I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to travel abroad from time to time, to deliver corporate events. With a large flagship conference ahead of me, I packed my bags and headed to the expansive Spanish capital, Madrid. Madrid is a green city of parklands and refined boulevards. Rich in culture and heritage, the city is renowned for its extensive collection of European art and is home to the Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza Musseum (also known as the “Golden Triangle”), amongst others.
I landed in Madrid on a beautiful, sunny Monday afternoon to pleasing autumnal temperatures skimming at 30°C. Sigh. Arriving at my palatial digs for the next couple of days, the grand Hotel Ritz, Madrid; her elegant revolving doors swung open to welcome me into her exquisite luxury. The hotel is as much a piece of the city’s history as the art is. It was commissioned by King Alfonso XIII in 1910, who had just returned from a European tour. He felt that the Spanish Court lacked a hotel grand enough for European royalty and other illustrious guests. Therefore, he erected a replica of the infamous Hôtel Ritz Paris and The Ritz London Hotel. Now managed by the prestigious Mandarin Oriental group, the hotel prides itself on offering guest’s luxurious rooms, tranquil gardens, acclaimed dining and spa facilities, all in the heart of the city.
It can be a real challenge, actually getting out to see things when you are working abroad, but I always find a way to take in a little bit of the city I am visiting. After our afternoon meetings, we took to the winding cobbled streets and headed towards Plaza Santa Ana, arriving just in time for a token glass of sangria as the sun was setting.
We knew this would be the one night that we could semi-relax and take in our surroundings ahead of the gruelling two-day event we had ahead of us. Settling into Ana la Santa, in a window table overlooking the busy square beyond, we ordered a fare fit for a Spanish king.
As we started to lag from our early start, I took the girls for a nightcap at Radio, Hotel’s ME’s rooftop bar. The views are spectacular and a must for anyone in town for a few days. The best time to go is for sunset drinks, however, the twinkle of the night skyline is not too shabby either. While we struggled to keep our heavy eyes open, we sipped on our delicious cocktails and listened to the talented band as they performed. It was quite obviously our bedtime, so we made our way home ahead of our early start the next day.
I will admit for the next 36 hours, I didn’t really see much of the outside world, and was hard at work on the event. I hear you there playing the world’s smallest violin for me ;-P Whilst event management can appear to be a fun and glamorous job, I assure you that there is a lot of hard work and sleepless nights that go on behind the scenes to create and deliver seamless, professional corporate events. That said, I did manage to snap some of my incredible surroundings as I popped out for a brief moment of fresh air.
The next day, finally on the home stretch and in a state of hysteria (which is usually how us event folk end up by the final day of the show); we rallied together to complete the event and pack it down ready for our return to London. To reward everyone for a job well done, we sat, exhausted lumps, in the tranquil city gardens of the hotel and had a glass of wine in the sunshine as we waited for our taxis to arrive.
Like madwomen, Nikki and I popped out for a few moments to take in as many of the sights within close proximity to the hotel as we could.
Sad to leave our opulent home and the warmth of the beautiful city of Madrid, we headed back to the airport, bound for London.
I appreciate that as I was working and being a busy little bee, this has been quite a whistle-stop review of the city. However, I was fortunate enough to have travelled to Madrid earlier in the year in preparation for this event and took some extended leave afterwards to explore the city a little bit more. These are my top picks for places to check out when in Madrid:
- The market of San Miguel is a lively food market just off Plaza Mayor. Expect market stalls selling fresh produce, tapas, aperitifs, beer and a large selection of wine and cava.
- Corral de la Morería Restaurant is the most famous tablao flamenco in the world and promises to be a unique and unforgettable evening and it absolutely lives up to expectations. Guests dine whilst Spain’s leading flamenco artists give an authentic and passionate performance.
- Royal Palace of Madrid: though no longer the royal family’s home, the palace was home to Spain’s Kings, from Charles III to Alfonso XIII. The grand palace is made up of 3,000 rooms! Advanced bookings are essential unless you like really big queues. But don’t worry if you’re unable to get your hands on any ahead of your trip. The grounds that surround the palace are equally as impressive and a must see.
- Museo Nacional Del Prado is quite simply impressive inside and out. On a rainy Madrid afternoon, Si and I wandered around here for hours taking in the rich collection of European art, dating from the 12th – early 20th Century.
- Chocolatería San Ginés is one queue you absolutely should join! Indulge in a hot chocolate and churros from this amazing Madrid café-bar.
- One of the many outdoor squares. Make sure you take some time to sit back and take in the atmosphere of this beautiful city. Have a coffee or a glass of cava and enjoy the world as it passes you by.
Until next time, safe travels.
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