I am old school. A hotel person. Possibly because of the cancellation feature. Not wanting to lose my money if I have to change my plans last-minute. (The chaotic life of flying standby).
Throwing caution to the wind, we rented a two bedroom apartment in the city center of Madrid for four days! We wanted the space. I am an early riser, my friend not so much. The apartment was off a small street offering quiet accommodations yet walking distance to virtually everywhere. I woke early everyday, made a coffee and watched the sun filter through the light breezy white curtains that hung from the floor to ceiling windows. Taking my breakfast in the dining room while mapping out our day. I was hooked. We couldn’t beat the space we had and the comfort of everyday life as if we were locals.
As we strolled through the square night after night the stillness invoked the awareness of our surroundings. Small groups of people talking, the random dog walker and us. It was quiet, safe and almost unbelievable just a few steps away was the bustling Mercado de San Miguel. A beautiful covered iron structure offering gourmet tapas and inexpensive wines. One stand after another with enticing tapas. The olives plump and stuffed with cheese and jambon ham. The burrata was sitting like white puffy clouds on top of slices of crusty baguette. The desserts, placed in neat rows waiting to be packaged up in pink paper and sealed with twine. Ready to deliver to your friend’s house as an after dinner offering. We slowly made our way through the market taking in everything one bite at a time. Definitely a foodie haven!
We found ourselves walking down the Gran Via also known as the Spanish Broadway. The combination of jet-lag and the semi-annual sales seemed to be mocking us in a cruel game on our first day in Madrid! Shop til you drop wasn’t just a phrase that day!
Day two with temperatures hovering near sixty and plenty of sunshine we made our way to Atocha train station for the thirty minute trip to Toledo. With trains leaving almost every 40 minutes or so you can easily turn this into a half day trip with lunch. There are many museums and monuments in Toledo and you can access everything via walking from the train station. What piqued my interest was the cobblestone streets and alleys. Offering a new picture to take at every turn. Walk to the cathedral then wander into the boutique stores as well as high-end shops. Grab an espresso or stop for tomato toast, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Then continue on to the El Greco Museum.
Day three the morning was quite chilly so off to The Prado we went. Located in central Madrid the building is expansive, beautiful and holds a vast collection of European art. Buy your tickets on-line to save time and plan on arriving early to enjoy the collection.
After you have your fill of art, walk over to Retiro Park, where you can stroll, pose and row a boat. Enjoy this outdoor space where you will see people jogging, cycling or just sitting on the grass. This is the largest park in Madrid and basically the green heart of the city.
A late afternoon stroll down the Calle de las Huertas is a must. One of the most famous streets in Madrid. You will see bar after bar and many restaurants in this old neighborhood.
There are many squares worth seeing in this electric city. The best known is of course Plaza Mayor. Which is decorated with restaurants where you can dine or enjoy drinks outdoors. Walk through this square and take a photo day or night. It’s very impressive. Take a seat at one of the restaurants. Sip a glass of cava, while observing other’s, perhaps guessing their story as the day slowly slips by in one of the oldest and charming parts of the city.
Madrid is classic, elegant, old and charming. A city not to be missed anytime of the year.