minvitamoon-blog-madrid-tay ban nha-spain-jazz-eljungco bar

Enjoy this post in Tiếng Việt 😉

Memorable Summers: Paris again & first-time Madrid

In the summer of 2017, I set foot in Europe for the first time, spending three unforgettable months there. The following year, I was fortunate enough to return to Europe once more, in another charming summer. Before Madrid, our first stop was France, not for an extended stay but just to catch up with an old friend over a few espressos and some rainy-day conversations in Paris. Nicolas, a curly-haired blonde who studied with us during our final year at Foreign Trade University, was part of my vibrant student memories. Now a musical artist in Paris, he remains passionate, albeit still skinny, poor, and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes.

Reuniting in Rainy Paris

This time, Paris greeted us with cold, dreary rain, as faded and listless as a once-glamorous beauty who has lost her luster. I felt a twinge of sadness for Paris but a flicker of joy in reconnecting with Nico, reminiscing about distant memories. If I ever return, I’ll visit Nico’s hometown, Lyon, and journey through the south of France.

Arrival in Madrid

From Paris, we caught a budget flight to Madrid, Spain. It was a late afternoon, but the sun was still bright and intense as we landed at the vast Madrid airport. Honestly, we had speculated that Madrid might share some chaotic traits with Rome regarding public transportation and services, given the notorious governmental corruption in the capitals of Italy and Spain. However, we were mistaken.

First Impressions of Madrid

Madrid, while not boasting Rome’s grand historical architecture or Prague’s charming medieval allure, left a strong impression with its vibrant modernity and genteel wealth. From the expansive, sunlit airport spaces to the clean, spacious metro stations and gleaming new trains, from the breezy boulevards to the modern buildings and bustling squares, everything exuded a dynamic energy rarely seen in Europe. It felt as though Madrid had recently undergone a massive reform, investing heavily in new infrastructure and public transport. We joked hypothetically with each other that much of this funding came from taxes on football clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona 😀

Staying at Cassa Tao Hostel

In Madrid, we stayed at a peculiar hostel named Cassa Tao. We were greeted by a charismatic Moroccan woman with wild black curls who had lived in Madrid for years. Her English was sufficient for discussing room details and check-ins, but Spanish was her primary language. We soon realized we had landed in a Spanish-speaking enclave, surrounded by locals and tourists from South and Central America who spoke only Spanish, with a rare few speaking broken English.

Experiencing the Spanish Culture

Since Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, only after Chinese and surpassing English, it’s no surprise that most Spaniards aren’t particularly interested in learning and speaking English.

Our hostel, Cassa Tao, was a microcosm of the Spanish-speaking world, filled with long-term Madrid residents and backpackers from South American countries like Argentina and Colombia. This Spanish-speaking community took immense pride in their language. One evening, a fiery debate erupted in the hostel’s common room about whether Spanish or English was more difficult to learn.

A young man of Indian descent—one of the rare English speakers I mentioned earlier—asserted that Spanish was much easier to learn than English. He rattled off a string of arguments in fluent but heavily accented English, sounding almost as if he might trip over his tongue. Countering him was a chorus of Spanish-speaking men and women, young and old, vehemently defending the complexity of their language.

Among them was a chubby Argentinian woman who had lived in Madrid for quite some time and spoke English reasonably well. She joined the fray against the passionate Indian, with such childlike fervor that we couldn’t help but laugh.

Embracing the Diversity

The characters we met at Cassa Tao were like a cast from a quirky animated film, with diverse and eccentric personalities. We befriended a kind Argentine couple who shared many delightful moments with us despite the language barrier, a tough-looking yet shy black Frenchman, a loud Venezuelan CR7 fan, and a humorous Bulgarian man fluent in eleven languages. There were also elderly locals inexplicably living in the hostel, including a coughing old man and a middle-aged woman with a gravelly voice that terrified the Indian guy.

World Cup Memories

These weirdly cute characters were also the ones we chose to join watching the World Cup match between Portugal and Spain, rather than trudging out to the legendary Real Madrid Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to find a sports pub as initially planned. Throughout the game, the bald, dark-skinned guy kept teasing the chubby Argentinian woman, insisting that Spain would lose badly to Portugal. The old bald man kept glancing at us, watching to see if we would cheer whenever CR7 scored, knowing we were rooting for Portugal. We had to restrain our excitement since we were, after all, in Spain :d

Exploring Madrid’s Hidden Gems

Beyond the quirky, somewhat silly memories at Cassa Tao, we managed to gather many other beautiful, unforgettable stories in Madrid.

One such memory was enjoying traditional yerba mate tea with our innocent Argentine friends, Luciano and Paula (whom I nicknamed the “tea pipe”). They prepared the bitter yerba tea in a small gourd with a long straw called a mate and showed us how to drink it. The fresh, intense bitterness of the yerba tea sipped hot through the small mate gourd created a wonderfully lightheaded feeling. Each brew of mate was shared among the four of us until it was finished. This is a fundamental aspect of Argentine culture. Argentinians carry their yerba mate and the “pipe” wherever they go. If they see someone drinking yerba mate, they know it’s a fellow Argentinian.

We also discovered a small, quiet Tomato Café tucked away in a deserted street of Madrid.

We loved having coffee there because each espresso was perfectly brewed and richly flavored. The barista at Tomato was incredibly enthusiastic about explaining the proportions and flavors of each coffee and even gave me a few of the café’s stickers as souvenirs. It was also the place where the four of us chatted about everything from political systems and culture to the currencies of our countries. Initially, our friends hardly spoke any English. But when we had coffee together, conversation flowed naturally and smoothly, with some help from Google Translate. It was truly delightful.

One afternoon, we ventured out for classic Spanish tapas, ordering a rich tortilla egg tapas that was very satisfying and an anchovy tapas on a crispy crepe covered in strong blue cheese, which was challenging for us to eat at first. Thankfully, we had dark beer to accompany it, and since we had become accustomed to various European cheeses, we managed to finish the difficult anchovy dish down to the last bite.

Madrid’s Eljungco Jazz Bar

One evening, we walked nearly ten kilometers across numerous boulevards and streets of Madrid to reach the famous Eljungco jazz bar. The music started at 11 PM and continued until morning. That night was an unforgettable live jazz experience, with us swaying and dancing joyfully. The jazz here was lively and distinctive, filled with the deep allure of Latin culture, creating a mesmerizing, fiery atmosphere akin to watching Latin dances, yet still refined and elegant in true jazz style. The live band that night comprised four young artists who were not only charming and elegant but also delightfully eccentric, with exceptional skills and an immensely graceful presence.

A Cherished Gift

Our Madrid memories culminated in a serendipitous encounter with a Spanish library manager who gifted us an alphabet chart of ancient languages, resembling a beautiful artwork. This thoughtful gesture added a unique memento to our journey, a reminder of a city that stands out with its vibrant modernity amidst Europe’s historical grandeur.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here