Puente de Vallecas

21 10 2010

Madrid’s significant dearth of non-Spanish ingredients is somewhat balanced by the joy I find in dedicating the occasional afternoon to ingredient-hunting. It’s a task best approached with the vaguest of goals – do NOT attempt to find real vanilla – and one that can easily lead to those lesser-known areas that make you feel all hip-and-with-it.

Charleen only has to drop the hint of “plantains,” and I hit the ground running. Today we convene in Puente de Vallecas, an out-of-the-way barrio to the southeast of Atocha. Back in the piso-hunting days, Jaselyn mentioned Dominican influences notable from merely walking around; we are intrigued.

Did you study abroad in Central/South America? Does Madrid need just a touch more Latin rhythm coming from every open door and car window? Do you require… real tortillas? Puente de Vallecas is the city’s answer to your heartstrings’ spicy longings. It’s markedly Madrid: the city center is within an hour’s walkable distance, and four and five story apartments with distinctive metal balconies are the norm. And yet – here hangs a loop of colorful laundry. And there goes a car bumping with reggaeton beats. Are you sure we’re still in Kansas, Dorothy?

It’s impossible to meander far in Puente de Vallecas without running into an Alimentación offering much more than mere frutos secos. We stock up on plantains and black beans, powdered cayenne and adobo seasoning. In one extra-special tienda, we are presented with fresh coconut cookies on the house, and they are absurdly risquisitos.

It feels like an escape, like we’ve somehow cheated the metro system and gone far beyond the B2 borders. But this, too, is Madrid.

El Rasto/Lavaplatos

13 09 2010

Em and I took it easy during Noche en Blanco so we could wake up in time to take full advantage of El Rastro, Madrid’s own open-air flea market, happening each and every Sunday in a barrio near you (in this case, La Latina). We’ve been daydreaming about picking up some house goodies – rugs, storage devices, a clock for my room – and el Rastro seems like it might be the place to find it all, akin to Chatuchak in Bangkok.

Our piso is in Arganzuela, just south of Atocha station, and, checking the map, we estimate the walk at 10-15 minutes. We easily find our way – mapless! – to la Ronda de Embajadores, and then shoot north on Calle de Embajadores towards center city. We talk of beautiful days, small dogs, and getting our city legs.

After about the third time I attempt to convince myself that I see it in the distance (“Is that a stall?! … damn, another Tabacos”), it is apparent that we have manage to arrive at an entirely different zone of the city. A map-check and a metro stop declare that we are in Legazpi, very much south of our destination. Ah. The city legs thing, she’s a long-term process. We sheepishly hop on the metro and zip up to La Latina.

The hustle! The bustle! Everything leather you could possibly dream up is here en masse, plus cheap tchotchkes of all variety. Piles of dusty old books, pirated DVDs, antiques galore, paintings and rusty frames, hippie clothing, tacky keyrings, and an owl wallet that I absolutely need, right this second.

We sink our way through the crowd back to Embajadores, but haven’t quite had our fill, so metro it back to Tirso de Molina.

A couple icy-sweet zumos later, we are recharged, in charge, and charging forth. Tirso de Molina Plaza is has a decidedly alterna-vibe to it; most of the booths here offer anarchist/resistance materials. One plays Spanish punk.

This street trio is totally excellent, and the accordionist’s handlebar ‘stache is befittingly bitchin’.

The stalls peter out before too long, but near the end of our explorations a ticking antiques booth catches our fancy. Clocks galore! We haggle for a bargain involving a silver analog beauty with oversize numbers plus the most adorable teacup set you ever did see.

A good deal leaves smiles in its wake, and we make tracks homeward on the metro.

On our way, we spy a massive line curling out of an intriguing takeaway Spanish restaurant, which does intrigue – but not enough tear our tastebuds away from the promise of chilaquiles awaiting back in casa. After cooking one final lunch on questionable kitchenware, it is finally time: we wash every single plate, cup, pan, utensil, and miniature-metal-spatula in the place. The kitchen is wanting for clean towels, so we use the striped beast I recently purchased from El Corte Inglés (it was a bargain dammit).

Emily is totally pro at plates. We tucker out afterward, however, and guiltlessly snooze the late afternoon away.