I was never a huge fan of Spain, I had visited a few times, my eldest daughter actually began her nine month journey from nothing to human there, but there wasn’t anything really that attracted me to it.
Four years ago I started working for a Spanish company and started to visit more often, Madrid mainly but also several smaller cities mainly in Andalucia, and I have grown quite fond of it. I really enjoy the easy way of life in the south, warm weather, cheap beer and great tapas but the major cities, Barcelona and Madrid are quite different.
I have got to know my way around Madrid pretty well, but whenever I´m there, I always head for my favourite area of the city, or “Barrio” as its called. Las Letras is a hip and trendy part of the city (those who know me clearly appreciate that isn’t why I like it) with myriad bars and restaurants, but just with a great feel to the place.
Back in the day of “El Siglo Oro” (The Golden Century, or The Golden Age) of Spanish literature, almost all of the writers, poets and playwrights lived here. Today as you walk through the streets, there are signs on walls telling you who lived in the building and
paragraphs of their works written on the floor. I dont confess to be an expert of the Spanish writers of the latter half of the 16th and 17th century but its true that every time I go I learn a little more.
As washbasins go, I dont think I’ve ever seen a better one in a bar. Quite brilliant.
There are big open squares for outdoor drinking, something us Brits dont really have. But the ambience of the place is fantastic. Plaza St Ana houses at its far end one of the most exclusive hotels in the city, but opposite it is the Theatre of Spain.
As befits its history, there are also bookshops. Places I can lose myself for ever, even if my Spanish is only marginally better than my Urdu currently. And I speak no Urdu.
There are random people dressed up in strange clothes who sing and dance around the streets.
Theatres (those legs really are enormous)
And strange pets.
Las Letras is home to an eclectic mix of buildings, people, styles, bars and restaurants. From the oldest tavern in Madrid, where I inadvertantly knocked over a container full of toothpicks, to the uber modern throbbing music bars where you cant hear the person shouting in your ear.
I love it. I truly love it. Or perhaps I should say “me encanto esta barrio.”