I’m back – tanned, heavier and most importantly, married!
A week in Spain was the perfect way for my husband and I to enjoy our first week together as man and wife. We spent a few days roaming the Spanish mountains then dropped into Madrid for a few days, into the hustle and bustle of the capital City.
Why Spain? – well it’s a Country that neither of us have spent much time in, it is known to have good weather in September, we both love Tapas and Paella and …. We couldn’t afford the Maldives.
We stayed in a gorgeous hotel in Madrid called the ‘Only You Boutique’ and to be honest, I doubt we could have found a more interesting place to stay, even in the Maldives.
The hotel is a former Palace dating from the 19th century and is situated in a really central location, not too far from Chueca, for those of you who know Madrid. It’s totally full of quirks and just when you think you’ve seen everything – you find something else (make sure you find both lifts and the staircase).
The staff couldn’t do enough for us; even phoning twice upon our arrival to check that we had everything that we needed. And we did…they even provide hair straighteners in the rooms and just in case you want to dress up during your stay – Giraffe dressing gowns.
The bathroom was stocked really well and it came complete with a map of Madrid across the toilet / shower doors. No worries about getting bored on the loo at this hotel.
We spent our first evening in Madrid finding our bearings. We strolled the Grand Via (busy even at night) and checked out several Tapas treats along the way. Full of chorizo (served on a bed of crisps – crisps are everywhere in Madrid) and Sangria, we poured into our ridiculously huge, dreamy bed at a rather sensible time of 11pm (after all, I am now a married 42-year-old).
We spent the next day at Casa de Campo; the largest parkland in Spain. Casa de Campo was formerly the royal hunting ground and it really is gigantic. Amongst its attractions are tennis courts, swimming pools, a boating lake, funfair and a zoo. In summer the park hosts concerts.
You can get to the park by the Teleferico (cable car). It is not for the feint hearted but the views are amazing if you can stand the height.
I’d wanted to take a picnic but in reality we had nothing to take to sit on; nothing to keep the food cool and most importantly, nothing to chill the wine in the hot Madrid sun. But my disappointment very quickly subsided when we wandered over to the lake and checked out the menus in the restaurants circling the lake. And remember the green water in the diving pool in Brazil? Exactly the same colour here. No frolicking in the water for me then.
The whole day was spent leisurely walking around, enjoying the sun and admiring the backdrop views of the city. Quite romantic really for an old pair.
The following day was spent doing what I know best (and may I add, had refrained from doing the rest of the week) – shopping. Madrid has a great mix of shops to offer. There’s an exciting mix of High Street, designer and intricate traditional craft shops. But that’s to be expected isn’t it? After all the Spanish ladies are celebrated for their elegance and classic cuts.
Fashion has flourished in Madrid since the 1980’s and the latest street wear is widely available. Salamanca is the neighbourhood to find the designer shops whilst Chueca is the best place to find work from young new designers. You’ll find Zara everywhere.
Lunchtime was spent in the Plaza Mayor watching the acts and sipping Sangria. The Plaza Mayor is a rectangular shaped square with a strong theatrical atmosphere. It has historically hosted bull fights, executions and trials by inquisition, often watched by the reigning Kings and Queens. Amazingly this grand site was originally slum houses. Construction of the square began in 1617 and was ordered by Felipe III, the man sat on the horse statue in the centre. Work was completed within 2 years. It’s a beautiful square and well worth a visit but beware; the price of the drinks and food reflects the privilege of enjoying the grandeur of the surroundings.
No visit to Madrid can be complete without a visit to a food hall or two. They are a great way to sample the local delicacies and there are actually so many freebies on offer that you could probably get away without purchasing anything – if only it didn’t taste so damn good that is.
I have to say though, as great as Madrid was and is, the best thing about it was just being able to be with each other. Although Madrid is huge, it’s easy to escape the hustle and bustle and we didn’t feel rushed at all, during any meal. Cafés and restaurants make you feel welcome whether it’s just a drink you’re having or a 3 course meal. And of course, you are always greeted with a bowl of crisps.
You’re never far away from the next thing to do in Madrid. There’s always something around the corner; a museum to browse, an art gallery, food hall – you name it and Madrid will have it somewhere.
Madrid ticks all of my boxes; cheap flights; good transport links; tasty food; shops; parks and atmosphere. And all of that is somehow offered without the overwhelming touristic feel that is often prevalent in cities such as Rome or Barcelona.
And that is why I have fallen in love with Madrid, almost as much as I have fallen in love with my husband. What more can I say?