Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bars And Bars In Barcelona

A most productive day, but it is one that is unlikely to be repeated. I have decided to actually see some of the scenery outside of bars as long as I am in Spain. It would be a shame to miss it all.

854) Casa Marcelino

This is a small place right across the street from the hotel that I am staying at. It has a narrow topped bar that is taken up mostly by a case displaying tapas. The front of the bar is white ceramic tile with a few of them decorated by pictures of either a wine jug and glass or a bunch of fruit. There aren’t any stools here, strictly a stand-up place with a few business men having a quick brandy and a cigarette before heading of to their offices. Cheerful bright red lights hang over the bar and a colorful spray of flowers sit off to the edge of the tapas case.

There are tan tiles on the wall behind the bar and wooden shelves are mounted on it. The shelves hold a fairly limited selection of liquor and glasses. The top shelf also has some brown clay pitchers and some laboratory looking flasks. There is a single silver beer spigot on the bar. On the wall behind the bar are four more spigots protruding from what is supposed to look like the top of a wine barrel. Wine bottles were being filled from one of them. There were also the requisite hunks of meat hanging back there.

I had a brandy and an espresso instead of a cigarette.

855) El Niu

A narrow bar area that serves primarily as an entryway to a larger dining area in the back. The bar has a steel top with a slight raised edge that made it look like it would be a good place to perform an autopsy. The slabs of ham and sausages in the plastic cases sitting on top of the bar only added to the aura. Bar Man’s mind must still be a bit fried from yesterday.

The front of the bar has wood paneling with metal trim and there is a metal foot rest. The solitary silver beer spigot also was beginning to take on a somewhat clinical look. I felt like I should be wearing a paper nightgown and bending over. Actually, I am being way too harsh. This was a perfectly charming place with a little wine press and wooden pigs sitting on a display case of wine up front next to the door. There were salamis and garlands of garlic and peppers hanging from hooks on the wall.

The bar chairs were interestingly angular shaped black metal with low backs that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the lounge of the Starship Enterprise. Did the Starship Enterprise have a lounge? There were also two large meat slicers behind the bar and that was the last straw with my mind still on autopsies and such. Must leave while I can.

I had a glass of San Miguel.

856) Bar Urume

Having gained a bit of equilibrium I stopped in this wee store-front bar that must have been only about eight feet deep and about thirty feet wide. Another one of those metal topped bars but this one was mostly covered with trays of more benign looking tapas, things like roasted and salted beans and deep fried shrimp. The did have sausages and hams hanging from hooks behind the bar though. The grandmotherly bartender put me at ease though. Arrgh, What am I thinking? Those are the type that pull a hatchet from under their apron.

The wall behind the bar was bright yellow ceramic tile with wooden shelves of liquor. One side wall behind the section of the bar displaying pastries was white stucco and had shelves of liquor.

The guy who was reading a newspaper at a table when I came in must be the owner of the place. He started yelling in Spanish and because I was taking notes and didn’t know what he was saying I just ignored him. It turned out he was yelling at me and kind of got in my face a bit. Apparently he was disturbed that I was looking around and taking notes. What a jerk. I somehow was able to convince him that I was just an innocent tourist by showing him pictures of other bars I had visited and the notes I had taken. I can’t recommend this as being a friendly place.

I had a glass of red wine.

857) Bar Palmo

A small coffee shop type of place with a little seating area in the back and a couple of stools at the small bar up front. The proprietor looked Chinese and I asked her if she was and she said yes.

My Pictionary Playing Partner

She had only a limited command of English but enough so that I ended up spending my time giving her a bit of an lesson in it. She had some Chinese/English dictionaries so I spent my time reading in English the phrases that she pointed out. The dictionary must not have been real good about defining relationships though because I ended up drawing little stick figures to try to show here the relationship between grandparents, parents, and children. Great fun, kind of like playing Pictionary.

I had a glass of red wine.

858) Versatil

We (Mysterious Chinese Woman and Mysterious Sister and I) took the tourist bus up to what turned out to be a largely residential area and it took me awhile to find a bar. The bar top was a heavy slap of wood that looked like it could be knotty pine. The front was a darker wood paneling and there was a brass rail. No stools or chairs though, another stand-up place if you wanted to drink at the bar. Most people seem to prefer sitting at the small marble tables opposite the bar. There was just one beer spigot pouring Esrella Damm and a narrow shelf over the bar holding the liquor. Glasses hung beneath the shelf.

The walls were lemon yellow and had a strange assortment of pictures hanging on them that ranged from an old poster advertising Chateau Rouge, a red wine, that featured a lady in an elegant red evening gown standing on a balcony overlooking a river to a scene of five blue horses running out of a raging sea onto the beach.

There were a few tables with lime green chairs out on the street.

I had a glass of the Estrella Damm.

Short Interlude

After finishing up my beer we took a walk down a narrow street and found a street fair of some kind going on. It was just setting up so I don’t know what kind of a night it was going to be turning into. Lot’s of ferocious looking floats and marching band.

Not everyone on the street was particularly ferocious though.

Might have been fun to stick around a bit. They were setting up a large tent with a bunch of DJ equipment and many barrels of beer. We had dinner reservations back in town later so we could only linger for a bit.

859) Bar Monterrey

This place had a metal topped bar with an orange tile front and a metal foot rest. The wall behind the bar had brown tiles with a circular pattern. The rest of the walls were covered in light yellow tiles as was the ceiling. There was just one metal and one wooden shelf with liquor and glasses were stored below. Only one lonely beer spigot. There were white globe lights above the bar and mounted on the walls as well.

I had a small glass of brandy.

860) Cafe San Marco

I thought at first I had walked into a tea shop by mistake. No evidence of alcohol at all, just two large espresso machines with cups piled on top and a shelf of tea canisters above them. Well, it might not be Madrid but it is still Spain so, of course, they served alcohol. But it was a very fancy place. The light marble topped bar had greenish gray veins running through it like a piece of good blue cheese and it sat on a dark wood front. There was a brass arm rest but no foot rail or rest, just wooden bar stools. Little pots of rosemary sat on the bar.

The lights above the bar were covered with inverted flower shaped glass shaded lights. There was also a very elegant chandelier up front with similar shaped shades but with ornate glass leaves as well.

Round marble topped tables sat in front of green cushioned banquettes that lined the pale yellow wall opposite the bar. The windows in the wall were covered with pale green curtains. The floor was black and white tiles in a checkerboard pattern with one marble step separating the bar from the three tables up by the large front window.

Everything about this place seemed to say it was a place for old ladies but, strangely enough, the walls were covered with photographs and paintings of Formula One racing cars. A large mirror to the left of the bar had my throat protruding and flushing red until I realized I was just looking at my reflection.

I had a small glass of brandy.

861) Qu Qu

We caught a bus and headed back into the heart of town for dinner. On the way I just stopped in here to take a whiz but a bar is a bar and so I had a drink. It had a nice large marble topped bar with a brown marble front. A wooden arm rest in front of the bar and a brass rail. Small metal bar stools. A very colorful red, white, black, yellow, and gray patterned tile floor. This was a large, loud, clanky bar with a good sized dining area a few steps down. There were tapas on the bar in cases and another similar marble bar opposite of where you could get a drink that had more tapas on display.

Above the bar is an elongated wooden beer barrel suspended from the ceiling. Quite an elaborate affair with a large pipe that must pump the beer into it because this is where the spigots are located. Kind of an industrial looking affair in an otherwise very chic looking place. The walls behind the bar are rose with sunken shelves for the liquor. To the left of the rose wall is a section of white tile with a mural in the center and metal shelves of glasses in front.

I had a glass of red wine.

862) MMOO

This is where we were going for dinner, but there was a most elegant bar up front where I enjoyed my pre-dinner cocktail.

The top of the bar was marble with black sides and a metal foot rest. Modern sculpture like bar chairs. The beer station looked like it could be a museum piece, the spigots were wooden handled faucets and there was a stature of a lady on top.

Everyone in here seems to be dressed in black and acting cool. Luckily Bar Man wore one of his more subdued patterned shirts today and I was wearing my jaunty black cap instead of my usual light blue one. That, coupled with the fact that I was accompanied by two attractive Chinese women gave me a bit of cachet. Life can be good when you are the Bar Man. Oh yeah, by now I just about forgotten about this morning’s thoughts of embalming fluid that had run through my mind.

It was all subdued shades of gray in here with little lights on the bar. The back wall had plants and a large mobile arranged behind a screen that threw dark shadows on the wall. You had to get up close to make sure they weren’t just paintings.

I would have lingered a bit longer at the bar but hungry people are sitting at a table drinking champagne and I must join them.

The meal was delicious and I had a most interesting desert. It was a chocolate covered ice-cream in the shape of a cigar and was most certainly laced with cigar tobacco.

It literally tasted like you were smoking a cigar and left a similar aftertaste that lingered for well over an hour. Not altogether unpleasant if you like cigars as I do. They Mysterious Chinese Woman tried a bite and was not impressed.

I had a martini, shaken, not stirred.

What a day, nine bars hit making 862 for the year and leaving me with 138 to go. My objective is to hit 875 before leaving Spain and this should be fairly easy to do so I can relax my pace a bit and see some of the sights.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Barcelona, Here I Am

I am sad to report that the once notorious Ramblas (the Ramble) is no more. Anything you may have heard about it is a distant memory, a bit like the tales of Times Square in New York back in the day, which was only a few years ago. The meandering street that once was lined with dive bars and hookers plying their trade has been covered with bright tile and turned into a pedestrian walkway lined with souvenir shops and over-priced street cafes. There is even a Burger King. Damn, I got here too late.

All is not lost however. Just as in New York where if you walk a few blocks from Times Square into Hell’s Kitchen and find places like Siberia, Bellevue, and the Holland Bar, here you can walk a few blocks off Ramblas and find a warren of streets and squares and all kinds of watering halls. Didn’t see any hookers tough, but the smell of ganja did waft through the air on occasion.

I wouldn’t recommend that you start off your day of bar hopping with most of a pitcher of sangria, but that is what I did. The Mysterious Chinese Woman and her equally Mysterious Sister (must run in the family) decided they wanted lunch and I was feeling a bit peckish too. We found a square a few blocks away from Ramblas and sat at a nice sunny table where we ordered a variety of tapas and a pitcher of sangria. Mysterious Sister doesn’t drink, wine that is, and Mysterious Chinese Woman only drinks a bit (alcohol probably interferes with her ability to go poof). I, however, having no mysterious abilities to be compromised, consumed the bulk of what proved to be a surprisingly potent potion. I then set off upon my journey.

847) Taxidermista

For some reason I forgot to take a picture of this place. Probably still recovering from my lunchtime libation. Instead I included the picture of the Mysterious Chinese Woman and Bar Man having our Sangria. In fact, we may actually have had our lunch outside Taxidermista before I went in for my drink. This is one of a number of bars and restaurants that ring a square named Plaza Reial and is very reminiscent of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Despite the name, no stuffed animals were in sight. I was hoping for at least one more bull head on the wall. I don’t think Barcelona has the same rules about serving up tapas with your drinks because the surface of the bars tend to be larger and not overly taken up with trays of food.

Although there are a number of outside tables, the interior is larger than most, or at least most that I have seen in Madrid. There is a decent sized curved bar with eight bar stools. The bar top is heavy inlaid wood, somewhat rosy in color, with a black front. There are two silver beer stations, each with four spigots with unmarked black handles. At least one of them poured Scrumpy Jack Premium English Cider. Sitting on one end of the bar were two large tin pails. One held a short stuffy cactus and the other a tall, strange looking plant of some kind.

The back of the bar sported a large espresso machine and you could look between the metal shelves into the kitchen area. Above almost everything is a narrow shelf holding a single row, but fairly extensive, collection of liquor. Above that was a panel of mirrors.

The front of the bar is made up of floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the square. There is a stairway opposite the bar that leads down to a darker area with brick walls and additional tables. This is a good place to stop into and it is only a block or so away from the Ramblas.

I had a bottle of Moritz, the local beer.

848) Acoma

Meandering down one of the side streets off to the side of the square was this small bar and internet cafe. It had a somewhat Southwestern theme to it. I say somewhat because, in addition to the Southwestern Indian artifacts hanging in the front, there was an Alaskan totem pole in the back room. A young woman holding a baby was begging just across the street. This is something I often see in Mexico, although the women there are much older, but the first time I have seen anything like this in Spain.

There is a curved wooden bar with two silver beer spigots. The wall behind the bar is partially dark brick and partially blue painted wood. To the very left of that are light paneled shelves holding liquor and glasses and there are mirrors above the shelves. A large flat-screen television is playing VH1.

Acoma is right across the narrow street from Pension Dali so, if you stay there, be sure to drop in. They have a fly zapper in here and there are a surprising large number of flies in this area. I don’t recall seeing any when I was in Madrid. Actually though the flies did provide one service. We had originally planned to have lunch at an outdoor place on the Ramblas but before we could order the flies drove us away. Good flies.

I had a small glass of red wine.

849) Travel Bar

I must have stumbled upon the back-packing youth crowd on this street. Kind of a trippy place with a very friendly bartender named Liam.

Liam, Another Friendly Bartender

Like Acoma, English seemed to be the prevailing language and everyone seemed to be just passing through. There a lot of hostels in this neighborhood so I guess that must be part of the attraction. Everyone was friendly and the bar offered up a bar hopping tour later at night. That gave me an excuse to pull out my card and tell them what bar hopping was really about. A good time was had by all and many drinks were purchased for Bar Man.

There is a nice old wooden bar in here with a brass rail and lots of wooden bar chairs. Four silver beer spigots sat on the bar. Orange walls behind the bar and a bluish gray mural depicting old passenger planes and cruise ships on the wall opposite the bar. A large globe hangs from the ceiling and flags from various countries adorn the walls. There is a large screen television in the back showing soccer and there is also free internet access. This is a comfortable, cluttered place that would be well worth stopping into if you are passing through Barcelona on the cheap or if you just want to meet people who are. That is always fun because they like to swap stories about their travels.

There is a good-sized outside court area with tables and chairs and umbrellas and it was quite crowded.

I focused on San Miquel beer with a few glasses of red wine thrown in for good measure.

850) Taller de Tapas

Right around the corner from Travel (in fact they share the courtyard) is this small bar. Quite nice with a good-sized wooden topped bar with a dark wooden front. It is L shaped with the short end against the narrow windowed front. There are about a dozen metal barstools with round black seats. They don’t seem to be compelled to give you food whenever you order a drink in Barcelona and so much less of the surface of the bar is cluttered with trays of tapas. They do have a fair selection here though, but you have to order, and pay for, them.

The walls, other than the one opposite the bar, are a combination of old stone and brick. Opposite the bar the wall is paneled with mirrors upon which are written the list of tapas available. Behind the bar is a plain set of shelves holding liquor and glasses, the requisite espresso machine, and two beer spigots. Hanging over the bare are large, truncated cone-shaped shaded lights.

Bar Man’s lack of command of Spanish led to him ordering a small bottle of wine instead of a small glass. This coupled with the Sangria for lunch and my last three stops is starting to take its toll. I have a long walk back to the hotel and dinner later tonight. It is nice sitting here though, listening to the accordion player in the courtyard. Very nice, very old world, very young crowd.

I had a small bottle of red wine.

851) El Pinar

Making my way back to the hotel I spotted another little bar in a back street and felt compelled to pop in. A nice place with a marble-topped bar with a front that looked like a bamboo curtain. There were large black barstools. Big posters for Godzilla (Civilization Crumbles) and Young Frankenstein adorn the wood paneled wall behind the bar. To the left are large pictures of B.B.King, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker on the wall that went well with the jazz playing on the sound system.

There is, of course, an espresso machine behind the bar and shelves of liquor along with racks of bags of snack food. Just to the right of the bar is a strange set of prints, mostly black and white, of what looks like a circus ring, a chair, and, perhaps, a performer in the middle and a silver, modern looking building silhouetted against the moon in the background.

Cone shaped yellow-shaded lights hang over the bar and as daylight fades and the city grows dim it would be very easy to settle in here for the long haul. I am also somewhat lost, but must find my way home.

I had but a small glass of red wine this time.

852) Cal Pep

This is where we had dinner. It is a packed place and you have to stand in line and wait for a place to open up so that you can sit at the bar and eat. It is always, to me at least, amazing how one place, above all others in the neighborhood, gets so famous that people will stand in line to get in. The Mysterious Chinese Woman’s Mysterious Sister said the place had been written up in a few magazines, including Food And Wine.. In fact, that is why we were here. What do I care, I am here for a drink, and by golly, I will get one. I did walk by an Irish bar on the way here that I would have liked to have stopped into, but I guess I will hit that on the way home.

After waiting for a fairly long time to get three seats together I upset everyone standing in line behind me by insisting that I have a beer before we ordered our tapas. I had to kind of chug it down though. We then tucked into our tapas and had a bottle of Cava, of which I, of course, drank most. The tapas were, I must admit, very good. And it was fun to watch the waiters and the guy who organized the mayhem do their thing.

The bar has a nice marble top with a tiled front with soda-fountain type stools with gray, round seats. A loud clanky place with shelves of food and a large, hooded oven behind the bar. Bottles of liquor and wine are above cooler behind the bar. There are three beer spigots but one of them serves up some kind of lemonade or something, maybe for making a shandy.

This place reminds me of a very small restaurant in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota. That place didn’t serve alcohol though, mostly pancakes. But people would stand in line for an hour to get into the place. I never thought the food there was quite worth the wait and I really don’t think the food here was either. Not that it was bad, just not worth a wait in line of well over half an hour. I don’t think the Mysterious forces that brought me here had a place quite like this in mind either.

I had a glass of Estrela Damm and the majority of a bottle of Cava with the meal.

853) Paddy´s Lane

Just around the corner from Cal Pep, I spotted it on our way) was this truly delightful Irish bar. The two Irish bartenders Eamon and Aidan, were a riot and we chatted quite a bit.

Eamon and Aidan, The Chatty Bartenders

Then a woman from San Francisco joined the conversation and on and on we went. By this time MCW and MS had disappeared into the night and so, with no supervision, I drank what I can only say were numerous pints of Guinness.

This is a classy looking Irish bar with Beatles music playing in the background. The lamps above the bar are like oversize ship lanterns. The bar and stools are dark wood. Behind the bar are shelves of dark red wood and smoky mirrors.

The ceiling is beige with large, turquoise blue squares, like framed pictures. The walls are partially stone and the rest are sponged in a kind of a sunset orange and peach. The floors are wood. There are couple of televisions over the bar, but they were turned off. Black and white pictures on the walls were of Irish ladies and musicians. There is a cozy niche in the back with round bar tables and chairs. Looks like it would be a nice place to have a drink an chat a bit with your mates. A glass case in one corner contains pictures of good times at the bar, holiday parties, and soccer game celebrations. There are also a few photos of U2. All and all a very comfortable place and one, I am sure, I will visit again.

When I rolled out of the place it must have been close to three in the morning and I had no luck in getting a cab. The streets were still fairly crowded though and so I decided to walk back to the hotel, a couple of miles away. I had been in the area before though so I found my way okay.

I had, as I mentioned, numerous pints of Guinness.

A good day, seven bars (and much more to drink) making 853 for the year and leaving 147 to go.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bye Bye Madrid, Hello Barcelona

Today is our day of transition, taking the train from Madrid to Barcelona. This is not one of those ultra fast trains so it is a bit over a four hour ride. We headed out at a reasonable hour and took a cab to the train station. It is quite an impressive train station too with an atrium that wouldn’t look out of place in a botanical garden.

Lots of shops and cafes and it does accommodate the bullet trains that go somewhere, but not, unfortunately, where we are going.

845) La Barrila

After you move your bags through security (yes, they do check your bags at the train stations in Spain) we went into a bit more austere seating area in the departure area. This area also had numerous shops and cafes though. I did find La Barrila though. This is a large bar/coffee shop with a counter that reflects this. The counter has a white marble top and sides of light wood with metal trim on the bottom and a narrow row of blue and white tiles at the top. There is a silver colored foot rest and brown wooden stools.

There was a beer station with four silver spigots at one end of the bar. The bar I got my beer was pulled from a spigot coming out of a gold stein being held by a hand at the end of an arm emerging from a beer barrel.

The lights over the bar had rippled fabric shades and were mounted on those complicated pulley contraptions. These worked though because I played with them a bit and managed to bonk my head as a result.

Up front was a shelf with some beer mugs on display and there were a few wine bottles on shelves. Large round white lights hang form the ceiling over the good sized dining area where you could take your food after buying from the counter. They had little tables and also green booths along the wall.

Despite the elaborate dispenser for the beer it only pumped the generic San Miguel.

846) The Fastnet

My first bar in Barcelona and it was an Irish bar with a decidedly nautical theme to it. This was only appropriate because it is right across the street from a large boat basin. The top of the bar is thick wood that looks like it has been hewed from a large tree. It is well varnished with a pronounced grain and the edges look like it has the original bark. The front is dark brown wood planking and there is a narrow ledge for your feet. The chairs are brown wooden box-like affairs.

There is a nice set of wooden shelves behind the bar that holds the liquor and an espresso machine. The beer station is encased in wood that matches the top of the bar. There are five spigots. There is an old pendulum clock on the wall above the shelves and there were pictures of old sailing vessels, schooners, I believe, on each side. Further to the left of the clock is a display of nautical knots and a picture of the Alfred Daniels, a ship, and a pen sketch of the bar. I hate to mention it but there is also a Billy Bass hanging above the bar. Bar Man has one of these, courtesy of his sister. A narrow shelf above all of this stuff holds small mugs and little figurines. There is a ship’s bell behind the bar that gets rung whenever the bartender gets a tip.

The walls have dark wood paneling going about half way up with a narrow ledge on top of that and trim on the bottom that matches the top of the bar. The rest of the walls is pale orange. There are pictures of the waterfront and an impressive series of pictures of a huge wave lashing o lighthouse. There are a few models of sailing ships, a porthole on the wall, and plenty of beer signs. There little spotlights over the bar but more interesting copper shaded lights hanging from the ceiling elsewhere.

I had a bottle of Estrella Damm, a beer, and then we headed to one of the numerous waterfront restaurants that ringed the boat basin.

Just two for the day bringing my total to 846 for the year and leaving 154 to go. I am looking forward to checking out more of the city tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Meandering In Madrid

Well, this is my last full day in Madrid for now. Tomorrow I head to Barcelona, but I then return for one more full day here before heading home. I am looking forward to Barcelona, but I do like Madrid.

I have been mentioning the hams that hang all over and the little, torture-chamber like devices that they use to hold them while the are being carved. The just slice off little slices and serve it either on bread or with melon. It is really good, chewier and more flavorful than the prosciutto you find in must restaurants in the United States. It is a salt-cured, air-dried raw Italian ham that is pressed during processing makes to make firmer than other hams.

839) Canas y Tapas

Interestingly, this bar that had tapas in its name didn’t have much in the way of tapas. The bar was U shaped and had a white marble top and ornately patterned wooden sides. The short side closest to the double doors had four silver spigots, three of them pouring San Miguel and one pouring Zarro vermouth. The spigots were the fairly common type, tall with the faucet-like handles. These are mounted just behind the back edge of the bar above a metal drain. In front of the spigots and protruding onto the bar is a slightly elevated metal shelf with a little brass “fence” around it and a plastic shield in front that usually has the name of the bar etched onto it. This shelf is then filled with either glasses or mugs. This is seems to be the most common setup that you will find in bars.

The lights over the bar had flat black metal shades and hang from the ceiling from pulley-like contraptions. They appear to be decorative only but you might be able to lower the lights a bit. Two huge brown San Miguel beer tanks were suspended from the ceiling. Judging by the gauges and valves and the large hose coming out of them these were not for decoration.

The wall behind me had a large painted tile picture of a statue in a square. I think it is the same statue I saw all of the tourists traipsing by yesterday. The square, Plaza Mayor, is just a short distance away.

The walls were a combination of intrictely patterned tiles and mottled light yellow plaster. The floor was a combination of large orange and small blue tiles. Garlands of dried peppers decorated the wall behind the bar and there was a wooden framed blackboard listing the tapas they did offer (but no free ones). They also had several hams hanging on the wall back there.

I had a San Miquel

840) Los Galayos

The bar is kind of a zig-zag shaped thing with a black marble top, a reddish orange tiled front and a silver foot rest. I was presented with a small plate of little sausages. They only had one beer spigot so I had what it poured. A bright blue chalk board listed their tapas and wines. Wine bottles and clay jugs and pitchers on high shelves along with some woven baskets and a couple of grain sacks were behind the bar.

Signed pictures of The Beatles in full Sgt. Pepper dress plus a signed picture of Elvis framed with a reproduction of one of his gold records. There was also a signed picture of John and Yoko. The owner must be a real Beatles fan because that was what was playing on the sound system even though the small television was showing VH1 music videos.

There is one of those electronic slot machines that nobody ever seems to play by the door and that, along with the three wooden bar stools with green seats pretty much fill up the place. This is one of the number of bars surrounding the Plaza Mayor so they probably have chairs out there too. Most of the places do.

I had a Cruz Campo.

841 La Torre de Oro Bar Andalu

Great place if you like bull fighting and root for the bull. The walls were covered with pictures of bull fighters, but all in the process of being gored, being carried out of the arena, or in the hospital showing off their scars. There were also six mounted bull heads on the walls.

The bartender said even if the bull wins they kill it and cut off its head. These were all the heads of bulls that had ¨won. Each bull head had a little plaque giving his statistics, weight, date of birth, won-loss record (not really), and lineage. So, apparently, these are all the heads of victorious bulls.

There is just a narrow, standing room only narrow wooden bar in front of the tapas. The walls are elaborately decorated tiles but are largely obscured by the pictures, bull heads, hams, and shelves of wine bottles. A very friendly place. You can enter it either from the Plaza Mayor or, as I did, from one of the narrow passageways leading to it.

I had a glass or red wine and a plate of rice and peas..

842) Melon de Corregidor

Strange, you can go your whole life without being in a bar with a mounted bull’s head and then you hit two in a row. This place also had the heads of other animals, including a ferocious looking snarling boar, a large black goat, and a small elk mounted on the walls as well. The bar has kind of a hooked L shape with a dark wood top and a wooden front inlaid with ceramic tiles with fancy designs. They do have bar stools in here, something the last place had no room for.

I addition to the heads of dead animals they also had an old breastplate and a couple of swords hanging on the wall. There were also a few paintings, one of a pasture full of peaceful looking bulls. An archway separates this small place into two halves and it is plastered with foreign currencies. I am sad to say that the United States greenbacks are far and away the least colorful of them all.. A bunch of hams hang on the back wall and shelves of liquor are on the wall behind the bar. There is also a slot machine. These are getting to be so common, like the espresso machines, that I probably no longer mention them every time I see them. An old looking metal chandelier hangs from the ceiling.

I had a glass of red wine.

843) CafeeKe

CafeeKe means small cafe and this was small indeed. They also served only Belgian beers. The bartender, named Ximena, said everything in the place was shipped over from Belgium. When I heard the bartender’s name I guessed that she was from Mexico, and I was right. Bar Man scores a free beer.

Ximena, The Mexican Bartender In A Belgian Bar In Spain

There is just a narrow little bar but it was quite comfortable. I was told that the name of the place means “Small Café.” The bar has an orangey marble looking tile top. There were brass rails for both your arms and legs. The beer station here was the more traditionally shaped tee shaped affair with six spigots and the traditional, although unmarked, pull handles.

A couple of little English pug-nosed terriers seemed to pretty much have the run of the place, but they were friendly enough. The walls were mostly dark wood with a band of mustard colored plaster on one side up front and mirrors on the other side and a green chalkboard listing the beers opposite the bar. About waist-high on the wood part of the walls is a narrow ledge for glasses with bar stools win front. On top of the wooden section are narrow shelves displaying bottles of Belgian beer and some old metal signs advertising beer and cigarettes. Another place worth stopping into if you are in the neighborhood. It is right outside the Plaza Mayor.

I had a draft Te Deum, which is a Belgian beer, and a couple of meatballs.

844) Fosters Hollywood

I guess this might be a Madrid meets Hollywood kind of a place. There were lots of ketchup bottles, the first I have seen in Madrid, so I guess that means they serve what passes for American food, hamburgers and French fries. There is a rectangular shaped bar with a black textured top. The sides are made up of film and camera cases and there is a silver foot rail. Above and wrapped around the bar are what look like cameral booms. There is even a full sized mannequin of a camera-man riding a boom hanging over the stairway to the toilets marked, ever so cutely, Actor and Actress.

The lighting is metal industrial stuff like, I guess, you might find on a sound stage. Lots of movie posters cover the walls. It is a bit contrived for my taste, but the place was crowded so the gimmick must work. They really should have director’s chairs instead of bar stools though.

I had a draft Mahou and headed home, calling it a day.

Another six bar day making 844 for the year and leaving 156 to go. I will bid a fond, but temporary, adieu to Madrid tomorrow. A great place for bar hopping.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Madrid Day Two

Got off to kind of a slow start today. Woke up late and then took a tour of a palace. After that we got on a double decker bus for a city tour. Didn't get to my first bar until almost 3:00 P.M. Love this town. The weather is gorgeous and the people have been really friendly so far. It is relatively easy to get around too with a great subway system. The tour buses that you can hop on and hop off are a good way to get the lay of the land as well. Once you have used them for a day or so you can then easily use the subway to get back to places you want to revisit. It is a fun city to walk around in although I have gotten somewhat lost at least once. Ah well, that is part of the fun of it.

833) Cafeteria Cristina

One of a bunch of bars intermingled with souvenier shops that surrounds a large square with some kind of a statue in the middle. Must be famous though because several tour groups traipsed through.

This is a small place with a small metal topped bar. Only a very narrow space to put your drink because most of the surface area is taken up by glass covered dishes of tapas. A lot of those delicious dried hams are hanging in the window.

They all have the hooves still attached. The place is well decorated with black and white photos of bullfighters. A couple of shelves above the microwave ovens and espresso machine behind the bar hold the liquor and wine selection. Just two stools at the bar. The walls are elaborately patterned tile and the floor is gray patterned marble. Two large mirrors adorn the wall opposite the bar. The room is divided by a brick arch. Just four small tables with red and white checked tablecloths.

I had a glass of Mahou, a fairly common and decent tasting beer. I am told it is pronounced “moo” but I am afraid if I say it that way I will get a glass of milk.

834) Moore’s

Hey, a real Irish bar in the heart of Madrid. I don’t know why I am surprised, you can find them everywhere it seems. This one is way cooler than most you see in New York though. It is a really old place, from the heavy battered dark wood bar to the dark rose and green plaster walls. The only concession to modern times is a stack of Red Bull cans in one corner of the dark wood shelves behind the bar. There is a large display of liquor on those shelves too, the Irish like the hard stuff. Below the liquor are glasses and relegated to the very bottom are bottles of mix.

Old milk glass lights hang from gold colored chains above the bar. Lots of drawers, which I were told are empty, were in a chest against the wall. All kinds of advertisements on the walls, mostly for beer. There are three levels to this place and a pool table on the second level down. This is the first pool table that I have seen.

There are old wood planked floors except for right around the bar where it is orange tiles with an edging of orange and gray diamond shaped tiles. A couple of televisions that were turned off, but there are signs saying they show European football. There are interesting things on the shelves and hanging from them; sprinkling cans, lanterns, old suitcases, jugs, and more. Old wood booth like tables and stools. This is a great place if you can find it. No tapas, just potato chips on green paper napkins on the bar. They were good potato chips though.

I had a well poured pint of Guinness pulled by Meria.

Meria, The "Irish" Bartender

835) Cerveceria Mantaditos

Another kind of coffee shop looking place that sells beer and wine. Every place sells beer and wine in Madrid. The butcher shops sell wine and beer, the bakeries sell wine and beer. I haven’t tried it yet but I would bet the post office sells wine and beer. They probably give you a small plate of stamps too.

The bar has a white marble top that sports a brass arm rest and a silver foot rail. A dark wood paneled front to the bar and small square dark wood bar stools. Four spigots on the bar, three serve beer and one a sparkly red wine. There is also an old looking soda fountain pump for Coca Cola.

Light rose colored walls are covered with black and white photos. Most of them are pictures of the city but there are some, what I take to be, family portraits as well. Two large blackboards list a whole bunch of tapas selling for just 1 Euro each. I don’t know what any of them are though, Number one was Jamon Iberieo con Aceite Oliva Virgen Extra and number one-hundred is Clasicode Chocolate. An interesting wooden pitchfork, like the ones the villagers brandished when they were storming Frankenstein’s castle, hangs on the wall along with garlands of garlic. No wonder I am thinking of monsters, werewolves, and vampires. Luckily the sun is still out.

I had a glass of the sparkly red wine fresh from the tap.

836) La Mallorquina

A pastry shop, a huge packed pastry shop, with everyone eating pastries and drinking coffee.

This place is all white and clanky with dishes being banged down on the counters. The walls are totally lined with cases of pastries. Yet, above the displays of pastries are shelves of liquor. Bar Man is having a sensory overload. Madrid is one huge bar. As I look up from the pastry display I see a whole shelf of Scotch. I am drifting off trying to decide between a drink and a pastry. A bug zapper hanging from the ceiling fringed with fluorescent lights snaps me back to reality when an insect electrocutes itself. I, of course, decide on a drink.

I have a glass of brandy and the person behind the counter just keeps pouring until I tell him to stop.

837) McDonald's

Hah Hah, just kidding.

837) Arysol

About two steps out of the pastry shop and about five steps from the subway Bar Man realizes he has to take a whiz. Well, no problem. You can usually find a bar within five steps, at least in this neighborhood. I stopped in here and ordered a beer and got a plate of fried pork skins to go with it. Lots of wines in cooler in here along with the beer stations. I am once again beginning to wonder if there is anyplace in Madrid where you cannot buy a drink. Go into the Department of Motor Vehicles, “Here, take the eye test and have a beer.” Bar Man must go home and rest. It is 7:00 P.M. but it still looks like noon with the bright sunshine.

I had a glass of Mahou.

838) San Antonio

I went back to the hotel and took a little rest and then went out for dinner. After dinner I stopped at one more place on the way home. After awhile thee is a bit of sameness to many of these places. They have a narrow surfaced bar, often marble, with glass or plastic covered trays of tapas. There are usually a couple of beer spigots, often silver. They have handles like a sink fixture instead of a pull handle though. Mahou seems to be the Spanish Budweiser because it is everywhere. In my opinion, Mahou is much more flavorful and certainly more hoppy and malty. There is usually a large espresso machine behind the bar, red in this case, and a couple of slot machines. Nobody ever seems to play them though.

This place has round lights above the bar and a Chinese restaurant looking sign behind the bar. On the left side is a small set of wooden shelves with mirrors behind them. Their fancier liquors and wines along with glasses are displayed atop linen napkins. In front of one of these shelves is one of those carving contraptions with a leg of lame along with a large round of some kind of hard cheese.

The floor is gray marble and the few tables, all full, sit against the light wood paneled wall. Framed abstract signed paintings hanging on the walls round out the décor. The crowd is quite lively, eating and drinking. Spain, or at least Madrid, is one fun place.

I had a glass of Mahou.

Another fun day with another six bars hit bringing my total for the year to 838 for the year and leaving me with 162 more to go. If anyone is interested in breaking my record of 1000 bars in a year, Madrid might be a good city to do it in.