I arrived at El Rastro flea market while the traders were just finishing setting up. It was the place to be in Madrid on a Sunday morning: before long the streets would be crawling with people, including pickpockets. I avoided the upcoming crush nicely and browsed at ease without having to clutch my bag too tightly.
It was very similar to Camden market; in fact some of the floral dresses and pendant necklaces were identical. There were also plenty of trademark Spanish items such as flamenco dresses and more fans than you could shake a stick at. Luckily there were some lovely items amongst the kitsch. I bought a silver-plated necklace with two inset pieces of labradorite, my favourite crystal. I indulged in a few beaded bracelets (a holiday tradition of mine) and found some other small gifts to take back home.
Once I’d done most of the circuit, the sun had cleared the surrounding buildings and the crowds had visibly swelled, so I decided to make my escape. I dropped into 100 Montaditos for lunch where tapas only cost 1€ each. I had adorable little mini brioche buns stuffed with potato omelette and hard-boiled eggs. The place had quite a rotary feel about it; orders were placed and paid for at the bar and food was called out over a microphone for diners to come and collect. Situated so close to El Rastro, I guessed that they were accustomed to being full to the rafters after the morning’s shop and thrived on efficiency. It wasn’t the place to relax but the food was good.
Later I ventured back past the Palacio Real and found there was no queue so I made use of the opportunity and paid for entry. I’ve never been overly fascinated by royals so for me it was more the case of ticking a box, but the interior was as stunning and regal as one would expect. I particularly enjoyed the Carlos III Chamber of Gasparini room, which was where the king performed the ceremony of getting dressed. It was designed by Matteo Gasparini in the Rococo style of ornamental and extravagant three-dimensional decoration. I wasn’t allowed to take photos in that particular room but there was a dramatic contrast between black, swirling filigree detailing and paler sections. It was far more gothic than a lot of the palace’s other rooms, where gold ceilings and weighty chandeliers took precedence.
After getting my fill of royal luxury I continued along Calle de Bailén to La Basilica Grande de San Francisco to see a particularly lavish dome ceiling, but unfortunately the gates were locked and the doors shut. I’d checked the opening times beforehand but perhaps as it was Sunday, an unexpected religious ceremony had come up. I was pretty worn out anyway, so after a stop off at a bar for another granizado de limón I headed back to the hotel to freshen up before returning to Tapa Tapa for dinner, which had become my favourite eatery in Madrid. This time, as well as the langoustines, I had a portion of fried squid with its ink and salad made up of seafood, avocado and chopped mango. Once again, it was all delicious. I particularly liked Tapa Tapa because despite offering a wide range of choices, they seemed to excel at them all whether you chose seafood, bocadillos or vegetarian options.
I thought about going for a spot of shopping while the air was cooler, but once I’d paid the bill and left the restaurant I was met by a raging thunderstorm. Obviously even Madrid had a temperature limit and as I huddled with other diners watching the rain thrum wildly on the pavement, a stream already gathering strength in the gutter, I hoped the storm would crack the enduring heat.
I decided against shopping, and when there was a slight lull in the onslaught, I made a dash back to Calle Mayor and watched the rest of the storm indoors.