Our first trip together in 2022! In early March, my boss asked me to come to Madrid for a meeting so it seemed like a good excuse for a weekend in Spain. We headed off a few days early to play tourist…

Flight to Madrid

The morning flight from Madrid featured gorgeous scenery.

Lake from above

We were staying at the Eurostars Madrid Tower, which isn’t close to the city but is close to my office. We were very lucky and the weather was absolutely beautiful. From our hotel room, we could see mountains in the far distance.

View from the hotel

It was lunchtime, so we headed to the nearby Paprika Cafe. It’s a very small place, but the food is outstanding. I had gnocchi with oxtail and truffle, and we shared a piece of cheesecake for dessert. The guy at the cafe told us that the cheesecake had cream, blue, and parmesan cheese, and it wasn’t super sweet. Delicious though.

The Snook had a homemade pastrami sandwich, and he really enjoyed it.

Pastrami sandwich

After a few hours napping and relaxing back at the hotel, we caught the metro into the city. I had booked us into a tour with Walk and Eat Spain, and to our delight, we found we were the only ones on it! So we ended up with our own personal guide, Margit, an American expat who made us feel right at home.

Us and Margit

The tour took us to several venues in Malasańa, a pretty happening part of the city. Our first stop was Mozzare Atelier de Quesos y Lacteos, a cheese shop and wine bar. We had several different local cheeses, including a “mystery” cheese that definitely wasn’t Parmigiano (because of course, that name is protected) but bore a, uh, strong resemblance! 😂🧀

Wine and cheese

It was a beautiful night to wander around Madrid.

Plaza del Rastrillo

Look at this gorgeous fellow.


As we walked through Malasańa, Margit told us about local history and about daily life in Madrid.

El Barto was here!

Our second stop was local vermutería called Pepe y Josefa. We had vermouth (on tap!) and some lovely garlicky green olives.

Vermouth and olives

We also has tostas – toast with tomato puree and thinly sliced jamón ibérico on top.


Our next stop was Bodegas El Maño, which was heaving. Thankfully because of the tour we had a reserved table in the corner.

Bodegas el Maño

We had beers and patatas bravas, which I LOVE. We dunked the hot, crispy potatoes in chili sauce and aioli.

Patatas bravas

The final stop was Bodegas Rivas, where we had seared red tuna with tomato, ginger, and soy sauce. Oh, and more wine. 🍷


What a fun night! We said goodbye to Margit and headed back to the hotel.

Us and Margit

It was another beautiful day the next morning. We had breakfast at the hotel and thankfully weren’t too hungover from the night before.


We caught a cab to the city for our next adventure, a “combo tour” of the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Prado Museum. We headed for the Plaza de Oriente bright and early to find the Monument to Philip IV and meet up with our tour group.

Monument to Philip IV

Our first stop was the Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid

Once we went through security, we found ourselves in the Plaza de la Armería. There’s a grand statue of King Charles III of Spain.

King Charles III of Spain

We entered the Palace via the Grand Staircase

Grand Staircase

At the top you’re greeted by the Coat of Arms of Spain. This Palace isn’t just a tourist destination; it’s the official residence of the Spanish royal family! (These days it’s really only used for state ceremonies though.)

Coat of Arms of Madrid

And then you look up, …and WOW. Those ceiling frescoes are by Corrado Giaquinto, and they’re breathtaking.

Ceiling Frescoes

Selfie time!

Ceiling selfie

There’s really only one room of the tour you’re allowed to take photos in, which is this one. Our tour guide mentioned that it’s been used for a lot of state occasions. The carpet is rolled up so it doesn’t get worn down with all the tourists traipsing through, and it also gives a view of that beautiful marble floor. (Our guide spoke to us via little wireless earpieces, which is what the Snook’s wearing there.)

Marble floor

Real tapestries on the walls! Pretty sure she said they came from famous tapestry weavers in Germany.


That’s the point where we went into the parts of the palace you’re not allowed to photograph. And let me tell you – we’ve visited several castles and palaces over the years, and most of them aren’t nearly as luxurious or, well, palatial as I expected. Either the original furnishings are long gone, or the owners ran out of money to complete more than few rooms of their folly. (*cough* LUDWIG) But this one? This one was stunning. Many of the rooms were decorated in a lavish Rococo style, which the Snook found creepy but I absolutely loved. The banqueting hall was mind-blowing. It took us an hour to get through all the different rooms.

At this point, we had a short break before we began the next stage of the tour. The Snook and I used it by soaking up the sun in the Plaza.

The Snook

From the Plaza, you’ve got a lovely look down into the Campo del Moro Gardens.

Campo del Moro Gardens

One last shot of the facade of the Palace against a clear blue sky.

Palace facade

At this point, the combo tour takes you on about an hour’s walk across the city. (If you go directly it’s only about 25 minutes, but our guide wanted to show us some highlights.) We started up the Calle Mayor, one of the most important streets in Madrid.

Calle Mayor

Along the way, we learned about how in 1906 an anarchist tried to assassinate King Alfonso XIII and his new bride Princess Victoria Eugenie as they passed in their wedding carriage. The King and Queen survived, but others did not. Now there’s a memorial in front of the Monastery of San Jerónimo.


This is the Casa de la Villa (old city hall) in the Plaza de la Villa in the Palacio neighbourhood.

Plaza de la Villa

Off the Plaza, our tour guide made a special point of taking us to Calle del Codo. This is a very narrow street with a ninety-degree bend in it, which is why the name translates to “Elbow Street.” (You can see the sign with the bent arm on it.)

Calle del Codo

At last we made it to the Plaza Mayor, a famous major public square in the city. I loved the frescoes on the outside of the Casa de la Panaderia.

Casa de la Panaderia

We had been told that the Plaza was usually crowded with tourists (and thus a target for pickpockets), but thankfully it wasn’t too bad that day.

Plaza Mayor

We left the Plaza via the Arco de Cuchilleros and walked down the Cava de San Miguel. Our tour guide was very excited to show us Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world in continuous operation!

Sobrino de Botín

We wound back around to the Plaza and then headed out the other end at Calle de la Sal (“Salt Street”).

Calle de la Sal

This gorgeous place – the Petit Palace Posada del Peine – is a 400-year-old hotel!

Posada del Peine

Our next landmark was the Puerta del Sol (“Gate of the Sun”), another famous public square in Madrid.

Puerta del Sol

One of the landmarks in the square is a statue of a bear and a strawberry tree. It represents the coat of arms of Madrid, and our tour guide told us it was good luck to touch the bear. (You can see that his heel and his tail are showing wear from lots of touching by thousands of people!)

Status of a bear and strawberry tree

This is the Palacio de las Cortes (Palace of the Parliament) where the lower house of the Spanish legislature meets. They had banners up for International Women’s Day when we were there.

Palacio de las Cortes

Finally we reached our destination – the Prado Museum, housing one of the finest collections of European art in the world.

Prado Museum

Our guide led us inside and on a whirlwind tour of the museum highlights. Honestly, you could’ve spent an entire day in there but we’d already been on our feet for 4+ hours so we were flagging. No photos were allowed, but I was mesmerised by Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. We both loved Rubens’s The Three Graces and Velázquez’s Las Meninas. I also admired Caravaggio’s David and Goliath (which we’d see later version of, a week later in Vienna). The final room of the tour was all Goya, including his bleak The Dog and Saturn Devouring his Son. (I bought the latter as a fridge magnet. 😳)

The next day I worked from the AWS office while the Snook went off on his own adventure. At one point, I was surprised to spot the tour bus of the Paris Saint-Germain football club outside our hotel! (Sadly, I did not spot Lionel Messi at the hotel breakfast buffet that morning…)

Paris Saint-Germain

While I was working, Rodd headed into the city again. He was delighted to get to see the towers of the Gate of Europe, which apparently feature prominently in a Spanish-Italian film from the 90’s called The Day of the Beast. (He’s adamant I’m going to have to watch it someday.)

Gate of Europe

His destination was the Museo Arqueológico Nacional (National Archaeology Museum), and he spent a couple hours exploring its treasures. He said, “They basically have the whole history of human habitation on the Iberian peninsula, from the initial migration out of Africa through to the Moorish period.”

MAN and Snook

He saw prehistoric art carved on bones, loads of gold treasure from the Celtic period, and quite a lot of Roman marbles. He especially liked this carved and gilded wooden dome ceiling.


After the Museum, he went to check out the nearby Buen Retiro Park. He got a shot of the Monument to Alfonso XII across the pond.

Retiro Park

One final shot across the Retiro. Look at those fabulous trees! Thanks for a lovely weekend, Madrid…