In this journal:
- an optical illusion;
- world’s oldest restaurant;
- tapas, lots, of, tapas.
Let’s Start, with an Apology
I have to apologize here. My journals usually have a lot of interesting and well-shot pictures, and that has been integrated into my style. However, starting from this part, my journals may have fewer pictures and intriguing tales for you. This is because this part is where I pick up my parents and continue onto a different style of travel. My parents are well over 60, and do not possess the same kind of language skills or stamina as I do, so we would spend hours just getting ready every day. Coupled with the fact that I have already written about Madrid multiple times, including earlier in this trip, so this particular journal would be especially concise.
I picked up my parents from Madrid airport just a day after returning from Porto. This is finally the time for some family action. First up was some typical sightseeing in Madrid, which I have covered extensively in previous journals.
One new thing I encountered on the way, however, is this pale white statue. No, your eyes did not deceive you, as this is how the presentation tricks your brain into thinking the picture is compressed. In the same place as a Colombus statue sitting in Colón Square, this piece of art made by Jaume Plensa was meant to be temporary while that other statue was out of commission. As a result of my incompetent writing speed, you would not be able to see this piece of art standing while reading this journal. Oopsie!
Of course, while my parents were fascinated by the fact that such a beautiful imperial city can contain so much sunshine and antiquities, I was simply checking my phone talking to Ana, who I met earlier while waiting for my parents. I have never encountered anyone from Croatia before, and her amazing language skills, as well as charming attitude made her unforgettable. I kept thinking of visiting her beautiful hometown of Dubrovnik while my parents were busy making poses in front of the royal palace. (spoiler alert: I actually did later in the year.) In the end, I did not mind taking my parents around the famous sites, but I felt like it was starting to make me jaded as if I was a local Madrileño.
Of course, the main player of this journal is about food. Spanish food is very similar to Chinese food, which both serve as a means of socializing. As a result, a solo traveler like me would find it rather difficult to sit in a tapas restaurant alone, eating a disproportionately incombatible amount of food suitable for sharing. So I was really grateful for my parents to come, and I could finally enjoy some good food without breaking my bank: they wanna pay for everything! 😉
We went to a famous tapas restaurant situated in an old, semi-underground brick house, called the House of Mushrooms. Underneath the large ceiling arch paintings, hundreds of mushrooms were sizzling in bacon fat, and the smell meandered its way through the subterrainean passages. This is definitely a ritual for any food lover, and guess what my family is made of?
Another mandatory food for anyone wishing for a taste of Spain is of course, paella. Even though it is not originally from the region, many migrants from the southern maritime regions have brought this classic tradition to the capital, making it possibly one of the best places to have an authentic plate of paella ranked right after the coasts of its birth. So of course, we picked a good one, and took off.
To my parents, this is dream come true. European food, with rice!? What kind of intercontinental voodoo trick is that? My mom happily gobbled down the seafood paella like no tomorrow, while my father carefully analyzed the glazed plates hung on the wall while munching on his vegetarian paella. As a glazing chemist, his old habits do die hard. However, one thing we could all agree on was the strange texture of rice in paellas, as this kind of half-cooked style would get you a lot of beatings in China for subpar rice-cooking skills.
Me? Well, I am just happy that my parents got to enjoy something western without complaining abou the lack of Chinese ingredients for once. Oh and also, I highly enjoyed the food, because I had never had a good plate of paella before. If you have looked at the portion size in the above pictures, then you would have concurred that it is minimally a 3-people job.
Finally, to top all culinary experiences off in Madrid, I took my parents to a tiny restaurant by the grand plaza called Sobrino de Botín. If you have taken a look of my first ever journal in Madrid, then you may have already known what is to come. Yes, this is the oldest restuarant in the entire world, certified by a Guiness World Record certification at the door. The fire burning in the hearth has been going strong since 1725: it has never been extinguished.
As you may have seen in the above, this restaurant specializes in roasted suckling pig. A local delicacy for literally centuries, the recipe has been kept secret for as long as the fire has been going. While my mother and I opted for the classic, my father chose for the vegetarian scrambled egg, another famous dish around the region.
History is written into the walls of this small brick house. While waiting to be accepted into the Royal Acadamy of Arts, Francisco de Goya was working on the same tables as a waitor. He later created some of the most famous western arts in late 18th century and early 19th century, such as the Nude Maja. Additionally, Ernest Hemingway may have visited this restaurant during his time, since the suckling pig dish depicted above was mentioned in one of his novels, the Sun Also Rises. Just to remind you how ancient this place is: when the fire was lighted on the restaurant’s stove, the founding father of United States, George Washington, was not even born yet.
I checked out the cellar, and boy oh boy did it look old! Dust had been accummulating on bottles so ancient that they have lost all labels, and probably the wine inside would taste like vinegar. The brick wall seemed like they had endured the eons, and will continue to do so for eons more. The world’s oldest restaurant definitely comes with a price tag, but after being here once, I finally can see why. The meat was tender and juicy, with the crispy skin my mom’s absolute favorite. My father also commented on the good texture of his eggs. And not to mention, the wine was so superb that my parents went for a nap immediately afterwards!
Onwards, to Sevilla!
The family trip officially began with a taxi ride to Madrid airport, where we picked up our boarding passes for Seville, one of the most beautiful Iberian cities out there. My mom and dad were jubilated, trembling with excitement. This was our first family trip since ThaiMar 2016, so everyone was visibly nervous: my parents from flying so much, and me, from having to escort two elderly Chinese with no English skills. How will it go? I have no idea, let’s see!