Friday, December 30, 2016

Last Day in Spain, Ditched the Walking Tour

Our last day in Spain had arrived. We'd already hit everything so hard that we didn't have any "must-dos" left and we could just enjoy ourselves.

We had one last walking tour to do and it met in Plaza Mayor, the scene of last night's Christmas Market.

As I mentioned yesterday the tourists in Madrid are many, and our tour group was so large it had to be split into two.

We stopped for a spell near El Convento de Corpus Christi. The convent is home to a group of nuns who are cloistered and have no contact with the outside world. To make money they bake cookies, and there's an amusing system inside where you can buy the cookies from them without seeing them. They have like a little revolving door thing where you set your money and spin it around, which they then put your cookies on and spin it back.

Of course they weren't selling today. Probably still due to the aftershocks of Christmas. Oh well.

It was around this point in the tour that we decided we'd had enough Spanish history repeated to us for one lifetime and we ditched the tour group. We're bad.

We did what any self respecting kid playing hooky from school does: went to the mall!

I'm kind of jealous how cool the ambulances here look.

I was really excited to eat at Restaurante Sobrino de Botín. It turned out to be one of my favorite meals of the entire trip, and one of Lydia's least favorite. Them's the breaks sometimes. El Botín is the Guinness world record holder for longest continuously operating restaurant in the world, opening its doors in 1725. The experience dovetailed nicely with the time I visited the oldest bar in the world with my parents in Ireland.

While being led to our table we had to walk through the kitchen. There were chefs everywhere and flames and meat and vegetables all over the place. It was really fun to see. There's no way that would happen in the US.

I went with the house menu because I figured I could trust the taste of such a distinguished house.

Rioja is a well known wine region in Northern Spain.

Wikipedia says that sopa de ajo is "an egg, poached in chicken broth, and laced with sherry and garlic". It's apparently a winter tradition around these parts. I liked it a lot.

El Botín is famous for its cochinillo asado, or roast suckling pig. Our waiter brought in a whole little pig, tiny tail and all, and proceeded to dismantle it on a nearby table before bringing over a big chunk for your intrepid hero.

Lydia on the other hand insisted on ordering a pile of giant limp mushrooms which I'm not sure the pig would have even wanted to eat. I couldn't really tell you why Lydia hates her mouth.

What's that, these two pig chewing, rioja wine drinking adventurers seem like something out of a classic novel? Well, it is very kind of you to notice. Ernest Hemingway closes The Sun Also Rises with a scene at El Botín:

“It’s rotten here in the hotel. Do you know a place called Botin’s?” I asked the barman.
“Yes, sir. Would you like to have me write out the address?”
“Thank you.”
We lunched up-stairs at Botin’s. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta. Brett did not eat much. She never ate much. I ate a very big meal and drank three bottles of rioja alta.
“How do you feel, Jake?” Brett asked. “My God! what a meal you’ve eaten.”
“I feel fine. Do you want a dessert?”
“Lord, no.”
Brett was smoking.
“You like to eat, don’t you?” she said.
“Yes,” I said. “I like to do a lot of things.”
“What do you like to do?”
“Oh,” I said, “I like to do a lot of things. Don’t you want a dessert?”
“You asked me that once,” Brett said.
“Yes,” I said. “So I did. Let’s have another bottle of rioja alta.”
“It’s very good.”
“You haven’t drunk much of it,” I said.
“I have. You haven’t seen.”

Thankfully our meal did end with dessert. I shared some with Lydia despite the shameful fact that she hadn't finished eating Fungi Mountain.

I didn't know about the Hemingway connection until returning to the US and doing a little research to write this blog post. Writing this thing is sort of like going on the trip all over again except now I can experience everything at my leisure. It's fun. It seems that I've been sort of inadvertently stalking Hemingway the last few years. I visited his cat infested house in Key West, had a daiquiri at a bar he frequented in Havana, and now I was at a restaurant in Madrid he liked to eat. A New York Times article interviewing the family that owns the joint had some funny anecdotes:

“Don Ernesto once wanted to make paella,” Carlos said. “And so our grandfather allowed him to go into the kitchen to make it.” 
Was it any good? 
“Apparently not,” he said, laughing. “It was the last time they let him cook anything.” 
Mr. Gonzáles’s grandfather, however, did give Hemingway the privilege of making his own martinis. “He would get here early in the day and write upstairs until his friends showed up for lunch,” Antonio said.

The bar was quite unique looking.

We didn't go in this place I just thought the exterior looked really cool.

So as I stated earlier those lazy nuns who were supposed to be baking cookies for me were busy playing white elephant gift exchange or who knows what else up in their high tower. Luckily there was a shop nearby selling baked good from other Spanish convents.

At night we hit a place that was on our tapas tour from last night but had been closed. It was really awful and should consider staying closed in the future.

We accidentally ordered this horrid low alcohol, sickly sweet fizzy crap excuse for a wine. I'm confused why this was even on the menu.

The free dish that came with the wine was these really nasty olives mixed with some weird yellow beans. I enjoy olives and rarely encounter those that I do not wish to eat.

Luckily this place had not yet devised a way to ruin Spain ham.

Lastly, octopus wall. Just because. 

Goodbye, sweet Spain. May we meet again for some bullfighting!

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