By Steven Alves | Opening Doorz Editorial | November 28, 2017
I love Spain, its warm weather, the natural scenic beauty, the rich Celtic and Iberian culture, the old buildings steeped in history, the sunshine coast, the flamenco music combined with gregarious people on the street and the explosion of taste. It makes me feel alive!
When I am in Spain, I am lost…
This October was a milestone birthday for me so on a lark I decided to celebrate it in Madrid. Fifty is always special! I packed for a short trip and armed with my Turkish airlines ticket, headed to Abu Dhabi. I have never traveled on this airline before so I was a bit nervous about the long flight. However, all I can say is from the time I reached the counter, it felt like the airline staff took over: checking in was a breeze, relaxing in the swanky business lounge was heavenly and for a change, departing on time was impressive.
The promptness and the attention to detail was just the perfect start to a delightful break. I had nothing short of a pleasant flight starting from comfortable seats to great breakfast. Service with a smile can never go wrong; it just makes the trip go faster. I made a pit-stop at Istanbul airport and was surprised with the airport—the lounge access was modern and comfortable, I had options to choose from free massages to freshly-cooked meals. Frankly, it was one of the best experiences in the world and I have traveled quite a bit… on the last count, to over 60 airports!
Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a city full of life that knows how to live. To say that it is exceptional would be an understatement when you experience their magnificent hotels, beautiful museums or their state-of-the-art soccer stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabeu). For me, the highlight of my trip was bringing in my birthday in the beautiful Villa Magna Hotel. This Centrally located boutique hotel is frequented by international celebrities. The General Manager, Charles Morris (a Robert De Niro lookalike) personally ensures that customers enjoy their stay at the hotel that offers a combination of classic and contemporary décor, great views of the fashionable Serrano Street to authentic Spanish cuisine.
My choice of hotels for any future stays would be the one and only Villa Magna, not only because of the reasonable rates and the great location, but also for the awesome service rendered.
The Villa Magna Hotel
Up until the 1870s, the Villa Magna used to be an old palace called ‘The Palace of Anglada’ and was one of the most beautiful and luxurious buildings in the Salamanca district of Madrid. The ‘Palace of Anglada’ was built around a large enclosed Arabic style courtyard, now known as the Patio Magnum.
In the 1960s, the Palace was knocked down and the hotel as it is now was created and bought by a businessman who turned it into a 5 star hotel. In 2007, the hotel was closed for a large reform and re-opened in 2009 with the help of the interior designer Thomas Urquijo.
As a reminder, today, the iron gate which used to be the entrance to the Palace is now used as one of the entrances for the Retiro Park.
Shopping is one of my favorite things
One of my favorite things to do was shopping and I found the perfect way to do this in one spot. Shopping at El Cortes Ingles allows one to get everything under one roof, especially when you are doing a short trip. One can rest assured of the best Spanish brands for a reasonable price and personal shoppers guiding you every step of the way. There are over 90 shopping malls of El Cortes Ingles located over the country. There are also tax-refund counters on the exit levels, which makes it easy for the weary shopper.
Once Barcelona, twice shy
I was a bit nervous about heading into Barcelona because the last time I was there (a few months ago) I was pick-pocketed; but that did not hinder me from going back to the capital of Spain, home to world renowned architect Antoni Gaudi. The city is proud of its Catalan heritage and the people have a distinctive personality. The place has culture and style with its own traditions, cuisine and language that is different from the rest of Spain.
I stayed at the ‘Mandarin Oriental’, which is also centrally located. It is an oasis of calm in the center of the city which is clean, balanced and playful, all in one. I was glad my hotel was close to every tourist spot on the Barcelona map; from Gaudi’s buildings to Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Walking down Las Ramblas street was a treat, and if you are a soccer fan, the “Camp Nou” stadium cannot be missed.
Autumn in Spain was a last-minute plan and it turned out to be quite an adventure. It is not peak tourist season so all is calm and as it’s closer to the end of the year and Christmas. The people were more relaxed, sightseeing was a breeze, shopping was enjoyable and most importantly partying with the locals was an adventure.
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