May 21: The Rastro and the Rest

Given the meeting time at 11.15 in the morning, I’ve started the day at around 9.30 to get ready for breakfast. After the meal, we headed to the Rastro which is a huge flea market, within a neighborhood of Madrid called La Latina. This market is held on every other Sunday, from 9.00 in the morning to 3.00 in the afternoon, and is the largest flea market in Madrid. I believe it is roughly a 16 minute walk from the hotel that we are accommodating (Hotel Regina Madrid), but because the streets were closed, we had to take a detour which took us an extremely long walk to the market – taking us about an hour or so. Along the way, we walked past the Prado museum where the street was closed due to reasons I have no idea of. We then encountered a few processional giants – figures about a few meters tall, in costume, worn by people with support internally – that were making a performance, likely a dance. After what it seems like forever, we arrived at the market at around noon. 

Reading about it and seeing images off the internet, it seems about right. There were a large variety of good being sold such as: jewelry, bags of all sorts, old cameras, shoes, liquid fragrance, hand drawn cards, scarfs, antiques, candles, hand fans, incense sticks, tapestry, clothes – even including tie dye shirts and baby clothes – and many more. These are only some that I could recognize and remember. Personally, I am not a big fan of shopping. Although some of the items tickled my curiosity and interest, I try not to buy items I know I won’t be using, including souvenirs. Hence, nothing was bought. I kept on walking down the slope where the market kept on going, stopping for a minute to watch a man sing, and another minute to watch an old lady playing an instrument unknown to me, then eventually reach the other end of the market, at around one in the afternoon – a great timing for lunch.

Because we have to visit at least one cafe in Madrid – stated on the scavenger hunt assignment – with Pum Pum Cafe in mind, I’ve decided to find my way there and as expected, there was a line to get in. And so, I chose another cafe close by within the Lavapies neighborhood, found on the scavenger hunt map that was provided, and settled down at Cafe Barbieri. I arrived there around 1.30pm which was not as busy and had plenty of space left within the restaurant. I sat in the area between the bar and the dining space of the restaurant, staring straight at the other dining tables. Recommended by the waiter, I went for a pasta dish that has a pesto sauce, with pistachio bits, bacon and dried tomatoes along with a bottle of water. I am not a big pasta fanatic but the sauce was creamy with little grains of pistachio in every bite that added a little sweetness to the dish, complementing the savory bacon bits and slightly sour dried tomatoes. I have also ordered a cheesecake after that. Their cheesecake was like a combination of a basque cheesecake and a runny cheese tart, with a hint of saltiness.

After lunch, since I am already within Lavapies, I went to another cafe that is a cat cafe called La Gatoteca. Even though I knew a reservation was necessary, I didn’t make any beforehand and showed up on the spot. Fortunately, there was room for me to join. They gave me a wrist band indicating the time I went in and you can also get a drink when you go in. There are several rules to follow that the staff ran through before I entered where the cats were. You can also find them on their website for those who are interested. Because it was in the afternoon, most of the cats were taking their naps and only one or two of them were active. I planned on staying around for half an hour – because they charge you depending on how long you stay inside – but I ended up staying for 56 minutes which costed me 7.50 euros. Once I left the La Gatoteca, I walked back to the hotel.

After more or less half an hour later, I went back out and took the metro to Matadero Madrid. This was one of the places associated with Ernest Hemingway – an American novelist. Matadero Madrid used to be a slaughterhouse that Hemingway used to visit when he was younger. It has now become a space for cultural and contemporary art experimenting and production. Although some essence of the buildings stayed the same such as the sandstone warehouses, the interior of the spaces are redesigned and repurpose to hold arts and performances. Exploring for not too long after – because most spaces require an entrance ticket – I decided to go get dinner at Pez Tortilla. The place was packed but I managed to swiggle my way inside and take out a pincho tortilla which comes with a portion for one person. With this tortilla, I walked to Placa del Parque de la Montana and ate there while enjoying the nice breeze and the hill top view. Before I end my day, I grabbed a cup of ice cream from a shop called Toto and took the metro back to the hotel.