Met up with my lovely Parisian friend, Julie, soon after I hopped off the plane from BCN. We would be spending the next week together in Madrid, Toledo, and Alicante. I quickly realized I would not love this city as much as Barcelona. It was just as hot (but probably hotter) and there are no beaches or water to wade in.
We were both starving so we asked a local boy for directions to a good place--something authentic--and were soon to learn a new lesson from Spain. Thankfully, our combined spanish efforts translated well enough to order 2 montaditos. 1 each. Now, for those of you who, like us, dont know what a montadito is, it is not exactly what is pictured on the menu. What we saw was a sub sandwich, with French bread. So when it cost only 1.20€ we thought we hit the jackpot. Not exactly. It made sense why the cashier looked at us like we were crazy when we ordered, because apparently, montaditos are teeny tiny sandwiches. A person could eat 3 easily... And it would take around 8 to equal a footlong at subway.
There were other dining differences I found while in Madrid. (Sidenote: after reflection I realize these all existed in BCN as well, but BCN was like a really good looking boyfriend...takes a long time to see the flaws. Madrid is like the less beautiful neighbor boy who wants you to love him so much that you see all the flaws) My favorite, or really least favorite difference, was found out first in the Museuo de Jamon, or Museum of Ham. Let me just say, Spain, you have the worst napkins ever. They are the equivalent of tissue paper that you use to wrap a gift. There is no absorbency, it is slippery and it is really thin and small. Now go eat messy tapas and try to clean up...you WILL use 1,000 napkins. The other major dining difference was the annoying water charge. If you go to any restaurant or even Kebab store it will cost you at least 1€ for half a glass of water. Don't even try to ask for tap, they won't give it to you. Either buy or die (of dehydration).
But this leads nicely to another drinking experience. Quite the opposite of the water phenomenon, and the title of this post: what Julie and I like to call the Magic Bar Crawl. Being a girl has always had it's perks, but when it comes to drinking in Madrid, I have never felt so blessed. After our usually 10pm dinner which ended around midnight, we strolled the streets with Sylvain, our tour guide and host. On this walk to find the best mojitos and sangria on Madrid, I learned a new favorite word (ok, well I already knew it, but it became my favorite) GRATTIS. Every 10 meters we would be stopped by some promoter and handed a card and along with that card, mojitos or chupitos GRATTIS for the girls. We would go in the empty bar, take our 2 drinks (split it 3 ways, since Sylvain was not usually offered the same deal), finish them at whichever speed the stench of the bar permitted our noses to stay, leave, walk 5 meters and do the same thing. That first night alone we went to maybe 7 bars. Then we realized we all really liked one packed bar so we returned to spend the rest of the night. If only America had these promotions.
All in all, Madrid was more beautiful than my initial reactions led me to believe. I found some new favorite tapas (albondigas aka spanish meatballs) and walked about 1 million miles a day to beautiful sights and thru large gardens. But, I was happy that we only stayed a few days because in 3 we had really seen and done everything and were ready to go to Toledo.