Madrid - A Secret & Colorful Corner -

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After having recommended hotels, restaurants, shops, parks, and sights to see in Madrid, I would like to to share one last thing; my favorite corner of Madrid, Plaza de la Cebada. One of the most historic plazas in the city, it is well known for it’s famous covered market. The market takes up nearly the whole plaza! This plaza is in the heart of the Latin quarter, in fact, easily reachable from La Latina station.  Next to the plaza, you’ll find many small bars offering tapas with some wine to wash them down. You’ll also find the famous La Latina theatre- they still host daily shows! While these are all interesting attractions, the reason I love this plaza is completely different. Very few people are aware, but there’s an amazing small courtyard surrounded by some rather dilapidated walls behind the market. At first glance, it might not seem like much, but once inside you’ll see that it is truly fantastic! The walls are full of colors and graffiti art. A band generally plays in a small outdoor amphitheater, adding even more ambiance to the whole scene. Everything is absolutly authentic. There are even some shopfronts that frequently host a wide variety of artists.  Before heading into La Latina Sunday market, stop a while to take some sun on a colorful bench . Between the improvised music and the mix of colors, you can’t help but feel some Spanish Allegria!

Marrakech - The Souk & Place Jemaa-el-Fna -

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The souks, or suqs, are the typical covered markets that you can find scattered throughout the Medina. They are one of the main attractions of Marrakesh. As soon as you enter, you’ll get lost in the small alleys full of tiny shops, colorful stalls, exotic smells, sounds, and the loud voices of the merchants trying to tout their wares- all sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitors. Remember the golden rule in Marrakesh, NEGOTIATE for EVERYTHING! The market stretches from the Ben Youssef Mosque in the North to the famous Jemaa-el-Fna square in the South. It is organized into areas dedicated to specific goods and activities: leathers, wool, jewelry, produce, lanterns, apparel, dried goods, spices etc.. Take a break afterwards in one of the many terraces to sip on a mint tea and admire the sunset.

Of the souvenirs available I suggest: some small bottles of argan or rose oil, spices (curry, turmeric, etc), the famous black soap used in hammam for a quick scrub or the iconic Morrocan slippers worn by none other than Aladdin.

Jemaa-el-Fna square is the true epicenter of all the chaos that is Marrakesh. During the day, you’ll find snake charmers and stalls selling dentures (yes, you read correctly, dentures), street artists, monkey trainers, henna tattoo artists, horse drawn carts, and vendors selling dates and freshly squeezed orange juice.

By night, the market makes way for stalls serving up fresh local cuisine. It is definitely worth trying at least once! Although there are seemingly an infinite number of stalls, they are all in fact numbered which is helpful to find specific ones. The most famous that I tried was the“Aicha N°1” read here to learn more!

The square is dominated by the Koutubia mosque, the tallest in Marrakesh. A few steps from the mosques is the Cyber Jardin on Avenue Mohammed V, and L’Embsemble Artisanal, a sort of artisans quarter where prices are fixed and there is no bargaining. It seemed a little too touristy for my liking.