Monday, February 25, 2013

February getaway to Madrid, Spain

Our first trip away together in 2013, was to Madrid, a city which if you've read our previous post on the city, you'll know is one of our favourites. We had a lovely long weekend combining the opportunity to meet up with some good friends and to celebrate my (Andy's) birthday. Our journey from Dusseldorf to Madrid turned out to be a minor nightmare, on arrival at the airport with more than sufficient time to check in, pass security and have a snack, we were greeted with a security strike. After a long wait at security we had to make our way directly to board the plane, at that stage it looked like we would actually take off more or less on time. That was wishful thinking, it had been snowing on and off all day, and it was almost two hours later when finally we left Dusseldorf behind us. Unfortunatley that wasn't too be the end of our woes, some very uncomfortable seats, no sandwiches and some painfully slow service made the flight to Madrid seem very long.

Puerta del Sol

Once we arrived, late on the Thursday evening, the miserable experience of the journey was behind us, we had made it as planned and that was all that mattered. Our home for the next three nights was the Hotel Liabeny, for us a new experience and one we would recommend. The hotel is perhaps a little old fashioned however that is more than made up for by the location. Its less than a minute from the bustling Puerta del Sol which in turn is close to Plaza Mayor, the Palacio Real and walking distance to the two main art galleries.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
The next morning after a much needed, good nights sleep we had only one thing on our mind and that was breakfast. We found a Cinco Jotas close by and for less than the price of breakfast for one in a typical 4 star hotel, enjoyed a hearty breakfast for two, great tasty value! Next on our agenda for the day was the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza where we had booked online, tickets for the visiting exhibition Impresionismo y Aire Libre (Impressionism and Open-Air Painting), with some stunning pieces of art by amongst others; Van Gogh and Monet this was well worth the visit.

By the time we left the Thyssen it was time to start thinking of food, one thing you'll never run short of in Madrid is options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Later that afternoon our plan was to visit the Palacio Real, so stopped off enroute at the Mercado de San Miguel. Popular with locals and tourists, the Mercado is housed in a 19th century building with wrought-iron columns, it is full of excellant delictessens and you'll have a great time wandering round, sampling the wonderful food with a cańa or glass of wine in your hand. 

Mercado se San Miguel

Fully refuelled and with a spring in our step after a couple of glasses of wine, we walked the remaining short distance to the Palacio Real. Madrid's vast and lavish Royal Palace was built to impress and was used by the royal family until the abdication of Alfonso XIII in 1931. The present King, Juan Carlos I, lives in the more modest Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid, however the Royal Palace is still used for state occasions. Photography is forbidden inside the palace so unfortunately we can't show you too much of what is in store for you. Highlights include the Throne Room and the state Dining Room along with the Chapel which feels more like a Cathedral inside. If your feet are suffering after visiting the Palace, just a short distance away you'll find Plaza Oriente and some very welcoming bars, where you can relax and enjoy some people watching.

Palacio Real

Plaza Oriente

On the Friday evening we visited one of our favourite restaurants in Madrid, The Taj, by the name you'll have guessed that its not exactly a typical Spanish restaurant. Situated on Calle de Marqués de Cuba, if you like Indian food you'll love The Taj. Food was the theme of our Saturday. After breakfast in another Cinco Jotas, this time on Plaza de Santa Ana, we spent the morning shopping before hopping on a train to Torrelodones. If you like the idea of learning to speak some Spanish, you'll find the perfect place here on Plaza de Santa Ana in the form of Babylon Idiomas. Whether you're a complete beginner or simply looking to improve your Spanish language skills, you will enjoy yourself here with a group of teachers who make learning a new language a lot of fun. 

Plaza de Santa Ana
We spent a fun afternoon in Torrelodones catching up with our good friends, Marta, Andy and their young son, in the wonderful Restaurante El Trasgu, great food and service set in a lovely location with a terrace over looking Madrid. Later that evening it was time to continue our culinary tour with dinner back in Madrid to celebrate my birthday. Susy found Restaurante Lua on Trip Advisor and we had a perfect evening there, enjoying a lovely tasting menu. This restaurant is hard to beat, the combination of delicious food beautifully presented combined with a glass of wine matched to each course was ideal. This, added to good service and nice decor makes Restaurante Lua the ideal place to celebrate a special occasion, we loved it.

Chocolicious cake inside Chocolates Valor 

The following afternoon, we had to return to the Netherlands, so after opening my cards and presents we spent the morning in downtown Madrid. The highlight had to be the delicious cake in Chocolates Valor, full of calories but more importantly, delicious. For more from Spain's bustling capital city just click on Madrid