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Hemingway Adventure

Madrid, Spain (first day)

Madrid, Spain 
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Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureHemingway would likely have repaired at this point for a cocktail in the Art Deco elegance of Chicote on the Gran Vía, a cocktail bar founded in 1931 'to promote talk and opinion'. Chicote earned Hemingway's undying loyalty by never closing throughout the bombardments of the Spanish Civil War. There's another photo of him here, from 1959, frail and bearded.

Though you may be hungry by now, remember that Spanish restaurants don't expect you for dinner until well after nine. Hemingway fans will take his recommendation and head straight for Casa Botín, which has been serving meals for over 200 years and whose wood-fired ovens turn out herds of roast suckling pig every night. It's easy to find. Down the steps at the south-west corner of the Plaza Mayor, into Calle Cuchilleros (Knife-maker Street) and it's practically next door to a restaurant with a large sign, 'Hemingway Never Ate Here'.

As it is inconceivable that anyone but an invalid should be in bed in Madrid before one-thirty, I'm easily tempted into a post-prandial night-cap. We head for the focal point of the old city, the wide cobbled expanse of the seventeenth-century Plaza Mayor with, at its centre, a fine statue of Philip III on a charger. The Plaza is grand, but car-free and friendly and full of bars which make it almost impossible to cross without feeling thirsty.

Bar Andalú, like Botín, is traditional, but 'traditional' in Spain is not so much of a tourist board cliché as it is elsewhere, and generally means something still very close to the spirit of the country.

Three great bulls' heads loom out of the wall surrounded by an exhaustive collection of framed photographs showing matadors in moments of cape-swirling glory or gory and gruesome injury. Machismo drips from its tiled and trophied walls, and it is perhaps no coincidence that, as I eventually leave to totter home, I notice for the first time the truly heroic proportions of the testicles on Philip III's horse.
Madrid, Spain 
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Madrid, Spain (first day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Madrid
  • Book page no: 109

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