Madrid – Tapas, Sunshine, and Futbol

For the next week or so, I will be traveling around Spain and having the opportunity to see a few new things.  In my quest to use my points, miles, and loyalty programs, I was able to arrange roundtrip business class, The Westin Palace in Madrid, and Le Meridian in Barcelona for free so that made the decision to go to some of my favorite cities fairly easy.

My first trip to Madrid was about 13 years ago and I’ve had a chance to come back on business a couple of times.  When I first started traveling internationally, I was very conscious of costs and did not have very many points and miles to help keep expense down.  As a result, I took a backpack, always took public transportation and stayed in some real low cost accommodations.  For instance, the place I stayed at the first couple of trips to London was razed a couple of years later due to the asbestos exposure.  No wonder it was so cheap.  As I’ve gotten older and had more resources, I’ve tended to start staying in nicer hotels, taking taxis more often, and going with wheeled luggage.

However, when planning this trip, I thought I would take a trip down memory lane and stay at the same low cost hotel that I did on my first trip to Madrid – Hostal La Perla Asturiano.  I remembered it being very small but in an absolutely perfect location just off the Plaza Mayor with easy walking distance to Puerta del Sol, La Latina, Cava Baja, Plaza Santa Ana, and the Gran Via.  Sure enough, it is still there and I’m staying there for three nights at under $50 USD per night.  Now, to clear any confusion, there are hostels and also hostals in Spain.  This is not the backpacker, dorm room with bunk beds type of place.  It is just a low cost hotel.

The room is actually larger than the one I had last time and has a bigger shower although you have to kind of slide onto the toilet from the side as the sink hangs out over your left leg.  The staff are great and speak fluent English but also happy to help me practice my Spanish even though it would be so much easier for them for us to deal in English.  My room looks out over the Plaza de Santa Cruz and I’m currently sitting on the terraza drinking a beer at a local cerveceria while still in range of the hotel wi-fi.

 I arrived yesterday after a nice trip on the top deck of a 747 with Lufthansa’s always excellent service.  I got a few hours of sleep and was able to grab a quick shower in the business lounge while on layover in Frankfurt.  Once in Madrid, I found the Express Bus from the airport that runs to the Atocha Station in the city center for only 5 euros (versus ~30 for a taxi).  The walk from the station to the hotel is only about a mile but, unfortunately, almost completely uphill.

 Since Madrid is famous as a late night city, I went ahead and took a nap for a couple of hours before heading out for tapas on Cava Baja.  If you are not familiar with tapas, they are small appetizers that are served with your drink.  Some bars specialize in certain types but, over the course of the evening, you will probably get a wide variety if you do as locals and move from bar to bar.  I’ve included some pictures below to give you an idea of what you might expect.

Madrid is a great city due to the energy level of the people.  Walking around at 6 or 7 at night, the streets are packed with locals, tourists, and families all out and about for shopping, tapas, or just walking.  The only comparison to the U.S. is Times Square in New York City but with a more local feel, more widespread throughout the city, and a more relaxed feel.

Today was spent walking around the city in beautiful sunshine with temps in the 60’s and also securing a ticket to Sunday’s futbol game between hometown Real Madrid and Levante in a league match.  With the recent results Real Madrid has been having, I might see a riot if they don’t play well against a lower level team.  I also found a gym to workout at today…for 30 Euros!!  It was not worth the price of admission but at least I got some work in.

 

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