Even in the unusual downpour that lasted the entire day as umbrellas turned inside out when the wind picked up, one couldn’t resist walking around this monumentally glorious city.
While window shopping from a van on a city tour in Madrid and seeing great designs, even with only a quick glance, I suddenly had a retail therapy attack which had to wait for the next day.
This urge to shop, yes, it was pouring, was Calle Serrano, Spain’s answer to New York’s,5th Ave., and Paris’, Av. Montaigne. Here on Calle Serrano, the epicentre of high fashion, and happily what I was looking for were items designed and made in Spain. Sure this very long street had the well known designer labels, and where the local fashionistas love to shop. But Spanish shop after Spanish shop was filled with them showing their loyalty to the fine designers of this country. And my jaw dropped when I saw many exquisite items.I was stunned to see so many stores, their decor so elegant, along with clothing that had both style, panache and dazzle. If you know your style and what is appropriate, then Calle Serrano is the place to start.
It’s about 10 years ago while traveling in Spain that I discovered that besides some of the greatest art museums, some considered the best ham in the world, wonderful wine, renovated palaces now exquisite hotels, there was also some great shopping. And above all else, their fashion -take was so refreshing, raising designs to a new level for every age and shape and from funky to edgy. But most were so very wearable for the age-appropriate fashionista.
The first I knew about Adolfo Dominguez was when I noticed a window in Salamanca, not a very large city but a captivating one, where I could have easily purchased every piece I saw. But work,as always, is a priority, so with just about l hour of free time, I was still able to do a bit of financial damage. And I never forgot his name. On another trip to Spain, again with little time, I looked for a shop bearing his name and I doubted that there were any in destinations like Avila and Lagrona and of course, I was correct.
However, in the short time I had in Salamanca, I saw, I stopped,I shopped and at that point without any knowledge of this fine designer’s renown. I hadn’t any idea how popular Adolfo Dominguez designs were but I was soon to discover his fame. The 60-ish year old Dominguez has a huge following and now that includes me.
By far, my favorite was and still is, fashion Adolfo Dominguez, which, for me, has turned into a passionate treasure hunt whenever I’m lucky enough to get to one of his boutiques.
It wasn’t until a recent trip to Valencia that I begged for an hour since I had heard he had a niche in a department store next to my hotel. “ Only a hour,” I begged my guide. I really felt as I had struck oil. However, it wasn’t at all as I recalled his truly fetching collection. With a stunned look on my face, it must have seemed obvious to one of the sales staff since she pointed out that this particular space was dedicated to the larger, older woman. The line that I wanted was just around the escalator, she told me. With so little time, I was overwhelmed by their buying choices, so clean, well tailored, finely made items presented in this small area. After a few purchases…a sweater and blouse, the obviously fashion -conscious soul sister staff member, who spoke English and admired A.D. as I did, let me know that the leather goods-shoes and handbags-were on the floor below. Hustling quickly since I did have a meeting to attend, we rushed down and sure enough there were too many choices but I did manage to see a pair of shoes with burnished round toes and wonderful round wood heel that not only were they stunning but worn that evening were also most comfortable after the stiletto heels that always leave my feet numb after an hour. But what was news for me was to learn that at my next stop,
I was in the epicentre, a flagship store in front of me, where a 5 storey building had opened devoted to only Dominguez’ collections.
However, this emporium in Madrid was my first entry into what seems to be an A.D. club with a very large membership. every metre dedicated entirely to the latest collection. The building made me think of the wondrous building choices of American designer, Ralph Lauren.
With the assistance of Christian, who immediately seemed to know my taste, the large dressing room was soon filled with dresses, pants, and tops. And for those looking for gowns and very serious evening wear which I wasn’t aware that A.D. designed, there’s a small area with a few racks of these elegant pieces. After some financial ‘damage’ and a heavy paper bag, I felt it part of my job to see what else there was on this famous shopping street.
And it’s hard not to notice that the men are dressed impeccably and since Boggi, Milan, may not be made in Spain, the shop was busy with ‘peacocks’.
With this being the most up market street and probably the longest, shop-filled area, I discovered some truly wonderful designers and Spanish made products. But getting right along with my original theme of ‘made in Spain”, Holly Bracken, next to Adolfo Dominguez, is the antithesis since her designs are trendy, funky and with the young, affluent young woman in mind. Javier Simorra (33 Serrano) is another surprise with lovely items. One of the oldest and renowned perfume shops just up a the street, is Alvarez Gomez where they will still make a perfume to order and have an extensive selection of hair and jewelry accessories. This is a must-go-to..
For anyone, any age, who loves fun tops made with the finest fabrics and seems to be recognizable immediately, that’s Custo. Then, I walked by what I thought was Boss. But since that is German, I gave it a pass until I looked again since the windows didn’t look anything like Boss. So I retraced my steps and indeed, Hoss, had some of the most exciting designs that are amazingly well priced for their exceptional designs.
Of course, there’s the world -wide known, Spanish manufacturer, Zara and further down Serrano, is Zara Home-ware, both are stand alone shops. Take time to investigate the great side streets with many fine items. e.g. Calle Goya, which is just off Calle Serrano. There are several smaller streets in Madrid that entice the locals. One is August Figueroa Street, not too far from Serrano St. where the shoe shops, shop after shop, are in great abundance and the prices often less than half the price… a true shoe-lovers paradise that all the locals know about and where many shop for the less hefty prices footwear.
With a heavy bag filled with purchases from A.D, I decided it was time to head back to my centrally located hotel.
I had to unload my bag, seemingly getting heavier every minute De Los Letras, on via Gran, is a triumph of what a well renovated old building turned ultra modern hotel should look like. The architects have kept the integrity of the building retaining the original with mosaics, tiles and molding while establishing an extremely well modern interior, even keeping the wrought iron (non working elevator) from the days when it was an apartment building. But as coincidences always seem to happen when I travel, the staff member at the desk, seeing the name on the bag, had a big smile as he mentioned that the hotel’s restaurant/bar, opened until a few years ago, had, in fact, been Adolfo Dominguez’s large shop.
Ah, I sighed gratefully that the shop had been relocated to Calle Serrano otherwise, I’m sure I would never had been able to concentrate on the work that brought me to this majestic city, with green spaces, monumental buildings, gracious people, super food and wine, palaces and museums that rate among the best. And it’s a place where the streets are filled with young people, perhaps because the economy is so bad and with no work to hurry off to in the morning, they stayed on the streets,bars and cafes well into the early morning. Everyone seems to be texting and so much smoking among the young who were wearing the most up to the moment ensembles and most surprisingly, openly smooching on benches, in parks, on the street, which is such a departure from the less tactile North Americans. But the true activity is and always, will be soccer. And you know there’s game when there are clusters of people outside a bar, standing in front of a TV store or their own computer, watching and listening to the hoots and hollers of the score. So shopping may be big but, trust me soccer is bigger.
Food is always on the mind of Spaniards.
So where to eat in Madrid…tried and true.
Lunch is usually after 1pm and could go on for 2 hours.
Dinner, don’t go before 8.30PM and expect to still be there at 11.30PM
One of my favorites for lunch is the avant garde decor of Iroco, Calle Velazquez, 18 Tel 34 91 431 7381
2. See San Anton Market below.
3. Estado Puro Palacio de Tepa , Plaza Del Angel. A bar which serves tapas and larger portions of food.
4. Cafe de Oriente, Plaza de Oriente 2 34 91 547 15 64. It may be located in a 17th century vaulted basement but there’s never been a venue where one can taste some of the most creative cuisine and still enjoy the transparent floor which showcases the former wall of Madrid
1.Don’t miss out on San Anton Market, Calle Augusto Figueroa. From the first floor on, the locals love this venue and if it’s a casual stand-up ‘nosh’, hang out on the 1st. But for local, specials head to the top floor where there’s a terrace and tables or enclosed room. La Cocina de San Anton, in the Chueca neighborhood area offers daily set lunches also and do’t miss out on the best bellota (corn fed)ha which was been hand carved.
2.La Capilla de la Bolsa, Calle Bolsa 12, 34 91 521 86 23,is located in the historical centre next to the Plaza Mayor. The re-design of the former Madrid Stock Exchange has not destroyed the integrity of the architecture and the Mediterranean Haute cuisine in this environment, is exceptional
3. Spain is tapas bar as it is for sun, fun and sights. La Camarilla, Calle Cave Baja 11, 34 91 354 02 07, bases the meals on seasonal, local produce. Light and modern, it’s usually filled with chic locals.