If we tell you we spent a night at the opera in Madrid you will get the wrong idea altogether. For the grand finale the dancer slips a pink tutu over his trousers and dances a perky pas de deux with his mate then the drummer downs his sticks and comes round with a hat. This is StreetlifeMAD dancing in the Opera square and it’s a great show. Just wish we had more change to put in the hat.
It was one of those unplanned discoveries that turn a city stroll into an adventure. Looking for a restaurant recommended by a friend – “nice wine, good Spanish food, a great place to stop for a drink and some tapas in the evening” – we emerged from Opera metro station to hear music bouncing across the square and were drawn towards the crowd.
Exploring is always a bit of a lottery and that’s the fun of it. On our 12 day trip we were never quite sure what we would find partly because we were armed with a 14 year old copy of the Rough Guide to Andalucia, a slightly newer smartphone and an emailed list of recommendations from a friend.
As it happens La Cruzada, the Madrid restaurant, is closed on Monday nights. In fact, considering its age, the Rough Guide was surprisingly reliable: La Buleria, the flamenco club in Cordoba, was very much as described in the 1997 edition and written with the enthusiasm and authority of people who genuinely know the place – the same quality Walking Heads aims for.
We’ve come home with four unforgettable experiences: Picasso’s Guernica in Madrid (all the more powerful on the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War), the Mezquita in Cordoba and the Alhambra in Granada. But we probably would not have found the fourth one without the help of the internet. Le Chien Andalou (just off the Plaza Nueva) is a tiny vaulted space, a miniature airconditioned version of Edinburgh’s Underbelly. It’s described as one of the top ten flamenco bars in the city and (in our admittedly limited view) that seems fair.
City life is constantly on the move. New places emerge, old ones disappear and, though we will certainly invest in a new Rough Guide, the trip brings home the fact that if you want really up to date information social media enables travellers to share the latest local knowledge.
PS: delighted to find the Youtube video on StreetlifeMAD’s Facebook page. If you look hard you might just spot two Walking Heads explorers in the background.