Chocolatería San Ginés

24 09 2010

Ganas are one of my favorite aspects of Castellano. Tengo ganas means that I feel like doing something, that it sounds good to me, that I am anticipating with glee. Me faltan las ganas means that I’m lacking the lil’ puppies, and as such am disinclined to rise from my snuggly bed.

From whence do these ganas come? And when they lack, where is it they hide?

Neither Em nor I is privileged with knowledge of the mysterious mundo de las ganas. All we know is that tonight we’ve got a bad case of ’em for a dinner of chocolate y churros.

My favorite photo from Spain thus far – gonna get it blown up to poster-size.

We get the skinny on Madrid’s best chocolatería from Fausto; however, he refuses to join us as “chocolate is a winter thing.” We care little. The ganas don’t take no for an answer.

Sam texts at precisely the perfect moment and joins us at Sol’s bear statue.

Chocolatería San Ginés is tucked in a surprisingly snug street branching off from the main arteries of Sol. Chatty tables line the corridor, and the magic of ganas makes one of them immediately available.

There’s no need for a menu here – even if San Ginés offers further goodies, you’d be nutty not to get the eternal hot Spanish chocolate and fried churros combo. We tack on an order of porras – which are basically oversize churros – for good measure.

Not so drinkable as much as dippable and perhaps spoonable, Spanish chocolate is thick and darkly sweet. The churros lack the crunchy sugar coat of their Mexican cousins, upon which the three of us reminiscence about with great fondness, but it’s hard to complain when they’re accompanied by a cup of liquid gold.

It’s far from my favorite Spanish treat – I’d choose llao llao over churros any day – but who am I to deny the honeyed allure of the ganas?





Reina Sofia

24 09 2010

El Prado may be masterful in many ways – you gotta love Goya’s Black Paintings, and it’s jaw-dropping to picture the labyrinth of scaffolding required to attempt some of the 10+-foot-high works casually displayed along its hallowed halls. But look – and I’m well aware I’m a philistine in this respect, thank you very much – room after room after room of solemn portraiture alongside bleeding Christ figures bums me out.

Because we’re all about un poco de todo here at con tomates, it is overtly obvious that the even closer Reina Sofia coyly beckons for our patronage. In a manner of speaking, anyway; Sunday late mornings from 10 AM – 2:30 PM offer totally free entry to seekers of the disturbingly bizarre, the beautifully macabre, the subtly unsettling, and the straight-up funky.

Gargantuan B&W bacon informs us that we are in the right place. Our grupito consists of Leah, Emily, Marta, Hannah, and myself, and we agree that we ought to take advantage of the proximity of our piso to the museum, and as such take it slow. We’ll try for just one floor today, and aim to reconvene next week to explore the next.

Museums don’t tend to work so well with this large of a group, and we quickly part ways – which is dandy; this way each can view con calma the works she finds most intriguing. A small selection of what I feast my artistic (non)sensibilities on:

The following three are all details from the same enormous canvas:

Genuine!





“Tapas” Nite in La Latina – fotopost

19 09 2010





Vespa Fantasies/Cilantro Realizations

19 09 2010

I’m going to guess it traces back to that alluring orange beauty emblematic of imminent success on Piso Day: Em and I have been fantasizing about Vespas.

Lucky us, there is a certified Vespa Store about 10 minutes’ walk from our place. We seek it out and inquire into possibilities.

A new bike runs roughly 2000€; we’re thinking a used one could be found somewhere in Madrid at an even more dangerously affordable price.

Shopkeep José is very helpful, fueling our enthusiasm and offering further information. He recommends we visit the US Embassy to iron out the legal details; we make a note of it as a possible Monday plan.

With no further schedule for the daylight hours, Em and I engage in our most dedicated wanderings to date. Armed with vague aims of “gold heels” and “Mexican ingredients,” we head first to Plaza Angel on a vague recollection of a Latino market.

Paydirt! Black beans are quite the uncommon find in Madrid. I snap up two cans, making a wish known to the universe that I’d like to consume one of them for lunch.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this market very highly – not too much else appealed (although I am glad to know of another location for coconut milk). We recall Fausto mentioning the barrio Cuatro Caminos as being home to many Central/South American immigrants, so I call up Charleen in the belief that she lives nearby and make plans to meet at the metro.

While on the surprisingly lengthy metro journey to Cuatro Caminos, Em and I unfold my rapidly deteriorating map to note that Charleen lives nowhere near the area whatsoever, and that I have absolutely zero idea how such a thought got planted in my skull. Ah well, it’s a wandering day for everyone!

Upon our exit from the metro, sugar-encrusted roasted peanuts from a nearby stall smell far too enticing not to devour. We contentedly munch while productively awaiting Charleen’s arrival by browsing a Carrefour, hoping for shelving and instead encountering a perfect yellow robe, plus tortillas and a baguette for later eats.

Just outside the Carrefour is another entrance to the Cuatro Caminos metro station, and something draws me in for a closer look. It’s common in these areas to to see black market vendors of pirated DVDs, knockoff sunglasses, and arrays of very likely pilfered goods, none of which I’m interested in purchasing – but this man has my number.

“Emily. Emily. Look. I think he has cilantro.”
“Qué?”
Cilantro.” [runs, not walks, up to shady seller clutching bunches of green] “Es cilantro??”
“Si. Un euro.” [begins packing massive amount into plastic bag]
“Uhh – no necesito tanto -”
“Un euro.”
“Uh. Vale.”

Yesssssss. My only regret is not snapping a quick frame of the sketchy cilantro huckster. There’s no question I’ll be back…

Charleen shows her pretty face and we begin exploring in earnest.

A foray into an Ecuadorian bakery – which are ubiquitous here, by the way – reveals a Jamaican cornmeal flour that Charleen’s been dreaming about, plus various other goodies. No real vanilla, however; Taste of America may have a run on the market.

Lunch plans come together as though divinely mandated; it is blindingly obvious that the tortillas, black beans, and cilantro in our hot little hands were meant to be together as one. A frutería near Charleen’s piso in Principe Pío provides tomatoes, onions, and garlic; a carnicería offers “queso para sandwich” by the slice. Charleen’s kitchen gets a full workout, and we devour the results, unanimously agreeing that the cilantro is the crowning focal point in the mess of burrito glee.

A full kitchen is a happy kitchen.





No Live Music Night – fotopost

19 09 2010





Motorcycle Expedition to Vallecas

19 09 2010

Today Fausto has promised me a trip by motorcycle to Vallecas, a Madrid neighborhood fairly far to the south where he used to live.

In anticipation, I piece together a moto-ridin’ get-up, the highlight of which is definitely my bitchin’ black boots. Next time I bust them out, I’m definitely getting Em to snap a better-angled photo, but can you imagine a better spot for an outfit shot?? The lines, the colors!

Naturally, by the time we get around to heading out, the sun has warmed the air enough that I have to reconfigure. I switch to red plaid and glorified flip-flops instead, aiming for “sloppy rockabilly.” Emily can tell you if it works or not.

The garbage is nearly overflowing, so we grab it on the way. Unfortunately, the cans on our street don’t emerge until later in the afternoon, so it becomes the third passenger.

Fausto is an extremely calm motorist, commenting that maneuvering the bike gives him a sense of tranquility. I’ve only ever been on motorbike in Bangkok before, and in comparison Madrid traffic does seem extremely ordered. We meander southward, almost imperceptibly ascending in altitude as well.

Fausto calls this “El Parque de las Tetas,” and it’s immediately clear why – it takes the form of two giant mounds, clearly beckoning to be climbed.

It’s very much perspective-changing to view Madrid splayed out in a panorama like this. It can be altogether too easy to submerge oneself in the subway and allow the narrow streets to work as blinders, constantly funneling from destination to destination without any idea of a whole. Seeing the city stretch from one horizon to another gives me a sense of really being here all over again.

Fausto and I sit and absorb. We’re both oddballs of distinct varieties, and our rhythms match well.

Safety first.





Couchsurfing El Grito Fiesta

17 09 2010

I awake from my siesta – I don’t think I will ever stop deriving enormous pleasure from spending 6-7:30 PM deep in dreamland – to find the piso transformed.

I’m far from a good Hippiehamite; it never occurs to me to decorate with a few candles. The soft flicker they cast on the kitchen is is gorgeous, though, and a marvelous way to ease towards full wakefulness.

I tell Fausto I love them, and he proceeds to get quite bashful (“ah lo que pasa es que no suelo usarlas, que no son nada, asegurate que las apagas cuando salgas,” etcetera etcetera). They’re so classy-grunge. I love my stylin’ piso.

Tonight I’ve done my research on the Couchsurfing Madrid message boards; there is a fiesta going down tonight in La Latina in celebration of El Grito, Mexican Independence Day! I’ve told Alice about it, and then Emily, and then Sam and Leah and Charleen, and then Jaselyn, and soon enough there is a whole troop of Fulbright ladies hankering for a Mexi-style get-down. I explain what Couchsurfing is, but I get the sense that it’s tricky to understand the vibe of it without experiencing an event for yourself – so plunging ahead blindly it is. Fingers crossed that the Madrid group is as warmly inclusive as the Bangkok bunch.

We convene in La Latina, bustling tapas-central of Madrid (still need to do this! weekend plans, anyone?), and head down Calle Cava Baja towards the deceptively named Chez LouLou, which turns out to be an itty-bitty bar/restaurant completely overflowing with chatty revelers. I approach decisively, stowing my trepidation and boldly introducing myself and my compatriots to some eccentric-looking tall man with a frizzy afro.

A beat passes – then – “Eres de Couchsurfing?”
“AHHHHH CHAN-EL DORK-INK-TOHN!!!”
“Uh. Me investigaste?”

I guess I invited it when I posted on the event listing that I was going to arrive with a plenitude of amigas. Oh Couchsurfing, always toying with that fun little line between informative and creeptastic.

Luckily for all involved, no one else attending is quite THAT well-versed in who I am, although there are a handful of others who recognize my face from the board (“Eres la con las gafas!!“). The atmosphere is totally bumpin’, both in terms of energy and running into other bodies attempting to occupy the same sweaty space, and I quickly move outside with my cool Coronita.

Couchsurfing events are unlike any others I’ve ever experienced; everyone is looking to meet you but (normally) sans flirtatious overtones. There’s a general appreciation of working together to have the best time possible, rather than each-man-for-himself, and just about everyone wants to know your story. Plus, because we’re all connected on this network of references, anyone who makes a bit of a cabron@ out of him/herself is then subject to nothing but the truth the following morning.

As a group of seven attractive chicas (Sam’s brought along a British newbie to Madrid), we are quickly invited out for drinks/dancing following the fiesta. None of us has anything slated for the morrow, so we accept and march our way towards the center.

It is ladies’ night at Dreams, which means the mere presence of your twin mammary glands nets you a free drink every fifteen minutes. None of us go quite that hog wild, but the emphatic booty-shakin’ definitely revs up as the night wears on. Interestingly, the tradition here seems to be that the men dance in front of the womenfolk, showing off their finest groovy maneuvers. For the most part, everyone cycles around the group, trying out different style combinations to the familiar American beats (“heyy! must be the monayy!“).

We duck out around 2:30 AM or so, quite early by Spain standards, but it feels sufficient tonight. The metro’s closed by now, but the 20-minute walk back to Calle de Las Delicias isn’t so bad – although Em and I are certainly enthusiastic about kicking off our heels once happily back in the piso.