If you peruse various travel sites, you’ve probably caught up with the New York Times’ “36 Hours” series, which provides a rundown of essential sights and meals for anyone passing through a specific locale on an abbreviated schedule. (While the Times’ travel section isn’t always in touch with the common plebe – much like its arts, opinion, sports, money, and news sections – the 36 Hours feature does its best to offer affordable or at least not outrageously expensive recommendations.) Well, if you’ve maxed out your free 20 online article limit over at the Old Grey Lady, don’t worry. Little Earthquake’s R&D department has finished studying the competition, and we have decided to steal their idea, with – our lawyers’ recommendation – some modifications. I now present to you…
9 Hours in Madrid (3 Awake)
So, you’re passing through Madrid for the first time on an overnight layover. What to you do? What everyone does – find a place that serves tapas and has a flamenco performance. Fortunately, a swinging of the proverbial dead cat (Proverbs, 31:32) will hit upon more flamenco parlors than you can shake the proverbial stick at.
Certainly, a flamenco show in central Madrid is as touristy and cliche as a Lion King matinee and dinner at the Applebee’s in Times Square. Relax – that’s the point. Besides, when you’re on the clock, there’s no time to assimilate, let alone try to find the hip neighborhoods with the underground scenes you hope to brag to your friends about.
Nevertheless, we were pleased with the corner restaurant we found, astride the tiny but charming Plaza de Santa Ana. At Tablao Villa-Rosa, we enjoyed some breaded fried shrimp, ham, cheese, and beer, not to mention a flamenco show that didn’t disappoint. Below are some snippets. Notice how tired I am in my stilted intro; we’d been flying all night and day (connection in London) and had landed only a couple of hours earlier.
The other six hours were spent sleeping at Hostal Avenida, a budget hotel on Gran Via in central Madrid (a 15 minute walk from Plaza Santa Ana). A double with private bathroom cost us 57 euros, and although the room wasn’t spacious, it was clean and the desk service was great.
So far as we could tell, Madrid has a good metro (2 euros), though we did have to transfer twice from the airport to the hotel. Much easier was the return to the airport. Our concierge pointed us to a bus hub just a few blocks away, and we hopped on an airport-bound express (also 2 euro) that was half the time of our multi-train subway odyssey.