Flying to Madrid

I am starting my Spain adventure in Madrid. My last trip to Madrid was ten years ago. I feel like I got to see most of the city last time. The goal in staying in Madrid isn’t really to visit Madrid, the goal is to use it as a home base for some day trips: Toledo and Segovia.

My international flight from the USA is out of JFK. I try to schedule padding between my international connections in case of flight delays. Unfortunately this time my international flight is delayed. This time the plane is at the airport but there is a delay to taxi the plane out of the storage area where it has been sitting for the past few hours. We are delayed hours waiting for the plane to be brought to the gate. In addition, the Delta terminal at JFK has seen better days; the airport has broken bathrooms, broken ipads, and very slow staff. The terminal is crowded and having that extra time in the airport is not a comfortable experience.

Eventually we board the plane and fortunately the flight is pretty pleasant. In the past I slept well on long flights but find it hard the past couple years. I probably have a total of an hour’s rest on the flight. Luckily I have nothing planned the first day.

Metro Station at airport in Madrid

I make it to my hotel early so I drop my bags and go walking nearby. This is my first time staying at a hotel at the Room Mate chain (Room Mate Mario Hotel). It isn’t the cheapest stay but I’m happy with what I get for the price point I pay. I am near the big opera house. It is a central location and close to a metro stop.

Opera metro station and theater in the background

I walk over to the Royal Palace of Madrid and take a stroll. It is not on my agenda to go inside but I do take some pictures of the outside and the nearby Catedral de la Almudena. I walk a little further into the nearby area which mostly seems new to me because I don’t recall the area much from my last visit to Madrid.

Royal Palace of Madrid
Gotta love Europe in the summer. Look at this weird bear.

Soon enough it is time to check in so I return back to the hotel to check in and get cleaned up from my flight.

I get the wifi password and it doesn’t work. One of the symbols looks like a variation of the British pound symbol. I try different iterations and nothing works. I am too tired to go get a new password and decide to deal with it later; plus my Spanish is rusty (even after a month of Duolingo reviews). I dislike defaulting to English. I don’t like being that type of traveler I like to at least attempt the primary language of the land. I give it my best effort.

After cleaning up I wander to one of the favorites of my past the Mercado de San Miguel where I order myself a nice glass of Vermut (Vermouth). Nothing compares to the vermouth I get in Spain. The market is a nice and easy place to try different types of pintxos (pinchos or small tapas) and regular size tapas. It isn’t cheap and it gets crowded in the evening but vendors at the market are used to dealing with tourists so it is an easy way to jump into the Spain tapas experience. It is also perfect for my first jetlagged evening.

It is still early but I am tired so I slowly stroll back to my room to go to be early. I have my first day trip scheduled to Toledo tomorrow.

Spain: Another day in Madrid

It was our last day in Madrid and the Prado Museum is a must see. You can find some great Spanish works there.

After our morning visit to the Prado we noticed these Syrian protesters out on the street. In the typical European way, people actually gather to protest things they want to change. We don’t get around to doing that anymore in the US.

After we visited the Prado for a few hours, we decided to wander around the El Real Jardín Botánico. It is the Royal Botantical garden. We fully enjoyed the large collection of plants outside and in the greenhouses.

Fun cactus-like plant

Orchids and other hanging plants

Cactus room

Our park selfie

Next to the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid lies the Parque del Retiro. This large park contains many trails, monuments, and lakes to enjoy. We spent a couple hours lounging around like locals. There is a boat rental and a cafe.

After lounging around the park we walked back into town and walked by this monument Puerta de Alcalá.

Also not far we happened upon this indoor outdoor area with this fabulous ceiling. I guess it is located inside what is known as the El Palacio de Comunicaciones.

After wandering around all day we were hungry. I ordered a hearty Spanish meal for dinner at a cafe nearby the hotel. It is early bedtime since we had to travel to Sevilla the next day. See you there.

Spain: Sightseeing in Madrid

Spain was always on my bucket list of travel places to visit. However when I dreamed of Spain my thoughts leaned towards the Seville and Barcelona. I thought Madrid would be my least favorite part of my recent trip there but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the sights and food.

We started off our most recent visit checking into the modern style Hotel Regina (see room above). The hotel was affordable and in walking distance to most areas of interest – including Puerta del Sol where we saw these ladies below trying to work the crowd.

We also saw elmo and others but could only deal with so many poorly made character costumes so we headed over to Plaza Mayor where we saw this really weird goat thing.

Bubble fun…..

Interesting frescos in plaza.

Later on in the evening we happened upon a used book store.

And a store all about SHUTTING YOUR MOUTH.

Puerta del Sol was much nicer in the evening. Many people gathering around socializing. Madrid is a very social city.

Walking back to our hotel.

The next day we set out for the Royal Palace.

Official designs of the royal palace.

After we visited the palaces we stopped for tapas. Olives and sardines are a staple of tapas cusine.

We also had some chicken and tripe soup.

And Churros con chocolate

If you wander around the city enough you will happen upon small markets like this one. I liked the war machines made out of bullets.

There was also a great supply of Greek sweets.

And some fur accessories if you need them.

Nice fountain near the market.

Some beautiful night views of Madrid.

And back to our hotel to bed.

If you want to experience more of the food night life of Madrid, visit the past posts of Mercado de San Miguel and Tapas in Calle Cava Baja.

Madrid Tapas stroll on Calle Cava Baja

Previously I have talked about my food experiences at the Mercado de San Miguel. It is tough to top the food choices at the mercado but we were determined to find more good food.
For a tapas crawl experience, our guide book recommended we visit the restaurants of Calle Cava Baja in Madrid.
We started in the early evening down the street whereas most locals do not go out until after 9. We were able to try some places out before they got crowded. We made our way down the street and sampled as much food and beverages as we could for the night.

It happened to be St Patrick’s day. I caught this festive guy on a cell phone break.

This place was packed everytime we walked by.

Albóndigas (meatballs and sauce) served with potatoes.

This was pretty good and I while I am still not 100% sure what it is, the waitress called them little fish.

We spent some time sitting at the bar at La Perejila. They have some nice vermouth and great tapas.

Love me some Spanish vermut!!!

Pate

More fishies…

This place wasn’t on Calle Cava Baja but was quite busy and recommended in the guidebook.

The night proved to be a success. I advise anyone who can to visit Madrid and do a tapas crawl. Your mouth will not regret it!

Mercado de San Miguel

One of my favorite food places in the world is the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. The mercado is what I would call food heaven. After our first visit all I wanted to do is return again and again while we were in Madrid. You can get small samples of anything you can think of Spanish related. We had so much fun going from booth to booth tasting things. We ended up spending a large amount of time at the Vermut (Vermouth) and Sherry tasting booth. It is there that I discovered my new love for Vermouth. Evenings there are fun but crowded. Serious eaters should arrive earlier to avoid the lines.

My favorite was the Vermut tasting. A glass of sweet, dry or semi-sweet vermouth was great with a plate of olives.

It wasn’t until the end of our Madrid stay did I discovered that I liked Sherries as well.

One mustn’t forget desserts as well. There were plenty of those to try.