Scene-setter: While we’re not huge fans of Hemingway the man, bro can write. The Sun Also Rises mainly takes place in Pamplona, but towards the end Jake decamps to Madrid to fetch Brett, who has called things off with her matador boyfriend, fifteen years her junior (get it, Brett). As we know, the only remedy for a broken heart is a martini or twelve and suckling pig. Jake and Brett find theirs at the Palace Hotel and Botín, respectively. We didn’t make it to Botín, which apparently still serves up excellent lechon, but we did stop in at Casa Revuelta just around the corner for some beautiful bacalao. Our recommendation is that you make a night of it and hit both.
Pound-the-table recommendation: Make friends with a Madrileño. We’ve been overwhelmed on our trip by the kindness and hospitality shown to us by friends and friends-of-friends around the world, but the folks in Madrid really go above and beyond. From Carola, who went toe-to-toe with Spanish postal bureaucracy on our behalf, to Saul and Almudena, who took us out for croquettas (and vermouth and wine and gin tonics and patxaran…), to our Airbnb hostess, who treated us to drinks despite our protestations because “you’re in my city,” the people in Madrid win our vote for most hospitable in the world.
Back-pocket fact: Almudena, of the above-mentioned weeknight bender, hails from Galicia. It’s been on our To Visit list for a while, but its spot near the top was cemented when we learned about Queimada, a drink that combines two of our favorite things—mulled spirits and witchcraft. To make Queimada, you combine a traditional aguardiente-like booze with sugar and various spices, preferably in a hollowed-out pumpkin. Then set it aflame while chanting the following:
Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.
Demons, goblins and devils,
spirits of the misty vales.
Crows, salamanders and witches,
charms of the folk healer(ess).
Rotten pierced canes,
home of worms and vermin.
Wisps of the Holy Company,
evil eye, black witchcraft,
scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.
Howl of the dog, omen of death,
maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.
Sinful tongue of the bad woman
married to an old man.
Satan and Beelzebub’s Inferno,
fire of the burning corpses,
mutilated bodies of the indecent ones,
farts of the asses of doom,
bellow of the enraged sea.
Useless belly of the unmarried woman,
speech of the cats in heat,
dirty turf of the wicked born goat.
With this bellows I will pump
the flames of this fire
which looks like that from Hell,
and witches will flee,
straddling their brooms,
going to bathe in the beach
of the thick sands.
Hear! Hear the roars
of those that cannot
stop burning in the firewater,
becoming so purified.
And when this beverage
goes down our throats,
we will get free of the evil
of our soul and of any charm.
Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,
to you I make this call:
if it’s true that you have more power
here and now, make the spirits
of the friends who are outside,
take part with us in this Queimada.
Bonus idiom! If you’re excited about what your day of touristing through Madrid might hold, make like a Spaniard and say, “Hoy va a ser la leche,” which translates to “Today is going to be the milk.”