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The Best Places to get a Tattoo in Madrid

Originally posted at OffTrackPlanet.com

So you’re in Madrid and looking to get tatted? Madrid’s reputation as a world center of art is home to some of the best tattoo artists in Europe.  Whether you want to commemorate the trip of a lifetime or you’ve been inspired to get some trippy shit down your sleeve, Madrid’s tattoo parlors will have you covered (literally).  Based on their best qualities, OTP has compiled this list of shops to get you properly tatted-up:

First off…
What is more important to you, price or quality?  If price is paramount, pick from any of the dime-a-dozen tattoo joints along Calle de Montera between Plaza del Sol and Gran Via. Keep reading if you want something with more character and style.

Second, Go to Calle de Fuencarral
Catch the metro to Gran Via and walk north along c/Fuencarral.  Most of Madri’s tattoo parlors are either on this street or just off it in the neighboring barrios of Malasana and Chueca.  The following are OTP’s stand-out spots.

Finally, Pick a Shop…

Mao & Cathy Tattoo

Most Experienced

3972775116 17672df564 The Best Places to Get a Tattoo in Madrid

The oldest and most well-known tattoo shop in Spain.  Mao & Cathy’s reputation rests upon professionalism and experience unrivaled in Madrid.  Over the last 20+ years, they’ve continually hosted world-class artists including Robert Hernandez (now at Vitamin Tattoo).  Such success draws a large crowd, so reservations are advised.  Mao & Cathy is a mandatory stop, but let’s step back onto c/Fuencarral and check out some other places.

Contact:
http://www.myspace.com/maoycathy
Corredera alta de San Pablo, 6
915311973

*NO PIERCING

True Love Tattoo

Perfection in Old School Style

4127671072 f039c4095e The Best Places to Get a Tattoo in MadridIf you’re less ”Zen” and more ”punk,” check out True Love, run by El Bara,a friendly Argentine widely respected amongst Madrid’s tattoo artists.  The studio’s blood-red interior nicely contrasts the all-black uniform of its hard-rockin’ clientele. El Bara is famous for creatively fusing the retro swagger of Malasana with the old-school style made popular by ”Sailor Jerry” in the 1950s. Any artist at True Love can hook you up, but if you want El Bara, you’d better make reservations two months ahead.

Contact:
www.tattoosbybara.com
Velarde, 22 (near Plaza del Dos de Mayo)
680 204 724

La Mano Zurda

Most Innovative

inicio 04 The Best Places to Get a Tattoo in Madrid

Tattoos are increasingly respected art form and at La Mano Zurda, the needle and the paintbrush are held in equally high regard.  In addition to an excellent tattoo studio, it boasts an abstract art gallery and an art academy that offers drawing or tattooing classes.  The studio’s decor is Zen meets punk and their eclectic tattoo style embodies everything in between.

Contact:

C/ Fuencarral, 92, at intersection of C/ Apodaca
http://www.lamanozurda.com/
91 522 87 33
info@lamanozurda.com

Por Vida

The Most Unpretentiousness

Don’t let the dark black storefront intimidate you – Por Vida is one of the most welcoming places we found. Check it out for yourself and join the scores of Madrilos who feel at home at Por Vida.  The friendly staff speaks excellent English and are happy to help you design a tattoo that you can proudly rock for life, that is Por Vida.

Contact:
Fuencarral 43
925 220 720
http://myspace.com/porvidamadriz

Tattoo Magic

Most Dependable

Just down the street is Tattoo Magic. They’ve been tatting Madrilenos for 8 years and their new studio rests smack in the middle of c/ Fuencarral. Their ability to remain in the center of it all is a testament to their unwavering popularity with locals. Despite being one of the larger studios, they maintain their success by keeping their levels of artistic ability high and levels of B.S. The numerous awards hanging from their walls prove that Tattoo Magic is a safe bet.

Contact:
28 c/ Fuencarral.
915215074
http://www.tattoomagic.net/

Vitamin Tattoo

The Most Original

Lastly, we have Vitamin Tattoo, the home of the world-famous Robert Hernandez. Any of the above shops can whip up whatever tat you have in mind but odds are you couldn’t think up anything that competes with Robert Hernandez’ sinister creations.  Picture images pulled from the baddest depths of rock and roll and more realistic than your worst nightmare. So don’t come here for a cute little star on your ankle.  If you want a tat of Gene Simmons so life-like it will give Grandma a heart attack, then you’ve found your man.  Browse through the photos on his website or watch this video to see if he’s your cup of tea.

Contact:
Calle de La Unin, 4
915 488 766
Website: http://www.rhernandeztattoos.com/
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/roberthernandeztattoos
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yii1lbJ7UeI

En Fin…

Whether you prefer experience, dependability, familiarity or the unique styles of El Bara and Robert Hernandez, Madrid’s the spot for you to get some ink done.  So what are you waiting for? Find your cojones and let Madrid’s finest artists make your 2010 EuroTrip one you’ll always remember.

Post Tat Pep Talk

OTP Tip: If this is your first tattoo, keep in mind you will need to take care of it once its needled on your skin. This means that despite your grimy hostel existence, you will need to keep it clean and moisturized. NEVER USE VITAMIN E RICH LOTION; it will suck the tattoo right off your skin. Scented lotions are bad too. Just get the stuff your shop of choice sells and you should be fine. Make an effort to keep it out of the sun for a little while as well.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Train Station (Arévalo, Spain)

Arévalo’s train station sits atop a hill a half-mile from town, alone and tragic like one of Hemingway’s short stories.

I was sitting by myself in the one-room brick station reading A Clean, Well-Lighted Place when an elderly man opened the door.  He walked inside past the ticket counter and sat directly beside me.  I glanced at the other three empty benches, then closed my book and greeted him respectfully.

“Buenas noches,” he replied.  He was leaning forward in his chair with his hands upon his cane.  He sat there for a minute stroking his thick gray mustache in silence.  His brown tweed jacked was pulled taut by his paunch and his gray sweater was sprinkled with breadcrumbs.  His deep breaths smelt of anis. I opened my book and continued reading.

What he said to me next I cannot recall, as our subsequent conversation was so peculiar that it overshadowed whatever small talk we may have had.

“I am alone,” he said.   “My wife is dead.”  I offered my condolences but he brushed them aside and cut right to the chase.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” he asked.

“Not at the moment.”

“Then you are alone as well.”  He sighed and tapped his finger against his cane.  “Why don’t you have a Spanish girlfriend?”

“I just arrived three weeks ago.”

“Ah, I see.”  The Old Man paused and stared at his feet.  He looked me in the eyes.

“Have you follado a Spanish girl yet?” he asked, his eyes wide with curiosity.  I begged his pardon and he repeated and clarified the one question I had never expected a 75-year-old stranger to ask me.

I tried to evade his question.  He persisted.  The Old Man turned, leaned towards me, and continued in an excited whisper.

“Spanish girls go all night, don’t they?  Come on, tell me!  How many have you had?”

I reduced my Spanish proficiency and pretended not to understand.

The door opened again and a girl about my age walked inside.  The Old Man straightened up and smiled, then followed her eagerly with his eyes as she walked past.  When she leaned against the counter to buy her ticket The Old Man couldn’t control himself anymore.  He elbowed me, pointed at her, began tracing the contours of her body with his wrinkled hands and longingly caressing the empty air.  He winked at me.

She took her ticket and sat down across from us to wait for her train.  I slid away from The Old Man and hoped the presence of a third person would end this awkward scene.  I opened my book and continued reading:

‘What did he fear?  It was a nothing that he knew too well.  It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too.  It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order.  Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada, nada pues nada y nada y pues nada.  Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada…’

The Old Man bumped me with the handle of his cane to get my attention.  I threw him an exasperated look.  He was holding his cane with the heel in the air.  His slid his right hand down the cane about a foot from the end and pointed his left hand toward my crotch.

“How big are you?” he whispered.  His mouth was slightly ajar and his eyes were open wider than ever.  He slid his hand an inch closer towards the end of the cane.  “¿Asi?”

I looked at him closely and noticed again the breadcrumbs that covered his chest, probably remnants of his last solitary meal.  No wife to brush off his crumbs, no reason to look in the mirror.  I opened my mouth to say something but I pitied him too much to get angry.

I stood up and said good-bye.  “Mi tren viene ahora.  Cuidate.”

“Where are you going? Your train doesn’t leave for another 17 minutes!” he called after me as I walked outside into the cold.  I crossed the tracks and saw his black silhouette staring at me from the waiting room of the station.

It was a cold, dark night and I could see my breath as clearly as the constellations above me.  I have eight months left in this town, I thought.  Lord, please spare me from such a fate. 

The light of my train appeared in the distance.  I tucked Hemingway into my backpack as the train passed the factories, slowed, and stopped at the platform.  I swung onto the train and sped away from Arévalo.

And so began my double life.

Paseo Through Arévalo

 

Each day before sunset the people of Spain traditionally leave their homes and take a leisurely stroll called a paseo.  I take my paseo at five in the afternoon and join the rest of the pueblo in their daily walk through our village, Arévalo.  I descend the steps of apartment to the street below and merge into the slow procession of townsfolk wandering through the old barrios, past the abandoned mansions of forgotten caballeros, around the crumbling churches of Catholic Spain, and towards the castle that crowns the northernmost tip of the five-pointed town.

As the sun dips below the horizon, I walk behind the castle that once housed Queen Isabella, stand at the confluence of the two rivers that encircle Arévalo, and gaze across the fields of Castile.

Castile, the heart of historic Spain.  It was here that Castellano, the language commonly known as Spanish, was born.  It was here that Queen Isabella and Ferdinand allied their kingdoms and swept the Moors off the Iberian Peninsula in the reconquista.  It was in this town that the Spanish and Portuguese divvied up the New World. And it was across the plains to my south that Don Quixote rode in search of adventure.  In those times Arévalo was a thriving village well situated between the economical and political centers of power in Madrid, Valladolid, Segovia, Avila and Salamanca. That was the Golden Age of Castile.

As dusk sweeps across the central Spanish meseta, I stare into the twilight and imagine the golden days of Arévalo.  I turn and face the castle and peer through the slotted apertures into the candle-lit chambers of Isabella and listen for news of the reconquista.  I sneak past the sentries and pull my donkey through the shadows and past the palacios of the gentry, deferring respectfully to the armored caballeros who ride past on horseback.

The church bells ring loudly from the belfries of the town’s dozen churches, one for each of the twelve barrios as mandated by Isabella the Catholic.  It’s nighttime now and the paseo is almost finished, but through the mist I descry the stream of people ahead and walk towards them.  A string of lanterns holds the darkness at bay and a muted rumble of voices and laughter slips from the taverns and warms the night air.  I rejoin the paseo and follow the townsfolk down cobbled streets into the central plaza of Arévalo, Plaza del Arrabal.

The men of the town are gathered here speaking to one another and suddenly I feel out of place amongst the merchants and gentlemen of the town.  They discuss news from Madrid, trade with the Americas, war with the English and they gossip of their neighbors.  I sense them starting at me and I look down at my worn clothes and ashamedly try to sneak out of the crowd before I become the subject of more gossip.

The Spanish are a sociable people, always gathering in large public groups and making it nearly impossible for the foreigner to make himself scarce.  But tonight I have it.  I escape from the plaza and round the corner to the calle principal, when an old man stops me and, not recognizing my face, inquires about my business in Arévalo.

Buenas noches, Señor.  I am a humble English teacher in the secondary school.  I hail from the distant colony of San Diego, in California Alta and I am staying here for a year to teach the children of Arévalo the English language.  I have just finished my paseo and I now am repairing to my abode to finish the most recent work of Señor Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote.

Don Quixote!?!”  The viejo, exclaims.  “That Cervantes is as foolish as that character of his!  Why, I can’t understand why a man would spend the last years of his life writing about a buffoon riding across Castile tilting at windmills!  You are a teacher, my boy, why do you read such whimsical non-sense?  Surely you could be studying works of more importance, works of practical significance, works that would bring you closer to God!  Would you teach this garbage to Arévalo´s children?  And why would you teach them the language of our most hated enemies, the English?  And…”  …so on, and so on into the night.  I nod my head, and at the soonest opportunity bid him farewell and slip into the night fog.

Don Quixote has a bad rap, I thought, What is so wrong about harboring romantic dreams of adventure?  The mist thins as I pass the last church in the beautiful old town and walk past the petrol station and along the park into the new part of town.

To my right is a row of Franco-era apartments, many of them covered in aggressive graffiti – anarchist signs, crossed out swastikas and anti-monarchist slogans.

As I approach my building I am greeted by the stench of manure blowing across the plains from the wheat fields that surround Arévalo on all sides.  My fingers, frozen cold in January night, fumble with my keys and after a minute I enter my lobby, flip on the light switch, check my mailbox and walk up two levels to my door.

It is dark and empty in my five-bedroom flat.  My only roommate has turned off the heater and lights (as always), ostensibly to save money but more likely to freeze his wacky roommate to death until he moves back to California.  I walk past his room, closed and locked (as always), and stick my tongue out at the green light spilling out from the television behind his door.  I throw my letters on my desk – all bills, no letters from damsels in distress – and collapse on my bed.

I think about all my dreams, about traveling to foreign lands, sailing across distant seas, speaking exotic tongues, and writing words that change the world.  I wonder if these dreams will come true.

Am I just hopelessly quixotic?  I stare at the ceiling, but the peeling paint offers no answer. Will my dreams surrender to rigid realities and prove to be nothing more than the chimeras of idealistic youth?  My roommate emerges from his cave and slams his door, loosening a flake of paint from the ceiling that falls falls falls down onto my cheek.

Dammit.

I sit up and survey my room and wonder once again if life in a 7,000-person town is slowly driving me insane.  The piles of books heaped in huge teetering towers on the floor, a dozen corners of the room bedecked with trinkets from a dozen corners of the world, a massive California Republic flag, and a map of Europe tacked against the wall and perforated with a geographical to-do-list: pins poking across the continent, from the Basque Country to the Balkans, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, north to Norway and south to the Sahara.  My dreams have exhausted my supply of pins.

Then there are the countless pieces of paper that cover the rest of my room like the crazed wallpaper of some Beatnik poet gone-mad.  About half of them were a collection of poems and quotations written by my favorite authors and, increasingly, by myself.  The rest of them are flashcards covered in red marker with commands (START WRITING!!!), questions (What is your book about?), themes (Search for individualism in modern society), chapters (Buying the Minsk – Saigon, Vietnam), topics (The Dalai Lama and China) and orphaned epiphanies searching for a home somewhere in the first draft of my first book.

My roommate farts, and the noise bounces through my paper-thin walls, something that would make me smile if my situation were not so bleak.

What the hell am I doing here? Am I ever going get this book together, or will I just get lost along the way? Is it even possible to write a book in such a stiflingly small town?  And if I get the book written, will it ever get published?

I have no answers, only the strange faith born from the audacity of dreaming the impossible.  I sit down at my desk, stare at the START WRITING!!! message on my wall and pick up a pen and paper.  Dear Don Quixote, It’s January 21th, 2010 and it’s time to assess my dreams, both those realized and those still lying ahead…