In the past year and a half, I estimate that I’ve walked Calle Fuencarral no less than 165 times. If visitors to Madrid know the street at all, they will recognize it as a major shopping drag. The first section, right off of Gran Vía, is ripe for exploration with many major brands as well as the funky Mercado de Fuencarral. However, my route is not this one but rather the stretch between metros Tribunal and Quevedo.
Tribunal: where our journey begins
The stroll is a practical one; it is, in fact, my well-worn route to the grocery store. Carrefour lies at the northernmost tip, where the street turns into Bravo Murillo. Although I could hop the metro and get there in under 5 minutes, I prefer the above-ground trek, which takes about 25 minutes.
Carrefour at night
My imminent move at the end of the month makes the walk even more memorable. Living near this busy street has made for a lot of memories, and I can’t help but roll them over as I stroll this pleasant strip.
One of my first memories of the street was coming across Café Comercial, located in the Glorieta de Bilbao. It just so happens that in my fav Lucía Extebarria novel, the two main characters meet for drinks at this famous Madrileño establishment. Heck, an entire chapter took place there! Watching waiters in starchy white uniforms serve drinks on the terrace, I grinned, thinking, “I live in Madrid!”
There’s a church that sits so close to the street that it’s impossible to get a picture of the entire structure.
There’s Le Pain Quotidien, where I know I can find decent starter and grainy breads.
There’s OpenCor, a lifesaver of a store. It came to my rescue when, one Friday night after a red fruit juice landed in my lap, I was able to find stain remover after all of the other stores were closed.
This northern section is more residential than the shopping-center heart. (Read: you are more likely be hit by a baby stroller or a family-sized roll of toilet paper than a bag full ‘o Zara goodies.) There are new details and diverse architecture that I notice with each trip.
There’s Cafés La Mexicana, a bulk coffee store you will smell before you see.
There are underground parking lots; ojo or you’ll be run over in front of the Starbucks.
There are side streets just begging to be explored.
There are banks and cinemas and specialty stores and street vendors.
The Glorieta de Bilbao, wrapped like a present at Christmastime.
And finally, there is life. For all the long-lasting sights, the street retains a fluid character. The passers-by, sounds, and storefronts are ever-changing. Shops are closed and revived with new names and faces. I will miss living so close to Fuencarral, but I’m looking forward to exploring a new neighborhood with a vibrant pulse all its own.