I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a little bit obsessed with confessionals. I suspect this might be one of the weirdest things a priest could ever be told through a latticed window, but although I have no intention of repenting my curiosity-related sins, an explanation might be helpful…
Today, all cars and buses will be diverted from the city centre, and shepherds will herd their flocks through Madrid. In a spectacle witnessed by lots of confused onlookers, hundreds of sheep will stroll through our grandest boulevards.
Look closely and you’ll see that every single tile inside this restaurant is zellige: an ancient Moorish design whose pattern has been trending throughout the Arab world since around the seventh century.
Those hermetic voile curtains are partly to preserve Café El Despertar’s clandestine atmosphere, they’re but mostly there to deter the naive walk-in customer. The steely elderly owner, with his enviable beard, is interested only in clientele who are specifically here for his jazz music, and most certainly not the police, who, for good reason, he constantly fears.
Unless you live on this quiet, narrow street in Lavapiés, there’s almost no reason for you to walk down it – that is, unless you’re going to the Duck Church. Nestled into the ground floor of a centuries-old building lives a tiny temple devoted to the rubber duck, and its priest is Leo Bassi – a 66-year-old clown who was born on tour.
Casa Postal is an unfinished, no-frills cabinet of curiosities that will transport you back to your childhood, your mother’s childhood, your grandmother’s childhood and beyond if you let your imagination take you there.
This is a life drawing by Nathan Brenville, an incredibly talented illustrator with an eye for Madrid’s local treasures, particularly those that are so often overlooked by other artists.
When I asked Jose Luis Jiménez who the people in the photographs were, he spent the next half hour telling me stories from his childhood and showing me pictures taken by his friends from all over the world.
“Do you know about El Comunista? It’s painted Ruby red for people who can’t read – just like the other bodegas – and when you step inside, you’ll see the Spain my great-grandparents knew”
Like the Taj Mahal, Don Justo’s cathedral was born out of unwavering devotion to someone, and both of these magnificent specimens of religious architecture rose up from ordinary farmland. But aside from these similarities, the awe I felt on seeing the Taj more than 10 years ago suddenly reemerged as I tilted my head up towards Don Justo’s self-built cathedral.