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Madrid is one of my favorite cities in the world – definitely within the top three. I love the culture, food, lifestyle, history, art and people. Even though my Spanish isn’t perfect, people have always been extremely welcoming and aren’t afraid to open up and show me a good time. In fact, I firmly believe the nightlife in Madrid is some of the best in the world. Whenever I’m out in Madrid, I always seem to stay out until the sun rises – something I never do in NYC.
No matter what you want to do in Madrid, be it visit famous museums like the Prado or Reina Sofia – or simply take in the vibe of the city, the Westin Palace Madrid is an excellent place to stay. It’s centrally located, so it’s only a short walk to popular neighborhoods like Sol and literally a stone’s throw from the museums. It’s also near several metro stations, so taking the metro from the airport is easy.
I’ve stayed at this property numerous times as a Starwood Platinum and I’ve always been treated like a king. I’ve never had to wait to check-in, even when arriving before noon and I’ve always been upgraded to a suite. And I’ve only ever redeemed for cash & points at $90 and 4,800 Starwood points a night- an incredible deal since this hotel is almost always 200 euros ($280)+ per night in the off season and 250+ ($350) in the summer.
I like the Palace because it is elegant without being too stuffy. While furnishings are not modern and are perhaps a little bit dated, I find the property to be very comfortable and charming.
The hotel is 6 floors with the top being the Starwood Preferred Guest Floor. Once off the elevator, there is a small lounge area with a couch and green apples. The hallways are decorated with green marble and dark wood and the smell is a Spanish twist of your typical Westin white ginger fragrance.
When you walk into the foyer, there’s a small seating area and there were two bottles of complimentary still water and glasses. You then enter the living room, with a somewhat old-school sofa, flat screen TV and CD Player radio (they really just need to get a Bose iPod dock). There’s also the door to the terrace, which is locked. In order to get it unlocked, you have to sign a lengthy waiver and have a maintenance man come in with a ladder and make some adjustments. I suppose they are ultra-sensitive to people breaking in if people leave the door open.
The bedroom is spacious, with interesting artwork and decorations. It’s definitely not modern style, but I like it – it’s a nice change up from your typical, predictable Westin.
The bathroom is attractive, with a strong heavenly shower, tub and a toilet area with bidet.
Overall it was a spacious room, great for entertaining a couple friends before we hit the town until the wee hours of the morning. In fact, on my last night there, we were out so late, we ended up just going straight to the airport in the morning for our 9am flight. The crazy thing was that we actually had to excuse ourselves at 4:45am, so we could pack and get to the airport in ample time – our group of Spanish friends went on well past our “early” exit!
To see how our flight home went and pictures of the impressive Iberia lounge at Madrid airport, check out this report. For a review of our stay at Le Meridien Barcelona and a review of Commerc 24, click here.
Another memorable aspect of the Madrid trip was our dinner at the non-descript, but incredibly delectable restaurant, Arcade (Calle AlcalÃ¡ 84). I thought the name was funny since it was an authentic Gallician food restaurant and at first glance it looks like any other cerveceria (tapas bar), but it turned out to be so much more.
One of my best friends (who I actually met on a US Airways flight to Madrid 6 years ago) now teaches in Madrid and runs a great Madrid fashion blog, lifeandstylemadrid.com, so I’m very fortunate to have an insider to show me all the good, unknown places. Her boyfriend, a Madrileno, is also an excellent resource and his friend happens to own this restaurant. We were treated like family for the entire meal, though I watched how other groups were treated and it was all the same – solid service all around.
Unpretentious was what I wanted and that’s what I got. The restaurant has a basic bar area in the front and a casual dining area in the back. I won’t lie, it was hard to quell my snobbiness and in the beginning I was skeptical that the food would be able to blow me away. Well, fortunately it did – from the beginning until the very end.
Gallicia is the northwestern province of Spain, which is directly north of Portugal and is mostly surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, so not surprisingly, their food is very seafood-centric. This was great for me, because there’s not much from the sea that I won’t eat. In fact, Arcade gets shipments of Atlantic seafood everyday, which makes sense because everything served was beyond fresh.
Then came an octopus and potato dish with paprika-ish spices. Delicious – my only critique was that it was just a little too salty.
Then came the huge, succulent garlic butter prawn. I generally don’t like shell-on shellfish, but this was an easy exception. The shell slid off easily and the prawn was so substantial, that it made the minor effort well worth it.
Then came one of my favorite dishes: the razor clams in a lemon garlic parsley broth. I could have eaten 50 of these!
My main entree was a monkfish with shrimp and some sort of eel topping. Anyone have a clue what they are called? All I know was that the entree was absolutely delicious. Every single bite of the fish was fresh and flavorful and the sides were simple potatoes, tomatos and onions. It wasn’t fancy, but it was simply delicious.
The other main entree choice was a clam and shrimp medley with white asparagus and hard boiled egg. This was good, but my fish was better.
However, before I knew it there was Spanish singing and yet another dessert was being brought out- a classic Duncan Hines “American” birthday cake my friend made for me. Apparently doing super-American things like this are really fun for ex-pats! The cake was actually good, but what I most enjoyed watching the restaurant staff marvel at it, since they had never seen such a creation.
In summary – if you want a super authentic, delicious and reasonably priced Spanish meal- Arcade is for you. You probably won’t find any tourists there, but that was the main appeal for me. There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.