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cmeyer54 Apr 3rd, 2005 12:59 PM

Family trip to Spain - Madrid - part 1
Trip Report – Family Tour of Spain – Part One – Madrid

To begin with and to avoid criticisms later on….we spent a total of 13 days with a day of travel on each end. That allowed us to see Madrid, Seville, Marbella and Barcelona. After accumulating years of Starwood points, we used them to stay in Westin properties except in Barcelona where no Starwood places exist. Yes, it was a luxury but this will be our last family trip with the boys going off to college. We used a combination of buses, taxis, trains, planes and automobiles to move around. The kids will be referred to as T1(older son) and T2(younger son). We did not totally immerse ourselves in the Spanish culture – we did stop at MacDonalds for drinks, the occasional fry and Starbucks hit the spot a few times. The guidebooks used were “Spain for Dummies”, “Rick Steeves Spain” and “Eyewitness Travel Guide to Spain (the white book).

Wednesday – Our flight from home to Frankfurt left on time at 2:30pm. Although we flew in coach, the seats were bulkhead and provided plenty of room for long legged teenaged boys. DH had been in Germany for a week and met us at the FRA airport when we arrived at 6:30am. We tried, unsuccessfully, to get on a 9:30 lufthansa flight to Madrid. Our original tickets were for the 11:45 flight and although seats were available at 9:30, we were told that no standby would be allowed since our fares were discounted. No standby? Nien. Arrived in Madrid and got a taxi fairly quickly to our hotel, Westin Palace. Beautiful old building with a great deal of charm and elegance. DH convinced us to drag ourselves out for a ‘short’ walk which turned into a 3 hour excursion towards Plaza Mayor, Placio Real, Plaza Oriente and back towards the hotel. We stopped at a little Jamon tapas bar and grabbed a quick mixto of jamon y queso. Dinner was at a wonderful little restaurant called Rincon Cruz Blanco. Even tho we arrived way too early by Spanish standards, our son explained that we’d been traveling for 24hrs and we were seated right away in a neat little dining room in the basement. Expose brick walls, flickering lamps, white tablecloths…just neat. Dinner started with a bottle of red wine and some grilled shrimp and olives. We shared a large seafood paella which had more than enough seafood and rice that was cooked exactly right. Intially we tried to order two kinds of Paella but the waiter told us it would be too much food (nice guy to save us some $$,eh?) Back to the hotel with a few stops for evening photo ops and everyone crashed for the night.

Friday – We decided to have breakfast at our hotel which had a huge full buffet breakfast with a price to match. However, given that lunch wouldn’t be until very late in the afternoon with dinner near 10pm, we splurged. First stop was the Palacio Real. The audio guide was great and we found the palace relatively empty….it was early. After seeing Versailles a few years ago, it was interesting to see the similarities. We saw some photos of the square filled with people from New Years as well; that gave a better perspective on just how big the place is. By the time we left, an incredible line had formed that spanned at least three blocks (and the place closed at 2pm that day. Next move was to buy hop-on/hop off bus tickets. This gave us flexibility to move about the city, rest our feet and backs and also get a good description of the various sites. We did a lot of walking through parks, plazas etc that I honestly don’t remember the names. I have a bit of problem with my back and was wearing Merrell shoes with soft soles. Quite comfortable but when we tried to go to the Ritz for a late afternoon glass of wine, we were denied entry since I was not wearing hard soled shoes! Wonder if that bit of trivia is on their website or reservation confirmation!! Never heard of that before but so we went back to the Palace across the street and had the long awaited glass of wine. I’d highly recommend stopping there just for a glass of wine in their bar area. Its topped by a huge stained glass cupola that is just lovely. They offer a special caviar and champagne deal for 25e/person – we didn’t indulge but it would be an idea for honeymooners or anniversary celebrations. That night was the final procession for Holy Week. It started and ended right at the corner of the Palace Hotel so we nearly had ringside seats. By 6pm, the sidewalks were at least 8 people deep; the hotels along the route were checking guest lists before allowing anyone entry (but not checking shoes thank goodness). We watched part of the procession. It began with some relics, rows of “penitents’ in purple, black or white, a band of sorts playing quite solemn music, large groups of brotherhood members (some barefoot and wearing chains) and finally, the float. The site of the penitents in white robes with tall pointed hats and masks gave me shivers. Once it all passed by the hotel, we managed to work our way down to the Planet Hollywood in the same building for a quick dinner. Not exactly typical Spanish, but we were starved and since it was Good Friday, the choices were slim. When we finished, the procession was looping back by the hotel so we got to see it again. Back in the hotel by 10 and lights out (literally) by 11.

Saturday – again, up early to pack since we were leaving via AVE for Sevilla that afternoon. We stopped at the nearby Starbucks for a cup of coffee and muffins. Walked down to the train station and easily got tickets for the afternoon train with no problems. We then started up to the Prado and were inside by 9:30. I used several guides to sort out what works we really wanted to see, knowing that there was no way to see the entire place with our limited time. The Dummy guide had a list of ‘must see’ works by artist so we used that to navigate. It still amazes me that tourists are allowed to get so close to the pictures. There was a lot of security but nothing quite as intense as at the Louvre and Mona Lisa. Again, by the time we left at noon, the lines to all the entrances were absolutely huge. We grabbed a taxi at the hotel to the train station, had a quick lunch and were on the train at 2pm. Note – if you are more than 5’10”, I’d recommend upgrading from tourist class. Even for a 2-3 hour ride, we were knee to knee and unable to move at all during the ride.

PJI Apr 5th, 2005 02:39 AM

Do you mind if I ask a few questions about the Westin Palace. I found a great deal (3 bancotel coupons/night) for this hotel and am curious about a few things. First, did you dress up all the time. I read someones tripadvisor review where the door man wouldn't open the door for someone wearing jeans. My husband and I are just going for a long weekend with just a carry on bag and we won't be dressed to the nines - just casual. Did you feel that everyone was really dressed nice? We wouldn't want to appear we didn't "belong". Also, do you mind telling just how expenisive breakfast was - I was thinking it might be a nice splurge but am curious about the cost. Lastly, I hear its pretty far from the Metro. Did you have trouble walking to/from the major sites?

Thanks for your help.

PJI Apr 5th, 2005 02:40 AM

By the way, your trip report is really nice, can't wait to hear the rest!

cmeyer54 Apr 5th, 2005 04:16 PM

With two teenaged boys in tow, we were definitely casual - zipoff pants for the guys, tennis shoes, tee shirts that were usually covered by fleece pullovers due to the weather. All of us arrived in jeans and nobody gave us a second glance. We walked everywhere with no difficulty. Given that it was only for half of one day, one full day and half of another, we did not investigate the subway at all but would have with a little more time. the breakfast at the palace was about 25e each but included cooked to order items like eggs and waffles, several breakfast meats (bacon, etc), scrambled eggs, pancakes, french toast, full fruit buffet, full european style buffet (meats, cheeses, breads), full cereal buffet, tons of pastries, and all drinks. I've had very skimpy breakfasts included in the past at places that claimed to charge 12e for anyone not staying there. All in all, the kids definitely ate their money's worth!

PJI Apr 6th, 2005 01:46 AM

Thanks so much!! We are just going for the weekend so we will be there about as long as you were. I really appreciate the info. If its still available at Bancotel I'm going to book it today!

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