Madrid to me is kind of the forgotten capital of Europe. You know it’s there but you always prefer to go elsewhere in Europe and especially in Spain. Barcelona, anywhere in Andalucia or anywhere along any of the coasts all seem more appealing. The are no beaches, the weather is so so and other than art, it’s not really known for anything of note except for its nightlife. The city isn’t as attractive as some of the other great capitals of Europe and it is certainly not as easy to navigate. But Madrid does have a positive vibe to it and the only way to get to know this massive city is to walk around and stop in the shops and eat in the cafes. I had three days in Madrid which was two more than the only other time I was here and I have to say I really enjoyed the city that loves jamon (ham) and especially its charming cafes and outdoor culture.
We stayed right near the Puerta del Sol, which is one of the central squares right near the main square, Plaza Mayor, at a little hotel called Hostal Madrid. While the accomodations were fine and the staff was friendly; when I asked to stay for half of a day (today) because I have a late overnight train to Lisbon, they wouldn’t make an arrangement for me to pay half the price for the room, which I thought was rude especially when they don’t have anyone coming for the room. I even offered to vacate earlier if they do get someone before the agreed upon time. Breaking news-after apparently checking my website, literally as I am writing this, they just offered me the accomodation I asked for for the day at a lower price, haha-I guess that’s the power of words and the Internet! So as a result of that I will recommend the hotel but I will recommend the area in general which has many surrounding hotels and hostels to choose from-all at reasonable prices.
However, the slight annoyance didn’t detract from a great couple days of cafe hopping and eating jamon until the early hours, haha. I joke but they really do eat ham all the time here and for practically every meal. In fact, their most famous chain here is called El Museo del Jamon which literally means Museum of Ham, see the picture above to see hundreds of fresh ham legs hanging on the walls-these aren’t just decorations either, they eat these legs, tons of them daily. They also offer one euro wine, beer and ham sandwiches which is the best deal in Europe to be honest. A tourist trap perhaps, but we saw several locals at the bar as well so I don’t feel bad about it although my friend from Madrid might lose her lunch if she heard me say I love the Museo del Jamon! By the way this picture right here was ent to me by my good friend Melisa who was at the Museo del Jamon last year and said I could use it if I give her credit for it so thanks Melisa.
Aside from eating and drinking, we walked around the city and spent some time at the Prado Museum which is of course famous the world over for their collection which rivals the great museums on the world like the Louvre, the Hermitage and the Met. For me, it was nice and it was my second time which was more memorable than the first but still I am not a huge art fan but they did have some nice Velazquez, Rembrandt and Reubens works that anyone can appreciate. The area around the Prado is gorgeous and is a nice place to hang out and grab some food or a drink as well.
Last night was my favorite night in Madrid, sitting in Plaza Santa Ana at one of the terrace restaurants enjoying some nice wine and a drink called tinto de verano which was very much like sangria and very refreshing. I need to thank my friend Sergio for the recommendation. The square at night is well lit up and very nice in the shadow of the modern Hotel ME which is a W-esque offshoot by the European hotel company Melia which features a rooftop bar called Penthouse.
All in all, Madrid was a very nice place to be. It will never be my favorite city but it is one that I will return to and have a much better feel for now than I did before. It was also cool to be here when Real Madrid signed Kaka, although I am a Barcelona fan, the papers here in Madrid were going nuts as they look to continue their spending spree with Ronaldo, Ribery, Villa and who knows who else! I will now be traveling by myself as Lea headed back to the States today and I am headed to the Portuguese island of Madeira tomorrow to hopefully work on my tan that is peeling all over my entire body from being scorched in Lampedusa!