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I've neglected this for too long, so before all details fades from my memory, here is a brief report focusing on food--markets, food stores, restaurants, and bars--with a few other details thrown in, based on my most recent visit to Spain, a couple of months ago. I'll try to complete it soon, rather than drag out the process as is my usual style. I'd like nothing more than to discuss details and answer questions about what I ate and where I ate it, so please feel free to ask away!

I should mention that I planned this trip with a close friend, the same friend who had accompanied me on a Valencia and Barcelona jaunt about a year and a half ago. Unfortunately, this friend was forced to cancel for medical reasons a few weeks prior to departure. Neither of us had purchased travel insurance. So I am very pleased to report that Iberia deserves a rousing commendation for refunding the entire cost of her round trip economy ticket based on her telephone cancellation.

Rather than travel alone, I asked my usual travel partner to step up to the plate and, due to the sad and sudden demise of the 2012 New York Yankees, he was more than willing to travel during World Series season.

We divided the two-week-plus trip into four segments, staying in three apartments—in Madrid, Sevilla, Gaucin (tiny village in the Serrania de Ronda)—and one hotel, in Malaga. While we had made previous visits to Madrid and SEvilla, it would be our first time in both Gaucin and Malaga.

We flew direct from JFK to Madrid, and home from Malaga, via Madrid, on Iberia. I have almost always enjoyed good service from this airline in economy class and this trip was no exception. The food and wine served on board, however, are fairly dire.

We took the yellow Airport Express bus from the stoop outside the terminal, to Atocha station, and from there, a taxi to our apartment.

Our home for the first four nights was a 3-bedroom apartment in the Retiro district of the capital, the sector east of the glorious Parque del Buen Retiro. Both here and in Sevilla, we rented from Spain Select, and would recommend this agency to other travelers. The booking process was streamlined, most credit cards (not Amex) are accepted at no extra fee, and (minor) problems with the Madrid apartment were immediately addressed. We were allowed to check in early, which was much appreciated, as we landed in Madrid about 9am after the overnight flight from NYC.

The Anunciacion apartment is housed in a non-descript but well-cared for building facing the tiny Anunciacion park and just across the bustling Avenida Menendez Pelayo from Retiro Park. It is located on the first floor and there is a small elevator. Furnishings are of the IKEA-ilk (many were, in fact, purchased at IKEA) and were comfortable, even though a few were slightly worn. Minor problems such as many missing light bulbs, were addressed immediately, as I noted. The apartment was spick-and-span clean. The kitchen was very we-equipped.

One disappointment was the lack of information about the immediate area: Where is the nearest supermarket? Which bus will get us to Plaza Mayor? etc. There was a folder with some generic information about the city, but more details about the neighborhood would have been helpful. Even the agent who checked us in was clueless when I asked about a supermarket; happily, a member of the cleaning crew (they were still cleaning when we arrived, due to our early check-in) was able to direct me to the glorious Mercadona, just a 5-minute walk from the apartment.

Other than those minor details, Anunciacion proved to be a good base for us on our return visit to Madrid. It was certainly economical; three bedrooms; two bathrooms cost a total of 160e per night. I had envisioned walking through Retiro Park on our daily sightseeing rounds, but we had pretty dismal weather and ended up taking taxis on a couple of occasions.

We arrived on a Sunday when many restaurants are closed. This presented no problem, as one of the city’s better seafood restaurants was just a few minutes’ walk from the apartment and I had booked a table (using El Tenedor reservation engine) for a late lunch at Casa Rafa prior to arrival. We had done the same on our last trip to the city in 2011. (Those seeking evidence of the current fiscal crisis need look no further than the white-linen-swathed dining room at Rafa; both the dining room and the tapas bar had been jam packed on our last visit, also for Sunday lunch; this time there were empty places at the bar and many free tables in the dining room.


There are few surprises at this five-decades-old seafood temple. One travels here to feast on classic preparations from a menu focused on seafood but also with with meat dishes. Our meal was very good; service is correct.

I began with garlicky, medium-sized clams; the portion was far too large for me to finish, but finish I did. (21e.)

I expected to be wowed by my main course of wild turbot (1/2 order, 21e); it was very good. (Turbot is not usual on American seafood menus, and the little that is offered is usually farmed)

My partner, on the other hand, was enraptured by the rendition of that Madrileño classic Rabo de Toro, a rich, long-simmered braise based on bull’s tail (22e; also a very large portion)

We drank Albariño, beer, and water; the bill totalled 91euro.

After the meal, we were plied with several outstanding and complimentary after-dinner concoctions including the legendary and fiery Galician Orujo, made from pomace and lies left over from wine production. My favorite, however, was the the Basque Pacharán de Navarra, made from macerating sloe berries in anise liqueur. (Regrettably, I neglected to bring home a bottle but have this on my list for next time).

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