In a little corner of Madrid, in the event room of a little restaurant....there is an extraordinary cultural experience. If you are one of the lucky ones that gets a seat for the evening, you are in for one of the most passionate and artistic displays of flamenco dancing and music that you can experience in Spain. This is where generations of flamenco dancers have hung out to watch other professionals hone their craft. If you are an observer of this great tradition, the vibration of the foot tapping, and the haunting melodies of the guitar will strum within you long after your visit to the Spanish mother country.
Through the brilliance of Christopher Columbus, Spain became one of the most powerful countries in the world during the 16th century, and the influence of the Spanish culture is now felt throughout the western hemisphere. A visit to Madrid, the capital, is a rich and cultural experience that gives one a good dose of old Spain in the midst of a vibrant and energetic city.
We stayed in Hotel Europa right on the Puerta del Sol, and the little balconies hung over the pedestrian streets of the center. In the corner of the plaza is a traditional bakery called La Mallorquina that sells savory and sweet neopolitanas. They are like croissants filled with cheeses, ham, chocolate or fruit. A visit to this traditional bakery is in order every day!
On Sunday mornings is the huge El Rastro market where you can find antiques, arts, and flea market goods including hand-made flamenco dresses worn once for the Feria celebration, and then sold in second hand stores and booths. This was a fantastic find for a Spanish teacher like me. My students have LOVED wearing these dresses for years!
As charming as it is to discover the rich history of this city during the day, the city at night will enthrall you. We start with a Mexican mariachi band in the plaza and watch spectators break into dance. Then, we head to Calle Victoria for a tapas tour. Before arriving there, we take a detour to the cuevas (caves) and eat mushrooms stuffed and cooked in garlic butter at Meson de Champignon. After that, Calle Victoria offers tapas such as jamon, shrimp in garlic butter, calamari, spicy potatoes and chorizo…all to be shared with great company!
Before finishing at the flamenco show, stop by Chocolateria San Gines to get churros and chocolate. One of the greatest food discoveries of the conquistadores of the new world Americas was chocolate. Chocolate returned to Spain, and has been a staple world-wide ever since. Dip your donut-like churro in the thick hot chocolate.
Finally, outside of the tiny street in front of Casa Patas (House of Feet), we take a picture. The glow of the lamps continues inside to a busy, chatty dining room. We head straight back to the cashier in the corner taking tickets for the show inside. In the event room is a platform, and tourists and professionals from all over the world munch on tapas and drink sangria waiting for the evening show. When the musicians line the stage, and the first taping shoe hits the stage, we are mesmerized from start to finish.
In a sweet Victorian house on Lexington in Independence, Missouri, in the event room of Woodstock Inn, there are extraordinary cultural experiences every month. Last month was the Scottish bagpipes, and this month is reminiscent of Spain with a few strains of Spanish guitar, and the images of flamenco dancers tapping their feet thousands of miles away. If you are one of the lucky ones, you are here with us experiencing the world through these little cultural experiences. We await you!