I’ve been rushed off my feet since starting my new job a few weeks ago, so I’ve been absent on keeping up with my blog posts…again. However, I’ve had an excuse to write again following our latest trip away – this time Madrid was our destination of choice. The month of May in France is peppered with bank holidays and luckily for us, this year they have mostly fallen on Mondays, making it the perfect excuse to get away.
First thing’s first, while French food can never be replaced in my heart, the food we had in Madrid was incredible. My hardest decision on a daily basis is choosing what to eat, so tapas is ideal – why choose when you can have a small taste of everything? Following my boyfriend’s colleague’s advice (who lives in Madrid) we tried many great places, my favourite of which was Juana la Loca, in La Latina district. They specialise in truffle dishes; their black truffle seabass was the most amazing tapas I had during my trip and their famous tortilla de patatas was also divine. Tying for a close second was Mercado de la Reina in the Gran Vía area, which offers an amazing value-for-money set menu (with the best-seasoned steak I’d ever tasted) and the slightly-more expensive, Laredo in El Retiro district with glammed-up and delicious tapas combinations.
Between meals we spent the remainder of our time working up an appetite by seeing the sights. Madrid is a very “walkable” city; due to the concentration of the city centre, everything is within walking distance. We stayed at the NH Nacional Hotel which turned out to be a stroke of good luck, being only a short walk away from the centre, whilst overlooking the greenery of El Retiro park. We spent our first afternoon lazily exploring the park, lying in the sun, sitting by the lake and even watching a school of dancers practice their routines on the bandstand.
The tranquillity of this spot couldn’t be further away than the Plaza Mayor and surrounding areas, which bustles with activity and tourists. After a quick peek at the Mercado de San Miguel, we headed to the Parque del Oeste to check out the ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod. As we were meandering back down the hill, we had a great view over the city. Yet it wasn’t until that evening that we saw the most splendid view of Madrid. We headed to Círculos de Bellas Artes for rooftop apéro drinks; the queue may look daunting, but don’t let this dishearten you, as it moves very quickly. Plus, at just 4€ entry, it is a lot cheaper than some hotel terraces nearby. The result is a gorgeous panoramic view over the Gran Vía which, as the sun is beginning to descend, makes it a really magical spot.
If breath-taking views are your thing, I recommend taking a day trip to Toledo, a mere 30 minute train ride away. My boyfriend managed to capture the perfect shot of the scenery as we strolled over the bridge. This day was the hottest yet and the town being very hilly, I was glad I had ditched the jeans in favour of a lighter outfit. Toledo is very picturesque having kept a lot of its traditional, medieval structures. We had a spot of lunch at the Mercado de San Agustín, which was a lot less crazy than the food market in Madrid. Although not as “traditional”, it is a good alternative if you’re looking to break away from the crowds, like us.
On our final day, we had just enough time to stop by the Museo El Prado to glimpse some masterpieces as well as grab some last-minute tapas. Having an extra day made all the difference, as there is so much to see and do in Madrid and we could take things at a much calmer and relaxed pace than our previous trips. We managed to tick everything on our wishlist (including an evening flamenco show) and this paired with the laidback Spanish take on life, made this feel less like a weekend getaway and more like an actual holiday break.