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3/üç from Istanbul

Scene-setter: Ask Blake to recite any scene from Good Will Hunting or A League of Their Own and she’s got you covered, but there are some serious gaps in her cinematic education. Take, for example, that she had never seen a Bond film before 2014. How they let her graduate from the 90’s without seeing GoldenEye is baffling to MacKenzie. After Skyfall sucked her in, we moved on to the classics, starting with From Russia With Love, the 1963 James Bond romp that finds Sean Connery in Istanbul, navigating cisterns and collecting countless STIs.

Pound-the-table recommendation: Sometimes the biggest tourist attractions are the biggest mehs. The Statue of Liberty is way smaller than you imagine, and Blake, a Plymouth native, will be the first to tell you that you can skip the rock. But for all the eating and strolling and coffeeing that we do, we also see sights like real Lonely Planet-clutching tourists. I mean, you aren’t about to go to London and not visit Buckingham Palace (JK, we only drank beer and sang karaoke and got haircuts and tattoos in London). But in Istanbul, we did visit the Hagia Sophia, and it exceeded our already high expectations. It’s flat-out mind-blowing in its size, construction, and beauty. Don’t miss it.

Back-pocket fact: There are a couple of stunning mosaics in Hagia Sophia, but we’re partial to this one featuring Jesus, HBIC Zoe, and her who-cares third husband Constantine IX. Zoe, although she ruled as co-empress of the Byzantine Empire with her sister Theodora, apparently took little interest in governing, preferring instead to spend her time concocting beauty potions and boning down with courtiers. She first married when she was 50 and ran through three husbands in quick succession; the first two died under “mysterious circumstances.” But seriously about the beauty potions—she apparently stayed wrinkle-free until her 60’s.

She looks pretty flawless, but it was probably retouched.

MACKS Approved: Madrid, Spain

Click on through for our Google map.

1. Bodega La Ardosa: Tapas for days at this place, which has been serving the Malasaña neighborhood since 1892. We recommend the house vermouth, the cured beef, and their tortilla española, which is legitimately made by the owner’s wizened mother and is the best we’ve ever had. We began an evening of eating and drinking with a couple Madrileños here, and there seems no better spot.

2. Frutal Zumeria: What with all the jamon you will no doubt be consuming, it’s essential to know where to get a juice. Several locations.

3. La Venencia: The sherry bar (with snacks!) of your Spanish sueños. If not for a dinner reservation, we would almost certainly have been there all night, sipping sherries dry and sweet, eating our weight in jamon, olives, and cheese. There’s also a resident cat who doesn’t give a crap about you, and the proprietor will reprimand you sternly should you try to take photos.

A single covert photo

4. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía: Guernica happens here.

5. Restaurante Sacha: The realest eating we did in Madrid. We cannot recommend this place, with its balance of old school charm and of-the-moment cooking, highly enough. If you are so inclined, absolutely give the kitchen the reins and eat whatever they bring—just hope that includes the dish where you pull the head off a whole prawn and mix the goopy insides into a sauce using a pestle. And be sure to pay your respects to Sacha before you leave; he’ll be the one who looks like the Spanish lovechild of Mario Batali and Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

This is not a plate. It's a covered pot of gazpacho waiting for you to tip the garnish into the soup.

This is not a plate. It’s a covered pot of gazpacho waiting for you to tip the garnish into the soup.

6. 1862 Dry Bar: The bar itself is trying a little too hard; the gin tonics are trying just the right amount.

7. Casa Revuelta: Tiny beer (can beer in tiny glasses be an option everywhere, please?), peanuts, thick-cut bacon, and bacalao that opened our eyes to the possibilities of bacalao. Every future visit to Madrid will include Revuelta.

8. Do Concept Store: This is the spot if you happen to be in the market for things that would be in Kinfolk Magazine—or for an actual Kinfolk Magazine.

9. Cantaro Blanco: A dreamy little lecheria in Malasaña that applies the frozen yogurt model to non-frozen yogurt. Toppings include Nutella, jams, and all manners of crunchy things. Muy important seguir siendo regular en Madrid, amigos.

10. Mercado de San Miguel: This place is packed with tourists because it’s right off Plaza Mayor, but it’s still absolutely worth a visit if you’re someone who eats food. Reminiscent of Downtown LA’s Grand Central Marketplace, this beautiful building is chockablock with highbrow and lowbrow eats. Nothing you’ll have here will be *the best* iteration of that thing, but you’re paying for variety and convenience and a pleasant venue for daydrinking.

11. Cervecería Cervantes: Seemingly a Madrid institution slinging pulpo and prawns at their Spanishy best.

12. Kikekeller Bar: A furniture company discovered that their showroom came with a liquor license, and now Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights you can drink your gin tonic amidst pieces that were plausibly designed by Magic Mike. You’ll see Madrid’s cool kids on first dates mingling with travel blog-reading tourists like yourself.

13. Museo Nacional del Prado: For all the crowds, art, and LOLs. One of the best in the world.

14. Casa Julio: CROQUETTAS. Hit this spot before La Ardosa. And maybe after La Ardosa.

15. Parque del Retiro: Grab some helado and a shorty and lose a day in this park.

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All Around The World

While on Easter Island, we drove our rented ATV up the steep slopes of Rano Kau, a volcano near the main town of Hanga Roa. We came around a bend and eyed a dude ahead of us, running at a quick clip. Blake pulled up beside him. “Sir, are you okay? Is someone chasing you? Are you in distress?” He looked confused, and only at that point did we realize he was running by choice—jogging, if you will. It takes all kinds. We, meanwhile, strictly limited our running to once a location in order to bring you our trip in roughly 90 seconds:

Prado LOLs

Peter Paul Rubens, “Saint James the Elder” and “Saint Andrew”

St_James st_andrew

Basically the Mast Brothers.

Francisco de Goya, “Half-Submerged Dog”


This dog, whom we love.

Francisco de Goya, “The Family of Carlos IV”


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See you in my nightmares forever! And speaking of rough looking royalty…

Hyacinthe Rigaud, “Louis XIV, King of France”


Gimme those booties though.

Francisco de Goya, “Queen María Luisa in a Dress with Bustle”


Diego Velázquez, “Felipe IV”


Diego Velázquez, “Mariana of Austria, Queen of Spain”


Striking (and unfortunate) resemblance between Mariana and her uncle, Felipe IV, pictured directly above, right? Did we say uncle? We meant husband. Oh, but ALSO STILL HER UNCLE.

Peter Paul Rubens, “Saturn Devouring his Son” and Francisco de Goya, “Saturn Devouring his Son”

saturn_rubens saturn_goya

Exactly two more depictions of Saturn devouring his son than we were interested in seeing.


3/tres from Madrid

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.

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MacKenzie y Carola: amigas!

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

than people,

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.”

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Let’s Nerd Out Over Pre-Columbian Artifacts (Masturbation Sculptures Within!)

The Larco Museum is a fantastic place to spend a few hours if you’re the type who enjoys ABC Carpet & Home and the History Channel in equal measure. The museum offers visitors ice water subtly flavored with orange AND the grounds are beautiful—a lovely oasis in the middle of Lima—so what more could you want from an afternoon really?

Below, some things we saw.

…like this guy, crafted by the Moche people, who also made these water vessels/kettlebells, #isymfs.

Apologies for the crappy image quality, but for all our fellow textile nerds, this scrap of fabric, woven by a Chincha artisan sometime between 1300 and 1500 AD, holds the world record for threads per linear inch, clocking in at 398.

This series of strings and knots is a khipu, used by the Incas for various forms of record keeping such as tax payments. The position of the knots and lengths of the strings represent numerical values, sort of like a fiber-based abacus.

There are also some spectacular examples of jewelry, such as this ensemble from the Chimu people. This ceremonial attire would presumably only be worn on special occasions, such as your interment or the sacrifice of your warrior son to the gods.

As we touched on in our post about the Inca family tree, there are some complex and ultimately effed up artistic depictions of colonial apologism on display at the museum. This canvas depicts a conquistador-as-angel figure. The Inca, upon seeing the pale-skinned invaders attired in silver armor and hearing the “thunder clap” of their muskets, were duped into believing the conquistadors were their own gods, descended from the heavens. Religion: totally worth it!

Perhaps the coolest part of the Larco Museum is the pottery storerooms, which are open to the public. Only a fraction of the Larco’s holdings are on display in the museum proper, but you’re free to wander the stacks.

Here’s the vampire demon section:

The big tourist draw at the Larco Museum is the erotic pottery gallery, which is housed in its own building so the folks from cruise ships can bypass all the artifacts that don’t depict doing it. This piece, from the Moche people, is described as “Dead man and woman embracing, while beating and stoning another dead man in front of them.”

Dead people engaged in various non-procreative sexual acts are a big theme. Here are some skeletons masturbating while their also dead friend serenades them on the pan pipes, presumably with some instrumental Maxwell.

Childbirth! She looks pretty blissed out, probably because she opted for a home birth. Traditional cultures didn’t even *need* hospitals, you know?


MACKS Approved: Lima, Peru

Lima! No one told us! We knew, of course, that it was a culinary capital in a Peruvian-food-is-the-new-New-Nordic-cuisine kind of way. But we’d also heard that the city itself was unwalkable, unlovable, unremarkable, a forgettable layover on the way to Machu Picchu. We decided to come for the food, which was every bit as good as expected, and ended up impressed by all the rest. Click through for our full map.

1. ámaZ: This resto charted at #9 on Blake’s latest Best Restaurants in the World list. The chef’s other, chichier restaurant is Malabar, which is on the San Pellegrino list and zzzzzzzzz. We purposefully avoided Lima’s pricier dining options, so this was our fanciest meal—and even then, it had whiffs of the Rainforest Cafe. But the food delivered, and now we can say we’ve eaten giant Amazonian snails.

ámaaaaaaaaaZ cocktail

2. Huaca Pucllana: Accessible ruins in Miraflores. Read all about ’em.

3. Larco Museum: If you go to one museum in Lima, make it this one. Perhaps that’s a biased recommendation seeing as we did, in fact, only go to one museum in Lima, but the Museo Larco whetted our appetite for pre-Columbian textiles, jewelry, and ceramics. There’s also a special wing devoted to erotic pottery where you can be made uncomfortable by old white men photographing statuettes of skeletons having sex.

Made by indigenous Peruvians circa 800 AD, or a 20-something named Cody who lives in Gowanus?

4. El Pan de la Chola: The bakery and cafe that you should be so lucky to have in your neighborhood. Order the burrata. And go early on in your days in Lima as you very well may want to return.

5. El Enano: Sandwich-and-juice joints are as popular in Lima as Julian Edelman is at a Friendly’s in Worcester. This restaurant is an open air counter (did we mention it never rains in Lima?) that occupies a corner on an otherwise residential block in Miraflores. You can choose from 27 sandwich options and almost a hundred juice combos, both of which will be grilled/blended in front of you.

6. La Lucha: Another great sandwich and juicerie with a few branches around Miraflores; La Lucha is Shake Shack to El Enano’s Corner Bistro.

lucha hen party

Maybe it’ll be a Saturday night, and maybe you’ll run into some hen party shenanigans.

7. Cala: There are any number of excellent places in Lima to imbibe an excellent pisco sour, but this spot in Barranco is right on the ocean. We also had a cocktail with coca leaf because we’re tourists.

It was basically like being at Studio 54.

8. Canta Rana: This old school spot was packed, mostly with locals, on a weekday afternoon, and once the ceviche arrived we understood why. It was the single best thing we ate in Lima, and we ate a lot of good things.

9. Al Toke Pez: If you require your restaurant kitchens to be clean and your dining experience to be free of shoving, this is not the place for you. Blake is partial to both of those things, so the fact that she is willing to recommend Al Toke Pez to others speaks incredibly highly of the food. This huarique (hole in the wall restaurant) seats 6 at a counter. If you are seated at the spots closest to the wok station, as we were, you risk losing your eyebrows. To place your order, you push your way to the front of the scrum and holler to the cashier/server/expediter. If you choose anything other than the Combo Platter of the Day, they will probably be out of it. You pay, receive your number, and then hover over the seated patrons, hoping they finish before your order is up. Our combo platter featured fried rice, ceviche, fried calamari, and a styrofoam cup of chicha, which is purple drank with spices. Everything was tremendous, and the calamari was the best we’ve ever had.

The chicha…

...which is stored in those gallon gasoline containers behind the "prep station."

…which is stored in those gallon gasoline containers on the ground.

10. ChocoMuseo: More of a ChocoAtelier where cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, conched, tempered, and finally crafted into any number of good things to eat. You can take a quick tour and then settle in for a cup of hot chocolate, either Inca style or Conquistador style (there’s only one correct choice, unless you like Oppression).

11. Masters of Hair: At different moments in our trip, two absolutely fabulous gay men did our hair up—Masters of Hair in San Isidro was the first. The owner, Alexander, cut and bleached Blake’s hair and nailed it. She had an insane allergic reaction to bleach that’s she’s never had before, but that was hardly the salon’s fault. Has anyone else experienced itchy hands while being blonded?