Sunday, April 5, 2015

How I Spent My European Vacation (Or: Walk It Off!) Part 1 - Madrid

Photos by Michele der Beker
(She To Whom I Am Married)

I am married to an amazing vacation planner. This is a good thing because I pretty much rot it. Design a seven course dinner? No problem! Manage a guest list? Sure thing! This and more I can do. If it revolves around the kitchen, I'm in my element. Getting us from here to there and back, with research on the "there" part, I have to bow to my genius wife because she's the best! So it was with our latest European trip, to Madrid and Lisbon. Between her copious research and my ability to follow her lead (and my uncanny ability to keep a safeguarding eye on her when she's jet lagged, so that we don't get too lost) we had a wonderful adventure in Spain and Portugal.

Michele's also an excellent photographer and agreed to document my explorations of any local pastries and baked goods we came across. Below is her photo essay on my eating my way from bakery to restaurant to cafe. I add (im)pertinent words as needed but let's face it, you know I'm going to have commentary; it's just the way I am. This collaboration was a lot of fun, so we'll be doing it again whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 Hot Chocolate, Madrid-style

So. Our first night in Madrid we had tapas with a friend and then went for a night time walking tour of a few of the neighborhoods. We ended up at a hot chocolate and churros place.

Every city should have one!
Now, I've seen churros in NYC; in my old neighborhood of Washington Heights, street vendors sell them. I always passed them up because I know I'll be in danger of wanting them all the time. I mean, deep fried pastry dough? Come on! The smell alone is addicting! Still, when you're on vacation, the idea is to try new things, so I had my first churros in Spain. And I was right: addictive qualities abound. Notice I don't have any pictures of me actually eating a churro. That's because they were pretty much gone before Michele could take any pictures. What she did capture was me waxing rhapsodic over my cup of hot chocolate.

Hot Chocolate in Cold Madrid
The hot chocolate was so thick it was almost pudding and it was utterly delicious. Rich, dark, and cold-dispelling. The perfect cup to cap off a lovely night out.

Cloistered Cookies

When one thinks of Madrid, cookies doesn't readily come to mind. Well, not to my mind, anyway. But Michele found a most unique source for cookies, though: baked and sold in a little monastery by nuns. Now that was something I had to see! Except I couldn't, because the nuns are cloistered. Still, we went in search of...Cloistered Cookies.

First, we found the address.

Good thing all the arrows pointed in the right direction!
 Then we waited.
The hour is upon us!
There was another couple there, waiting as we were, and they explained, in Spanish, the way things worked. I caught every thirteenth word. Michele caught every other word, so she had a pretty good idea what was going on. When the clock struck 16:30, we buzzed the intercom and were rewarded with a "click" at the door and entered...into a maze-like series of dark corridors and hallways. I told Michele that this is how folks end up dead in horror movies. She doesn't watch them, so I had to fill her in on the conventions. She scoffed at me!

At the end of the maze was a wall with a gigantic, partitioned, steel lazy Susan. (Michele said it was made of wood, but I could have sworn it was creaky, clanking, metal.) From somewhere behind the thick stone walls we heard a faint "Hola!" Michele told them what we wanted: two boxes of cookies (one almond, one orange). We put the required amount of Euros on the lazy Susan, which groaned and ground metal-on-stone as it turned away from us. Half a minute later it turned again, and in the compartment was a bloody, severed head! 

Body of Christ but no severed heads. Sigh.
Okay. No. Not a severed head. Two boxes of cookies. Sans blood. Not that I was disappointed, mind you. We wound our way out of the convent with our new Spanish acquaintances who were telling Michele that there was an actual store nearby that sold other items made by the monks and nuns of the local convents and monasteries.

The Garden of the Convent. We waited for the monks...who never showed up.
They led us to the store, which was closed but would reopen in an hour, and then went on their way. 

We decide to while away some of our time in a nearby upscale market. I needed a coffee and something dessert-like. I found the dessert.

Hemisphere of sweetness!
I don't even know the name of this but it was fabulous! A dollop of chocolate mousse, surrounded by as spongy meringue, dusted with cocoa. This is one I'll have to research and make for myself!

If the spoon fits...chow down!
Michele found the coffee. Apparently this was the vacation of me learning how to drink espresso. Or, rather, learning that I like espresso more than I thought I did. I had many during this trip!

Tiny cuppa!
Taking a self portrait of Michele taking a picture. Silliness abounded!
We went back to the store. There were no monks, but the cashier was nice. Unfortunately, there wasn't really anything there that we felt compelled to purchase. Oh, well. It was a good adventure to have on our last day in Madrid.

So long, Madrid! Thanks for the good eats! And for casting me in your Horror Convent of Cloistered Cookies! (By the by, I'm close to killing the box of orange wafers! Dee-licious!)

Next up: Lisbon!

Currently listing to: Anita Baker - You're The Best Thing Yet


1 comment:

  1. You are the perfect companion to all our adventures. Lucky me that I get to go do them, make pictures of them, and then relive them when you write them up. Obviously we need more vacations! ;)