Sunday, June 10, 2012

el Rastro and Tirso de Molina

a street market

For those who are not familiar with Madrid's weekend traditions, on Sunday mornings there is a huge flea market in Madrid called El Rastro. By American standards, it's a regular street fair with vendors selling tons and tons of junk, except that there's no food. 

Situated in the La Latina area, it is a short 15-minute walk from my apartment and a 5-minute walk from Sol. Getting there at 9am means you are one of the first at the stands, haggling with the vendors and skimming shoulders with the locals. After my long night last night I didn't make it out there until about 11am, where I was hit with walls of tourists and locals alike, all looking for a deal. 

But part of the local charm is definitely the weirdness of the stuff you can find. Most people say that 95% of the market is junk, but 5% is a real treasure. I don't know about you, but something like this can be treasure for some people (not for me, but hey....)
I much prefer 5 euro shoes that are small, compact, and breathable. I wanted to find a pair of Toms like everyone here in Madrid wears, but I found this knock-off brand instead. The first surprise was that in Europe they use European shoe sizes (duh) so I had to awkwardly ask the old guy selling the shoes whether it was OK for me to try on the various sizes he had. Apparently I am a 38 or 39 in European sizes. Also, my buying of the shoes is promoting the local economy, since they were made in Spain. The goal is to use these shoes as my breathable closed-toed shoes while I'm in Madrid and throw them out at the end of summer. After all, 5 euros goes a long way!
Alas, the shoes were my only purchase at El Rastro. After walking by two stands with really cheap knives, a bunch of souvenir stands with prices that I now understand to be cheaper-than-usual, I stared, gawked, poked, and contemplated, but decided that I didn't need any more junk.  

menu del día and a bottle of wine?

I met up with Cristina after El Rastro and we went to eat in the Plaza de Tirso de Molina
a bit south of El Rastro. At the corner of Calle del Mesón de Paredes, there is a restaurant that for 13 euros each gave us a first course of some type of yummy salad (I had a soup, I think it was gazpacho, and Cristina had a bean salad), a second course of some kind of meat, desert, and wine/beer/water. 

the wine story

An interesting anecdote about the wine: I ask for a glass of wine and Cristina asks for a glass of water. When the waiter brings over the wine he brings two glasses and an entire unopened bottle. When I confirmed that I only wanted a glass, he smiled, called me and Cristina "angeles del cielo" and said that we should just pour however much we wanted from the bottle. We weren't sure that this kind of wine was included in the price of the menu del día, but we were going to wait and see. 


Fast forward to the end of the meal. 


The bill comes and in fact we see that we were not charged for an entire bottle of wine... it seems to have been included in the menu del día prices. Now, given the fact that this was lunch and we weren't going to drink an entire bottle of wine, we had more than half of the bottle left. And we had already paid for it. It had a cork it in. Now the question becomes whether it is appropriate for us to take the entire bottle of wine with us, given that we already paid for it. I had a backpack and Cristina had a shoulder bag. We could have easily hidden this bottle no problems. Because we were already debating this for 5 minutes and shiftily looking around, it would have been super weird to take the bottle at that point, so we got up and left, leaving the bottle. 


As soon as we were 10 feet away we both say "we should have taken that darn bottle." Now we know for next time.