I have explored two areas of Madrid in the last few weeks to discover some of its history and literary highlights. The first walk was around the Barrio de las Letras (the District of letters), spotting plaques and street signs to some of the great Spanish writers. I like the way that many writers have been immortalised in the tiles outside pubs and bars. On my walk with Moira, which was supposed to be around 30 minutes and took nearer to six hours, we found some great stopping off places.
A favourite is Las Cueva de Sesamo which is an underground den of a bar with literary inscriptions on the walls to savour and translate. Beethoven above the omnipresent pianist, a bit of Proust above our heads and plenty more. We drank bottled beer and breathed in the tobacco fumes and were breathless bohemians! We left to find a queue snaking its way along Calle de Principe. This is clearly a hot spot on a Saturday night bar crawl.
From here we went to where the legendary bravas sauce was invented and I was able to explain why there are trick mirrors set into the wall of the restaurant. They commemorate a classic play by the writer Valle-Inclan (there is a plaque high on the wall of course). This area around Pasaje Matheu is a web of bars and cafes and there is much to detain the literati! If we had entered every bar that claimed to be a "home" for Hemingway we would have been both broke and legless.
There are signs of literary culture all around us in these streets - from murals to words on the pavements in Huertas to writers' street signs to memorial monuments. We discovered the house of Lope de Vega - who married three times and was ordained late in life and was a prolific playwright and poet, the home of Cervantes and his final resting place, the churches they frequented, the theatres they patronised. Now I need to find out more. This is just the beginning.