If you haven’t yet read about our 4 days in Barcelona, click here. From Barcelona, we booked a high speed train and were in Madrid in just under 3 hours. We were hosted by the 5 star Hotel Orfila, part of the esteemed Relais and Chateaux group, which is a collection of luxury boutique hotels all over the world. Hotel Neri, where we stayed in Barcelona, is also part of this group. Both used to be palaces 🙂 I’m a huge fan of the collection, having stayed at two of their other hotels, Royal Chundu in Zambia and Camp Jabulani in Hoedspruit.
Madrid and Barcelona are worlds apart, and during the drive from the train station to our hotel, I was concerned that I wouldn’t like it. Ironically, on the last day, I didn’t want to leave. Where Barcelona has tiny alleyways, Madrid has 3 lane roads. Where Barcelona’s streets are lined with intricate architecture, Madrid’s are lined with trees. Barcelona is a convoluted maze of activity, secret spots waiting to be discovered. Madrid is an open mass of excitement, inviting you to explore.
Hotel Orfila is located in a quiet exclusive residential area of Madrid. Staying in a 5 star hotel in Europe is always a treat, and when we walked into the lobby we were immediately wowed.
Hotel Orfila is very different from my standard hotel choice. I always go for a modern, hotel with simple design, while this hotel is more opulent with antique furniture from the 19th century. Even though I personally am not a fan of antiques, I really enjoyed staying at Orfila. Every room is different, and all the furnishings are original. It reminded me very much of the Westcliff, where we got married and celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary.
Our room was huge and comfortable, the biggest we had during the entire stay. To think that is the hotel’s smallest room!
We also experienced dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, El Jardin de Orfila. Just sitting down at our table put me in my happy place- the terrace is so picturesque and beautiful. This is how it looked at 8pm at night!
|Can you spot me? Instagramming as usual 🙂|
The food is a mix of traditional Spanish cuisine and more popular European fare. Rishav had pig’s ears (I’m serious), and I went for a boring, albeit delicious choice- fish. We didn’t have wine because we were both still on flu medication, but we really enjoyed the experience nevertheless.
I was a bit hesitant to walk around and look for a restaurant at night because we were in a residential area, but the concierge told us about a street not too far away where there were alot of good restaurants, called Calle Jorge Juan. After a short 15 minute walk we stumbled across the prettiest alley with sidewalk restaurants, lined by flower bushes and fairy lights. People were standing outside, having drinks, others were enjoying a meal on a restaurant terrace. I had this moment where I just thought- THIS is what I love about Europe. Going to dinner on foot, daylight at 9pm, sophisticated restaurants. We made sure to go back to that street every night.
We lost out on one day because we were sick, so on that day I soaked the gel off my nails, Rishav had a haircut and we did laundry. We spent our other 3 days exploring the city. Day 2 was spent on the hopon/ hopoff bus, and we visited the Palace Real- incredible!
On Day 3, we went to a popular market called Mercado de San Miguel. I loved it, it is basically a more structured version of our popular markets (eg Market on Main/ Neighbourgoods). By structured, I mean the stalls have actual shop fittings. The vibe was awesome, there was TONS of deliciousness for sale, and we spent a good two hours just tasting different things. One thing that put me off was the fact that prawns are not deveined in Spain- ewww!
That night, we went to a Flamenco show at Casa Patas, one of Madrid’s oldest Flamenco bars. We had an early dinner, and then were ushered into a tiny room where we watched the dancing. It felt really authentic and not touristy at all- we really enjoyed it. I posted the below video on Instagram (my Instagram name is Jozilicious if you’re not following me already)
After that, we took a walk to Chocolateria San Gines- a really old hot chocolate and churro (doughnut) spot. The chocolate was decadent and again, we enjoyed an awesome vibe.
We also took a walk past Plaza Mayor. There are loads of plazas in Madrid- basically squares or Piazzas, as we know them, lined with restaurants and shops. Plaza Mayor is HUGE- I’d say about 4x the size of Nelson Mandela Square and at 11pm it was buzzing.
The next day was our last day in Madrid and ironically the one I was least looking forward to but ended up enjoying the most. We had done all the tourist stuff and were actually due to fly back home that day, had the trip not being extended with 3 nights in Rome and a 7 night cruise.
We took it easy in the morning, and then found a spot to have breakfast. We browsed the high end shops, Rishav bought (more!) ties and shirts for work, while I couldn’t stomach the high prices. We then took a walk to Madrid’s biggest and most famous park, Parque del Retiro. We walked around a bit, had some ice cream, found a spot to chill and read, played on our tablets and napped. The sun was shining, there were live musicians around, kids playing, lovers canoodling, bridal showers going on, older couples walking hand in hand… it was just such an awesome way to spend an afternoon.
The park is spectacular- much nicer than Central Park in New York because it feels more cozy and less vast and overwhelming.
It was a super chilled day and one I absolutely loved. On the last day, I almost felt guilty for thinking Madrid was a concrete jungle, and feeling as though it lacked the charm of Barcelona. After 4 days there, I could actually see myself living there- it is a really beautiful city that should definitely be on your itinerary if you are planning a trip to Spain.
From Madrid, we flew to Rome- my least favourite destination of the trip. I’ll tell you why in my next post.