A Full Day to Explore Madrid

Thursday… First, it has to be said that Madrid is a surprise. Rolling into Madrid from the west, one is conditioned to expect, well, not much. The land west of Madrid is arid and does not support agriculture. Without water, a city cannot thrive. And yet, Madrid is magically gorgeous and definitely thrives. It has beautiful green parks and the people go about their affairs with smiles and spring in their steps. Remember that scene in the film version of the Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy and her trusty troupe approach the Emerald City for the first time? It’s like that.

I am sure Leigh Ann spent considerable time researching hotels in Madrid because there are dozens within walking distance of the main train station. (My first requirement was that the hotel be within walking distance of the train station — about a mile.) The 5-star NH Collection Paseo del Prado is a jewel for several reasons, and I highly recommend it. It is elegant, clean, right in the middle of town, the staff (Susana) go above and beyond to be helpful, the rooms are very nice, and the buffet breakfast (my favorite meal of the day) a delight.

Train Station in Madrid

The breakfast buffet at the NH Collection Paseo del Prado has everything you could imagine, plus two things that make it special. First, a huge array of fruits from which to select. You make the selection; they turn it into a custom smoothie. I like that. Second, eggs made to order. Our waiter approached and asked for our egg orders. I decided to have fun and told him I wanted to give the kitchen a test. “Magnifico,” he said. I asked for a “basted egg.” He had no clue what that was, and said so. Back to the kitchen he trotted to relay the test question. Back a few minutes later, he said the kitchen staff accepted the challenge and was actively searching the internet for clues. Back and forth a few more times to clarify spelling. Then, the kitchen staff appeared for face-to-face Q&A. A properly basted egg, by the way, is a sunny-side-up egg lightly fried in bacon drippings. Once the top has skinned over, bacon drippings are scooped up and splashed over the top of the egg. The hot bacon grease flash-fries the top of the egg, leaving the yoke still soft. The Madrid hotel kitchen staff had fun learning something new, and I got a great breakfast.

Park We Biked Through in Madrid

At my request, Leigh Ann pre-booked a guided e-bike ride around Madrid at 11:00. The starting point was a couple miles distant, so we left the hotel, on foot, about 40 minutes prior. For as awkwardly uncomfortable as the bike ride around Lisbon was two days earlier, the ride around Madrid was a delight. Madrid is en eminently more bikable town. Madrid has bike paths, bike lanes, bike signals, gentle hills, asphalt rather than cobblestone roads, and lots of parks. The bike ride was nearly four hours and covered about 20 miles. Easy, fun, and educational.

By curious coincidence, one of the other guests on our bike ride around Madrid was a woman, a plastic surgeon, who was moving to Des Moines, Iowa (where I went to high school) and whose husband had gone to the same high school in northern Wisconsin that our daughters attended and even graduated in the same year. What are the odds?

Post bicycling, we walked a half-dozen miles to see the city, and then returned to the hotel to shower and prep for dinner. Not knowing where to go, we asked Susana at the hotel’s front desk for recommendations. She recommended a place a couple miles distant, and we set off to find it.