The bares típicos are one of the things I deeply love Spain for. The way you can pop in for a coffee in a glass, a caña, a tapa, a few words with the person behind the bar and other people in the bar – a sense of connection to simple uplifting things.
Down Calle Tribulete, just a few minutes from Plaza Lavapiés is Cómics El Coleccionista, where it has stood seemingly forever. Opened in 1993 by a pair of friends who met each other through their mutual love of comic books, El Coleccionista has remained virtually unchanged throughout its 27 years of existence.
A year ago, my photo series of 100 of Madrid’s no-frills bars reignited the nation’s love for a time-honoured aspect of Spanish culture, but around 20 of these no-frills bars are actually Chinese-owned.
I’d like to transport you to a place a few miles up the road from where I grew up. It’s a tiny, windswept port town that had its heyday up until the 1960s. After that, the industries shifted outwards, like the dunes that shield Blyth from the North Sea, switching from mining coal to farming wind.
I’m sitting on a concrete bench on Plaza Nelson Mandela, taking in the warm winter sun on my face. A local Senegalese man wearing an ivory silk boubou pours his friends cups of hot black coffee from a canister. On a bench near them, a group of young Argentinians top up their cups of mate and share a smoke.
Yesterday, the people of Madrid make their thoughts crystal clear: don’t evict Baobab! So far, this emotive Instagram post has been shared by 2,793 people in their stories, and viewed by 32,557. To put things in perspective, that’s about 10 times more people than my average Madrid No Frills Instagram posts.
In the shadow of Madrid’s extravagant lights display, the spirit of no-frills Christmas lives on. You just have to look a bit closer.
In my eighth volume of 10 no-frills finds, I bring you a last survivor, a no-frills chocolate con churros place, royal ruins and missing pieces of Berlin and Galicia. I also take you back in time with traces of Madrid’s bygone high-streets, and I encourage you to look up because a worm’s-eye view is highly underrated.
It’s 3 o’clock in the morning on Christmas day and the church, draped from roof to floor in fairy lights, is packed. A young girl with hennaed arms passes me a tiny cup of chai, her bangles clinking off the pew in front, and then her brother – his nails painted glittery red – hands me an onion bhaji.
Iván, es un heredero de este movimiento contra-cultural, que se desarrolló en gran parte en Malasaña.