Food in Madrid
When people think of food in Madrid, they think of jamón, tapas, and wine. At least, that’s what we thought of initially. While that might pigeonhole a destination, there’s nothing with pointing out the bright spots of a city!
Like any major city, there were places to grab a quick bite and also places where you could sit down and have a masterfully crafted meal. Joann and I usually like to experience a bit of both whenever we go anywhere.
Museo del Jamón
As I said before in a previous post, this was THE first thing we ate in Madrid. It was on our way from the subway stop to the Westin Palace. If you visit Madrid, you must visit one of their handful of locations.
It’s a great place to stand at the bar, have a 1 Euro beer (that come with free mini sandwiches) and eat some Spanish ham. Is it the best quality stuff? Of course not, but for the price, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pop in every time you pass one.
Bodega de la Ardosa
This was on the radar when I was doing some research. When Anthony Bourdain paid the authentic and very old venue a visit on No Reservations, that helped push it to the top of the list.
It’s a very small bar that is all standing room only. To get to the back section, you have to duck under the bar, right past the bartenders. Weird, and I never would have known that if I didn’t read some reviews.
This was another great stop for some small bites and more vino. The service is quick and you should brush up on your Spanish a little bit.
Chocolatería San Ginés
Another Madrileño institution, Chocolatería San Ginés started serving this beautiful snack in 1894. It’s so simple but also delicious.
The churros are the perfect texture, especially when you get them right out of the fryer. The hot chocolate is so rich and decadent, definitely unlike any hot chocolate you’d get in the US. Its viscosity is almost that of melted chocolate bars, perfect for dipping hot churros.
Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is another tourist spot of Madrid. It was definitely worth a visit.
It is set up as a large market with many vendors throughout. If you can’t find something great to eat in here, you must be doing it wrong. We started off with some paella, which was delicious. The toasty socarrat was definitely my favorite part; the rice, most importantly, was cooked perfectly.
The market isn’t cheap by any means. The picture above was about 5 Euros; I guess that’s not terrible considering that wine came with it as well.
The bites above were pretty awesome as they were only 1 Euro apiece. Plenty of flavor for a 2-bite snack.
My favorite part of the Mercado de San Miguel was definitely the jamón ibèrico. It was amazingly, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It was definitely leaps and bounds ahead of Museo del Jamón in terms of quality.
The restaurant so nice we went there twice! Yes, this has actually never happened before. We’ve never gone back to a pricey restaurant on such a short trip, but Joann and I felt that the creativity and quality of food warranted a return visit.
A classically trained French chef, fluent in French, Spanish, and English was very passionate about the food that night (and I’m sure every night). Chef Ben was eager to explain each dish to us and you could feel the sense of pride beaming from him as he served us each course.
We dined at the bar, which was right in front of the kitchen, and I’m glad we did. We were able to see each part of the meal come together and the care with which each part of the dish was created. It was a really great culinary experience!
In: Trip Reports · Tagged with: dining, madrid
I just received an email from Chase stating that I no longer have to provide them with my travel information for my Chase Sapphire card.
This is actually great news because that form was a pain and I had mixed results while traveling. Sometimes, even though I filled out the form, my card would get declined. Obviously, I always carry back up (non-Chase) cards while traveling. Nevertheless, it was an unnecessary hassle.
Travel notifications no longer required
Your Account Ending in 1058
Dear Michael Las:
As part of our continuous efforts to improve your experience with your Chase Sapphire card, we’ve made an update to your account.
In the past, you may have notified us of your travel plans to ensure uninterrupted service while traveling. Because we value your business and your use of this card, you no longer need to provide us with your travel information.
Our fraud detection systems will continue to protect and monitor your account, and we may still decline charges that appear fraudulent.
Your account satisfaction and security is our priority. Should you need us while traveling, call the number on the back of your card anytime. Thank you for choosing Chase.
Chase Card Services
This is taking after American Express who also does not require any travel notification. They must have confidence in their fraud detection systems.
One thing to note is that this is specifically for my Chase Sapphire card. It makes no reference to the other 3 Chase cards I have.
In: Chase · Tagged with: chase
Since we had never been to Madrid prior to this trip, Joann and I did some research and talked to some friends who had been before. The general consensus was to enjoy museums, vino y jamòn, and just the history of the city itself! I couldn’t be happier with that as a foundation of our short time in Madrid.
Our hotel, The Westin Palace Madrid, is in perfect location if you would like to be within easy walking distance to all three main museums in Madrid – Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Museo Reina Sofía. Together, they are known as the Golden Triangle of Art.
I won’t be the one to pretend to know things about art or anything like that. I’m the furthest thing from an art lover. What I do know is that I enjoyed all three. They were all different, featuring different works from different countries and eras.
My favorite works were Picasso’s Guernica, located in the Reina Sofía, and Goya’s Black Paintings, which are featured in the Prado.
I won’t go into much detail about the things we did because I’d just be regurgitating stuff I read on Wikipedia or Trip Advisor, but here are the main things we did during our 3 days in Madrid.
Buen Retiro Park is a large and beautiful park just on the edge of the city center, a 10 minute walk from The Westin Palace and very close to the Puerto de Alcalá. The park is lovely to walk around, seeing street vendors and performers, countless large sculptures, fountains, and more. There is even a large artificial lake in the middle of the park where you can go for a boat ride.
Retiro Park is so huge that we didn’t even get a chance to see all of it. I would imagine you could easily spend a half day or more here just wandering around, taking in sights or even just lounging anywhere. Plenty of people were doing it when we went.
Puerto de Alcalá is a grand gate in the eastern part of the city. Carlos III demanded a majestic gate for royalty to enter the city, as he did not feel the original Puerto de Alcalá was fit for a king. The original one was demolished and the one you see now was completed in 1769. We saw it multiple times during our stay since it was close to the hotel. It was much nicer at night than it was during the day.
Puerta del Sol is the more famous and much busier gate in the city. It is where several roads meet and is a beautiful place to hang around on sunny day and people watch. Tourists and Madrileños alike were swarming this place when we were there.
The Plaza Mayor is the main plaza in all of Madrid. It is a huge rectangular plaza surrounded by three-story buildings on all sides. There were a few shops and restaurants surrounding the Plaza, but, other than that, there isn’t much to see unless there is a scheduled event. For us, it was just a check off the list of touristy things to see. It is a very short walk away from Puerta del Sol.
The Palacio Real was probably my favorite sight from our trip. Literally, The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. Apparently, the current King and Royal Family do not live there; they live in a less ostentatious palace. You are able to tour the palace for 10 Euros (I think) and it is well worth it. The current palace is almost 300 years old, but the site was originally used as a fortress in the 9th century. Everything about it was awe inspiring – the architecture, the history, the opulence. It was amazing to see how royalty lived. There were so many different rooms, all with different purpose, and the palatial decor was fitting for a structure that old and historical. I definitely recommend spending a good bit of time in the Palacio Real.
I think there are a number of things to do and see in Madrid, and we were only there for 3 days. Had we been there longer, we might have tried to venture outside of the city for a day trip. Maybe next time though.
In: Trip Reports · Tagged with: madrid
A quick recap of the promotion is as follows:
- Earn double Starpoints on all eligible stays from May 1 through July 31, 2013
- Get 500 bonus Starpoints for each eligible booking made through our spg.com mobile site, the SPG® App for iPhone® or the SPG App for Android™
Again, it’s nothing ground breaking at all, but if you have Starwood hotel stays in the works, you might as well earn some extra points for them.
In: Starwood · Tagged with: hotels, starwood
Westin Palace Madrid
After chowing down on croissants and beautiful pieces of jamòn and downing 1 Euro beers, we walked the rest of the way to the hotel. It’s a real looker when you come upon it.
When planning this trip, there were plenty of hotels to choose from in Madrid, but this one seemed to be the grandest. I decided to burn some of our Starpoints.
At 4,800 points and $90 per night, this hotel offered great value. The rooms were consistently going for over 200 Euro (almost $300) so each Starpoint ended up to be worth about 3.8 cents. That beats the pants off 1-2% cashback!
About two weeks prior to our stay, I had emailed the GM to ask about upgrade options. He promptly replied with two options:
- A free upgrade to a “premium view room”
- A Junior Suite for 7,500 Starpoints per night
I did some research, particularly on Oyster, to see if the room would be worth it to us. Ultimately, I told the GM that we would take the upgrade for 7,500 Starpoints per night. Why not, at the time we had about 160k burning a hole in our pocket anyway. We were confirmed for a Junior Suite for a total of 22,500 Starpoints (3 nights).
Upon arrival, the agent at the front desk brought out the Manager who explained that we had been upgraded to the Executive Suite for free! Now THAT’S the way to start a trip. Not bad for an SPG Gold.
The front desk agent also thanked me for being a Gold member and asked which welcome gift I’d like – 250 Starpoints, complimentary Internet, or a complimentary beverage. Normally, the Internet is the best value, but since we were traveling with an international MiFi device, I chose the Starpoints.
Our keys were made and the Manager had a bell hop take our bags to our room. She was going to show us around the hotel. She brought us through the grand lobby, the hotel restaurant, and the other facilities.
Finally, she brought us to our Executive Suite. She walked us through each part of the room and then left us, but not before giving us a few maps and brochures and one thing that I thought was very thoughtful – a new 2012 edition of the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. Funny because Joann borrowed that same book (older edition) from a coworker.