Going back a step though - we arrived in Madrid and hopped in a taxi from the airport (it's a set price of 30 euros and easily the quickest way to get into the city centre). I'd never been to the Spanish capital before and I really enjoyed the 20 minute journey. The closer you get to Gran Via (Madrid's answer to Oxford Street in London) the more impressive the architecture becomes. Gold domes glisten in the sunlight and imposing statues salute you as you pass through intricately carved arches and landscaped tree lined avenues. It makes quite an impact.
Checking into our hotel, I was excited to see our room - the Dear hotel prides itself on ensuring that ALL rooms have a view. This is quite unusual in a city as the cheapest rooms usually look out onto a stinky courtyard with a noise air conditioning unit, or worse still a neighbouring wall less than a foot away - not the case here.
Rich only had one night to explore before he had to fly off for work so we did a quick bit of research and headed out into the evening to tick off some "must-sees". First stop, Palacio Real.
We walked to the Palace through it's beautiful manicured gardens - there was a maze which was calling out to me but with limited time I wasn't allowed to go in for fear of getting lost and it being the only thing Rich saw during his short stay.... next time!
The Palace is the official residence of the Royal Family, although they don't actually live there. Apparently there's somewhere on the outskirts of Madrid that's nicer....the mind boggles!
After a day of travelling we were starting to get peckish and thirsty so we found a table on Plaza Mayor where we'd read you could get the "best calamari in Spain." Well that's a lie, it was distinctly average, but the Plaza is as gorgeous as any and a great place to chill out, people watch (and use the bathroom when you're doing a lot of walking around!)
After a beer and a snack we did a little tour of the surrounding cobbled streets, each of them alive with tapas bars heaving with tourists enjoying their fare al fresco.
Finally arriving at Mercado San Miguel. Touristy but still unmissable. A glass house full of little stalls serving tapas, cheeses, empanadas, meats and a whole host of other goodies alongside wine bars handing out large copas of wine for a couple of euros. You grab your food and a stool at one of the shared tables and hang out for as long as you want.
It's hot, loud and fabulous. Oh and it's open till midnight - which the night after a wedding was plenty late enough!