Monthly Archives: December 2014

Roaming the Trails of El Rastro, Madrid’s Flea Market

I resolved to do something before 2014 ends, and it is to see that immensely popular flea market just south of Plaza Mayor.

And since it's the last Sunday of the year, I had no choice but to go to Madrid's El Rastro - and this, I'm finally doing!

Upon learning about my plan, friends told me to be prepared to see great sights and enjoy some shopping (haggling is more like it).

La Caridad se Compadece delos Pobres at  Plaza de Campillo Mundo Nuevo. Where you can take some rest and have lunch after a tour of El Rastro. You can reach the plaza via Ribera de Curtidores, turning right at Calle Mira del Sol
La Caridad se Compadece delos Pobres at Plaza Campillo del Mundo Nuevo, where you may take some rest and have lunch after a tour of Rastro. The Plaza can be reached via Ribera de Curtidores, turning right at Calle Mira del Sol

I was also told to brace myself for the thick crowd, which is to be expected since Rastro is just a once-a-week affair.

Of course, shops are open everyday, but stalls are only allowed by the Municipality to set up on the streets during Sundays, starting at 9PM until 2 or 3PM.

Cold Rastro Sunday it turned out

Sunday's overcast skies and presence of strong winds since early morning was a surprise because the previous two weeks had been clear and sunny. Fearing rain would follow in the afternoon, I thought I had to rush my way to El Rastro.

Luckily, the sky somewhat cleared up.

The wind, however, was relentless in blowing away fallen dried leaves to all directions, scattering them to the sides and corners of buildings, sidewalks, and streets.

The elements were evidently harsher than usual, with the temperature dropping wintry low. The weather was getting colder, more severe as the days pass, and this afternoon was no different. I was beginning to think that it wasn't the perfect time to go there.

Still, I went through with my plan, since the flea market happens only once a week, and I've been dying to see it in the first place.

I hurried to the autobus station, took the number 51 ride to Puerta del Sol. My walk started at Calle de Alcala, went through Plaza Mayor and took the Calle de Toledo route. I knew I was near the place when I passed by La Latina Metro.

Plaza de Cascorro

Finally, I reached one of the main areas of the flea market - Plaza de Cascorro.

Eloy Gonzalo - Hero of Cascorro
Eloy Gonzalo - Hero of Cascorro

I immediately got excited upon seeing countless stalls located all over the place. While used and new clothing were predominantly sold, a wide variety of items are found here as well - from worthless bric-a-brac to really useful ones.

In the middle of Plaza de Cascorro is the monument of Eloy Gonzalo, a Spanish soldier who bravely fought during Spain's historic war against Cuba. The Hero of Cascorro, Gonzalo is highly regarded and well-loved in Spain.

Ribera de Curtidores - Trail of blood

Another vital section of the flea market is Ribera de Curtidores. It is lined with trees on both sides, seemingly sheltering the stalls that fill up its length.

No space, apparently, is gone unused. Jeans, shirts, toys, mobile phone accessories, kitchen and home wares - anything that you can think of must be sold around here.

A card with the name and photo of the owner, serving as proof of permit from the authorities, is posted at a conspicuous part of the stall.

Literally means riverside of the tanners, Ribera used to be where tanneries were located. Dragging slaughtered cattle to the tanneries caused a trail of blood to be left in the streets, hence the name El Rastro, or the trail.

What you're staring at might be worth a fortune

You can be certain that you'll get your money's worth at Rastro if you fancy used items. You just need to be meticulous before you pay for anything. Take your time when checking an item's condition and quality to ensure that you'll enjoy a good buy.

Those with a keen eye and good knowledge of antiques and rarities (and lots of patience, too) will realize that Rastro is a veritable goldmine.

Be ready to unearth antique "gems" at Rastro
Be ready to unearth antique "gems" at Rastro

There had been stories of individuals stumbling upon finds such as an antique furniture, or a hundred-year old dusty painting which, unknown to the seller, commands a high price.

Generally, Rastro is the place to go to if you're in the hunt for items at affordable prices. Be prepared to negotiate to enjoy substantial markdown in prices, especially if you encounter a seller willing to give in just to make a sale.

Whether you haggle or not, prices at Rastro are low. Used appliances, clothes, accessories, art items, antiquities, pots and pans, and books - they are significantly cheaper than items sold in regular stores.

A variety of wares are being sold every  sunday afternoon at Plaza Vara de Ray
A variety of wares are being sold every sunday afternoon at Plaza Vara de Ray
Sold in this corner of Plaza del General Varra de Rey are shisha or hookah, and various flavored tobaccos
Sold in this corner of Plaza del General Varra de Rey are shisha or hookah, and various flavored tobaccos

Gen Vara de Rey is where you should go in case you have a need for colorful tapestries
Gen Vara de Rey is where you should go in case you have a need for colorful tapestries
Cuadrosguapos.com, seller of funny, movie, and classic posters. This store located at Calle Carlos Arniches also offers reproduction or replicas of famous art items
Cuadrosguapos.com, seller of funny, movie, and classic posters. This store also offers reproduction or replicas of famous art items. Located at Calle Carlos Arniches

The seller lays down and sell whatever he could - magazines, a few dolls, a pair of shoes, metal pot, among other. Lcated at Calle de Carlos Arniche
The seller lays down and sells whatever he can - magazines, a few dolls, a pair of shoes, metal pot, among other. Along Calle Carlos Arniches
Not only clothing items...
Not only clothing items...
but vinyl records, CDs, and DVDs...
but vinyl records, CDs, and DVDs...
brown, pink, and gray clay pigs of various sizes...
brown, pink, and gray clay pigs of various sizes...
and Chinese Antique wares are sold along Ribera de Curtidores, most frequented street in Rastro
and Chinese Antique wares are sold along Ribera de Curtidores, most frequented street in Rastro

Was I able to buy anything? No, but I did enjoy seeing the place. El Rastro is such a unique and fascinating flea market that I visited as many important calles and plazas as possible.

In my next visit, I'll definitely haggle hard with my Espanol vendedor; that is, if I already have a better Spanish conversation skill in tow.

Madrid After Christmas

It's the 26th, and the spirit of the Yuletide Season is very much in the air in Madrid even if Christmas has already passed.

Everyone is not ready to let the festive mood within them disappear. Decors all around the city, at homes and in the streets, avenues, and plazas, are still up and will not be removed until January 6th.

Madrid is Christmas Land 'til Feast of the Three Kings

For a few days more (10 days to be exact), Madrid continues to be a magical place come night time as Christmas trees and lighting decors brightly illuminate the city.

Speaking of Jaunary 6, it is when Spain commemorates the Feast of the Three Kings or Epiphany, and also the date when Christmas officially ends.

Dia de los Reyes, as how they call it in Spanish, is the Spaniards' The Little Christmas. Gift giving is done on this occasion as a tradition, instead of Christmas Eve or Day.

I want my Roscon (and the good luck that it brings)

Another popular tradition during The Three Kings is the eating of sugar-coated Roscon, a delicacy similar to a doughnut, only much larger.

Inside every Roscon is a toy, most likely a little Nino Jesus. Everyone partakes a slice, and the one who gets the toy enjoys good luck and blessings for one whole year.

Hail to Kings Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar

Likewise, I can't wait to catch candies that will be thrown to the crowd by people from the Municipalidad as they pass by Calle Principe de Vergara.

The parade symbolizes the arrival of the Three Kings and bringing of their gifts.

This candy-throwing event is done in many places in Spain during Dia de los Reyes.

My first Christmas in Madrid made me realize that the city vigorously celebrates the Season, much like how we celebrate it back home. I look forward to enjoying the same joyous experience again next year.

Here are some photos of beautiful sights and scenes from Madrid after Christmas. Feliz Navidad!

Colorful lights adorn this building at Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid
Christmas lights in the form of giant snow flakes adorn the facade of El Corte Ingles building at Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Christmas Lights shaped in circle mesmerize passers-by at Calle de la Montera
Yuletide lights mesmerize passers-by at Calle de la Montera
Blue Christmas Tree at Calle de la Montera, in front of Gran Via
Blue Christmas Tree at Calle de la Montera, in front of Gran Via
Beautiful lighting decors of red and blue brighten up the length of Calle de la Montera
Christmas lights of red and blue brighten up the length of Calle de Fuencarral
Gargantuan neon sign display at El Corte Ingles, Nuevos Ministerios
Gargantuan digital sign display at El Corte Ingles, Nuevos Ministerios

Chandelier lighting decors send warmth and illumination throughout wintry Calle de Goya, in Salamanca
Chandelier lighting decors send warmth and illumination throughout wintry Calle de Goya, in Salamanca

Calle Velazquez, Madrid
Calle Velazquez boasts of truly attractive lighting that highlight the festive season, in Distrito Salamanca

Goya, Madrid
Yuletide gives this establishment good reason to spruce up its facade with draping rope lights, located along Calle de Goya
Feliz Navidad sign welcomes pedestrians as they walk through kiosks that line both sides of the passageway beside Nuevos Ministerios Metro Station and going to El Corte Ingles, Plaza Castellana.
Feliz Navidad sign welcomes pedestrians as they walk through a passageway with kiosks on both sides. Beside Nuevos Ministerios Metro Station, fronting Paseo de la Castellana
A mini recreation fun land is set up to accommodate kids wanting to enjoy fun rides. At the back of El Corte Ingles
A mini-recreation and play center is set up in the grounds of El Corte Ingles to accommodate kids wanting to enjoy fun rides
Bluish white Yuletide Lighting decors shine down upon the busy street of Bravo Murillo
Bluish white lighting decors radiate warmth and illumination upon the busy street of Bravo Murillo
Chamartin Mercado, Madrid's most beautiful market (for me, at least) made more beautiful with it bright green Christmas tree and trimmings. Along Calle Colombia
Chamartin Mercado, Madrid's most beautiful market (for me, at least), is made even more charming with its bright green Christmas tree and trimmings, along Calle Colombia
Imposing Christmas tree complements the Paseo de la Castellana fountain near Nuevos Ministerios. What a site to behold!
Imposing Christmas tree complements the spectacular Paseo de la Castellana fountain near Nuevos Ministerios. Such a site to behold!
This scene at Paseo de la Castellano reminds of Champs Elysees during Christmastime
This scene at Paseo de la Castellano reminds me of Paris' Les Champs Elysees during Christmastime

Merry Christmas everyone, from Let's Talk Madrid!

My Meanderings Thru Madrid’s Two Plazas

December 21 in Madrid, Spain. Four days to go before the most awaited day of the year. Where shall I go in this city, almost all expanse of which I am hardly familiar with?

Actually, the group has decided to spend the last few hours before Christmas Eve at Plaza Puerta del Sol’s Museo del Jamon.

Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor, Madrid
Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor, Madrid

We were looking to imitate what the Spaniards do at the Museo – standing with one hand holding jamon bocadillo and the other a glass of wine or beer, dining with friends while having animated conversations and laughs – seriously, but all in good nature, of course.

I agree that the 24th is strictly for merry-making and bonding among buddies; with me not doing any excessive sightseeing or photo-taking that would otherwise weigh down my Yuletide-moded amigos.

Off to Plaza Puerta del Sol

With this plan already set, I decided to proceed with my other plan tonight, which is to go to Puerta del Sol

Arguably Madrid’s most exciting tourist site, the plaza I thought should be toured in solitude. I am ready to lose my way through the plaza’s main streets, and perhaps even the confusing networks of alleys and inner streets.

Crowd gathers around a small, strange-looking vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and trimmings. Callle Mayor, Madrid
Crowd gathers around a small, strange-looking vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and trimmings. Callle Mayor, Madrid

Traveling alone helps me explore to the optimum, what with nary a single human distraction that being in a group often brings about.

On the other hand, touring in a group means different minds ready to oppose your own plans and agenda and push their own. You travel with even just one companion, and your well-laid plan most likely goes all for naught.

I also needed great photos, lots of it that I can post here. And I’m doing it now as I know I won’t be able to on the 24th.

With a bunch in tow, most will be content on dining at the Museo and afterwards go to a nearby cafeteria for a round (two for some) of warm Americano or con leche.

Missing La Violeta

Another reason why I wanted to go to Sol is to see La Violeta, a popular candy shop that sells unique confectioneries.

We just received a box of its lavender sugared candies, and so I thought that it’s a sign for me to write a piece on the establishment, or at least make a mention in one of my posts (done here).

I find it to be really nice in taste. Hence, I just cannot make any sense of others commenting on it as weird. To be frank, I’m happy to have relished La Violeta, it being considered as a well-loved status symbol.

La Violeta Candies. Dubbed as Spain's Old-fashioned Candy. It tasted so nice and sweet, similar to other common confectioneries, which is why I can't understand it also being called one of the world's strangest candies. Calle Canalejas, Madrid
La Violeta Candies. Dubbed as Spain’s Romantic, Old-fashioned Candy. It tastes very nice and sweet, no different to other popular confectioneries. I strongly disagree with others labeling it as “one of the world’s strangest candies.” Calle Canalejas, Madrid

Referring to an online map, I learned that it was located beyond Calle Major, further down Carrera San Jeronimo.

However, I wasn’t one with a sane sense of direction. In other words, I went the opposite way and reached Cathedral Nuestra Senora de Almudena instead.

I will see you next time, La Violeta.

Quaint bakeshop along Calle Major selling Christmas themed cakes and pastries, its window display filled with colorful and beautifully-designed bake treats attracting many onlookers.
I might have missed La Violeta, but was lucky to have chanced upon a quaint bakeshop, also along Calle Major. Its window display is filled with beautifully-designed Christmas-themed baked treats that easily attract passers-by.

The mistake turned out to be a blessing because I found out that the church has a 6PM mass schedule.

I was already late, however, because I got there at 6:15. By this time, the offertory part was more than halfway finished. I attended the mass anyway and promised to be on time next Sunday.

Many evening masses in Madrid begin at 7PM, some as late as 8:30. San Antonio in Murillo starts at 7:30. I guess I’ll be attending at Almudena Cathedral for the next couple of months, now that evenings these days have turned extremely cold.

Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of the City of Madrid, Spain
Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of the City of Madrid

Lo and behold, the tree at Puerta del Sol

Mass finished at exactly 6:47PM, and after taking a photo of the Cathedral, I proceeded back to the Plaza to finally see the Christmas tree. I haven’t seen it lighted before so I expected to see a spectacle.

And a breathtaking spectacle I did witness!

Magnificent Christmas Tree in the midst of Plaza Puerta del Sol
Magnificent Christmas Tree in the midst of Plaza Puerta del Sol.

Radiant in bright yellow-colored lights, the gargantuan tree was a sight that’s unrivaled in all of the plaza. It was devoid of colorful lighting decors or fancy trimmings, but its imposing height and steady golden luminescence was more than enough to captivate anyone.

Street performers are usual fixtures at the plaza. This time, however, the themes of their acts are appropriate to the season, with many dressed up as Santa Claus, elves, Christmas trees, and cheery cartoon characters.

Vendors of lottery tickets, barquillos, bootleg bags, shirts, and CDs, Christmas decors, fireworks also litter the place.

Seller attends to prospective buyers while seemingly on the alert for the police. Notice his hands holding the strings attached to the clothing sheet that will help him carry away his wares in case the police shows up.
Seller attends to prospective buyers while seemingly on the alert for the police. Notice his hands holding the strings attached to the clothing sheet that will help him carry away his wares in case the police shows up.

Speaking of lottery, I don’t know exactly how the sweepstakes work here, so I refrained from buying the Navidad ticket (the draw was December 22). Besides, I can’t afford to pay 20 Euro needed to secure a single ticket.

Albeit, I am already a regular of Euromilliones lottery, the play of which I am more familiar with. It is also cheaper, costing me only 2 euro every Tuesday and Friday.

I then proceeded to Plaza Mayor, and upon entering, was easily awed by numerous Christmas lights that adorn the square. I thought that everything inside was magical and ready to enthrall everyone in time for the Yuletide season.

A major highlight of the place was the glass display showing miniature scenes that serve to narrate the Nativity, or events leading to the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Check out these beautiful scenes from PLaza Mayor. Feliz Navidad!

These multi-colored lighting shaped in boxes greet you as you enter Plaza Mayor. Madrid en Navidad!
Greeting everyone and providing entrancing luminescence are the Plaza’s multicolor-lighted hanging boxes. Madrid en Navidad!

Plaza Mayor kiosks sell Christmas goods of all shapes, sizes, and kinds - decors, dresses, food, and toys
Plaza Mayor kiosks sell Christmas goods of all shapes, sizes, and kinds – decors, dresses, food, and toys.
Everyone, especially kids, were happy with the act of this performer - using a contraption to create gargantuan soap balloon. Children can't wait to burst them to oblivion.
Everyone’s thrilled with the act of this performer – he uses a contraption to create and throw gargantuan soap balloons high up the air. Children can’t wait for these soapy formations to fall so they can burst them to oblivion.
The carousel inside Plaza Mayor makes the Yuletide celebration more festive and fun for the kids.
The carousel inside Plaza Mayor makes the Yuletide celebration more festive and fun for the kids.
Two bunches of balloons escape their sellers, fly, and get entangled with the Christmas lights. Gone to waste!
Two bunches of balloons escape their sellers, fly, and get entangled with the wires of the Christmas lights. Gone to waste!
Madrid en Navidad! In the middle of the plaza was a square-shaped display that features miniature scenes and figurines depicting scenes from the nativity.
In the midst of the plaza is a square-shaped display that features miniature forms and figurines depicting scenes from the nativity.
Oglers intently checking out the impressive miniature display at the Plaza Mayor Square.
Oglers intently watch intricate miniature structures on display at the Plaza Mayor Square.
Impressive miniature stone brick dwellings typical of the time of Christ's birth. Madrid en Navidad, Plaza Mayor
Impressive miniature stone brick dwellings typical of the time of Christ’s birth.
An angel appeared before Mary, announcing that she will be the Mother of the Lord Jesus. Madrid en Navidad, Plaza Mayor
An angel appears before Mary and announces that she will be the Mother of the Lord Jesus.
An angel descended and appeared to astonished sheperd on the cold night when Jesus was born.
An angel descends and appears before astonished shepherds on that cold, holy night when Jesus is born.
These figures, I presume, are the Magi, Three Wise Men, or Three Kings in search of the Child Jesus.
These figures, I presume, are the Magi, Three Wise Men, or Three Kings in search of the Child Jesus.

People occupied the sidewalks for some momentary lull and some quick evening snack before continuing their tour of the plaza.
People occupy the sidewalks for some momentary lull and quick evening snack before continuing their tour of the plaza.


Merry Christmas everyone, from Let’s talk Madrid!

Let’s Talk Madrid, Spain

Having had the chance to stay in Tel Aviv (5 years) and travel to Paris (5 days), I thought of myself as truly lucky.

Now this time, I am in Madrid, Spain. For how long? Nothing’s definite yet.

All I’m sure is that I am one fortunate soul.

Because for one thing, I am a blogger. In me now is this overflowing exhilaration knowing that once again, I can write about another great city.

puerta del sol madrid picture
At Puerta del sol, the heart of Madrid

Indeed, there is no other acceptable way to talk about a place, gush and rave about it, or even spew rants about it (if need be) than to be there – in the flesh!

To write honestly about a place, you must breath its air, soak in its culture, bask in its sun, and mingle with its people, asserting yourself as like one of them at some point (take it as a challenge).

estadio santiago bernabeu picture photo
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Europe’s third largest stadium

You do so, and everything becomes spontaneous, easy, and frank. You don’t become exact in your words, sounding like that in a wiki – but more like insightful, discerning, or even idiotic.

Needless to say, you’re licensed to articulate your emotions in any way you want if you see things first-hand.

And put simply, if you’re within, around, and a witness to your subject, you churn beautiful and evergreen pieces about it.

Lucky me, I am here in Madrid. For real.


Hence, letstalkmadrid.com is born.

Plaza Mayor Madrid
Feast of Nuesra Senora de Almudena Mass, at Plaza Mayor
Your caballero is ready and raring to travel around this beautiful Spanish capital. I dare to either conquer (read: blend in), or yield (read: be captivated by all its splendor).

To wander aimlessly along Madrid streets and inner streets is more to my liking; excited to be surprised by things, places, and sights that await to be discovered.

Here I come Gran Via, Puerta del Sol, Prosperidad (the Distrito where I live), Chamartin, Rastro (and its limitless antiquities), and Plaza Mayor, among so many others.

Flea marktet shop at El Rastro de Madrid
Flea marktet shop at El Rastro de Madrid

These blog-worthy places are but a drop in this city’s deep bucket of beautiful sites and attractions.

My humble website will feature some of Madrid’s parks (such as Parque de Berlin, across Avenida Ramon y Cajal) and churches (like Parroquia de San Antonio de Cuatro Caminos, along Calle Bravo Murillo), where I go to spend my times of idling and worship, respectively.

Statue of Pope John Paul II at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, Calle de Bailen, Madrid
Statue of Pope John Paul II at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, Calle de Bailen, Madrid

Also worth noting are their cafes, cafeterias, cantinas, coffee shops, coffee bookshops – which ever way they are called. Spaniards dearly love their coffee, explaining why these establishments are in the thousands, scattered around the city.

Audrey Cafeteria, Calle de Bravo Murillo Madrid
Audrey Cafeteria, Calle de Bravo Murillo, Madrid

Do I have to mention that Spanish food will be prominently featured here? No Madrid blog is complete without discussing tapas and paellas, cochinillos and pollos asados, and turones and jamones. Occasional reviews of popular Madrid restaurants are in the offing as well.

My first taste of Paella at Museo de Jamon
My first taste of Paella at Museo de Jamon

Por favor, join me in my journey as I write about my day-to-day experiences, adventures, travels, and travails as a Madrileno nuevo – a self-appointed one at that.

Undoubtedly, Madrid is a travel blogger’s haven; and so I can’t thank the Universe enough for being here.

Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue
Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue, Plaza Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Most importantly, it’s a privilege to be in Spain knowing that not everyone has the means to travel.

It is hard enough to gather resources needed to tour one’s own country. It’s even more difficult to travel to another country in a faraway continent.

Palacio de las Cortes, Carrera de San Jeronimo
Palacio de las Cortes, Carrera de San Jeronimo

I know that countless individuals ache for a chance to see Madrid. Sadly, most can only dream about it.

In my case, I am living my own.

For this, muchas gracias.

Do keep me company as I learn to live in this city; experiencing bliss and sadness, and everything in between. I’ll take it a day at a time while embracing Madrid tightly, and all that it has to offer.

Palacio Real picture photo
Palacio Real

Let’s talk Madrid.

Hasta pronto!