Madrid, the capital of Spain, was a city that Mr ESLT had always wanted to visit. So, with his birthday fast approaching, and the fact we never buy presents – always experiences, it seemed like the ideal destination to head to to celebrate his 42 years on this planet! So with flights booked, accommodation sorted, and exciting things to do planned – he, and I, couldn’t wait to explore the city.
We started the journey in style, with a visit to the Aspire Executive Lounge at Birmingham Airport before our flight, where we partook in a few cheeky vodkas. Unfortunately, we had a minor delay due to our plane arriving late, but as annoying as flight delays are – such is life! We had pre-booked transfers with Blacklane. I was worried that our driver wouldn’t be there due to our late arrival, but the worry was not necessary, as we found him happily waiting for us in the arrivals hall. With temperatures in Madrid a whopping 38 degrees, it was lovely hopping into his air conditioned car.
We pulled up at our hotel, the Sidorme Madrid Fuencarral 52, at around 7pm, which unfortunately meant exploring would have to wait until the next day, as we were quickly losing the light and our energy. So once checked in, we followed our noses across the famous Grand Via and hit Cafe y Tapas, one of the local bars located on the lively, mostly pedestrianised, Calle de la Montera. It is surrounded by beautiful architecture which we admired it as we chatted the night away. It’s important to note that prostitutes and pick pockets are prevalent in this area, so keep an eye on your valuables. There are many warnings on the net suggesting that you should avoid this street at all costs. Not once did we feel threatened or unsafe – just keep your wits about you like you would in any other major city. A few cervezas later, and we were good for nothing more than our bed.
After a great night’s sleep, we woke eager to see what Madrid had to offer us. We headed out onto the already bustling Fuencarral – the hub of Madrid’s young fashion scene – armed with our guidebook and the information collected from Your Local Cousin. We headed to Civitatis Tours & Tickets, also located on Calle de la Montera, where we’d had drinks the previous night. Even though I had pre-bought 48 hour hop on hop off bus tickets, I’d forgotten to download a map, therefore didn’t have a clue where any of the stops were! So, with liberated map in hand, we headed to the closest stop for Route 2 (green route), located on Plaza Puerta del Sol, one of the busiest squares in the city. In the Plaza you will find a statue of a bear and a madrone tree, the heraldic symbol of Madrid. You will also find a stop for Route 1 (blue route) here too. We were advised that Route 2 takes you through the newer parts of the city, whereas Route 1 takes you through the more historical parts.
The Bernabéu Stadium, home to Real Madrid, is the main attraction on this route, with the bus stop located directly opposite it. With it being Mr ESLT’s birthday, and the fact he loves football, there was no way on Earth we weren’t hopping off and taking the stadium tour. We spent a good few hours at the Bernabéu in the blistering heat, which, of course, needed to be rewarded with a cold refreshing beverage.
So we jumped back on the bus to see where it would take us – the only plan we had was to jump off somewhere we thought looked nice. When we caught sight of Puerta de Alcalá, located in the centre of Plaza de la Independencia and surrounded by lovely looking restaurants and cafe-bars, we knew that was the place for us. We grabbed a couple of drinks and spent the rest of the day completing the rest of the Green Route, ending back where we started. On the walk back to our hotel, Mr ESLT found his Mecca – Museo del Jamon!
Armed with our hop on, hop off bus tickets again, we hot-footed it back to Plaza Puerta del Sol and jumped on a Route 1 bus to see what we could see. Passing museums and the beautiful Botanical Gardens, we jumped off outside the Almudena Cathedral, which is the Catholic cathedral in Madrid, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. It may not be the most impressive example of architecture in Spain, but what it lacks in intricacy, it makes up for in sheer size!
Directly opposite is the Royal Palace of Madrid, which is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family (even though the royal family don’t actually live there). We paid for tickets (€11) at the door, and luckily for us there wasn’t a queue on the day we visited, as there is absolutely no shade and it was a scorcher of a day. Umbrellas are available once inside. We walked straight through into the courtyard which gave us great views of the Palace and over Madrid. Once inside, we were greeted with gorgeous marble floors, breathtaking ceilings and stunning sculptures. Massive ‘No Photo’ signs are displayed as you enter the rooms inside the palace, with security catching anyone trying to take a sneaky snap. Wandering around the Palace was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, plus it also provided great shelter from the scorching midday Madrid sun.
With our stomachs rumbling and the fact we hadn’t experienced authentic Spanish paella so far during our trip, we made it our mission to find some. Guess what? Our hunt did not last long, as one of the restaurants opposite the Cathedral fitted the bill. At Dehesa Santa Maria, on the corner of Calle de Bailén and Calle Major, we found that they serve individual portions of paella (which are still huge by the way!). This was great news for me as I am not really a seafood fan, meaning Mr ESLT could get the traditional seafood paella, whereas I could get a vegetarian one, together with a couple of beers, of course.
The rest of the day involved taking a siesta….well when in Spain….and then visiting the Hard Rock Cafe, something we always do where there is one, for a late dinner. Following a delicious and filling meal, we headed back to the hotel for an early(ish) night, ready for our journey home the following day.
We really enjoyed our time in Madrid. If anything, it was slightly too hot for me to enjoy wandering round. Europe was in the grasp of a heat wave at the time, and unfortunately it meant, especially during the early afternoon, that the temperatures were simply too high to enjoy being outside. As Madrid is a large city, the hop on hop off bus was a godsend even though traffic was busy at times, as I do not think we would have seen as much as we did by walking. Also, I think 2/3 days wasn’t enough time to see everything the city has to offer – Madrid is renowned for its art galleries and museums but unfortunately, we simply ran out of time to visit any. I guess that gives us a great reason to return.
- Blacklane provided return airport transfers on a complimentary basis