6.01.2007

Hotels to Check out in Spain

Inside the Room Mate Mario

I'm slowly digging myself out of this post-vacation hole. Being a planner by nature, I left myself in a situation where I wouldn't be too overwhelmed upon our return. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's only noon on the day after we returned. I did have 360 e-mails waiting for me but I was able to nuke most of them - you get to realize how much crap you get via e-mail each and every day.

Anyway, our itinerary was as follows:

May 22 - Leave Houston to Madrid (via Newark)
May 23 - Arrive in Madrid (mid-morning arrival so 1/2 day in Madrid)
May 24 - Madrid
May 25 - Madrid to Gran Canaria (morning flight so 1/2 day in GC)
May 26-29 - Gran Canaria
May 30 - Gran Canaria to Madrid
May 31 - Madrid back to Houston (via Newark)

We stayed in three hotels during our trip. I would recommend all three as good options. I'll provide more detail later but here is a quick blurb on each one:

Room Mate Mario Hotel - As the taxi driver put it, we were in the "centro, centro, centro" of Madrid. Pleasant service, a cozy but comfortable room, hip modern design, an outstanding location and a good rate. Located a minute away from the Opera metro stop and just a few paces away from Calle Arenal. A short walk to the Palacio Real and the now pedestrianized Plaza Del Oriente.

Sheraton Salobre Golf Resort and Spa - A 10 minute taxi drive from the faro in Maspalomas but feels like a world away. The hotel offers a much more luxurious and tranquil alternative to the tourist-jammed resorts of Maspalomas and Playa Del Ingles. The hotel's design is stunning with great attention to detail in materials, amenities and pools... 7 pools. We really loved staying there. The rooms were well-designed and the bathrooms were cavernous by European standards. Service was excellent, an outstanding breakfast buffet and the hotel's beach house was terribly convenient. Highly recommended.

Hotel Del Las Letras - A prestigious address on Madrid's Gran Via. The hotel is focused on sleek, modern but comfortable design with an emphasis on the literary world. Service was not as warm as our other hotels but we really enjoyed our "plus" room with a private terrace. The hotel has 7 rooms with terraces - they're worth the extra expense. The breakfast buffet was reasonable but not included in the rate. The hotel is right by plenty of shopping, metro stops and a 10-15 minute walk to Puerta Del Sol or the Plaza Mayor.

If we were to pick our favorite, it would easily be the Sheraton Salobre - hands down.

Shopping Tip

Most first-time or repeat visitors to Madrid or other large Spanish cities typically stop by El Corte Ingles, Spain's largest and most well-known department store. With 70 locations in Spain and Portugal, it is the third largest-company in Spain. Visitors who stay in the center of Madrid are likely to stop by the complex of 3 El Corte Ingles buildings on Calle Preciados, adjacent to the Puerto Del Sol. The two locations closest to the plaza specialize in books and music/movies. The third and largest building is the actual department store.

Floors are divided by department - piso 0 has cosmetics, jewelry, accessories and the like, piso 1 has children's clothing and so on... There's plenty to see on each floor so take your time exploring - you're likely to come across many international brands as well as scores of local and European brands not found in the U.S. Whatever you do, make it a point to ride the elevator or the escalator all the way up to the 7th floor to the Oportunidades department. This is the sale department where reduced and clearance items from the different floors eventually end up. While we did our fair share of shopping in the store, we also found some good deals on the 7th floor. Some examples:
  • A large canvas tote bag for 19 EUR
  • Two infant onesies at 12 EUR each - discounted 33%
  • An ITALIA t-shirt for 6 EUR
The department had rack after rack of reduced clothes, luggage, housewares, etc. While on the 7th floor, stop by the store's cafeteria for a cortado or a slice of tortilla.

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