Friday, 10 April 2009

Hola Madrid!

What a beautiful City.

On some sound advice from a fellow blogger, I did some homework and found that the Prado museum is free from 6pm on Fridays which was perfect as I was due to land at 2pm. However, as is often the case, even the best laid plans are thwarted by exogenous circumstances and I was delayed a massive 4 hours at the airport because of fog (the perils of being a Londoner).

When I finally arrived at Madrid, the airport itself was stunning. Terminal 4 was recently added in 2006 and has won several design awards for its straight lines, open plan structure, floor to ceiling windows and bamboo panelled ceilings (keeps it cool apparently). Using my google print outs, I bought a Metro ticket for 10 journeys (a bargain €7.40 although I didn't use it 10 times) and made my way to my hotel. I had to change lines twice but the Metro system is amazingly simple to follow, the platforms are well labelled and the trains are wide, modern and air conditioned. I was staying at the Melia Princesa, just North of the Plaza Espana. As a tip, if anyone is also looking to go to Madrid, I recommend looking at the Sol Melia or NH Hoteles websites - as publicly traded Spanish hotel companies, they have suffered the brunt of the Spanish real estate related sell-off and are now offering attractive rates to ensure hotel room occupancy at even their luxury hotels. The Melia Princesa is just 20 metres from the Metro stop and an easy walk to the Royal Palace, the stores of Gran Via and I even walked to the Prado Museum without much difficulty as there's so much to see, you forget how much you've walked. Plus it means you can work off those delicious churros dipped in thick chocolate you've indulged in for breakfast and be ready for the first round of tapas of the day!

Once settled in the hotel, I still had 2 hours before I was due to meet some friends for dinner - they had kindly decided to convene early for dinner as I was a heathen from London but still, at 9:30pm this was rather late for me! The sun was just setting, so I strolled down to the Palacio via the plaza Espana and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the Palace gardens. The young MadrileƱos were out in force, dipping their toes in the fountain and enjoying the hazy sun. I took a seat at a terrace bar in the Plaza de Oriente to drink a quick aperitif before jumping on the Metro to get to dinner.

We met at a lovely restaurant called La Trainera in the affluent Salamanca region, which is home to most of the International banks and other corporates as well as boutique design stores and private galleries. They serve wonderfully fresh seafood from the Bay of Biscay - the restaurant is named after their fishing boat. I left the menu in the capable hands of my friend Jaime and his wife who had invited me here to meet their friends. I met Jaime a few years back through work as he works at a Spanish bank. His wife is training to become a nurse and his friends were artists of various sorts. After a hearty meal of almejas (clams) - so fresh they are served raw with a squirt of lemon and centollo (king crab) - again so fresh and tasty it was served on its own, I was ready to call it a day but this was only the beginning.

After much kissing and hugging with the restaurant staff at the door, we walked down to Momo's for a drink - something that was necessary as we had met so early for dinner (!) and could therefore not go straight on to a club. Our final destination was Pacha. I couldn't help but groan when I saw it - as a chain of clubs across Europe, it had been a long time since I had been to the one in London and I stay away for a reason! But the one in Madrid was much more relaxed, there was a huge mix of people from the very young to the more mature and it was genuinely good fun. The drinks are much more potent - a vodka tonic here is basically 50:50.

It was almost sunrise when we left and I got a lift home on a Vespa - first time for everything - from one of the artists who had drunk nothing but red bull all night which resulted in an interesting journey to say the least! We stopped over at the Chocolateria San Gines, named after the church in whose shadow the cafe stands. I'm not exaggerating here at all, but the place was completely packed and it was close to 4am. We ordered 2 cups of intensely thick, rich chocolate and the waitress cut off sticks (churros) from a huge long roll of freshly baked doughnut. I could seriously get used to this...


  1. I'm going to have to comment paragraph by paragraph! ;o)

    2 -> the T4 in Barajas is indeed lovely... but most of us consider it one hell of a NIGHTMARE!!! Gates are so sprawled out that when you're transitting through there you often need to run (or walk very quickly) just to make your connecting flight. And then there's the matter that gates are frequently announced right smack at boarding time and you really have to run for it! grrrrr

    2b -> the metro is indeed a wonderful form of transportation! I use it whenever I travel (if available). For visitors is much better than a bus because it doesn't require you to know the city to get around (although you don't get the view you get from the bus window). London's and Paris' also work great!

    2c -> churros for breakfast?! Well ok I guess... but I see from reading the end that you also ate them when most of us do... as a very early breakfast after a night out on the town! ;o) (does wonders to fight off hangover too!)

    3 -> 9h30 is only an early dinner on fri/sat nights when you're planning on going out. On weekdays many people eat at that time (or 1/2h earlier), particularly if they have kids. But when you're going out on weekends restaurants usually have 2 turns for reservations, the 9h30 hour and the 11h hour, the latter being preferred by people planning a night out as bars/pubs/discos don't really get hopping 'till way past midnight!

    Oh, and Pacha is a Spanish chain of discos across Europe! :p

    sounds like a good night!

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  3. Cris

    paragraph by paragraph commentary, what an honour - haha. I really appreciated your tips before I left, I was indeed sad to have missed out on the galleries but was too tired and the sun was so warm... Staying outside was unavoidable. The only vaguely religious thing I did was to eat Torrijas in the end - tenuous I know - not sure if maybe I was looking in the wrong places though! I am back now, there is no such mediterranean sun here. boo!


    Thanks. When you decide to go public with your blog, keep me in the loop too please!

  4. Hey! thx for stopping by! I still can't figure out the frame around the pictures... it definitely has something to do with the blog layout, will have to figure it out some other time!

    Torrijas are basically the Spanish version of French toast, and I just learnt that they are popular around Easter! We never have them (always go for the French toast option).

    What do you mean by "going public with the blog"?

    Hope the british weather isn't too bad!