One of our organised tours in Madrid was a walking tapas tour which we were muy excited about. Our guide, a lovely French/Irish chap living in Madrid who looked a little like Bradley Cooper in the right light walked us around a few different areas of the city to show us different types of tapas. I was clearly very engrossed in what he was saying or the food was so good because I didn’t take any photos!
Part of the tour took us to the main square – the Plaza Mayor, which needs a tiny bit of interesting history…
Originally, Toledo was the capital of Spain, and even before that it was a Moorish city. Madrid was just a small military outpost that the Moors set up to protect Toledo from the Christians.
Felipe II decided to move the capital to Madrid in 1561 because he thought that the church and nobility had too much of a stronghold in Toledo, and he wanted more control. Maybe that’s where the saying “Holy Toledo!” came from?
Just on the outside of the city wall there was a market where people would sell their goods and because the weren’t technically in the city, they didn’t have to pay any taxes, so King Filipe II decided to build the 3 other walls to make the Plaza Mayor a square and thus, they were now in the city and had to cough up the dough.
In the centre of the Plaza Mayor there is a statue of Filipe III atop his horse, commissioned in the 1600s. In April 1931, during the Second Republic, the statue was damaged at the hands of some antimonarchists when they popped an explosive into the horses mouth. It was blown apart, however the most curious part came next… the explosion scattered hundreds of little bones around the square and people freaked out thinking it was possibly the spirit of Filipe III, but on closer inspection they found that the bones were from little birds who had, over the centuries, sought shelter in the horse’s mouth (and belly, which was hollow), but once they flew in, they couldn’t get back out and so the inside of the horse became a cemetery of little birds.
When they repaired the statue, they made the horse’s mouth closed so that this tragedy would never be repeated.
Anyway, back to the tapas!
We went to quite a few places that sold traditional tapas dishes. For example there was one place that sold only bacalao (cod). Two men behind a bar and one bloke in the kitchen deep frying the fish and passing out tray after tray, then the men behind the bar would put two pieces on a plate and doll them out to customers with a tall thimble of wine. People stand at the bar, eat their fish, down the wine, have a chat with their mates and then move on. This place has been here since time began…
Below is a tapas bar called “Albertos” and it was this busy the whole time we were there. The tables are tiny and not frequently empty. It’s a first in first served basis at the front part of the bar and a sit down restaurant at the back where you order full meals, but out the front is all about the tapas. If you don’t have space at the bar it can be difficult to eat and drink and hold your bag at the same time all the while you’re having to move for people trying to get through and waiters carrying plates. I have to say it wasn’t terribly relaxing, but it had the best vibe out of all the places we visited. Me Jenny and I are planning to go back tomorrow night, perhaps a little earlier before the Spanish people get hungry.