El Oso y el Madroño

Madrid. Villa y corte. El Oso y el Madroño.

No matter what you call this city, it is a lovely, lively and amazing place. This was my first visit to the city. However, it almost didn’t happen.

The day before my flight, The Horrors of Travel struck. I was actually checking in online the moment I received the dreaded cancellation notice:Cancellation - BA0458 LHR to MAD on 31 Aug 2019 _ PF8REK - ccknight28@gmail.com - Gmail

Oh fudge!! 😒

However, unlike my previous travel horrors, rebooking on another flight wasn’t complicated. I was given the options of leaving at 0600 or 1500.

Now friends would have told me to choose the 1500 flight to avoid having to get up early in the morning. For me, the thought of losing an entire vacation day waiting to board a two-hour flight didn’t appealed to me. I chose the 0600 flight.

The flight was uneventful. At least I think it was uneventful. I slept the whole flight, waking up only because of a big “thump.” I was happy to discover the “thump” was the plane landing.

I quickly processed through immigration and customs then went searching for my pre-booked taxi. I used Welcome Pickups for my taxi service. I chose to use a taxi service since this was my first time visiting Madrid. I always take a taxi upon arrival in a new city because, despite my pre-trip research and planning, it takes me a day or two to fully grasp the city’s public transportation system.

I was a little worried about booking with Welcome Pickups after reading various negative reviews on how the company handled cancellations. However, the company did have more than its fair share of positive reviews, therefore I decided to contact the company’s customer service and discuss my concerns with them. Reassured, I booked my roundtrip airport transfer from Madrid airport.

welcome pick up quote

Travel Tip: Madrid has a flat taxi rate of €30 from the airport to the city centre. If you want to take a taxi from Madrid airport, make sure you’re know this rate because some taxi drivers will try to tell you differently, or try to add a surcharge, or charge you for luggage.

Oh, also make sure you know and use the legitimate taxi services. There are no shortages of taxis, but I suggest pre-booking if you arrive late at night or just want a more reliable service. Public transportation is also available, and cheaper.

welcome pickup

I was greeted at my scheduled pickup time by my driver Fernando and he was great. He was also my driver for my return trip, and he was very punctual and professional. He gave me a map of the city and tips on restaurants, shopping areas and safety – including why I shouldn’t use the Metro if I didn’t absolutely need to use the Metro.

I arrived at my accommodations for the next four days, the Petit Palace Chueca. I booked this hotel using my Diamond Resorts timeshare exchange program. The hotel was nice and located right off the Grand Via, a major road in Madrid. The room was nice, clean and larger than expected.  

Sounds like a decent place, right? And it was a decent place, but I only give it two stars out of five, and WILL NOT stay here again.

Why?

This place’s soundproofing was ABYSMAL!🤯

Seriously, the hotel’s owners, designers and management need to be taken to the woodshed and given a huge butt-whooping for allowing this hotel to operate with such horrendous soundproofing.

My first night was so unbearable, I wanted to check out and go stay in the park. At least the park was quiet.

I’m not a light sleeper. Far from it. I actually need the nightly noises of the city to help me fall asleep. Having lived in major cities and on military air force bases for most of my life, I’m conditioned to hearing the rumblings of the garbage trunk or street sweeper, and even police sirens.

But my goodness, I could hear everything — from the perpetual honking of cars, taxis and buses to the crowds of people yelling at other people. I even heard a group’s entire argument over whether to go to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Coffee (in English). Seriously, a 45-minute argument over Starbucks or Dunkin’ Coffee. Starbucks won, but only after they realized Dunkin’ Coffee was closed. 

Granted, I knew I was in a very lively and active city, and close to a main business area. Nevertheless, I do expect hotels on this strip to have decent soundproofing for every room. Adequate soundproofing is a must given the hotel’s central location.

And from the recent comments from other customers, I wasn’t they only guest who complained. When I inquired to get a new room, I was given the ole “hotel is fully-booked” answer.

The horrible soundproofing wasn’t the only issue that got my dander up. I was also a bit peeved to find the hotel undergoing renovations upon my arrival. The hotel had not informed me of this, nor were there any updates/emails about the hotel going through a renovation phase prior to my arrival.

I’ve stayed at hotels undergoing renovations, but I was notified or the hotel put a notice on their website about it. Petit Palace Chueca gave no notice. Normally, I marked this as a minor inconvenience, but when I came down to the lobby and was nearly hit on the head by falling plaster — I believe I’m justified in being a little bit steamed. 😤

No, I was pissed off — especially when neither the staff or the construction crew seem to care whether or not I was okay. They looked at what happened and shrugged their shoulders like it was nothing. Not the way to treat paying guests.🤬 

I’ll skip my breakfast experiences at the hotel, only to say it was terrible and disgusting. The only good thing about it was that it was included in the room rate.

I soon ventured out and set about exploring this beautiful city. Since it was still quite early in the morning, not much was open and the hordes of tourists were still sleeping away the previous nights’ parties. For me, this was a perfect time to capture some “City Life” photos. 

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I walked around the city just taking photos of the beautiful buildings and statues. I also took photos of some of the fancy restaurants in town like Carl’s Jr. 😲 and the Hard Rock Cafe 😜.   

Basically, I took photos of things that interested me. Some of it was common tourist things that would please my non-travelling friends & Captain Obvious (Hotels.com mascot), but the majority were items I found fascinating. After all, it is my adventure, right? 😎

TEMPLE OF DEBOD

The Temple of Debod is an authentic Egyptian temple built during the 2nd century BC in the village of Debod. The Egyptian government gave the temple as a gift to the city of Madrid and it was transported to Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaña Park. It is one of the few highlights of Egyptian architecture that can been seen outside Egypt.

The inside of the temple was closed to visitors during my holiday, but it was nice to see this piece of Egyptian history in the heart of Spain. 

PALACIO DE CRISTAL

Next, I hop on the bus to El Retiro Park to visit Palacio de Cristal. El Retiro Park is one of the largest parks in Madrid. Believe me it is huge. While I was searching for Palacio de Cristal, I took advantage of the early morning coolness, and the lack of tourists, and went on a photo safari inside the park.

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What a gorgeous place to relax. Not only is the park filled with sculptures, gardens, monuments and galleries, it is also a favorite place for joggers and speed walkers. I encountered a number of unintentional photo bombers during my photo safari.

The Monument to Alfonso XII was a very impressive monument I happened across during my safari. The monument is very beautiful, though I passed on exploring the lake the monument overlooks. I can’t stress how much I don’t like maritime activities.

Monument to Alfonso XII
Monument to Alfonso XII

I eventually reached Palacio de Cristal.

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Palacio de Cristal

Oh my goodness, what a beautiful site. Inside were a few art statues, but it was the building’s photogenic attributes that amazed this photographer.

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FUENTE DEL ÁNGEL CAÍDO

As I continued my exploration of El Retiro Park, I stumbled upon a very thought-provoking monument — Fuente del Ángel Caído, the Fountain of the Fallen Angel. 

Fallen Angel Madrid
Fuente del Ángel Caído

Depicting the moment Lucifer was cast out of heaven, the monument sits on top of a pillar in the midst of a fountain that is decorated with sinister and ominous demons and some evil looking reptile – though I think all reptiles look evil.

But what was very interesting was learning the statue sits exactly 666 meters above sea level.

Fuente del Ángel Caído
Fuente del Ángel Caído

Well alrighty then. Never one to ignore signs or hidden meanings, I snapped a few photos then proceeded to become the newest member of the Madrid speedwalking club, hightailing myself to a more “heavenly” area of El Retiro.

PUERTA DE ALCALÁ

I left El Retiro using the exit that put me right in front of Puerta de Alcalá. The gate was once the main entrance to the city. Apparently, the gate is older than identical the Arc de Triomphe and Brandenburg Gate. Each side of the gate has a different design and has a total of five arches instead of the normal three like the Puerta de Toledo and Puerta de San Vicente gates.

HOP-ON/HOP-OFF

I decided to splurge and bought a ticket for the Madrid City Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tours. Madrid is a very walkable city, but after exploring the park, my legs were a bit wobbly and needed a bit of a rest.

There were two routes: Historical Madrid and Modern Madrid. I jumped on Modern Madrid tour first, not because I wanted too, but because it was the bus that arrived first. 

I enjoyed this tour because the route strolled through many new and contemporary areas like Serrano Street, the location of Madrid’s more exclusive and luxury boutiques and shops. We also strolled down Alcalá Street, the longest street in Madrid. We even went by the U.S. embassy. It’s always good to know where your country’s embassy is located.

The highlight of this route was of course the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the home stadium of the Real Madrid football team. Not surprisingly, the bus both emptied and filled up at the particular stop.

I considered touring the stadium, but it was very crowded. This is another high-traffic tourist attraction where purchasing a ticket in advance is a necessity.

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

Next up was the world-famous Museo Nacional del Prado. Before I ventured the halls to marvel at masterpieces of art, my stomach needed fuel. So off I went in search for food.

There are so many delicious choices for good food. During my time in Madrid, I ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, Madrid (military discount), Wok to Walk (because it was close to hotel), and Taberna La Espanola (for Paella). I even noticed a Tony Roma’s, but decided not to check it out. 

I have to say my favorite spot ended up being Tapa Tapa. Their customer service was a bit slow, but the food was decent and price within the range I expected. I snacked on Pescadito de la lonja frito and Mini-Mariscada. The food was hot, edible and filling, and gave me the boost of energy needed to explore the Museo Nacional del Prado.

Okay, truthfully, I was passing the time until 1800, when general admission to the museum is free.

Heck, waiting until 1800 while snacking on Tapas saved me €15 — which of course was the cost of my food, but the meal came with a free glass of tap water. 😜 

MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO

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Again I jumped on the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus and enjoyed the ride to the museum. Seeing the long lines, I nearly changed my mind about going to the museum. Guess I wasn’t the only one who did my research. The line moved quickly and the wait was no more than ten minutes.

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The museum’s collection of art is astounding. I didn’t take any photos of the inside because I was told photos weren’t allowed. I did see a few folks snapping here and there, but my mama taught me to obey the rules when you’re a guest in someone’s house, so I didn’t snap photos.

I did see a few masterpieces like The Annunciation by Fra Angelico; Fall on the path of Calvary by Rafael; and The Recognition of Phililpoemen by Peter Paul Rubens. Beautiful works of arts throughout the museum. 

Following the visit to the museum, and a few more photos of Madrid’s Night Life, I headed back to the hotel for rest. The next day I was traveling to La Ciudad de las Tres Culturas.” 

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ALMOST FORGOT

Oh, almost forgot about the Flamenco Show.

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The show was very traditional (I was told), and my attempt to perform a Flamenco dance was extremely hilarious.

It was so hilarious, I deleted the video of me dancing. Yep, my friends were right — when it comes to dancing, I have absolutely no rhythm — no matter what type of dance I try. 😝

But hey, I had a blast and whole lot of fun trying. The show was the perfect way to capped off an awesome adventure in the Spanish capital. 

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