Madrid: Going Home

We had already packed our bags the night before. Suanne is a stickler for these sort of things. She will line up the final things we need neatly for the morning the night before so that we can get out in just minutes. The toothbrush and toothpaste is arranged nicely. Also, the travel clothings were also arranged neatly with the last fresh pair of socks and underwear.

That is the whole thing about travelling on the company’s travel pass. We had to be attired in business casual to check in. That specifically means that Suanne must wear skirts which I thought was a weird rule.


We did not have much time to laze around. We went to the hotel next door for a quick breakfast.


The breakfast here was much simpler to decide. They have English translations too.


Our last cafe con leche in Spain. We had this almost everyday and … (more…)

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Madrid: Mercado de San Miguel

Well, this was the last evening in Spain.

We got back from Toledo and had a short nap in the hotel to recharge ourselves. We then went out to explore Madrid but largely we were in the vicinity of the hotel on Gran Via and Plaza Mayor.

We spent sometime just sitting in Plaza Mayor to watch the world goes by. We thought we understand the Spanish people much better in this trip and frankly, we had gained respect for them as a people. Spain would have been a much greater nation than they are today if not for some unfortunate turn of events centuries ago.


We had passed by the Mercado de San Miguel twice before. This time we went in.

It is a nice and modern place that is … (more…)

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Madrid: A Memorable Day In Toledo

Day 5 is the day we travel outside of Madrid for the day.

The plan was to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Toledo. Toledo is one of the historic capitals of Spain.


Toledo is about 70 km outside of Madrid. The best way to reach it is by train.

We took the train from the Atocha Railway station. It is the same station we arrived in Madrid a few days earlier. We thought that we might just go straight to the railway station to have breakfast as we were quite sure there were some options there.


Actually there was not a lot of options there. There were just simple cafes with pastries and coffee and nothing fancy at all.



Since we had communication difficulty again, it was just a flash of two fingers with the words Cafe Con Leche and random pointing to the pastries on display. The pastries were pretty satisfying.

While there, I was still reading up on Toledo and was still unsure why we are going there besides that everyone telling us we must visit Toledo. Anyway, we wanted to get outside of Madrid.


Suanne, as usual, plays the tourist and I play the role of her personal tour guide. She did not have to do a thing and let me handle everything for her. Lucky girl.


After the breakfast, it was still early. The station was eerily quiet. Being a major train station I had expected that will be busy.

The Madrid’s Atocha station has got to be one of the best train stations I had been to. It is calming and we love the garden inside the station. We just waited at the garden right next to the turtle pond waiting for the time to board the train.


We can see it was mainly tourists who were getting onto the train to Toledo. How do we know? It is the … (more…)

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Madrid: The Fourth Day and Visits to Museo de Jamon

The fourth day was going to be light. I had planned for just one museum to visit but is filled with little eats here and there. It is also the day of shopping … Suanne’s shopping, not mine.


For once we slept in a little and take our own sweet time to get ready to go out. It was a time to catch up on emails and matters of this blog (moderating and responding to comments). We had not signed in to the internet for several days already and I must say it was good!

We decided to go to a place called Cafe & Te. It is a chain restaurant because we see a number of them all over the city of Madrid.


There are smokers here just like all other restaurants here. It bothers us big time but I guess it is how it is in Spain. I am so thankful that in Vancouver we can treat smokers like pariah. In our city, we can afford to stare at people who light up a cigarette but here we are so meek.

Did you know that I once worked for the British American Tobacco Company before? Oh yeah, I was the Regional Corporate IT Manager for Asia Pacific. Even though I worked in the company and were given 2 cartons of cigarettes every week, I had never smoked at all. It was terrible working in a company where people smoke in meetings and you can’t speak out about it. I had to toe the party line. As a matter of fact, during the one week orientation in my first day at work, the first session was a discussion on “Is smoking bad?” (something like that). It was a dream job and a major career move … that’s why I worked there.

Today I still hate cigarette smoke.


We had the usual thing every morning. This time we also ordered the Jamaican Blue mountain just to see if there is a difference to the Cafe con Leche. We can’t tell the difference. It is not that the cafe con leche is as good as the Blue Mountain but it’s just that we are not sophisticated coffee drinkers.


We had something called the Panini Espaguolo. It is … (more…)

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Madrid: Chocolaterier St Gines — The Best Hot Chocolate and Churros

After the suckling pig lunch at the world’s oldest restaurant, we went for dessert. High on our list of stuff to eat in Madrid is churros and hot chocolate. Yeah, we had eaten that several times already for the past two weeks but visiting this one restaurant is gonna be different. This time we are going to the restaurant that is regarded as the best.


Central Madrid is not very big. We could walk to most of the places. So we walked to look for the restaurant. I knew it was along Calle Arenal which is just minutes from our hotel. This is one of the many busy pedestrian malls radiating from Puerta del Sol which is the center of Madrid.

We walked up and down this street three times and could not locate a place called Chocolaterier St Gines.


It was only the third time on this street that we finally spotted a lighted sign with that name. All the while we thought it was going to be on Calle Arenal but it was not. It was on a side street and if we did not look hard enough we would not have noticed at all.


I love that place. It is hard to believe that this restaurant had been around for the past 120 years. The place looked like the same as it was back when it opened. The place does look upscale and definitely very clean and bright which is accentuated by the mirrors and waiters in white shirts and gelled hair.

See the big shiny copper pot in the picture above? That is where the hot chocolate is dispensed from.

Gosh, this place reeks of sugar and sweetness that I can virtually feel it.


They do have other things but every table we saw had churros and hot chocolate.

We are here for that only. So we said to the waiter that we wanted churros and hot chocolate but he asked us … (more…)

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Madrid: Dining in Botin, the Oldest Restaurant in the World

For our “big restaurant” visit in Madrid we picked Botin.

Botin is well known as the oldest restaurant in the world which is disputable. We knew up front that this restaurant is now a tourist magnet but we just wanted to go there to experience dining there.

Dining in the world’s oldest restaurant is a big item on our bucket list and we are happy to tick that off the list.


It was not too long a walk from the Royal Palace of Madrid. We knew it was near the Plaza Mayor and so we walked in that general direction. We actually thought it was INSIDE the Plaza Mayor. We walked round and round the plaza and then outside before we stumbled upon THE restaurant.

We were looking for Botin and did not realize that the official name of the restaurant is long.


For what it’s worth, Botin can lay claim to being the oldest restaurant in the world because the Guinness Book of Records said so.

Botin is founded in 1725 which makes it almost 300 years old today.

Actually, Botin had never been operating in the same place over it’s history. Anyway, I checked and found the following interesting article about the history of restaurants.


Botin is in a really old building. The whole structure of the building is made with heavy timber and beams seasoned over the years. It is just simply amazing to think that the great Spanish painter Goya worked here as a waiter before and not to mention Ernest Hemingway too.

We were led to the dining area upstairs. There is also a dining area downstairs and I suspect that they also have other floors too. But it was early for lunch and so only the ground floor was packed.


Service is excellent. It is obvious that speaking English is not a problem here. We can see that most of the customers here are tourists but there are also a few tables of locals. At least we think they are local because … (more…)

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Madrid: Don Quixote, Plaza de Espana and Royal Palace of Madrid

Day three in Madrid.

This was going to be a much well planned day for sure. I got the day’s plan all well mapped out the evening before. This time I know where to go, for how long and most importantly what to eat!

In Barcelona, we attempted to get a table at el Bulli. That ALMOST materialized but ended up having a very interesting meal in Alkimia. In Seville, the big dinner was in La Alqueria which is a restaurant owned by el Bulli serving past year’s favourite. In Madrid, we had also planned for a big dinner and day three is the day for that.

We were very well rested too. That was so important because we were gonna explore more of Madrid by foot this time rather than going into the subways.

So with a second wind, we woke up bright and early.


I guess it was way too early. Not many restaurants were opened and if they were, the choices were simple. I am guessing that this is the time for the Spanish FIRST breakfast.

Yeah, these smart people sure knows how to eat. The Spaniards have up to SIX meal times (see my post here).

We choose this restaurant solely on one criteria … there was no one smoking in here.


So we just had churros and cafe con leche for the FIRST breakfast. It was cafe con leche almost every morning we were in Spain and we never got tired of it.

It was a really quick breakfast eaten by the narrow counter against the wall. We were dying to get out of there because … well, people starting coming in and started to smoke.


This time we explored west ward on Gran Via and headed to the Plaza de Espana. This part of Gran Via seems different from the part we were in where there were a lot of shops, mostly fashion. This part seems more “corporatey”.


We wanted to see the monument on this large square. Right in the middle of the square is the monument to … (more…)

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Madrid: El Rastro, Plaza Mayor and Chinese Food, Finally!

We were totally exhausted from the day before. We had just taken a train from Seville to Madrid, visited two museums and then went to bed late because we wanted to soak in the air of festivities on a Saturday night in feisty Madrid. There are so many things happening that we just did not want to retire to the hotel early.

Compared to Madrid, Vancouver does seems like a ghost town. So we have our Granville Entertainment District but it is nothing like what we see here.


With another exciting day ahead, we woke up early. The traffic was really light on Gran Via. I think it was because it’s Sunday morning and most people would have still been sleeping after partying on the Saturday night before.

It was a good respite too from the heat. The morning air was surprisingly chilly. Most restaurants are closed but there were a few that remained opened.


We decided to just go to the restaurant that was just around the corner of our hotel. The name of that place is Zahara and it is quite spacious. It does seems like a tourist restaurant because most of the customers we see are tourists. And a lot of them are American tourists too, or so it seems to us from the way they are dressed and their English.

The waiter spoke very good English and so we had no problems here. We were asked if we wanted to be seated by the bar or at the table. It appears that it is cheaper if you eat at … (more…)

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Madrid: Art Museum and “Ham Museum”

It was slightly after 2 PM when we finished the meal at McDonalds. We could have taken it easy for the day but that is not like us.

We are typical kiasu Asian tourists who would rather run ourselves to the ground going to as many places as we can rather than just laze around. Yeah … vacations to beach resorts is such a waste of time to us.

So, 2PM is a long way to 10PM when we will go back to the hotel to sleep. Until then there are lots of things to do.


We hoped onto the Madrid Metro again. The Madrid Metro is very extensive and is one of the largest in the world. They run underground for the most part and is pretty clean and well maintained. We felt safe using the Metro and that is the important thing.

The Madrid Metro fares are simple. It is 1 euro for a one-zone fare. Most of our travelling was within the inner core city zone and so it was pretty much 1 euro each trip.

We headed back to the Atocha station which was where we arrive at the train station just a couple of hours earlier.


It was a Saturday afternoon and on Saturday afternoons entrance to the museums are free. So we got to do the museums on that day.

We first headed to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. It is a long name but we just call it the … (more…)

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Seville to Madrid on RENFE’s AVE High Speed Train

Last day in Seville.

We woke up very early. We had to catch a train to Madrid later on in the morning, and we wanted to go have breakfast in one of the neighborhood restaurants.


There are many such sidewalk restaurants all over Seville that finding one is very easy. The problem is getting back to where we came from. You see Seville is a very old city. It is at least 2000 years old … yes, it is founded at about the time of the birth of Christ.

So it is a very unplanned city. Maps are useless here. We get around by walking in circles and trying to spot landmarks to know the general direction. Yes, we got lost quite a few times and asking for directions is quite hopeless too because not many people speaks English here.

We decided to take a short walk to the Alameda de Hercules which is a delightful tree lined plaza. It is quiet in the morning but at night it is busy. At each end of the long plaza was two tall columns bearing the statues of Hercules and of Julius Caesar.

Not knowing which is best, we went to the oldest looking restaurant we could find. It is called the Badulaque. In the cold crisp morning we wanted to sit outside but did not.


You see, people smoke a lot in Spain. It was bothering us and so we decided to move indoors. This place does not speak much English too but it was not much of a problem. After 10 days already in Spain, we know enough words to get breakfast. Words like cafe con leche, jamon, tosta …


Cafe con Leche everywhere in Spain … (more…)

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