My apartment was located on Calle Mira el Sol, which was right off Calle de Embajadores. The entire area was safe, easy to navigate, and full of amazing street art. Really, the tagging might be commissioned, but it’s pretty incredible.
After taking 2856035623 pictures of my apartment, I ventured out and wandered up Calle de Embajadores to check out the neighborhood. I was immediately impressed with the people, the talent, and how clean it was. It always impresses me how places have so much history, and yet they end up looking like a trendy, up-and coming neighborhood in any major city in the US.
Embajadores a popular neighbourhood
The name “Embajadores” (Ambassadors) was given to this neighbourhood on account of the fact that during the 17th century the city’s embassies were temporarily relocated in the area due to a plague. The district extends south of Glorieta Embajadores, Ronda de Toledo and Ronda de Valencia
It is an ordinary Spanish district. It has some interesting sites though: The Casa Encendida is a very active cultural center, with lots of activities and courses. The impressive Matadero -what used to be the old huge 1925 slaughterhouse of Madrid- is now a Contemporary Culture Center. The Circo Price is a permanent circus, there is also a planetarium, a 3D cinema and the vast park of Tierno Galván.
It’s a fairly large area, and the Lavapiés neighborhood (more on that in a future post) is inside this region – much like many of the areas in NYC (TriBeCa, West Village, SoHo…) – but with far less graffiti and way more awesome street art. There are murals and gorgeous pictures on the storefronts when they’re closed – which is a lot, unfortunately. The whole country is in a huge financial recession, so many of the shops and restaurants have since been abandoned. At least there are fantastic things to look at!
This was the first bit of street art that I saw upon leaving my apartment and walking towards Calle de Embajadores. It reminded me of the starburst version of The Kiss that I saw on the Highline in Manhattan a few months ago – but this was really spectacular. It was outside what looked to be a small shopping area (left) and a cigarette shop (right), neither of which were ever open.
The second bit of street art…however…was less friendly and romantic. This was outside of a bus station. The public transportation in Madrid is fantastic.
I took this solely because one of my favorite burger joints in the states is called Plan B Burger Bar, and it’s where my Spain Sendoff happened. The heart is a common theme in the Embajadores area – I think it was a recent movement to “love your city.”
I couldn’t tell what this building was. It looked like a community center, but it also had small trinkets for sale. To the left, not captured in the photo were two children running from something towards the group. What were they running from, you ask? Well, it appeared that they were running from….
….these. Because phallic is always funny, and a highly common theme in Madrid, apparently. There were murals of naked men, with tiny penises, or other designs resembling both flaccid and erect cocks (which you will see later). Yes, I giggled nearly every time I walked by; yes, I occasionally have the maturity level of a 12 year old; and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This was outside of a library/bookstore. It’s nice to know that people still enjoy actual books, and the Kindle hasn’t completely replaced the romance of turning a page. In case you didn’t figure it out from this, I prefer real books, dog-earing the pages, and writing in the margins.
This was a random, tiny painting outside one of the side streets off of Calle de Embajadores. One thing I did notice is that many times, faces were blackened out – obviously not something done by the original artist. I never quite understood the need to deface something so beautiful.
One thing I did notice mainly in the Embajadores/Lavapiés area were the blatant political messages. It’s interesting to be in a place that a) conflicts with your ideology, b) everyone seems to be super poor (but in good spirits). It’s certainly not the bread lines of the USSR.
This was right outside my building. That SKO was everywhere, all over the tagging (that ruined some of the nicer murals). The only thing I can figure is that perhaps it’s a young group of activists.
This was funny because a) I like Hello Kitty, and b) the missing letter was L – “Goodbye Lenin.” I’m not really sure what it meant, but with all the Socialist and Communist propaganda, it’s nice to know there are still a few commercial capitalists in Spain.
A lot of the garage murals on storefronts were to describe the services of the store, in case there wasn’t a tagline or you couldn’t’ figure it out from the name. Many of the places didn’t have windows, probably due to high crime and looting.
There was SO much – it was not only visual overload, but also intellectual (and it forced me to rack my brain for my rudimentary Spanish). In short, Calle de Embajadores was a perfect first street to walk down to really get a feel for and take in Madrid.