GO ABROAD: Madrid Mania

Deputy Publisher Devon Kirkpatrick samples Spain, and some Spaniards

In the 1670s, the French sorceress La Voisin crushed the emerald-green beetle Lytta vesicatoria, mixed it with dried moles and bat’s blood, and made the aphrodisiac Spanish fly. The Marquis de Sade is claimed to have given pastilles that were laced with Spanish fly to prostitutes at an orgy in 1772. Of course it’s all been done before, but history proves that when one flies to Spain, temptation awaits.

Madrid, the largest city in Spain, and the third most highly populated city in the European Union, hosts a diverse mix of seductive, inspiring sights and activities for the lesbian traveler. As she makes her way through the Puerto de Sol in the heart of the grand city of Madrid, the tastes and sounds, like the flavorful ingredients in paella, the popular provincial saffron rice dish, will satisfy her appetite for excitement and romance.

The natural first destination on the gay tour of Madrid is the Plaza Chueca. A neighborhood once defined by prostitution and drugs, it has in recent years been transformed by an affluent gay community into one of the most fashionable and cosmopolitan districts in Madrid, where grafitti-plastered walls announce the existence of the “zona gay.” Backpacking solo? Stay the night at the bare-bones but welcoming Casa Chueca (from $50, 4 Calle San Bartolomeo, casachueca.com). For a more upscale experience, the centrally located five-star Urban Hotel offers all the amenities and more – just pick up the room phone and have the concierge deliver champagne, bath salts, and football tickets moments later! (from $300, Carrera de San Jeronimo 34, derbyhotels.es/page.php?id=515).

Begin your day post-siesta at about 4pm with a walk in the Parque del Buen Retiro (the park of the pleasant retreat), where all manner of street performers, fortune tellers and a multitude of eccentric hash salesmen populate the lawns. When you’ve had your fill of outdoor sights, head over to the Prado Museum (museoprado.mcu.es/home.html) the largest fine arts museum in Madrid, located on the grand tree-lined boulevard of culture, Paseo del Prado. Later, stop by lesbian-owned café/bookstore Librería Berkana(Hortaleza 64, libreriaberkana.com) to schmooze with the well-read ladies of Madrid.

End your day with a nosh and a delicious plastic cup full of Calimocho, the refreshing concoction of equal parts coca-cola and red wine—at the celebrated dive Bar Nike (Augusto Figueroa 22), where an onslaught of locals drink, sing and play at outside tables before stumbling into the cobblestone streets. End your evening dancing ‘til dawn at Club Longplay (Plaza de Vázquez de Mella, 2), an upbeat mixed dance club in the heart of Chueca.

For the up-and-coming heart of lesbian nightlife, explore the district of Lavapies, in the very center of the oldest section of Madrid, where a lively gathering of young people, immigrants, artists, and musicians have come to live. And for the best paella in town, dine at El Ventorrillo Murciano (Tres Peces, 20, ventorrillo.org/Ventor-Murciano.htm).

In preparation for a trip to Madrid, be sure to rent the DVDs of Pedro Almodovar’s films, especially What Have I Done to Deserve This?. His work shows great insight into the heart of the city, and into the hearts of the city’s women. Study up.

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