Sunday, 6 July 2014

48 Hours In Madrid

48 hours in Madrid
When you only have 48 hours in a huge City like Madrid you have to hit the ground running, or  perhaps hit ground  on the dorkiest  two wheels on the planet????  .... Don't mind if I do!!

It wasn't a decision we took lightly, we generally  prefer to blend in with the locals in our destination of choice, but the idea of getting a quick snap shot of Madrid in 90 minutes within two hours of arriving was just too tempting.  So, at 4pm on our afternoon of arrival we had a quick "how to" on our Segways before heading off for our quick tour of Madrid.

We soon learnt that the Segway was a smart choice.  Madrid is incredibly hilly, with even the local cyclists opting for the electric version.

Despite some early rain on the tour, we managed to take in some of the winding streets of Madrid before taking in the beautiful gardens surrounding the Palace,the largest in Europe. Our guide discussed various attractions along the way.  The Temple of Debod (picture below) is the oldest building in Madrid, presented to Spain by the Egyptians as a gift of thanks for Spain's assistance in the building of the Aswan Dam.  The views from here are spectacular.

The tour takes in various aspects of the castle, steering clear of the busy castle itself,  but rather taking in various aspects of it and it's surrounds.

This tour is an inexpensive way to get a glimpse of Madrid in a short space of time - recommended.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon in the hotel.  We stayed at the Hotel Emperador, on the Grand Via.  We got a bargain in a Junior Suite (huge) on the third floor which included breakfast each morning.  The room had a balcony overlooking the heart of Madrid and we never felt far from the action.  Be warned, don't stay here if you require peace and serenity to get a good night sleep.  The sounds of a bustling, vibrant city can be heard through the night, but there's nothing like the sound of When The Saints Go Marching In being sung in Spanish to make you smile at 4am in the morning.

The Hotel had an old world charm, seemingly stuck in somewhat of a time warp, with just a hint of the Grand Budapest Hotel about it.  That said, it was well maintained and we found it charming.  Our room was quite lovely with a large, pristine bathroom and wonderful amenities.  It has a rooftop pool (one of the few in Madrid) which was pumping like a Seminyak beach club the afternoon we visited.

As evening approached, The Husband announced that he knew just where to take me.  A couple of minutes walk away, was the El Corte Ingles, a department store.  As I was led in I had visions of a food court with sloppy food in bainmarie!!!! We don't eat in department stores in Madrid!!  Actually we do, and it was fabulous.  Better than fabulous.  The Husband had been reading about a food outlet on the top floor of El Corte Ingles called StreetXO.  The food here was so spectacular ( I can't recall having a more enjoyable meal any time, anywhere, ever!!)

In fact the food here was so good, that we committed the cardinal sin of "48hours in one destination".  We came back the NEXT NIGHT!!!!

This was Asian fusion tapas at its best, all cooked by a mohawked maestro right in front of us.  He and his team were spectacular to watch as they prepared us dishes such as: roasted Chinese BBQ butter fish with aniseed and yuzu salad; Pekinese dumpling with pigs ear with strawberry hoisin and Ali-oli and pickles; pork belly with pickled mussels and shiitake with XO tartare plus many more, all pictured below.   On our second visit, the mohawked maestro insisted we try (with his compliments) his Asian version of the Paella, made with noodles and wrapped in a fine skin of omelette.  Clever!

The next day we spent the morning working up an appetite taking in the sights, all within walking distance of the hotel.   We started withe the museum Prado, famous for its artworks by Greco, Velazquez, Merillo, Goya and many more.  The gallery possesses more than 7500 works of art.

Following this we decided to get some sunshine and took in the stunning gardens of Buen Retiro Park. It is a delightful park with is manicured trees, abundant gardens, statues and waterways.  We grabbed an icecream and strolled about.

Following this we visited the queen Sofia museum and visit the Richard Richard exhibition (including some interactive art - fun) as well as the works of our favourite, Salvador Dali.  If you enjoy the more modern art, like myself, this is a "must do" in Madrid.

By 2pm we were starving and headed to Mercardo de San Miguel, also a short walk from our hotel.  The food here is an extravaganza for the senses.  It is best appreciated by grabbing a glass of sangria or San Miguel and indulging from stall after stall of fresh delights from savoury to sweet and everything in between.  Croquettes in every flavour; pintxo's; empanadas; fresh fruit; paella; and an array of desserts from all corners of the world.

Our last night was spent at StreetXO with baklava Dessert at Mercado San Miguel - good times.

Pics below:
The sights on Segway tour
The Gardens
The Reina Sofia Museum (including Richard Richard and Dali)
The Mercado San Miguel

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