Colloda Villalba is a fair sized town to the north east of Madrid, within the Comunidad de Madrid. While there isn’t much to see or do in the town itself, there are a couple of attractions in the nearby area. A short train journey, or a €25 taxi ride, will get you to the neighbouring town of El Escorial and its famous royal palace (see next post). Google map here.
Also not far away (€12 in a taxi according to a cabbie in 2016) is the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), the last resting place of Francisco Franco; the leader of the fascist Falange Española party and former dictator of Spain.
It’s supposed to be quite a sight, especially the huge cross that towers above it which is the largest in the world. I didn’t have time to go but my father has been and says it’s a very eerie place, built as it was with the forced labour of Republican prisoners, many of whom died during the construction. Exact figures are hard to arrive at as there is still very little information available as to what happened here.
My colleague Mark and I stayed for six nights in the Hotel Galaico www.hotelgalaico.com, the only hotel in town. It was unexceptional but the reception staff were nice and the Wi-Fi worked fairly well. The breakfast table is pretty bare; cornflakes, bread, processed cheese and ham, and if you’re lucky, the occasional fresh tomato.
There are a few restaurants within walking distance which were okay, but again, nothing to write home, or a blog, about, but I will anyway for the benefit of my colleagues.
El Cortijo Casa Andaluz (Low Intermediate B), 1 Calle Cervantes, www.elcortijo.es
A plain space with portly unsmiling old male staff but with decent Andalucian food, albeit mostly fried. Their house wine, an Albarino with no label from Galicia, is very drinkable and a snip at only €8.64 a bottle.
All the raciones on the menu can be ordered as medias (halves). We had four ham croquetas (B), chopitos; aka baby squid (B), a parrillada (mixed grill) of vegetables (aubergine, onion, red and green peppers) which was good (B+).
Also deep fried Chanquetes, a quite rare tiny fish known in English as the transparent goby, which was something I hadn’t eaten before (B).
All this food was perfectly good, and very reasonable. With two bottles of wine and a couple of chupitos of Orujo de Hierbas, the bill came to a paltry €44 for two.
La Pescantina (Low Intermediate B), 17 Calle Batalla de Bailén
This is a seafood specialist recommended by two different teachers. Mark and I had the Mariscada for €47.50 which involved scallops, small prawns, king prawns, huge ‘carabineros’ prawns, razor clams and crayfish (B+), along with an unspecial mixed tuna salad (C+).
Salma (Intermediate B), 10 Calle Batalia de Belen
This is a Middle Eastern restaurant that sells alcohol. It makes a nice change if you’re tired of just eating Spanish food.
I came twice and had their set menu. You get a starter of pita with Hummus, Aubergine Baba Ganoush, Couscous and flatbread (B+) . The main course for me was always lamb (B).
La Sueno de Laura (Low Intermediate B), 11 Avenida de Honorio Lozano, Madrid, Spain www.elsueñodelaura.es
This is essentially a handmade burger joint but they also sell salads and egg dishes and they have an okay choice of wines. It was the Tripadvisor #1 at the time of writing (May 2016) and also had the most reviews, which is the criterion I generally look for.
The décor is modern café style and quite quirky with a collection of old TVs and other bric-a-brac. The staff are very friendly and the food is okay.
I had the ‘Hamburguer Gourmet’ (B+) con Queso de Cabra a la Plancha, Cebolla Caramelizada, Champiñón a la Plancha y Salsa de Miel y Mostaza (with grilled goat cheese, caramelized onion, grilled mushroom and honey and mustard sauce.
So no culinary stars in this town, just a few average restaurants. If you want somewhere really good you should jump in a taxi to El Escorial (please see next post).