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Trip Report MADRID AND GRANADA--A Magical Winter Week in Spain

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I returned last night from a simply superb week split between Madrid and Granada. I plan to write a very short report largely devoted to food talk. Before I begin, I would like to extend a heartfelt gracias to all of you who were so generous with tips and advice. A special thanks to Maribel, and to Robert2533, Kimhe, Revulgo2 for their patience in answering all my questions about where to eat.




Despite having visited Spain six times in the last 7 years, and flying in and out of the spectacular Madrid airport on several connecting flights during the last few years, more than 15 years had passed since I had actually set foot in the Spanish capital. And so, availing ourselves of decently priced rt tickets on Iberia, and an excellent winter rate at the legendary Hotel Ritz, my usual travel partner and I found ourselves bound, the second week in January, for a week-long visit to Spain that would begin with four nights in Madrid and continue with three nights in Granada. We flew Iberia from JFK on an open-jaw ticket and departed from Granada, with a connection on the return flight in Madrid.




Our flight was fine. Iberia has now joined the ranks of those airlines that allow passengers to book the better coach seats in advance only by payment of a fee. In this case, a rather steep $140US bought me emergency exit row seats on both trans-Atlantic flights, and an additional $14 allowed me to sit in the exit row for the hour-long Granada-Madrid leg. (My more frugal partner opted for a “regular” aisle seat, which he was able to book ahead by phone). The tickets alone cost about $770 on the Iberia website. Food in Iberia coach is usually fairly dismal and these flights were no exception; I took my chances with vegetarian meals while my partner’s only comment on the regular meals was “horrible.” (I usually bring my own food but on this trip, I was operating with the handicap of taking carry-on luggage only, no small feat in this season of heavy clothing. I was, therefore, too focused on the “when in doubt, leave it out” packing mantra and so consumed with the decision of whether or not to tote my black fleece pullover that I let slide the issue of in-flight gastronomy. )

Neither of the two long flights, by the way, offered “personal” entertainment systems but despite these slight impediments, we arrived well rested and on –schedule at 7:10 am on a quiet Sunday morning. Once again sailing smugly past the masses huddled around the baggage carousels, we soon stepped out onto the pavement and quickly found the stop for the new EMT airport bus.


http://www.emtmadrid.es/lineaAeropuerto/index.html



After a wait of only a couple of minutes, the bright yellow bus pulled up and we boarded, purchasing our tickets from the driver for a very reasonable 2 euro charge. The bus stopped to retrieve passengers at another terminal and soon we were cruising along toward the Plaza de Cibeles, the penultimate stop before the end of the line at Atocha Station.

From the majestic Cibeles, it was a walk of less than 5 minutes to our destination, the Hotel Ritz. I had requested an early check-in and the hotel endeared itself to us immediately by granting this request at the very early hour of about 8:30am. I had booked the least expensive room category, the Classic Room and we were shown to a courtyard-facing room on the third floor, with a baldachin canopied bed, damask upholstery, floral carpeting, and a marble-sheathed bathroom. The room was much smaller and less grand than the one I remembered from an earlier visit as a guest of the hotel, but it was comfortable and yes, the bed was still dressed with those legendary embroidered linen sheets! (The following day, our request for a room with a street view was granted and we were moved to a first-floor room overlooking the front entrance of the hotel.) The price for our Classic Room, with lavish buffet breakfast, was 260 euro per night. Our rooms were not as spiffy as the one on the website, but they suited us just fine. And in many years of traveling, albeit mostly to hotels not remotely close to the 5-star GL level of The Ritz, I would be hard pressed to remember a hotel with a staff as courtly and gracious as this one.



http://www.ritzmadrid.com/web/orit/classic_room.jsp



http://www.ritzmadrid.com/web/orit/hotel_ritz_madrid.jsp






I read many reviews of the hotel before booking and can only add that, although the Ritz may lack the latest contemporary gadgets (we did have a flat-screen tv with a myriad of channels in many languages, along with in-room WiFi (we did not, however, bring a computer) ) and the lighting leaves something to be desired, especially for those who like to read in bed, the old-world luxury of the hotel and its impeccable staff make staying here an experience that we will both long remember.


The location is superb, too—far enough away from the clamor of Sol but within easy walking distance of almost any area of tourist interest. In fact, apart from the airport bus and the taxi that took us from the hotel to Atocha station, we relied solely on our feet to get around. One obvious benefit is that the Ritz is literally across the street from both the Prado and the Thyssen museums and just a quick walk north of the Reina Sofia. The Museum of Decorative Arts is around the corner, although sadly I did not have time to visit on this trip. And of course, Retiro Park, the jewel of this gorgeous city, is but a block to the east of the hotel. We would make many treks through the park, including one that threatened to last the entire night…..

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