Wandering! Madrid

So, my month-or-so blog break turned into a three-to-four-month blog break and I have no regrets. I was super busy doing things that weren’t studying. 🙂

One thing I did this summer: visit Madrid. I loved it. If you are ever there, here are a couple of places in and around the city centre that I thought worth visiting. This is not a definitive list, just places I visited that I would recommend.

(Firstly: Madrid is hot. Either be prepared for that and soldier through, buy lots of ice cream, or duck into air-conditioned shops on a regular basis. Or, make it an early morning/late evening activity.)

La Mallorquina1. A patisserie called La Mallorquina. It’s right in the central square of Madrid, Puerta del Sol, so you have no excuse to miss it. Go there and order a “napolitana” (I would recommend “napolitana de chocolate”, personally.) You will not regret it.

(There’s a shop that sells beautiful fancy fans in Puerta del Sol too, which is also worth a peek. Ludicrously expensive though; it’s a have-a-look,-then-pretend-this-is-far-too-cheap-for-you,-then-run type of place.)

2. The Retiro Park. It’s a reasonable and very pretty walk from Puerta del Sol. Between the park’s crystal palace, boat-filled lake (you can hire a boat if you want) and sheer size, it’s definitely worth a wander.

3. The “Palacio Real”. The Spanish royal family don’t live there anymore and the palace is now open to tours. The building itself, the cathedral outside the gates, the little garden in the front and the view out the back are all fairly grand, but nothing could have prepared me for the splendour of the rooms. I visited Dublin Castle last December, I thought it might be something like that. Nope. This place is ridiculous. Every ceiling has an artistic masterpiece. Each room is literally grander than the last. I thought it couldn’t get any worse, and then we reached the dining hall (a table stretching away into the distance, 22 chairs on each side; I bought a postcard and you can’t actually see the far end of the table, it’s that long.) Although it left me reeling, the palace is definitely worth visiting. It will leave you with a diminished sense of your own self-importance, and everyone needs that now and again. Right…?

Finally: if you have the chance/mode of transport, there are some beautiful mountains around Madrid that are also worth exploring.

Hope this may someday be useful to you!

P.S. I hope to have two more weekly posts the next two Fridays, to get me back in the swing of things, then back to once-a-fortnight for the foreseeable future. Next week I’ll be writing about bookish things again, for the first time in ages!

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McMahon’s cafĂ© in Glasnevin

One of the things I wanted to do when I started this blog was talk about favourite places-to-visit I’ve come across, most of which are in Dublin (for now anyways). Apologies if you don’t live in/near Dublin – but who knows? Maybe you’ll visit someday…

Found just off the Tolka river and up the road from the Botanic Gardens, with bright red outdoor chairs and pastel walls, McMahon’s is a gorgeous café. The cute-and-clean décor is just perfect, with pots of real flowers, crafts for sale at the door, cookbooks mcmahon's cookies with BOWpiled in a corner and bows on the sugar bowls and cakes. No, really.

Eating there is an absolute pleasure. Every time I’ve been there the cafĂ© has been full, and it makes me really happy to see this little business thriving. Also, the food is DIVINE – I almost wanted to order a second sandwich instead of a dessert, it was that nice. It’s so easy to go to Costa or Starbucks and get your usual order without needing to look at a menu – I find it refreshing and satisfying to be supporting somewhere like this. I 100% recommend it. 🙂

For more information, and a map, see their Facebook page.

Galway City

I was in Galway City recently, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. Galway is really beautiful, and what I especially love is the way (in the city centre at least) the ancient parts of the city have been not only maintained but also mingled with the modern communities and buildings. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, so I also enjoyed a great atmosphere, excellent buskers, and the gorgeous seaside walks nearby.

Here are the two favourite places I visited on this particular trip:

all the teabags in cupan tae shop
There was also a little shop – I have never seen so many teabags in my life

Cupán Tae: Eating in this cafĂ© was an experience in itself. Cupán Tae (which translates as “Cup of Tea” in Irish/as Gaeilge) is decorated with beautiful paintings, lace and linen tablecloths, floral curtains, and flowers displayed in teapots. There is a booklet of several pages dedicated to the different kinds of tea available, and the teas are then served in prettily decorated, matching china (the teapot for my peppermint tea was covered in green flowers.) There was also a selection of cakes displayed just inside the door, ranging from “chocolate biscuit” to “lime and courgette” (surprisingly tasty).

Although the café felt ever so slightly cluttered, that would be my only criticism. I really enjoyed eating there and would definitely recommend it. Cupán Tae can be found around the corner from Shopping Street, beside Cobwebs antique jewellery shop, and identified by its intricately decorated sign. Their website can be found here.

pic-ballerina music box

Wooden Heart: I’m glad I was never in this shop when I was younger, because I would have spent every penny in my little purse. This toy shop has the loveliest collection of traditional toys I have ever seen. From a doll’s house, to a toy oven, to snow globes, to a wooden Noah’s ark, there was some surprise in every corner. The shop itself even had a spiral staircase. (Little Me would definitely have blown all my money on that music box.)

Found on Shopping Street in a restored stone house, originally built in 1580, this shop is worth a visit whether you need a present for your nephew or not. Take a look at the website here.

Chapters bookshop – somewhere to visit

I love bookshops much more than I should for the amount of money I have. One brand-new book is enough to make me happy, but shelf after shelf…gets dangerous.

I like Hodges Figgis a lot, but my favourite bookshop in Dublin has got to be Chapters on Parnell Street. It’s independent (Ireland’s largest independent bookstore), Irish-owned, and the sheer volume of books…it can be hard work finding the back wall of the shop.

Chapters also buys second-hand books (or CDs or DVDs) for cash or store credit. The upstairs of the shop is a huge second-hand section. I don’t bring all my books there – there are a lot of options for second-hand stuff, I also like book swaps and car boot sales – but if I’m looking to buy something specific, or if I have some good quality hardbacks, this is my go-to.

The one criticism I would have is that, to me, the Young Adult (YA) section feels a bit understated. It’s hidden in the corner so you have to search to find it, and the selection is not the best or the most varied I’ve seen. That said, Chapters has a way of making other books appeal to me in a way many shops don’t. The classics section is lovely.

If you’re in Dublin and you think you’d like to visit, there’s a map at the bottom of their website, linked above.