Morocco: Madrid (Spain)

Places to Stay
We stayed at two hostels when we were in Madrid. They were both fabulous.
It’s best to make reservations ahead of time, but these hostels do not require your credit card to make a reservation, so you’re not obligated if you find another place. Most hostels, including these, take cash only.

Hostal Rivera
79 Calle Atocha (about 5,000 pesetas)
Telephone: 91 429 01 17
Email: hostalrivera@arrakis.es
About a 10 minute walk from Puerta del Sol (the center of the city). I found this one on a site called MadridMan.com – they have listings for other hostels, hotels, things to do, etc. It’s a great site.

Hostal Playa
Calle de la Victoria (about 6,000 pesetas)
Telephone: 91 521 38 44
We stumbled upon this one, and were very lucky. The people are great,
and the rooms are nice. And, it’s right in Puerta del Sol.

Places to See
We mainly stayed in the Puerta del Sol area in Madrid. There was a majestic church that we visited in our first day there. Known as Iglesia Catedral de la Almudena, the church on calle Bailen infuses an awe-inspired feeling in you, even if you are not Catholic.

Another great place to visit in Puerta del Sol is Calle de los Preciosos. If you are familiar with Los Angeles, it’s akin to the Third Street Promenade. This pedestrian street is filled with boutique stores, as well as larger chains such as FNAC (music).

Places to Eat
The first thing to know is that people in Spain do not eat early. Dinner
starts around 9pm. They have a lot of great restaurants, but our favorite was Museo del Vino, up the street from Hostal Playa, on Calle Cruz #14 (Tel: 91 523 56 81). Excellent food, great atmosphere, and the best service (ask for Jose)! Elan (my boyfriend) had the paella, and I had the house steak, and some sangria (the best dinner we had in Madrid).

A nice little coffee shop that we frequented was Café de Jamaica. It had a cool atmosphere, and warm, yummy drinks. And make sure that you have some orange juice when in Madrid. It is by far the best I have ever tasted!

Money
Because the US dollar is so strong, things in Madrid are really cheap. The exchange rate is between 182-196 pesetas for every dollar. We got the best exchange rates at the airport, and at the American Express offices. I would suggest only exchanging your money at those two places. To check the
exchange rate before you leave though, check out this site: http://www.oanda.com/convert/classic

Metro
The metro system is awesome! You can get all around Madrid this way. One ticket is 270 pts, but the best value is to buy a ticket of 10 rides for 705 pts. You can even take the metro to and from the airport. (Don’t take a cab if you can at all help it. They are really expensive, and tend to rip you off.)

The metro maps are really easy to read and understand. Make sure you get one as soon as you get there. One thing to note about the metro system, however, is that if you are taking it from the airport, be sure to remember that not all stations have escalators. Therefore, traveling light will be to your benefit in the long-run.

Other Travel
If you plan on travelling outside of Madrid, the bus and train systems are decent. The train system is Renfe, and they have an office in the airport. To take buses, you’ll have to ask the people at the metro station you’re in how to get to the correct one. Both are rather cheap.

However, if you decide to fly anywhere or need any other travel info, go
visit this travel agency called Viajes Sireica (ask for Roberto). It’s in Puerta del Sol too, on Carrera San Jeronimo #3 (Tel: 91 532 61 17). Tickets are cheap, and Roberto is really helpful.

E-mail and other services
In case you need to check your e-mail, there is a place (also in Puerta del
Sol) called the Asatej Group (on Carrera San Jeronimo). It’s a student travel place, but the e-mail services are open to everyone. It costs about 200pts for ½ hour.

Clubs
A great club that just opened is El Son on Calle Victoria. They have great music and dancing.

Outside of Madrid – Chinchon
There is a city about one hour outside of Madrid called Chinchon. We took the bus, which allowed us to view the beautiful countryside. It’s a cute little village and they have an excellent hotel there, known as Paradors Hotel. This hotel used to be a 17th century convent, and has been restored into a grand hotel. They have kept the integrity of the convent by incorporating the artwork and architecture with modern-day conveniences.

The hotel is gorgeous, and our room was about US$90. We made reservations in advance, though. They are not usually very busy during the winter, but are pretty booked during the summer. The people are friendly, and the best thing is that people at the hotel speak English (nice break since my Spanish was kind of rusty!).

The Playa Mayor de Chinchon is the center of this small town. Not only will you find little touristy shops, but you will also find the bread shop, wine shop, cheese shop, meat shop, etc. Although Chinchon is very scenic, do not expect to do much after dark. The night life is practically nonexistent.

If you plan to go to Chinchon for a day or two, take note of these directions, because it will save you a lot of time. We had a hard time trying to find the right bus, so here goes:

Take the metro from Puerta del Sol to Pacifico (line 2). Then take the metro from Pacifico to Conde de Casal (line 6). When you get there, ascend the stairs to leave the metro. Turn right out of the metro, and then left to go down the street. Stay on the left side of the street. You will see a big hotel on your right. Keep going straight, and then you will see a bus stop on an elevated street. Find the bus going to Chinchon (they usually stop in 4-5 cities, but Chinchon is the second stop). The bus runs every hour on the hour, and costs 425 pts/person one-way. The ride is an hour, and when you get to Chinchon, follow the road on your left up the street to the Paradors hotel.

Questions?
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our Africa Insiders page.

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