As it happens in life, sometimes a person needs to do something drastic, to meddle the dusty overcoat in your soul, collected in the lazy days of belief, that things will take their place on their own.
So one finds herself in the city of Zaragoza, on her 30th birthday, away from familiar faces, relationship ties and thoughts about stagnant situations, that didn’t change as much as you desired. Best decision ever!
Since Zaragoza is a vibrant town, full of events, festivals and bars, it is the perfect destination for proper celebrations. Nightlife is busy most days of the week, the peak usually takes place between Thursday and Sunday, the regular party animal timetable.
La Casco, El Tubo or La Zona?
There are three main interest points of fun in the city, El Casco, the area around the historic centre (an opportunity for additional nighttime sightseeing hint, hint), El Tubo, the nearby labyrinth of bars and La Zona, focused mostly on sleek and stylish clientele. If you are into rock music, try the Zuma or find a club near the Bretón, university campus zone; maybe La Magdalena, for all the ragamuffins of the world; Las Riberas del Ebro for the chilled sunset conversations by the river or Doctor Cerrada for LGTB community and some salsa.
I created a list of places to visit in Zaragoza, made from memory fragments and suggestions of the local guide.
Friday, 9pm: Evening starts with a selection of traditional Spanish food. Tapas time! The experiment runs smoothly, with a little help of different local liquors, brought in from Galicia, Basque country and other parts of Spain. The sweetness of drinks merges with a friendly nature of the waiter and the locals, passing by just to hug and greet. Although it is Friday night, there are not many people around, supposedly they are saving their strength for the Fiestas del Pilar, taking place at the beginning of the Octobre.
TOP 3 FOOD places in Zaragoza:
- Méli Mélo: Known as one of the best places for tapas in the region, the location offers a wide variety of unique tapas, a real feast for all senses. Some of their dishes are actually rewarded – when one tastes a bite sure knows why!
- Bar el Circo: Family owned bar’s beginnings date back to 1887 when a place was still a part of the Teatro Circo. Bar switched several locations and owners, but the tasty dishes didn’t change: the pride of the house is traditional dish tortilla de patata, a simple omelette made of eggs and potatoes.
- Marpy: The traditional restaurant has a quite disturbing decoration since the theme is bullfighting, but the selection of seafood tapas and other local specialities is worth a visit: everything from Chorizo to Chanchullo, local liquor and Jamón serrano!
Saturday, 4am: Sitting on a terrace, gathering and reflecting daily impressions, I hear excited noises, energetic music and laughter from one of the nearby clubs. The party is strong in Zaragoza, the energy was obviously regained nevertheless.
Saturday, 11am: After big breakfast and newly learnt Spanish phrase (Tienes huevos?) is time for a weekend morning market visit, a cluster of music, art, and September sun. Accompanied by a live jazz band and a proper Americano with real ice, the mild hungover looses its power, evaporating in the fresh air. The district of Cultural centre Las Armas is full of urban art, reviving tired old facades and rigid thoughts. Faces are turning toward progress this day, in spite of the political crisis and lurking fascism in the country.
TOP 3 BARS in Zaragoza:
- Umalas Bar: Choosing from a big collection of alcoholic drink, one will not get out thirsty in this bar. The place offers an outdoor sitting space, perfect for a heart to heart conversations, and allegedly best Mojito in town.
- El Poeta Eléctrico: An intimate concert venue wraps its visitors with dim lighting and an excellent choice of performing artists, open all night in a week. Since Zaragoza is a hidden indie music jewel, it is easy to find quality live performances by different talented artists.
- El Kir: Tiny café in the middle of Plaza Nocolasco is a perfect spot for the afternoon drinkery, taking place in the middle of the city haste, but tranquil enough to enjoy the beverages. Named after French cocktail with wine, it does justice to its title, offering a selection of wine cocktails and spritz.
Saturday, 5pm: Time for some drinks after lunch (the prejudice about constantly eating and drinking Spaniards is getting real), trending Aperol Spritz is as bright as the freedom of spare time. While times passes on the Plaza Nocolasco, the conversation gets livelier, a spontaneous decision about a friendly home party is in order. The way back home gets interrupted by the religious procession, a rehearsal for the upcoming festivities, drumming gets louder, while face expressions fluctuate between devotion and utter boredom. Running away from doctrine, we manage to get home in one piece, armed with some gin and tonic.
Saturday, 11.30pm: A traveller soon learns the Spanish people really are incredibly open and friendly, even the language barrier doesn’t get in the way of the enjoyment. Realising that one can, in fact, have fun in the place even without understanding a word or knowing a single soul, night unexpectedly turns into a nostalgic get-together, watching old Asterix and Obelix cartoons and singing to the Spanish version of Disney songs. It looks like most almost 30-years-old have something in common: a secret longing for the sweet childhood days.
Sunday, 1 pm: As excessive socialising takes its toll in the form of a cold, it is time for some quiet joys: homemade pasta bolognese and lounging on the couch. The universe once again proves that it always has our back, by manifesting a living room concert experience, playing the record of my personal therapist and muse, Florence Welch. Ahh, synchronicities!
Sunday, 8 pm: Auditorium de Zaragoza is a must-see for all culture lovers since the place offers a rich programme of concerts and dance performances. The right one for all dance devotees was definitely a production of Miguel Angelo Bern and his company, La Jota. A fragment of Aragon musical tradition, the most famous expression of the Aragonese folklore, is a genre of music, accompanied by dancing, which originates from Aragon region but it’s also spread through other areas, such as Galicia, Catalonia and elsewhere. Three-quarter or six-minute rhythm is accompanied by guitars, bandurrias, lutes, unique horns and drums, as well as castanets in the hands of dancers. The themes of the songs mostly revolve around the love of the homeland, state or religion. Jota does not exist only in classical form; contemporary authors are working hard to successfully transfer it to the future.
Lessons learned? Don’t compare Jota to Flamenco, because you will get frowned upon; Spain is a perfect place for a fat camp; passion can’t be forced and the most important one, realised before by magnificent Mick: You can’t always get what you want, but you get exactly what you need! <3