Madrid and Toledo with Jennifer

For our final week in Spain we were reunited with Madrid as we played host for my sister Jennifer.

Hanging out in one of Madrid's many plazas Hanging out in one of Madrid’s many plazas

Julie and I were very excited to play tour guide for her. We love this city and had so much to share. Unfortunately I was still battling my cold, Jennifer was in the middle of hers, and Julie was starting to slide into what we think was the same ailment. We powered through.

We started with a city orientation, walking through Plaza Mayor and Plaza del Sol. These were both easy treks from our La Latina neighborhood home. This was as quiet as we’ve seen Madrid, just before the spring break explosion and just after the vibrant Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We enjoyed a caña de cerveza at La Torre del Oro, though touristy but still fun bar on Plaza Mayor, full of graphically brutal bullfighting photos. As we say, “the bull always loses” but at least he was exacting some revenge on the humans in these displays.

Rooftop view of the city Rooftop view of the city

Following a guided tour of the majestic Royal Palace, we roamed to Plaza de España and for the first time took advantage of one of the rooftop cafes and bars. The top of Hotel Riu is a nice spot for this, and after taking in views from the roof we had a very nice (and quiet) lunch one floor down from there. The sky was blue, the air was crisp, and Jennifer enjoyed getting a better understanding of the city layout.

Looking out at Toledo Looking out at Toledo

Our Thursday was a perfect grand Madrid day, starting with a train ride to Toledo to explore the medieval town. Julie and I know the layout well enough to guide the tour ourselves, and we started with a taxi ride to the other side of town across the river for a perfect morning view of the town with the sun behind us. Besides the oldness of the town and the giant gothic cathedral, we absolutely love going on a treasure hunt for El Greco paintings. They are all over the place in Toledo.

Gildas and olives Gildas and olives

Later that evening we stopped at two of our favorite tapas spots: La Concha and La Gildería. La Concha for their friendly atmosphere and vermut cocktail, La Gildería for the classic gildas tapa. I’m loving my fatty salty fish in my old age.

Flamenco at Cafe Ziryab Flamenco at Cafe Ziryab

We finished the night with flamenco at our favorite tiny stage: Cafe Ziryab. Julie and I have been three times, including ringing in the new year at the end of 2023. We are in love with Sara Nieto, the fierce dancer who managed to charm Jennifer even more than she has Julie and me.

There’s more that I don’t go into detail on: Prado, Reina Sofia, Sorollo museum, a walk through Retiro, reconnecting with old madrileño friends. I think it is safe to say the “A Jennifer le encanta Madrid.”