Travels in España I: Barcelona and Madrid (2014)

Everything closes down for the afternoon siesta, all decent restaurants will try to convince you that their Jamon Iberico is the best in town, despite the common perception, trains do run on time here and most of all every town has layers of history where the historical meets the modern, these are some of the snapshots from my two weeks in Spain.

After spending three weeks camping across Scandinavia, the next stop was Spain, the plan was to give a talk in Madrid, and then do some exploration. I flew out of Copenhagen early morning and landed at the El Prat airport in Barcelona around 11 am and checked into my hotel. I had booked accommodation near the Barcelona Sants Station, as the high speed trains to Madrid run from there.

One Day in Barcelona

As I was a little short on time, I just had a day in the city before travelling to Madrid. After a quick brunch and a nap, I headed to the Gothic Quarter via the metro. This is the historic ‘old town’ of the city. The plan was to explore the surrounds of La Rambla, making my way towards the waterfront “Port Vell“. There are several historical landmarks here dating back to the Roman times. Starting at the Basilica Santa Maria del Pi, I made my way through the Placa Reial and on to the Monument a Colom. It was a leisurely stroll, with interesting sights on the way, including several street performers posing as human statues. Had a nice leisurely dinner, took the metro back to the hotel and called it a day.

Madrid: Conference and Sightseeing

The next morning I took the high speed train to Atocha Madrid, the train rides takes one through some very scenic Spanish countryside. The station itself is very interesting, with a tropical garden in the interior. I took a cab to the NYX hotel about 30 min from the station. After checking in I went to explore the neighborhood, got lunch from the Mallorca Pasteleria, this became a place I would have many a meal at during my stay, the sandwiches and pastries here are to die for.

The next morning I took the metro from the Nuevo Ministerios to the Cantoblanco station at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the venue for the conference. The campus is spread over more than 500 acres, with architecturally interesting buildings. Over the next four days, most of the daytime was spent at the conference, with the evenings spent sightseeing. The conference was a good experience and the banquet was held at the very charming Casa Monico Restaurant, had a great time hanging out with colleagues.

Out and About in Madrid

To explore the city I would head over to the Madrid central district, ‘Centro‘ in the afternoon. Starting at one of the many plazas my I would roam around taking in the sights. One of these trips took me from Plaza Morillo to Museo del Prado to the Metropolis Building and then the Calle Gran Via, had dinner there before heading back to the hotel. Besides the Prado itself, there is much to see in this area. The football world cup was going on those days and several late evenings were spent at Cafe Yaiza right across the street from the hotel joining a very excited crowd watching the game, including the devastating Brazil vs Germany 2014 fiasco. A couple of other nice eateries near the hotel I tried out with C, who was also at the conference included Asador Guetaria, Taberna Gaztelupe and Tierra de Bellotas (which serves wonderful Tapas).

Another walk started at the Puerta del Sol the very heart of Madrid (‘ there is actually a sign saying ‘km 0’), this is also known for the New Years night celebration. Many important landmarks can be found in the surrounding area, some of which include El Oso y el Madrono (Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree), the presidential office and a monument to King Charles III. From there I walked to the Plaza Mayor with its many cafes and street artists, continuing on to the Basilica da la Almudena and the Royal Palace. Got a caricature of C done by a talented artist. I wish I had more time to spend in the area, there is much to see and take in. The choice was either to spend a couple of more days exploring this area or take day trips to other cities, I decided on the latter and in retrospect I think that was a good idea.

…….Next up trips to Toledo and Cordoba!!

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