duration of the day.

[travelist location=”Alcala de Henares, Spain” type=”img” url=”http://www.latortugaviajera.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/garbanzos.jpg”]

January 17, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Expat, Madrid, Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe

“Watch your cell phones!” yelled the barista as a couple of teenagers prowled through the foreign-filled Madrid coffee shop. I knew the drill, so at first sight of the shady looking kids, I had a hand firmly covering my cell phone and the other clutching my purse.

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a band of sketchy kids pass through a Starbucks, fake petition in hand, appealing for irrelevant signatures. Just a couple of months ago, while sitting with a friend in another Starbucks, one of these kiddos laid their folder on top of my table, strategically over my cell phone. His plan was to distract me with his little spiel while dragging my phone off the table and into his greedy little hands. Fully aware of Madrid pickpocket shenanigans (and proudly not once a victim – knock on wood), I grabbed my phone and blurted out in Spanish, “I’m not an idiot!” – because that’s apparently the only thing that comes to my mind when someone tries to rob me.

I don’t tell this story to entertain, but to warn traveling foreigners to seriously watch their stuff. These freaks have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves (along with a lot of stolen crap too, I bet), so you should make sure you know where your possessions are at all times. And the more touristy the spot, the more careful you must be. Starbucks, especially in Madrid anyway, is a pickpocket’s paradise. I personally try to steer clear of it, but a certain Italian friend of mine – eh hem, Guido – insists on meeting there.

Happy traveling, and watch out for those teenage petition peddlers.

Update: Well in the event that you fall prey to pickpocket tricks, it turns out that a fellow blogger of mine in Spain, Cat at Sunshine and Siestas, just wrote a “what to do if your cell phone is stolen in Spain” blog post. Between her and me, we’ve got your foreign back.

16 comments