There are few streets in Madrid with such a well preserved traditional shopping district. Green grocers, bodegas, a coal merchant’s and a wicker store are just some of the living museums I found on the short stretch of Calle Calatrava and its surrounding streets.
It’s raining but perhaps you’ve already been to all the museums, or maybe you just fancy something a bit less obvious such as spending the afternoon in a mercado, doing a no-frills bar crawl around a barrio you haven’t visited before, exploring the labyrinthine tunnels of the old tobacco factory or finally enjoying it being cool enough to eat hearty food again! Here are 10 rainy-day activities that you won’t find anywhere else on the Madrinternet…
An elderly woman dressed in all black is straddling the wrong side of a first-floor balcony. Standing up there with her is another elderly woman wearing a floral smock, bellowing unsolicited advice about how her friend should tie up the bunting. Fierce high-rise arguing descending into laughing, and I watch on in horror yet reassurance that, somehow, these ladies have got it handled. After all, it is quite possibly their 90th year of decorating the streets.
One of the sites where Franco’s army would learn to build railroads, bridges and trenches now hosts an army of Madrid’s underground artists. Welcome to Zapadores (trenchers), Madrid’s City of Art.
What is an urban sky frame? It’s a worm’s-eye view centring around the sky, almost seamlessly framed by urban structures (a term invented right here, right now).
They’re perfectly placed should you spontaneously decide to get your shoes shined, grab a bag of chestnuts or pick up a newspaper, but these gifts of the street are rewarded only to those who slow down. Allow yourself an extra five minutes to get to the nearest no-frills bar, and you’ll witness our streets come alive with a multi-generational community of micro shops.
Welcome to the untimely ossuary of Madrid’s extinct shops, bars and restaurants – an emotive collection of defunct signage from Madrid’s long-lost traditional businesses.
Our city gardens are something to be treasured dearly, with so many being lost over the years. Hundreds of grassy nooks and micro orchards have become victim to our ever-expanding metropolis, leaving those that remain with an almost mythical status.
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…
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.