Homerun Nievera, World Executives Digest | Finally, I was able to squeeze in two weeks of my ultra busy schedule for a quick respite from the corporate hustle and bustle with my wife. One of my challenging highlights was a 24-hour visit to Madrid while on our way to Zaragoza from Avila in Spain.
How can you soak in the charming city in just twenty four hours? A challenge, we thought.
We booked a night at the Courtyard by Marriott (Hotel Princesa) which was in the center of the city. It was within walking distance to all the major shopping areas in Gran Via and Serrano. As a bonus, there is a mall and supermarket at the corner (El Corte Ingles) and a Starbucks right behind the hotel. Convenient, indeed!
We were in Madrid in the morning. It was a no-brainer for us to book a day tour with a tour guide so we can maximize the time and go the major tourist places. We chose the more classic spots like the churches, as Spain is a known Catholic country even before the 1500’s. Hot tip: join a group tour to add to the fun and meet new friends.
First stop was the Cathedral which was just across the Palace. We went through almost every nook and crany of the Almudena Cathedral and heard mass at the adoration chapel which was plastered with gold leaf. It was a no-photo zone, but we were able to squeeze in a group photo with the mass celebrant, Father Ian Gabinete, a Filipino Diocesan priest. Take note of the adoration chapel’s walls which tells stories of Jesus and the saints. Absolutely breathtaking.
After the mass, we crossed the street which is curiousy named Calle de Bailen (or Street Dance!) and had lunch at Dehesa Santa Maria, a quaint cafe and restaurant known for their tapas and paella. The price is affordable, especially the paella which comes in a large iron platter. Though their sandwiches (panninis) are quite smaller than expexted, even for an Asian stomach like mine.
After lunch, we walked back and crossed Calle De Bailen to meet our guide at the Palace. We were early so we took some group photos. The Cathedral bells rang by the time we got there and the sound was magical. The Cathedral and the Palace are somewhat back-to-back.
Our guide led us on a tour of Palace. Believe me, the Palace tour alone is more than enough you can soak in to learn about Spanish history and the Spanish monarchy. I simply cannot elaborate on this one as you have to do the tour to have a 4 dimensional experience. Just a peek on what to expect — wait till you reach the Throne Room. It was such a spectacular experience!
After the Palace tour, we hopped on the tour bus and went on a guided sightseeing tour. Our guide, Carlos, was an affable fellow in his mid-30s, and was very knowledgeable on everything Madrid. He was an obvious fan of football — Real Madrid — as he even took us to the stadium. The group was kind of tired so when we reached the Don Quixote monument, only I and another guy got off the bus to take photos of the place. We also visited the neo-classic Saint Jerome Church which was right across a museum. We rather ended our tour at the old train station. Hot tip: a visit to the rest room here costs .80 Euro.
By the evening, we had dinner at the posh Cinco Jotas restaurant, where some of the Madrid’s best jamons are served.
Before retiring to our hotel room, we had coffee and tea at the nearby Starbucks with our tour manager, Anabelle Sipin (of Larry’s Classic Tours), and discussed our next trip to Rome, Dubai and Qatar. We learned that the latter has flights from Madrid to Doha via stylish Qatar Airways. Those will be our next advertures.
For now, we’re off to Zaragoza.