Travelling abroad is always an exciting time full of adventures but when it comes to bringing stuff home we all have a hard time deciding what to buy and we end up buying the typical souvenirs. Maybe a fridge magnet or a branded bag and t-shirt for our family and friends. It is time to think outside the box.
1. Café Té Arte chocolates
Nestled along Avenida Reina Victoria, this perfect little shop has everything from exotic teas and coffees to locally made chocolates. It was established in 2005 by Felix Cisneros and it caters to both locals and foreigners and although there is only one shop here in Madrid, it offers international shipping. When I went to the store I met Aitana, the lovely sales lady. She was busy tending to a customer and so I had a few minutes to explore my options. On one wall, there are floor to ceiling shelves stacked with teas and coffees from around the world and I was not surprised to see a corner dedicated to Kenyan coffee. On the other wall, there are all sorts of intricately packed chocolates whose packaging is very reminiscent of Charlie and the chocolate factory.
I was especially interested in the chocolates which are in the shape of leaves, because they are made in Spain and their shape is oh so unique. If you are not a chocolate lover, I promise you, the packaging will make you want to spend your money. “I don’t have a favorite product” said Aitana when I asked her what she liked the most in the store “I just love everything here but the tea and chocolate are really good”. So there goes. You have heard it from the horse’s mouth. As for the pricing, it couldn’t get any better than this. For as little as 3.50 euros you can get the chocolate leaves and so much more.
2. Watercolour paintings
Walking through Madrid you will see all sorts of artists, from the caricature artists in Plaza Mayor to the graffiti artists in La Latina. But this is no ordinary artist. A Santander native, Alegría is 93 years young and she has been painting for the last 54 years. She specializes in vibrant water colours and each piece is different complete with her autograph on the back. What makes it even better is the pricing. From as little as 10 euros you can have a personalized piece of Spain with you when you get back home. Do not fret about how to carry it home as they are easily portable with the largest piece being A3 sized. I had to ask her what her favourite was and she said “I love them all equally just like I do my children” you can find Alegria in El Rastro flea market every Sunday and if you’re nice enough she might let you take a picture with her and your new watercolour painting. Who knows? She might be famous one day.
3. Handmade shoes
It is no secret that Spain is home to some amazing shoe styles such as the espadrilles and alpargatas. That is not what we are taking home this time. Instead, how about supporting a local who makes all the shoes in her store from scratch with locally sourced materials. Cynthia Loli is the brains behind everything from design, to the day to day operations of the store. “Once we have the designs ready, I have a team of two other people and from there we start making the shoes and it usually takes 15 days per pair because each pair has to be different.” Established in 2005, this store is a shoe lover’s heaven with 12-foot shelves stacked with all sorts of shoes. On some shelves, you can also see the material she has for future masterpieces as well as her design sketches on her table. Considering how personal everything feels the price is beyond reasonable with pairs starting at 150 euros. So next time you need a pair of unique shoes head on to Malasaña on calle del Espiritu Santo, 1, 28004. They are open Monday to Saturday from 11.30-15.00 and 17.30-21.00.
4. Sangria bull
For the sangria lovers, you know nothing beats a hot summer heat better than a cool Spanish sangria. You might buy some in a bottle to take home or you might want to have the bottle more customized to add more Spanish flare to it. Introducing the corrida de toros sangria which is a two-in-one souvenir. It is a bottle of sangria in the shape of a bull complete with the Spanish flag colours. You get to remember the Spanish bull fights as well as enjoying a typical Spanish drink all at once and maybe a laugh or two because of where you pour the wine from (hint: it the rear of the bull). Found in plaza mayor’s “súper moda regalos y souvenir” shop, it is definitely worth a try for you or your loved ones back home.
5. Mantero Merchandise
In any given plaza or park in Madrid you will see African men selling bags, Football jerseys and belts on blankets for throwaway prices. These men are known as Manteros. While they don’t sell Louis Vuitton or Prada, what they do have is definitely worth the money. If you have the time, try talking to them and getting to know a little about them. You will be surprised by their stories. You will go back home with a bag and an unforgettable story.
Infusions café te arte SL; Av. Reina Victoria 52 28003 Madrid; +34 91 5343949.