Every year I return to Madrid hoping that some of the shops and restaurants I frequent are still open, and that the people who run them are still healthy and energetic as always. Such is the case with Cacharrería on 27 Echegaray St. Amparo, the owner, is surrounded with all the types of cooking and kitchen pottery you would need, including the clay baking pots that would normally cost you ten times as much in the U.S., the special plate to flip the Spanish tortilla, the Sangria pitcher or the Botijo, (water jug) that you must have at home.
Amparo’s tip: “You must cure your clay pot before using, by fully submerging it in water on the sink overnight, followed by rubbing garlic on both sides of the bottom.”
I have taken countless pottery on my suitcase without chipping or breaking, just pack it amongst your clothes and ensure it doesn’t move within the suitcase.
There is another little shop that I love and thankfully is not in danger of extinction as it is always very busy. Zapatería Lobo, (calle Toledo, 30), is off the Plaza Mayor at the beginning of the La Latina neighborhood. In this tiny shop you will find every single color and type of espadrille you desire. You can also buy dancing shoes, sneakers, ballerina slippers, rain boots and leather boots that will last you for a lifetime. While many people line up on the more famous espadrille shop of Casa Hernanz (Toledo, 18), I prefer to skip those lines and head to Lobo.
You must be prepared prior to shopping in this place. Warning: if you suffer from claustrophobia you should avoid it. Many friends are intimidated when coming to this place as it may remind people of Seinfeld’s famous soup Nazi. The first thing you should do is pick a number next to the door on the Toledo entrance. Second, choose carefully the colors and the sizes and the type of shoes you want while you wait. This is not a place for indecisive people nor for those who do not know what they want. However, even if the salesmen, who all look like brothers, are loud and very busy, they are very helpful, very sweet and they will help you find the shoe you need. They have also embraced the modern times and now you can shop tax-free and they will ship anywhere from their online store.