☼ Madrid, Spain ☼

I love Madrid. Every time I go there I discover a new cafe, a new shop, a new monument, a new corner. It is full of beauty and charm. During my last stay, the weather was sunny and hot; it was around 40ºC but it was lovely to be able to sit outside.

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Me enjoying a cocktail in a terrace!

This last time I stayed at the AC Santo Mauro hotel, which is situated in the famous area of Chamberí. I highly recommend this accommodation. The staff are very helpful and friendly, plus the architecture of the building is breathtaking! The location is also fantastic because it is right in the centre of the city and close to the shopping and financial districts. If you are a shopaholic like me, trust me, this is a win-win! The Alonso Martínez metro station is only a 5 minutes walk away. This makes it very easy to move around Madrid, especially if you are enjoying a short stay there.

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AC Santo Mauro Hotel. Photo from http://www.hotelsearch.com

If you want to visit the main museums, you can take the metro from here to the stop Banco de España and walk to la Plaza Cibeles, one of the main symbols of the city and where Real Madrid celebrates their sport triumphs. Something that you can’t miss is the Golden Triangle of Art formed by el Museo del Prado (where you can admire the paintings of Goya, Velázquez, Tiziano, Rubens or Rafael amongst many other renown artists), el Museo Thyssen Bornemisza (it has the second largest art private collection after the British Royal Collection) and el Museo Reina Sofía (Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art, with masterpieces by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí).

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Museo del Prado

Next to the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza you will find la Casa de Lope de Vega (Lope de Vega’s house), one of the most important poets, novelists and playwrights of the Spanish Golden Century of Baroque literature.

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Casa de Lope de Vega. Photo from casamuseolopedevega.org

Another place that you must visit if you go to Madrid is El Parque del Retiro. It is surrounded by lots of monuments, galleries, sculptures, ponds, flowers… it’s simply stunning! You can rent a rowboat and paddle in the Estanque, hire a bicycle or travel in a horse-drawn carriage. From May until October you can also enjoy free concerts performed by the Banda Sinfónica de Madrid or witness some hilarious puppet shows.

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Parque del Retiro

You can take the metro from Atocha (near the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía) to Gran Vía, where you will find lots of shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. If you go to Plaza de Oriente, you can contemplate the Teatro Real. If you like opera, then this a must-see. This theatre is considered one of the most important of Spain and Europe. Here you could take pleasure in listening to Madame Butterfly, Otello, Macbeth or La Clemenza di Tito to name a few. Tickets usually sell very quickly and can be expensive so I recommend that you plan your visit in advance.

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Me in front of el Teatro Real

From Plaza de Oriente you can walk to el Palacio Real and see la Catedral de la Almudena, where the present King of Spain Felipe VI married Letizia Ortiz in 2004. The cathedral is surrounded by some beautiful gardens. If you go north through Calle Bailén, you will find la Plaza de España. If you decide to go east instead through Calle Mayor, you will end up in la Plaza Mayor.

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Once you get there, you could visit  el Palacio de Santa Cruz or el Mercado de San Miguel. This last place is not your typical grocery market. To give you an idea, it reminds me a bit of Borough Market near London Bridge (London, UK). Here you can enjoy a big range of tapas, cold meats, cakes, cheese, beer, wine, etc. It is a great place to go if you are feeling peckish!

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Mercado de San Miguel

There are three restaurants that are worth visiting if you go to Madrid. The first one is the Restaurante Santceloni. It is located in el Paseo de la Castellana. It is important to check the opening hours and the dress code as wearing trainers or sport clothes might not be allowed. This elegant restaurant is not cheap but oh god… THE FOOD IS SUBLIME! Their chia soup is amazing, the fennel panna cotta is to die for and the flambé mackerel will take you straight to heaven! These are only some of the dishes that you could enjoy in this incredible place but they have many, many more delicacies. Take a look at their menu here.

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Santceloni. Photo from ViaMichelín.

The other restaurant that I would like to recommend is La Cabra situated in the area of Chamberí. This one is very close to the hotel where I was staying. They serve some exquisite dishes, such as pigeon parfait and caramel-coasted for €12.00, flaméed crayfish, tapioca, comté and tamarillo tree for €16.00 or white asparagus, cocochas and oyster leaf. If you want to celebrate a special occasion, they have private rooms available for rent where you could enjoy a personalised menu created by the renown chef Javier Aranda.

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Restaurante La Cabra. Photo: Belén Díaz. From http://www.abc.es

The last restaurant that I wanted to suggest is DiverXO located in the street Padre Damián (in the area Paseo de la Castellana). His chef David Muñoz is one of the most experimental cooks that I have ever seen. His work is simply amazing. If you want to live a completely different gastronomic experience, then this is the place to be! The menu offers three different options that vary in the quantity of food and number of dishes. They range from €165.00 to €225.00.

If you are on a limited budget then don’t panic. One of the best things about Spain is that you can eat some lovely tapas sat in a terrace while enjoying a long glass of sangría for only a few pounds! La Bodega La Ardosa in Calle Colón 13 serves one of the best Spanish omelettes in Madrid. There’s also La Casa del Abuelo in Calle de la Victoria 12, where you can taste some lovely gambas al ajillo (prawns with garlic). Finally, you cannot miss the famous bocadillo de calamares (calamari baguette). A lot of people find this a bit weird but it’s a very famous dish. One of the best places to order it is the bar El Brillante, located in la Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, near Atocha.

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Bocata de calamares. Photo from http://www.elcocinerofiel.com

I hope that this information has given you an idea of how amazing Madrid is. I could go on forever but I think it’ll be better if you just go and discover the city by yourself. I promise you won’t feel disappointed.

R x

 

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Pembrokeshire, Wales ❤

I feel a bit guilty for abandoning my blog for a few days. In my defence, I have been enjoying some well deserved days off after having handed in my last set of assignments for my MA. I did make an attempt to write during my break in Wales, but the connection at the cottage where I was staying wasn’t great. D’oh!

So, where was I? Well, I drove to Pembrokeshire to celebrate my dad’s 74th birthday. Sadly, some of my best friends’ parents have passed away in recent years, which made me realise that every day that I get to spend with my father is a treasure.

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Pembrokeshire is home to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Its largest town, Pembroke, is a small city located in the south west of Wales. The landscape is spectacular and people are welcoming and friendly. Pembrokeshire is full of character and offers a huge range of outdoors activities: kayaking, surfing, canoeing, rafting and fishing. There is even horse riding on the beach, which I think is super cool!

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You can go for walks, enjoy the relaxed lifestyle, or visit farms where you can see horses, cows, Welsh pigs, Balwen sheep, donkeys and chickens. If you like history, you can also visit Pembroke castle, which was the birth place of Henry VII in 1457, or any of the numerous other historical monuments.

If you prefer spending your time by the sea, there are a lot of seaside villages that you can drive to with coastal walks and beach sands. On our second day, we visited the port town of Fishguardwhere you can take a ferry to Ireland or a boat tour to see the dolphins.

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Another town that we went to was St Davids, which is located in the north west of the county. This is the smallest city in Britain (qualifying because of its cathedral!) and has some nice restaurants (Cwtch is award winning, but booking is essential), coffee shops, art galleries and craft shops.

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St Davids is famous as a medieval pilgrimage destination related to the patron saint of Wales. St David’s day is on 1st March and this is always an interesting time to visit Wales! They started building the cathedral in 1181 following a declaration in 1124 by Pope Calixtus II that two pilgrimages to St. Davids were equal with one to Rome. Three equalled one to Jerusalem…

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While we were in St Davids we visited the Bishop’s Palace, which is located next to the cathedral. This was built by the bishop Henry Gower in the 14th century. Its architecture is very impressive with a lot of the Gothic features still very well preserved. It only cost us £3.50 each to get in and we spent a good couple of hours looking around at the well presented information.

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Afterwards, we were feeling a bit peckish so we looked for a cafe. There is a refrectory in the cathedral and plenty of places to eat as you walk into St Davids. Be aware that many stopped serving food for the afternoon after 2.30 pm though! We also ended buying lots of these delicious Welsh cakes!

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If you are feeling inspired, you can try some pottery painting at The Creative Cafe. According to their website, they also have cafes in Narberth and Haverfordwest. Haverfordwest is the largest town in Pembrokeshire and its name means “ford used by fat cows”!

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If you are looking for places to stay with pets, I found this website, which suggests dog friendly cottages and even walks that you can do with your furry friend. At the cottage where I was staying I made a new four-legged friend! If you already have a furry member in the family, then this website might help you find somewhere to stay with them.

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During our last day the sun was glorious. I still can’t believe how lucky we were with the weather! We went for a walk along a section of the Pembrokeshire coastal park at Solva. The views from the top of the headland were stunning!

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If you are considering taking a walk here, make sure you wear appropiate footwear. It was quite muddy even though the sun was shinning. There is parking in the harbour at Solva. It costs £1.00 an hour. We took food with us and enjoyed a picnic on the tables there.

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I found my stay in Pembrokeshire very enjoyable. I’d recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in getting away from the hustle and bustle. Wales, I will definitely be coming back!