June – Favourite Moments – Three Cities, a Birthday and Madrid’s Best Mexican Restaurant

(Misty the chatty cat – Dublin, Ireland)

June is my favourite month. The evenings are longer, it’s officially summertime, and most importantly; it’s my birthday month!* June babies, rejoice! It’s a well known fact that all Gemini’s love their birthdays.

This year I was willing to make a rare exception and not really celebrate much at all. With family and friends at home and Iñaki in Madrid, I figured I’d probably go for dinner and some drinks with my friends here in Granada. Quiet, low-key. A. single. day.
Then the tables turned! As they so very often do. It transpired that I had to stop by Dublin for a few days, which coincided perfectly with my birthday. Once I told Iñaki my plans, he booked to come along too. Things were shaping up very nicely. What was meant to be a relatively quiet month (who am I kidding?) ended up being quite jam-packed. I got to see plenty of people I didn’t think I would for a while, and had some really great times. A June to remember!

*Okay, birthday week. I don’t want to be greedy here. I tend to get a good solid five days to a week out of it. 10 days if I’m lucky. Birthdays are important. You only get one!

Things kept getting better and better, as I ended up home just on the for the bank holiday weekend. The weather was wonderful and my sister and I spent the Saturday afternoon catching up at Malahide park and Avoca. We went specifically for the baked cheesecake (if you haven’t tried it, you haven’t lived!) only to be told they haven’t had it in a few weeks. We ended up having to settle for double chocolate mousse cake. First world problems. It was pretty good, but it was no delicious dense and creamy baked vanilla cheesecake with a flake/malteaser on top and a crumbly biscuit base that creates a ball of richness in your stomach that makes you so incredibly full that no other meals are required that day. *deep breath required after that sentence* To be fair, they are big cake shaped shoes to fill. I hope it’s back in action by now, the loss was far too much to bear. I’m serious. Order that cake.

When I’m home, I like to take my time to appreciate the little things. Like a garden – seeing anything green is instantly soothing. I love the quiet, and all the little details. It’s so peaceful, you can always hear the woodpigeons. I love that. There are always fresh flowers (inside and out) and the fridge is always stocked, full of all kinds of everything. There’s always a supply of cava or champagne, neither of which last long when I’m on Irish soil. Irish butter! White pudding! Real Guinness! Keogh’s crisps! The cats snoozing in the sun. The smell of freshly ground coffee in the kitchen. Weekend mornings with my family and the jokes between my brother, sister and me. These are the things that stick, that shape my memories of home.

I wasn’t long home when Iñaki arrived a few days later, on my actual birthday. He brought me some fantastic gifts (one is to visit the bodega of Freixenet cava just outside Barcelona, which I’m so looking forward to.) Everyone was so happy to see him, and my Mam had a huge fry up ready when we got in from the airport. Nothing less than you would expect from the wonderful doting Irish Mother. Eggs, hash browns, toast, rashers, sausages, pudding…no part of the pig was safe! Iñaki’s suitcase had barely touched the kitchen tiles and he was already out like a light to pull himself a pint of Guinness. This man knows his priorities. Presents for me, pints. Not long after, he’s working his way through the Kerrygold. We trained him well.

Also, can we all just LOOK at my tiny half pint glass! Thank you to Martin at O’Connor’s pub who gave me one while I was home – they’re known for being quite difficult to lay hands on. The odd pub has them, and the Guinness Storehouse, of course. They’re great little glasses. Half the pint, but in a full pint shape. Perfect.

Later on that evening we went out for a couple of drinks, and the whole family went to Indie Spice (an amazing Indian restaurant I’ve mentioned a few times here) where the manager Kovi looked after us really well (as always) and made things extra special. It was the perfect day and I received some really thoughtful and beautiful gifts.

On Friday afternoon, my sister, Iñaki and I went to the city. We were after food, fun, booze and mischief. We went to Wowburger (which needs no introduction) downstairs at Marys (the newest branch, it’s great!) and afterwards had pints in the Stag’s Head.

We had a few cocktails along the way (as one always does. I mean, please) and went to one of Dublin’s newest bars, Roberta’s, on Essex Street in Temple Bar (nestled between Cleaver East and the Porterhouse.) Roberta’s is a fantastic addition to Dublin city. I was impressed. It’s bright, stylish, incredibly spacious and the terrace, where we ended up sitting is the perfect spot for a summer afternoon. As we had just eaten, I have yet to try the food; but next time I’m home, I’ll give a full review. Their breakfast pizza looks incredible. I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t give it a face dive at some point.
Our friend Molly joined us later on which was an unexpected surprise (love those) and we ended up going to the Porterhouse next door for live music, ending our evening in TGI Friday’s on Fleet Street.
Saturday was an excellent day. A barbecue day! It was also our last day in Dublin. My parents very kindly organised a day for friends and family to extend my birthday celebrations. It was so gooood. I can still smell the meat marinating. In fact, looking at some of the pictures I took that day was a bit worrying. I realised that 50% are friends, the other 50% is meat. Either I’m a cannibal, or I need more hobbies. But I’m not kidding. Examples:

Some of the glittering gang.Some of the juicy meat.More pictures of our guests. More meat!

The weather stayed bright, sunny and warm all day, apart from a very short spell where a violent wind came out of NOWHERE, upending the patio umbrella several feet into the air. It was gas. I’ll never forget the image of everyone covering their heads for safety. A true Kodak moment.
There was a great crowd, which made for excellent (and obviously hilarious) company. We finished late, which meant a slight hangover leaving Dublin for Madrid the next day – but totally worth it. My friend’s ridiculously cute daughter (Sophia) kept me on my toes with so many games and running around…and I can’t remember the last time I sat on the grass in a big group in the sunshine.

Iñaki and I said our goodbyes to Dublin, and by Sunday evening we were back in Madrid. The weather was unbelievable! I can only describe it as stepping off a plane into what I imagine living inside a hairdryer would be like. Crazy hot, crazy humid. We stayed indoors and unpacked (but only for a few short days as our trip to Paris was approaching!) with the air conditioning on full blast, watching horror movies. We watched at least 6 during our days in Madrid. A slight obsession formed. The Conjuring films are the only ones scary enough and worth a watch.

The night before we left for Paris, Iñaki’s parents very kindly invited us for dinner, and they ordered pizzas from our favourite pizza place in Madrid, Pizzería El Trébol (mentioned here before a few times!) and afterwards there was a birthday cake surprise. And more singing! And more gifts! It was really thoughtful and such a lovely evening with my awesome Argentinean family. I realised then that I racked up 4 birthday cakes this year. A pretty successful birthday if I do say so myself, optimum milking achieved. A complete 180 from my original plan.

Touching on the title of my post, it was time for our third city. We left for Paris early on a Thursday morning, on a flight that lasted a mere hour and a half, so we had the whole day to enjoy the city. We were celebrating our one year anniversary that weekend, and Iñaki made the suggestion that we should go on a trip for each anniversary and make it a tradition. What a great idea! Our trip to Paris was magical, and full of clichés – in the very best way. We visited all the popular sites, ate croissants, croque monsieurs and foie gras, drank champagne and French wines and spent two amazing days in Disneyland! More on those adventures in another post. This post is getting too picture heavy. Like always. I never learn!

After our few dreamy days in Paris, we flew back to Madrid. We missed the parks almost instantly (I still do!) and we would have happily stayed for another few days. I booked to travel back to Granada a few days later so I wanted to visit some of my favourite Madrid haunts while I had a few days left in town.

On one of our first nights back in Madrid we went to Iñaki’s parent’s house again for an amazing dinner and told them all about our trip. Iñaki’s Mam made a delicious summer salad with tomatoes, lettuce, walnuts, feta and melon and served it with pascualina, an Argentine pastry pie made with cheese. How good does that sound? It was everything and more! One had cheese ham and egg, the other had cheese egg and tomato. We managed to fit in some very fancy ice cream at the end too. A mix of dulce de leche, stracciatella and zambaglione, ice cream made from Marsala wine, which is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. Just incredible! I feel like I always try something new when I’m there. A party for the tastebuds.

The weekend before I left, we really went for it. That’s what weekends are for, and so many good memories are made around a table. Fact. We bar hopped to places we went to when we both lived in Madrid, had dinner at our favourite Mexican restaurant on Friday, and my favourite Italian on Saturday.

I’ve mentioned this Mexican spot before, but I will wax lyrical about it until the day I die. Or it dies! Everything from the ambience, to the food, drinks, prices – perfection. There are a few dotted around the city but the one on Calle Belén is the very best. The frozen margaritas are amazing (and Iñaki is a fan of their micheladas) the nachos are excellent (they’re very generous with the fresh guacamole) and the alhambre is a must. Order the ‘mixta’ which is a web of cheese melted over vegetables, chicken and steak strips served with tortillas and refried beans. Crazy good.

Another Madrid tip – if you’re more of a street food, no messing about type and you love a good burrito, go to Tierra . Again, they’re all over the city, but my favourite is Calle de Espoz y Mina – a stone’s throw from Puerta del Sol. If you love Boojum, Tierra is for you!

Saturday we went to La Tagliatella, where I had my favourite pizza that I get at least once a month. It’s probably featured on this blog more than Oxford commas. Thin base (the total opposite of Pizzeria Trébol’s thick focaccia base) with truffle oil, mushrooms and mountains of mozzarella. So simple, so perfect. La Tagliatella has a special place in my heart, and I was delighted to see it has lots of new stuff on the menu. It was great to see the staff at the Calle del Barquillo branch and I was touched that they still remember me from Madrid last year, which lead to some drinks on the house. The best staff! The weather was beautiful that Saturday and I couldn’t help myself – I had to take pictures of the light bouncing off the buildings. Golden hour dreams.

Sunday hit and I was on my way back to Granada. When I’m about 5 kilometres from the place, I always seem to truly relax, like I know in my bones that I’m home. (Well, home from home. Just in case my Mother is reading) I was back to work, back to catching up with friends, back to routine. But I noticed that during June, Paris never truly left me. I found myself picking up fresh baguettes from the kiosk in my square to devour with butter, and reaching for a glass of crisp rosé on my balcony in the evenings.
It’s good to be back, and it’s good to explore.

I’m off to Seville for the first time tomorrow. Who knows what that will bring.
Have a wonderful weekend! x

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