After my epic trip to Cuba and Mexico, my next adventure was a low-key mini break to Madrid. I have been to beautiful Barcelona and spent time in Andalucia, which I love, but I heard that Madrid is perfect for a short break with great weather, good food and cheap flights. I was sold. I am keen to do as many mini breaks within the EU as possible, before Brexit, in case the ease of travel and no visa restrictions change forever, something I think my generation has sadly taken for granted. But this is not a politics blog, so I will try not to rant! We managed to get flights direct from London to Madrid with Ryanair (from Stanstead) for £60 return (hand luggage only), cheaper than most train fares within the UK! The only thing to be warned about is that even if you pay for a hand luggage only flight, if you end up at the back of the boarding queue, Ryanair will make you put your luggage in the hold as there is not always enough room in the overhead lockers. So if you are in a rush and don’t want to hang around the baggage carousel at your destination, bear this in mind.
One of the first things we noticed in the taxi drive from the airport to the city centre was how grand Madrid felt, with all the hallmarks of a European capital city i.e. grand buildings and lots of wide boulevards. We had chosen to stay in the city centre, as I always feel that when on a short break somewhere, staying within walking distance of the main sights means you can maximise how much you can squeeze in to a mini break! We choose to stay in Hotel Catalonia Las Cortes in Las Letras, and it was the perfect location, a 10 minute walk to El Prado museum with lots of beautiful squares and cobbled streets on our doorstep. I have to give a shout out to the hotel itself with spacious, clean rooms and really warm and friendly staff who were happy to help with recommendations and patiently put up with my attempts to speak Spanish. They also had free snacks in the lobby area every day for tourists like us who were not used to the late eating hours of the Spanish people, just to keep us going throughout the day! Continue reading →
One of my favourite things to do in London on a Saturday, weather permitting, is to walk along the Regent’s Canal (which I am lucky enough to have on my doorstep) to Broadway Market. London is a truly International city which means you can find foods from pretty much anywhere in the world ranging from Afghanistan to Ethiopia or Venezuela. After three months away, I was suitably impressed at how much has changed along the canal itself en route to the market with lots of new little cafes and much to my delight, Latin flavours such as Arepa & Co. offering homemade Venezuelan fare and Riberia, with a broader range of South American flavours. Continue reading →
My return to Oaxaca following the great escape was spent mainly eating, drinking coffee, hot chocolate and mezcal and saying the final goodbyes to all the new friends I had made over the last three weeks. This time, I managed to hold it together, mostly! If any carnivore reading this makes it to Oaxaca, I recommend going to the 20 de Noviembre market, which is known for its Carnes Asadas stalls where you can buy the freshest meat and other ingredients and have it all cooked there and then for you – chorizos, beef, tortillas, avocados and grilled tomatoes. It is simple, fresh and utterly delicious and so good we had this twice in two days – definitely my best meal in the month I have been away. Continue reading →
Aside from a return home to Mexico and learning Español, the other thing on my list of “must do” activities for my sabbatical was to try a cookery class in order to learn the real art of Mexican cuisine, because Mexican gastronomy in my opinion is exactly that, an art. Forget the “Tex-Mex” versions we have all got used to (although I have to admit that I am partial to a good burrito); as I mentioned in my previous blog post, what you will see, smell and taste in Mexico will turn your ideas about Mexican food upside down.
Oaxaca in particular is an amazing destination for any foodie. It is the capital of mole, a traditional Mexican thick stew made with lots of different chillies and sometimes chocolate. There are different varieties with my favourite being Mole Negro (black mole). The problem is that learning how to make something like this is not only complex and time consuming but we simply don’t have all the ingredients in London!