An April 2002 trip
to Madrid by Harry Potter
Quote: Madrid has some of the best art museums of any city in Europe. Experience the beauty and peace of the Real Jardin Botanico and tastings at La Trucha. Staying at budget Hotel Astoria made this visit to Madrid very affordable.
Buy a 10 trip transportation card at any Metro station - it's good on both the bus and Metro and costs 5 Euros versus .95 Euros per trip.
Get some Euros before you come or exchange for them somewhere else besides the airport which has the worst rate of exchange.
Most major sights are within a 1/2 hour walk so it is also enjoyable to walk to experience the life on the street.
Taxis are also abundant.
I arrived at 10:30am, and unlike many other places where you can't check in that early, it was no problem getting into my room which was great after a long red-eye flight. The women working behind the desk continued with this accomodating disposition the entire 3 nights I stayed. They offered me an umbrella in the rain and heeded me advice to close my purse better so as not to be a victim of pickpockets.
The reception area with soft, black leather couches was my favorite area to drink coffee and read. I preferred it over my room and the back sitting area which has several tables and chairs, but is more sterile. Since I had switched time zones and now was 6 hours ahead of my usual schedule, I kept waking up before dawn each morning and having the sanctity of this reception area in the early morning was great.
Also in the reception area was a Nestle coffee machine and a soda machine. I loved this coffee machine where .50 Euros gives you the choice of making your coffee with different levels of sweetness, from black coffee to very sweet Capucchino.
Now for the reasons I can't Highly Recommend Hotel Astoria. My second night, I could hear my neighbor snoring which made me realize the walls were pretty thin or he was a very heavy snorer. The third night, a family with 2 small children moved into the room next to me and preceded to unpack with their door open so for over an hour I tolerated these little girls crying and running up and down the halls and in and out of their room. When I couldn't take it anymore, I went to the front desk, but the usual women that attended the front desk were replaced by a man who said he couldn't do anything about it. However he finally asked them to be quieter and this got them to shut their door and contain the children inside the room. The fact that the building was constructed in the 1800's became all too apparent as the noisy neighbors could still clearly be heard through the paper thin walls. Unfortunately, you can't control who stays in the room next to you, so although it was definitely memorable, I can only Somewhat Recommend Hotel Astoria since an important feature of an accomodation is the ability to get to sleep!
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on May 24, 2002
Calle Carrera San Jeromino, 30, 5th floor
(34) 914 291 188
Restaurant | "La Trucha"
The upstairs area of the restaurant only has a few small tables sectioned off by a wall from the bar but every table was full by 9pm and the restaurant doesn't open until 8pm. The waiters were working furiously and also servicing the smaller, quieter, but also full dining area downstairs just to the side of the restrooms.
The specialty here is fish (trucha means trout in Spanish) and raciones (small portions) of fish can be ordered off the menu. The menu comes in Spanish, French and English. However the items are also written with their prices on the window of the kitchen. So it's up to you how much you spend, depending on how many raciones or full entrees you order. The men preparing the dishes behind the counter moved rapidly and in no time I was asked what I wanted to eat. I chose a sampling racion of assorted canapes which gave me 2 each of 5 different types of fish on warm toast squares and cost me 8 Euros. My delicious smoked fish included salmon, trout, anchovies, black caviar and pate of tuna. It was served to me in less than 5 minutes as it seemed all the orders were filled in record time by cordial, but hurried preparers. This was fine with me because it gave me plenty of time to walk over to the Circula de Bellas Artes for the 10pm show.
The decor was cluttered but interesting and the photo below shows the legs and hooves hanging from hooks on the wall among the many plates and various other wall hangings.
I would definitely go back because the fish is fresh and very tasty but next time I will make reservations so I can actually sit down to eat.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 24, 2002
Manuel Fernández y González, 3
Madrid, Spain 28014
+34 91 4293778
Attraction | "Museo del Prado"
Free floor maps come in Spanish or English and are well marked with directions along with the numbers of the rooms. Each room has the Roman numeral on the wall entrance to it. However I also chose to buy a floor plan book in the gift store for a more comprehensive visit. There are the typical souvenirs in the gift shop and I picked up another Prado book of paintings as well as some coasters, postcards and magnets.
In the Prado, the Spanish artists are probably the most famous, but there are also several paintings by Italian, Greek, French, Dutch, Flemish and other artists. I snapped a picture with a flash before I was gently reminded only pictures without flash may be taken. The photo came out with a big flash in the middle of the painting anyway. However, in some rooms there was enough light to take pictures without a flash and the magnificent El Coliseo de Roba can be seen below.
There are numerous temporary exhibits and lending of paintings to other museums going on at any particular time, so while I was fortunate to see some new paintings, I was also disappointed that some of my favorites from last time were on loan.
However, this time I discovered "Dauphin's Treasures" (or "Tesoros de Defin" in Spanish), in the basement and it should not be missed. I was also the only one down there at the time and enjoying a collection without having to look over others' shoulders makes a big difference. Yet even with people, this collection of delicately ornate cups, vases, plates, glasses and various types of stones, jewels and decorative arts would still be spectacular.
The only thing I recommend to skip is the cafeteria. After 3 hours in the Prado I was still not ready to leave, but I was also starving so I ate there. The food in the main cafeteria is buffet style and though you pay for everything separate there are no prices listed. Not only was the food unappetizing, but the section clearly marked non-smoking meant nothing as there were ashtrays on the tables and the whole room was smoky.
The Prado is spectacular but also eventually tiring and only a few of the rooms have benches in the middle where you can sit. However if you still have energy when you finish with the Prado, the magnificent Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is just up the street.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 24, 2002
Prado Museum/Museo del Prado
Calle Ruiz De Alarcón 23
Madrid, Spain 28014
+34 91 3302800
Attraction | "Real Jardin Botanico"
All the plants are well-marked with signs indicating their species and where they are from. The flowers and plants appear in rows bordered by perfectly manicured walls of green bushes. The vibrant tulips mixed of red and yellow appear like a blaze of fire in the shining sun. There are also some sculptures and benches on which to relax along the periphery of the garden so the atmosphere can be soaked up in your own time. The fresh air and birds chirping can almost make you forget that the city of Madrid lies just outside.
My favorite part of the garden was actually the Invernadero Exhibit housed in a glass building at the corner of the gardern. Transcending into this oasis I was surrounded by desert plants from all over America and Africa. The climate was controlled and there was a major change of temperature and humidity from one room to the next. The abundant and fascinating cacti species were awe-inspiring to me, especially the spinely cacti. There is also an Amazon rain forest complete with spraying mist to keep up the humidity. Thus there are signs to indicate the doors need to be properly closed after passing into the room. There are 2 levels in the exhibit and accessing the top level gives you a different view of the plant world below. If you love cacti like I do, you must go visit.
Real Jardín Botánico
Plaza de Murillo, 2
Madrid, Spain 28028
+34 91 4203017
First, let me say this was not the FIRST time I had used this type of shower with a water hose rather than the usual permanent shower head. You may be able to see the small white plastic hook high on the shower wall where the hose can be attached so it need not be held the entire time during a shower. I proceeded to hook the shower hose on it so it would be similar to the permanent shower head which I am accustomed.
Yet, at a point right when I started to put shampoo in my hair, the shower hose detached from the wall. Not only did it just detach, it dove through the separation of the shower curtains and started spraying water all over the bathroom. I tried frantically to reign in the cord, but the strong water pressure had turned it into a wild snake thrashing about and the cord was so long, I just couldn't pull it all back in the shower area. I knew I needed to kill the snake quickly as it was wreaking havoc outside the curtains, so I slammed down the lever, the water turned off immediately and it was quiet.
I took a deep breath and then slowly, I pulled apart the curtains to survey the damage. The snake hadn't left an inch of the bathroom dry. Water was dripping from the ceiling and the floor was soaked. The mirror was streaked with water as were the walls. It didn't even spare my extra roll of toilet paper.
As I still had shampoo in my hair, I needed to get back in the shower. However this time I sat down in the tub, kept a firm grip on the snake, and quickly rinsed my hair.
New York, New York