It was a very early morning for us as we prepared to depart Frankfurt on a 10:50am flight bound for Madrid, Spain. We were up by 5:00am to get ready to leave and have breakfast before our taxi arrived at 7:15am to take us to the airport. We arrived early as our hotel receptionist advised but the Air Europa desk didn’t open until 8:50am.
Once we arrived in Madrid we found a taxi to take us into the city and to our hotel for the next four nights, the Melia Madrid Princesa. We were put in a room on the eleventh floor that was part of what they call The Level. The Level is a premier floor where they have a concierge, special check in services, etc. They also have an extraordinary array of coffee and cookies, tapas, sandwiches, wine, champagne, waters, soft drinks, nuts, olives and more for guests from 1:00pm to 11:00pm. In the mornings from 7:30am to 11:00am they serve breakfast.
After a few snacks to tide us over we headed out for a walk to learn a little about our location in the center of Madrid. The main street in front of our hotel is called Calle de la Princesa and is lined with a shopping mall, shops and restaurants of all types. Similar to places all over the world these days, we came across many homeless folks silently begging with signs asking for money.
We then came upon a huge well-maintained park called Parque del Oeste or Western Park which was once main landfill for the city. The park includes all sorts of monuments, a rose garden, fountains and more. On the street adjoining the park is the 150-foot-tall Arco de la Victoria or triumphant arch in honor of the 1936 Battle of Ciudad Universitaria, part of the Spanish Civil War. Just beyond the arch stands the Faro de Moncloa, a 300-foot-tall transmission tower with an observation deck.
Back at our hotel we met up with a French student named Olivier from SDSU who studied in San Diego in 2008. In our travels, we have met him all over the world since then including when he was studying in Australia. Olivier has a beautiful condo in central Paris but he gets claustrophobic after being home for more than a month and gets on the road traveling. While he is away he rents his condo in Paris, mostly to Americans. Lucky for him, he has a great job in human resources where he can work remotely from anywhere in the world. He is even thinking of buying another home in the south of Spain for its better climate.
Olivier took us to a very unique little restaurant not far from our hotel called El Jardin Secreto or the Secret Garden. It was a kitschy spot where none of the furniture matched but instead looked like it was sourced from second hand shops. Every surface of the restaurant was covered in odd stuffed animals, pottery, plants, lights, decorative objects and more. Everywhere you looked there was something new to take in. The food was typical Spanish tapas and was quite good. We had a curry chicken dish, some empanadas that we might call pot stickers and a Greek style moussaka. We enjoyed hearing about Olivier’s life, especially about Pablo, his significant other, and were happy he made time for us.