My Madrid, for you…

To be honest, Madrid isn’t a city that mesmerized me at first, wasn’t love at first sight, but it’s appeal has grown a lot since then.  All my trips were nice, of course, but I didn’t find it charming as others. Nonetheless, in my last couple of visits  I found the vibrant and energetic city that people are so fond of. I discovered the kindness of spaniards, the food, and of course the night life.

With all that said, I want to leave in writing -sort of my official apologies – a few suggestions of places to visit, hoping you might find them interesting and enjoyable as I did.

 

  1. Matadero Madrid: In Aranzuela,  what used to be a slaughter house is now a center for contemporary art, with theaters, cinemas, coffee shops and farm-to-table restaurants.
  2. Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales:  Cloistered nuns still live and walk around barefoot here. Other than being a oasis of peace in the middle of Madrid, it’s a place to see beautiful art by Titian, Hans de Beken and others.
  3. Argensola Street: Located in the Salamanca Neighbourhood, it’s the place to go shopping for local products and independent designer stores.
  4. El Ganso: Also at the Salamanca Neighborhood ( Serrano 47) it’s my favorite store in that area particularly to shop for clothes and shoes.
  5. Federica and Co: It’s a tiny open mall hidden at Hermosilla 26. There you will find a great selection of antique china, furniture and delicate knits.
  6. Barrio de las Letras: The neighborhood where Cervantes and Lope de Vega lived, in it’s narrow streets you will find today art galleries and vintage shops.
  7. El Corte Ingles: The most famous department store in Spain and probably a mandatory stop for everyone. My recommendation is to go to the one located in Plaza del Callao, the fourth floor is a foodies heaven, besides the perfect place to buy edible presents and souveniers.
  8. La Portegna: For travelers and wanderlusts like me, this is a beautiful store that specializes in luggage and briefcases all handmade in Andalucia.

 

Food and drinks are highly appreciated in Madrid’s culture.  It’s been hard to make a list of the good restaurants because all of them are excelent. So instead here is a list of the more memorable ones for me:

 

  1. Ten con Ten: My favorite in Madrid and perhaps in the world. Everything on the menu is extraordinary.  My recommendations are the Broiled Octopus (Pulpo Pedreiro), the Potatoes with shrimps and the Risotto with Truffles. The ambiance reflects the essence of Madrid’s nightlife, the bar, the drinks and the DJ are the perfect combination for a great night out. restaurantetenconten.com

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  1. Paraguas: The perfect place to enjoy a long meal, with great wine. The specialty is seafood but there are delicious dishes for meat lovers too, like the burger with foie. My choice is the Black Cod with Broiled Apple’s Sauce. elparaguas.com

 

  1. Arzabal: Is the place where chefs eat when they want authentic spanish food perfectly prepared. Best bets are the Ham Croquettes and the Truffled Eggs.  arzabal.com

 

 

  1. Arriba:  Chef Ramon Freixa’s new restaurant. It occupies and old  cinema that has been redecorated in a clubby style. Very popular with the younger crowd.  restaurantearriba.com

 

 

  1. Bosco de Lobos: Located in Barrio La Chueca, by chefs Tomas Tarruella and Perico Cortés, the restaurant is beautifully decorated with floor to ceeling windows and light wood tables. The menú offers a wide selection of dishes. ecompaniadelobos.com

 

 

  1. Taberna La Carmencita: The original ceramic tiles are still part of the deccor – it was a tabern during the 19th century.  By the acclaimed chef Carlos Zamora who is famous for restaurants like Deluz and El Machi, serves traditional dishes with a twist and prepared with organic ingredients. tabernalacarmencita.es

As it happens with the beloved, Madrid was mine, is mine…I am taking it with me, and also giving it to you…

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24 hrs in Soho

Because NYC is so big and offers so many options, I will continue writing guides by Neighborhood. This time is about SOHO.

If you like yoga, I suggest you start the day taking a class at Yoga Works  – 459 Broadway. You can pay the class or benefit from their free trial too. They have showers there so you can leave feeling fresh and energyzed.

For breakfast there are many options around.  If you feel like brunching I suggest you go to Balthazar or Delicatessen. But if you just want to grab a bite on the go, the best options are Dean and Delucca that has great bakery and coffee. Another option are the different food trucks parked around, they offer everything from empanadas to cupcakes. Or head to Uniqlo were you can start your shopping while sipping on your cappuccino –they have a Starbucks in the store for your convenience.

For me Soho is meant to be walked at a calm pace because every single block is filled with surprises. But just as a guide I am listing here some of my favorite shops:

For high end designer:

  • Prada: The store has being recently redecorated and is beautiful.
  • Saint Laurent: Recently opened. Worth checking it out.
  • Kirna e Zabbette: My favorite store in Soho. Mix of designers, high end and independent. Very well curated stuff.

For Vintage:

What goes around comes around: Has the best variety under one roof and everything is certified authentic.

For cool fashion:

Superga: The new kid on the block, very cool ambiance.

Converse: They offer personalization available for your sneakers.

For your house and lifestyle:

– Muji: Big store here, everything they offer for your house or travels is convenient and unique.

–Moma Design Store: Another favorite of mine, I can spend hours here.

– Sur La Table: Great store for foodies and chefs.

For Funky things:

–Plyones: Lots of variety for kids an adults. Fun store to visit.

For books:

–Mc. Nally: One of my favorite bookstores in USA. Even though is not big,  has a great variety of books and magazines and some documentaries and films too. They also offer the service of printing books, if the one you are looking for is not available.

After all this shopping you can head to lunch to Mercer Kitchen or Delicatessen. They both offer comfort delicious food.

Strolling around you can head to the Team Gallery, that keeps an outstanding exposition of a variety of contemporary artists.

Afterwards I suggest to go try to Marie Belle Chocolaterie, the place is beautifully decorated, the owner has only two in the world – the other one is in Kyoto. This is the perfect place to get presents for your friends and family back home. Not only the quality of the chocolate is superb but the packaging is beautiful.

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At night you can have dinner at the Dutch, by Andrew Carmellini– lately my favorite restaurant in Soho- the menu is very well presented, the little oysters sliders are my choice always. The mushroom soup and the duck are hard to miss. The pies are memorable.

If you are more in the mood for a bar I recommend Pegu Club, has a wide menu by an expert mixologist and the music is perfect for a relaxed evening.

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Secret Code: “Asnieres”

Behind any wall, any corner, any street is Asnieres. Not exactly, Asnieres is the name of the town. But for the people that conform Louis Vuitton the name of the house is “ Asnieres”, they talk about it like when spys do in a secret code.

I was oblivious to the code. When they called us to say we were invited, the complicity in Pedro’s voice was notorious, the announcement deserved all the enthusiasm that his voice reflected but even though I told him we were super grateful, I was unaware of where or what was this invitation for. – They invited us to Asnieres!– told my husband with a question mark on my forehead. I guessed it was a very special place, because every time they invite us to something is magnificent.

We arrived. The gates opened to the sight of the car. The garden. A secret garden, like others around Paris, but specially charming. We stepped out of the car. With doubtful determination walked to the front door and went inside. No one there. The house, with an english/belle-epoque decor kept intact. Art Nouveau large windows. Ceramic fire place. Books. Trunks. Flowers. A piano. Pictures of several members of the Vuitton family. Aesthetically looked like it could belong to a character from a Flaubert novel.

A distinguished blonde lady made an appearance in the living room. –I am Marguerite– she introduced her self. – Let’s speak in spanish. It’s been a while since I practice mine.–  They brought us some tea. We talked about everything.

She told us the story of a 13 year old boy, who resolved to leave his hometown in the french mountains and travel to Paris, walking. It took him 2 years to get there. His name was Louis. That same boy, many years latter, in 1859 bought this land to build a factory for the trunks and bags , that the Parisian society had come to love and value so much. The fame was well deserved, they were the best. Mr. Vuitton had develop a way to make them water proof, stackable, and lined with such great materials that lasted forever. In 1870 he built his house in that same land, and 5 generations of his family lived in the same place where I was now enjoying my cup of tea. That is the kind of situation that makes my heart skip a beat, it is like flipping around impermanence, being able to avoid the finiteness quality of life, like playing a relay race and cheat on death. It feels like saying: “ Despite your very intentions, we are still here drinking some tea.”

 

She took us around the property. Until today the trunk and bags factory functions there. They particularly manufacture all there “petite malle” bags and special orders here. We got to meet every single person that worked there. Real artists, with a level of skill, and dedication to every detail, that I have never seen before. The exact opposite of mass production. Every one of them, treats each piece as a unique masterpiece. It also impressed me how “zen” the work enviroment felt. Clean and quiet.

On our way out we visited the recently inaugurated interactive museum, I suggested them to open it to the public soon. Its filled with history and meaning.

She said goodbye showering us with presents, but we left specially flooded with the energy of the spirit of an extraordinary boy, that more than 150 years ago decided to go to Paris by foot.

 

 

TIPS FOR VINTAGE SHOPPING

IMG_1439One of my favorite activities to do when traveling is going to markets, antiques, fleas, food and beverages, all sorts of them. Buying vintage things always gets me excited, I enjoy the whole process. First I research the place, locate it, start the hunt ( to be honest bargaining I dont enjoy much), find a hidden treasure, something forgotten, ask many questions about origin and history, take it with me while imagining it’s whole story, where it’s been, who it belonged to. I also think about where will it go after me. So my closet and house are decorated with all the halves stories  I was told and made up plus the mistery they enclosure, which makes me love them even more.

Vintage vs Antique: The main distinction between those terms is time. In order to be considered vintage the piece must be at least 20 years old. To be considered antique it must be a 100 years old. In fashion, the majority of the things offered are vintage or simply second hand. Another term that is important to understand is “retro”, this things are manufactured in the present but with a nostalgic feeling or style to them.

Advantages of shopping Vintage:

 

  1. It is a form of sustainable living, complying with the 3 R’s Reduce, Reuse and Recicle ( the tree hugger in me talking here)
  2. It’s unique. At times where everything is produced in large quantities, you get something special, different and with history.
  3. Great quality. Not only many things in the past where handmade and with better quality than now, but a vintage ítem has already passed the test of time.
  4. Support the independent business and entreprenours. Also, many times second hand stores benefit different charities and NGOs.
  5. Save money. Usually vintage items are priced 20% or less than brand new.

 

If you are shopping for small things, with low prices I think the best approach is to go with what your heart desires. Let your self go and choose the things that you like the most. But if you re going to make an investment in a special ítem, is better to be well informed, to avoid counterfeit objects.

 

My advice as follows:

– Know the brand you are buying vintage. I try to buy only brands that I am very familiar with.

-Buy from a well know  and stablished seller. This places usually have experts to detect counterfeit objects. In my post “Vintage Shopping Address Book”  you will find a list.

-Once you buy the ítem, bring it to the brand store and ask them to inspect it, most of them will. Also if your item is in less than perfect condition, many of them will give it mantainance for a small charge.

-Some brands have a security code. In my post “Vintage Shopping Address Book” you will also find this important information.

Among my favorite places to shop for vintage things are Saint Ouen Market in Paris and Alfies Antique Market in London. Make sure you check their maps before going, because they are huge.

In Japan, stores have the best variety of items in great condition. I love Amore Tokyo and Rag Tag.

When in Madrid, my usual place is Corachan y Delgado, is a wonderful store owned by Pedro Almodovar movies’s stylist.

You can check the complete list in the address book that I posted, and if you know a place worth sharing, please write me to include it.

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