By Michael Reubens
On a recent visit to Madrid I not only took in the sights as many an educated tourist or traveler should, I explored the side streets and various neighbourhoods and, I might add, enjoyed the experience and exploration enormously.
First things first: Madrid Barajas Airport, is customer-friendly and the information counter in the Baggage Hall provided excellent assistance in English and Spanish.
Taking the metro from the airport is stress-free. I stayed at the InterContinental and Holiday Inn Hotels respectively. Both managed by IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) and easily accessible by the efficient Metro Underground Network. Fares are calculated in zones or distance traveled. From the airport to Gregorio Marañón (the closet airport to the ICH and a short ten minute walk) via one change at Nuevos Ministerios was easy to navigate.
The InterContinental Madrid is both luxurious and elegant. This is a return visit for me, having stayed there some four years ago. Not a noticable change other than a new General Manager and rumours of big refurbishment plans ahead.
This Five-Star property was built in the 18th century as a royal palace and reconstructed as a palatial estate. Hollywood celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor stayed there in the 1950s while filming and other famous artistes chose the ICH as their home-away-from-home including Sophia Loren, Tony Curtis and Charlton Heston.
The Sunday Brunch is not to be missed. The ICH welcomed guests and walk-ins alike. I particularly enjoyed partaking in the many gastronomic delights in an open Buffet from seafood to meats, sushi to salads, paella to pasta. Something to please everyone’s discerning pallet! And last but not least, many desserts, a wide array of a cheese selection, their own unique chocolate Fountain and endless flowing wines including Cava. The Brunch had a pianist to soothe ones mood and compliment the epicurean feast on hand!
The Club Floor had its own check in and well equipped dining for Breakfast and Happy Hour cocktails and snacks. Very relaxing and in a much applauded tranquil setting.
As I previously stated, taking the metro to the centre of town and bustling shopping district is a mere ten minute Metro ride from the hotel and an equally ten minute walk to the station.
From the Rubén Dario stop to Chueca (pronounced Quecka) one can explore the gay village, superb cafés, bars and shops and a short stroll to Calle Gran Via and Puerta del Sol to see the many stores and sightseeing tourist attractions. Most people speak English and if you look lost or have a question, the locals are very friendly and approachable.
The Holiday Inn in the Las Tablas area of Madrid is also reachable via Metro however at somewhat further afield. Situated in a quiet yet commercial suburban neighbourhood, this propery had all the charm and personality one would expect from the IH Group and as a plus, a free shuttle to and from Barajas Airport.
I had lunch in their restaurant and Hector, our waiter and restaurant manager was extremely accommodating in providing excellent service and suggestions.
Both hotels are in safe neighbourhoods and pedestrian-friendly.
*Holiday Inn Madrid – Las Tablas