Madrid: Ham Museum, Palaces and Parasites…

Plaza Mayor

Madrid is HUGE… As the largest city in Spain, it is also the capital as well as the third largest city in the European Union. It’s modernized, yet a certain vintage feel seeps out from its side streets and neighborhoods. There are plenty of restaurant and shopping options to cater to every desire, and there are some pretty great photo opportunities to be had should you enjoy architecture. And there’s pork. Lots of pork.

I stayed at MAD, The Hostel, which was located somewhat close to the Plaza Mayor square, however I wasn’t crazy about the location. The hostel was situated down a side street, and once night-time fell, it wasn’t too welcoming for a solo traveler. Additionally, the room was hot stifiling and the beds were squeaky and uncomfortable. Not much was to say about the surrounding streets, as there was nothing going on and no decent looking restaurants or bars to hang out in. I definitely would not recommend staying here. The only redeeming quality of staying and sweating my buns off was meeting the most amazingly adorable couple who roomed with me for three nights, Josh and Ashleigh. Plus, they were hilariously entertaining by constantly arguing about Josh’s animal-like feet or hairy armpits….

The absolute number one thing I would recommend anyone doing when visiting Madrid is to find Cristiano Ronaldo, stuff him in a box and ship him to me eat at the Museo del Jamón (that’s “the ham museum” for any non-Spanish speakers). There are a few of them around town, and they are fabulous! Any place that has hanging ham legs and piles of chorizo in the windows is perfect in my book. Just passing by on the sidewalk you can smell the pork…. the bacon-stuffed mushrooms, the prosciutto and melon, the chorizo platters… yes, you know I ate all that. And more. A hell of a lot more. I ate so much at this Museum O’ Ham that my pants became tight, and I’m pretty sure I clogged an artery. I ate there six times within three days and I am NOT afraid to admit it! And the one time I strayed from pork, I had fried sardines. The tiny, crispy carcases were heavenly; so I thought until I would come to find out I contracted a parasite from the golden-fried, lifeless bodies.

Best. Place. Ever.

Heaven on a chunk of melon

The most famous square in Madrid is the Plaza Mayor, which hosts gatherings, street artists and more. Historically, the square has been used for executions, political issues and bull fights. Not far from the Plaza Mayor is the Mercado de San Miguel, a food market that has some good eats. Now, it is absolutely NO where near comparison to the mighty La Boqueria Market in Barcelona, but if you’re in the area, stop in and check it out. The Mercado is much more overpriced than La Boqueria, however it does have a more clean feel to it. There are some pretty talented chefs and cooks mixing up some amazing dishes, which can be eaten right at the counters, as well as a nice wine selection.

PORK!

So good!

AMAZING, creative lattes!

I did all my sightseeing on-foot; I, personally, would rather walk and see the city rather than miss a cool building or site because I took the train. However, if you aren’t like me, I’d suggest NOT walking Madrid. I walked so much, got so lost, and was so exhausted by the end of my stay, yet I still hadn’t covered nearly as much as some do. Madrileños speak Spanish, which made it muy bueno for me to communicate, so I never felt helpless, as my Spanglish speaking skills are pretty fierce.

Plaza de Cibeles is a great intersection which houses the Palacio de Cibeles (the palace or city hall, once the post office), the Bank of Spain, the Palacio de Buenavista (a very historical military palace which is home to the Spanish Army) and the Palacio de Linares (a palace that is now an art gallery and rumored to be haunted).

Entering the Royal Palace of Madrid was on my to-do list, however I missed the cut-off for purchasing a ticket by like five minutes. Bummer. The inside houses art and different royal collections, and the grounds include a French-inspired garden. The exterior of the palace gives off a very sterile vibe; other palaces such as Versailles or the Schönbrunn Palace of Vienna are much more warm and welcoming when compared, but nonetheless, I’d suggest checking it out.

Palace

Near the Royal Palace you can find a really amazing piece of Egyptian history: the Temple of Debod. Originally built in Aswan and located on the Nile, this Egyptian temple was threatened due to construction. The angels at UNESCO stepped in, and Egypt moved the monument piece by piece, and rebuilt it in Madrid. Spain had previously helped save the Abu Simbel Temples, so as a great big thank you, they got the Temple of Debod. I’d say that’s a pretty awesome trade; the monument is amazing, and a great contrasting surprise in the middle of the modern metropolis that is Madrid.

Temple of Debod

If you’re into museums, Madrid is home to the mega famous Museo del Prado located in the city center. I’m not a huge museum fan personally, unless I have a good, solid amount of time to spend in a city. Given I was only in Madrid for a short period, I just didn’t have the time. I have, however, heard it’s absolutely amazing and either rivals or is better than the Louvre, depending your interests.

So, what are my thoughts on Madrid? It’s the place I contacted a terrible parasite from… a parasite that nearly cut my trip short. But the Ham Museum!!! The glorious Ham Museum!!! That surely evened out the bad impression the city left on me. Afterall, I can’t blame the entire populace of Spain’s capital on the little guy. In the end, I don’t know. I really don’t know… To me, there was nothing that captured me or awe-struck me. There’s no big attraction, no big, amazing, must-do thing. Now that’s just my opinion, but that’s the impression the city left on me. But, to Madrid’s defense, the city is HUGE. Maybe I didn’t see what should be seen; maybe I was completely unaware of some amazing buildings, artists, restaurants…. Does a city HAVE to have a big, touristy attraction to be likeable? I’d like to think the answer is no, as I’m a huge fan of the local areas, outskirts and traveling off the beaten path.

Sure I’d visit again, but I would also be content with driving past it, also. I just might have to give Madrid a round two before I give my final thought…

(I’ll be skipping the fried sardines next time, however)….

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About The Roaming Bean (109 Articles)
You're probably wondering what the heck is a "Roaming Bean"... Given that I am clearly not a Bean, and my name is Jen, what gives with this Bean thing, right? A friend of mine called me JenBean as a child, and it kinda stuck. Actually, it really stuck... even my license plate says Jenbean. And seeing as I have this grand lust to wander the world, The Roaming Bean seemed suitable. I've changed my career path more times than I have my underwear (minus all the times I've gone commando).... from animating, to forensic pathology, to international business, to fashion marketing and even to my wonderful and favorite of the bunch, degree in culinary arts, nothing kept my attention. Nothing was fun enough to do every day for the rest of my life. I mean, even though I cooked for celebrities in the heart of Hollywood, CA, why the hell would I want to sweat my ass off in a ridiculously HOT kitchen for most of the day and go home smelling like beef and onions? And the chef hat?? Do you know what that did to my hair?? Enter traveling.... The rainy day I descended down the tower of Notre Dame in Paris, gripping on to the railing for dear life so not to slip and tumble to an early death from the torrential down pour that was causing a small flood in the stairwell, my life changed. When I safely made it to the ground, legs shaky from an apparent lack of fitness it requires to walk up and down 387 steep stairs, I realized my hands were stained a delightful copper color from the rusted hand rail I had so dearly clung to. Desperate to get the icky stuff off my supple hands, and no running water in sight, I did what any other hopeless idiot would have done: I washed my hands in the nearest Parisian gutter. It was that moment that changed my life... I threw away my hair dryer, my rolling luggage and my dignity. I let my hair go natural, I bought a back pack and I CAMPED through Europe for a month and a half. Yes my friends, I crossed over into a savage traveling beast. Ok, a lot of people travel that way. But I didn't. And I'm so incredibly thankful for that rainy day in Paris that made me realize the world is a pretty sweet place. That realization led me on a quest; a quest to get out there, see things, soak up some local culture and eat my way around the world (with minimal food-related illnesses, such as but not limited to raging diarrhea).

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