Madrid in August – some people said it was a deathwish, for August is the time of year where those who can afford to shut up shop, heading straight for the coast for some much welcomed relief from the scalding sun.
Not myself and my friend Charissa though – oh no. We were in desperate need of a break and 3 nights in the 4* Novotel Madrid Center hotel and BA flights including free luggage set us back a rather decent £180 – it was the cheapest thing we could find, so we didn’t think twice.
We got the yellow express bus that runs into the city center from the airport, costing a reasonable 5 Euros. On arrival, it was a whopping 38 degrees. I’m from London where you can expect torrential downpours and 15 degree weather in August, so this was somewhat of a shock to put it mildly.
But no matter – we set straight out on the Metro to La Latina, a cool neighbourhood with a lot of history – I’ve gotta be honest though, we were just there to eat and drink, and boy did it not let us down. Our first meal in Spain was courtesy of Casa Lucas, where we had delicious squid ink infused cannelloni stuffed with honey roasted vegetables and prawns, with a side of the most sumptuous olives I’d ever had. We followed this up with some calamari served with a secret recipe sauce, which we guessed to be some sort of squid ink, herb and crème fraiche mixture. Divine. So divine in fact, that no pictures were taken! Wah.
On Saturday we were set to go to what is called the Golden Triangle of Art – Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. You can get a combined ticket to all three for just under 30 Euros, or you can brave the queues and go during the busy limited hours that they offer free entry. (LOL) I’m not gonna lie though – I’m ashamed to say in a first for me whilst abroad, I didn’t even end up going to any of the museums.
It was too hot, bordering a strangely fine line from glorious to hellish and there was too much people-watching to do, too much strolling the streets, too much tapas and Tinto de Verano to consume (never ask for Sangria, it screams tourist – go with the Tinto). We also hit up Retiro Park, often called the lungs of Madrid. There you’ll find a lake where you can go rowing, and plenty of serene spots to sunbathe in with an ice cream vendor at every corner.
We also went to a Flamenco show that night – there are many to choose from in the city, but we chose Corral de la Morería – a venue that promises the best Flamenco show in the world, having been visited by the late Mohammad Ali, Jennifer Aniston, Marlon Brando and so many more. It is also featured in the New York Times no.1 Best Seller ‘1000 Places To See Before You Die’, and for good reason. We paid 50 Euros to see the show and receive a drink, entering a dimly lit, cosy restaurant with an intimate stage setting. The hour-long show was full of passion and rigour, and Charissa and I were completely bewitched.
It was Sunday morning when we took a tour with Sandemans. They leave from Plaza Mayor every day at 10am, 11am and 2pm – we opted for the 11am one, before the sun peaked. The tour is free; you’re just asked to tip what you think it was worth at the end. I’ve done Sandeman tours in Amsterdam and Dublin and both were brilliant, and Madrid didn’t let me down. Our tour guide was an Irish chap called Alex Thistlebird, who could have been a comedian by night. Not only did he bring the jokes, but he was informative and insightful, and was there to help afterwards when we were after recommendations and directions. You can book a place here – please tip generously; they deserve it.
So as I said earlier, it was 12,000 degrees (okay, 38) and enough was enough – enter Piscina Lagos, off Casa de Campo Park. We spent an afternoon there dipping in an out of the huge lido by the lake, and had tan lines in 20 minutes. We got the Metro there (get off at Lago on line 10 – if you’re from a city like me, you’ll find navigating the underground system a doddle) but you can also get a cable car there for a few extra Euros, with a nice view of the city. Just beware of the possibility of a queue – take water, sunscreen and a hat.
We then headed back to our favourite spot La Latina for modestly priced tapas. Taking our tour guides advice, we went to Lamiak and devoured roasted vegetable wraps covered with Camembert, meat stew, cheese and aubergine grilled toast, peppers stuffed with mussels and so much more, for just 2 euros a piece!
And that’s all we had time for, folks. Below I have included some city highlights and the museum timings for free entry – check it out and que te diviertas!
Random Must see: Templo de Debod – an Egyptian temple in Oeste park – go for a stunning sunset!
Free Entry to Museums, as follows:
Museo del Prado – Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm to 8pm, or Sundays from 5pm to 8pm.
Reina Sofía Museum – Monday to Friday from 7pm to 9pm, Saturday from 2.30pm to 9pm, or Sunday from 10am to 2.30pm
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum – Mondays from 12:00 to 16:00.