Spain and Andalucia, Day 1: Madrid

Madrid Street Scene

Our first day in Spain started in the very late afternoon because our flight landed at 7:30 pm. This isn’t that much of a problem in Spain, where you could argue that the day lasts until at least 2 am, so we had plenty of time to check into our hotel and explore our new neighborhood.

We started in the airport by finding the AeroCity airport shuttle that offers service directly to anywhere in Madrid. We considered taking the metro, which runs from the airport into the city, but decided that it would be much more convenient to take the shuttle and get to our hotel as quickly as possible. This turned out to be an especially good decision because rush hour in Madrid seems to run from about 7-8 pm and it would have been awful to be stuck on the Metro, changing trains three times, in a huge crowd of people.

The shuttle dropped us off at the Hotel Reyes Catolicos (review) in the La Latina neighborhood of Madrid. The staff was great at the hotel, friendly and helpful, and the room was recently updated, although small. La Latina is an area known for its tapas bars, so we didn’t spend too much time unpacking and changing before heading out to one of the most famous tapas streets in the area, Calle De Cava Baja.
Hotel Reyes Catolicos

Our hotel was an easy 5 minute walk from Calle De Cava Baja. As it was already past 10pm by the time we got out there – and just getting dark, as the days in Spain are long during the summer – most places were packed. The street was full of tapas bars and restaurants, and many of them had crowds that spilled out into the streets. While it isn’t hard to find a tapas place, it is a little bit of an intimidating experience when you don’t have a strong grasp of the language and have to push through a big crowd of people to get to the bar for service. To make matters worse, most of the tapas places on the street seemed to have a very similar menu, so it was hard to narrow down the options based on which tapas place sounded the best.

Calle de la Cava Baja tapas bar

Truthfully, we considered eating at the place with the most international crowd, but while we pondered that option, we were ushered into another tapas bar where a table had just opened up. For future reference, if you’re into tapas more for the food than the drinks, I would opt for a tapas bar with tables (not just a bar) because it makes it a bit easier to eat. We had sangria, ham, cheese, spanish tortilla, grilled octopus, ham croquetas, beer and sangria – a very well-rounded tapas meal. We were stuffed when we left to walk back to the hotel, and glad it was a short walk.

Ham and Cheese, with a drizzle of olive oil

As it was drizzling outside, we stopped into a small market to pick up an inexpensive umbrella and a couple of bottles of water. We also got a bag of chips in case we needed a quick snack the next day. We were out cold as soon as we got back to the room and got into bed.

The umbrella turned out to be a great investment, as it rained off and on throughout our trip.

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