For our final summer holiday Jeff and I headed off to Madrid. Like Berlin, Madrid is a city I’ve visited multiple times before to see friends who live there; also like the recent Berlin trip, this was Jeff’s first time in the city and my first time staying anywhere but a friend’s house. Here’s what we got up to on day one…
Day one started bright and early with a flight out of Heathrow at 9am – which meant we had to leave our flat around 5:30am to allow time for travel, check in and security. (Sigh.) Luckily there are a lot of cafes at Heathrow Terminal 5 both land and air side with plenty of windows, so I was able to eat breakfast with a view of the planes taking off and landing as the sun rose.
We arrived in Madrid around mid-day and took the metro directly to our hotel: the 5* Hotel Wellington near Parque del Retiro. The last time I stayed in a 5* hotel I was about 20, on a university trip to China, and was never actually at the hotel because we were out all day exploring. My biggest memories of the 5* hotel in Shanghai was that it was the only hotel on our trip (we’d travelled to a few cities) with forks and knives as standard; it also offered a continental breakfast whereas the rest of the hotels we’d stayed at offered things like rice, vegetables and fried eggs. Nowadays Jeff & I normally stay at Airbnbs or budget hotels, so I wasn’t expecting much with Hotel Wellington – especially considering we booked through a third party site offering a special rate for the room with breakfast included, refundable up to a week before travel.
Well, let the pictures above speak for me when I say I was certainly surprised and absolutely delighted with the luxury and premium feel. Ornate decoration, marble floors and plush carpeting throughout, a full marble bathroom the size of our kitchen in Islington, a bedroom that’s probably bigger than our entire flat, a large wardrobe behind double doors with wooden hangers and a chest of draws – and even a balcony behind velvet blackout curtains. Over the coming days we realised that housekeeping prepared our room for the day (bed turned down, curtains opened) and also the evening (curtains closed, linen on the floor by the bed to change from shoes to slippers without touching the floor, and chocolate on the pillows). While I did feel a bit out of place, I loved looking at the beauty of it all and pretending I was a famous person on a discreet holiday. (Which means I wore sunglasses indoors.)
After we got over the shock of the luxury we were in for, we headed out for lunch and settled on Vips, a chain I’d visited with friends in the past that I remembered served up good food with hearty portions and had free wifi. My memory was correct (though I made the mistake of ordering off the ‘good for you’ menu and not swapping my vegetable crisps for potato crisps or fries…), and once we’d eaten and checked Facebook we headed back to the hotel for a nap by the poolside.
When it was time for dinner, we met up with my friend Paloma at Mercado de San Ildefonso. We all settled on eggs with meat; Paloma and myself with the scrambled eggs, Jeff with a tortilla. Everything was delicious, and (of course!) I loved how Instagrammable the market was.
After dinner we headed over to Coconut Bar, which was just as playful (cabinets full of kitsch and Barbies and nicknacks!) as the name sounds for a drink before calling it a night with a delicious gin and tonic.