For our friends in Santa Maria, and in particular, our FCC family, many of you know Sergio and Diane Camacho. In the fall of 2016, they hosted a young man, Carlos Gomez, from Madrid. He was sweet and charming and we had fun teasing with him while he was here. One year later, the Camachos agreed to host Carlos’ sister, Ana. Since Ana was a few weeks shy of 15, the exchange organization required a parent to escort her to California. The Gomez family all came together to make a holiday of it and we had the pleasure to meet them. Carlos’ parents, Carlos and Marcela, were wonderful and we were glad to see Carlos again, as well as meet Ana. We told them of our travel plans and that we planned to spend a week in Madrid and we made tentative plans to meet there.
I contacted Marcela when we arrived and we agreed to meet on Saturday. I told her we would like to see how a typical family lives here in Madrid. We left our apartment and took the metro, then walked to their flat. I have to say I love the metro system in Madrid and I love walking through the streets. There are so many things you miss when you are in a car. Walking allows you to interact with people and see things from a different perspective.
We were greeted with open arms by the Gomez family and had a nice visit and tour of their flat. We then went for a walk down their street to a typical market, in fact, the one Marcela shops at weekly. We only walked through part of one floor of the two-story market. It is probably almost the size of a football field if you put the two floors together. They have everything in there, but Carlos explained how Spain is very important in the fishing industry, with a major presence not only in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, but also in other areas off South America and Africa. So, the selection of seafood here is phenomenal. Here in the market, you can tell the vendor what you would like and how you would like to prepare it and they will cut and clean it to your specifications, or they can help you with some instructions if you wish to try something new.
After we left the market, it was time for lunch. (In Spain, lunch is not noon, but 2:00 or 3:00 and dinner is 8:00 or after.) Marcela was excited to show us their very favorite restaurant, and she had to make special arrangements to get a table because they were booked up. We arrived at Lakasa and were seated out on the lovely terrace. Carlos suggested that we let Chef Cesar Martin decide for us what to try. Chef Martin suggested that he would bring several things to share and their Sommelier would pair Spanish wines with the various courses.
Now, here is where I’m going to have trouble…the food and wines were so beautiful and wonderful, I was caught up in moment and did not take and pictures or notes. Also, the descriptions don’t translate well into english. So, I ask the Chef to kindly forgive me for my crude attempt to explain what he served: Chicken and cheese croquettes, bull’s tail on potatoe, chilled tomatoe soup with shrimp, tuna tartar, muscles, quail on rice, and a lobster and chicken dish. To finish, we had a cheese platter with four types of cheeses paired with a late harvest wine that was like honey. I must also explain this feast was over the course of almost three hours and the chef would come and personally check on us or even explain and serve the dish himself. The whole service staff was lovely and accommodating. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I felt like a queen or a celebrity! (Especially after the parade…lol). Thank you to Chef Martin for your personal attention and your passion for your craft, which was evident in your dishes. I recommend Lakasa if you are looking for an experience and a beautiful meal in Madrid.
Once lunch was over, Carlos and Marcela wanted to show us the Palacio Real de El Pardo where Generalissimo Francisco Franco resided after the Spanish Civil War. Carlos liked the gardens in particular and Marcela thought it was a good representation of how the royalty lived in those days. Unfortunately, when we arrived, it was closed but we walked around the area and Carlos explained that today the palace is controlled by the military and is used to house visiting dignitaries.
In addition, Carlos and Marcela gave us suggestions of what to see and do in our remaining days in Madrid along with ideas for the rest of our time in Southern Spain and Barcelona. I hated to see our day end and really appreciate the time spent together sharing likes and differences, philosophy, culture, and politics, and we all agreed that the world would be a better place if we all would just make an attempt to understand one another. Contrary to what media chooses to show, the world is filled with wonderful people who are more the same than our differences.