Our flight from Heathrow to Madrid was around 2 hours long, and with an on time departure at 11:00, we landed in Madrid by 2 pm local time (30 minutes before schedule). The flight itself was completely uneventful, though it was interesting to see a female captain on the flight to Madrid. Surprisingly, in our day and age, there are so few of them around. Hopefully we’ll see more as we go along….
Introduction: Spring break in Spain
British Airways Club World DFW-LHR
British Airways T5 Galleries South Lounge @ Heathrow
The Westin Palace Madrid
Renfe Business Class Madrid-Seville
Hotel Alfonso XII Seville
Strolling in Seville
Sights and Sounds of Majestic Madrid
Iberia Business Class Lounge Madrid Barajas
Iberia Business Class Madrid-Barcelona
The W Barcelona
Exploring Gaudi’s Barcelona
The Hilton London Heathrow Airport T5
American Airlines New Business Class LHR-DFW
Upon disembarking from the plane, we found the immigration desk to be right across from the gate. From the get go we were extremely impressed with Madrid Barajas. For one thing there was absolutely no line at immigration: our passports were stamped immediately and we walked on toward baggage claim. As you can see below, the passport control desk are just aligned as kiosks along the middle of the terminal (the blue signs in the picture).
Madrid Barajas is perhaps one of the most architecturally stunning airports in the world with its wood trimmed ceiling, brightly colored pillars, and large windows. I honestly haven’t seen a better looking terminal having been to a lot of airports across the world. And though I heard many complaints about long walks to baggage claim, I didn’t experience any of that. We disembarked, cleared passport control, and collected our baggage in a matter of 25 minutes.
Since there is no Uber or Lyft service available in Spain, we took a cab from Madrid Barajas to the Westin for the listed flat rate of 25 Euros. Just as a warning, make sure you confirm this flat rate before you get into a cab. Some cab drivers will still try to take advantage of a tourist’s ignorance.
The Westin Palace Madrid is located at the heart of Madrid just across from the Prado, and a few blocks down from Puerta del Sol. I booked the hotel on points as I mentioned before, and paid 48,000 points per room for 5 nights, which is a tremendous deal considering that room rates were well over 300 Euro/night.
Anyway, the cab ride took 20 minutes from door to door and we were at the hotel by 3 pm local time. As soon as we pulled up, the bellman opened the doors and helped us with our bags.
The hotel dates back to 1912, at which point it was the largest hotel in Europe. The old world elegance of the hotel is apparent in the lobby, which oddly felt a little Egyptian in style.
We were immediately helped by a lady working at the reception desk and welcomed as SPG Platinum Members. She went on to make copies of our passports and mentioned our Platinum benefits, which included: free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free drink coupons, and discount dining coupons. One of our rooms, which was upgraded to a suite, wasn’t ready yet so she handed us one of the room keys and vouchers to get drinks at the hotel bar. We were quite exhausted at this point so we skipped the drinks and just headed to the room.
Our rooms were located on the sixth floor of the hotel. Upon getting off the elevator, there was a nice lounge area with an elegant old sofa, and some displays with old military costumes. Throughout the hotel there was indication of old world opulence with black Italian marble flooring and occasional marble doorways. The immaculate condition of the
Our rooms were toward the end of a hallway, behind doors which felt as if they came straight out of the 1900s.
The Executive Double Room:
The room was nicely renovated and fairly standard fare with two heavenly double beds, a lounge chair, a desk, and a LCD TV. There was also a bit of art work above the bed with art decor lights.
The bathroom featured a double vanity, a pair of heavenly robes, a tub, and the standard Westin Green Tea Aloe toiletries.
There was a glass door, separating the toilet from the rest of the bathroom, with the hotel’s coat of arms on it.
In case anyone was wondering, water temperature and pressure were both excellent.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the room was the not so great view out the window of a nearby courtyard or alleyway.
Overall, the room was definitely more than nice enough for anyone spending most of their time on the streets of Madrid. And unlike other European hotels, the air conditioning worked perfectly well meaning the room was quite cool enough for some comfortable sleep.
The Junior Suite:
About 20 minutes after we arrived in our room, the bell boy brought both our luggage and keys to the suite next door. I ran over to take pictures before the room got messy with all of our stuff.
Upon entering, there was a luggage closet to the left with two stands. An especially nice feature if you want the luggage not cluttering the rest of the room. Certainly more useful than a gigantic dressing room I saw in some suites.
Then there was the sitting room with a couch, a lounge chair, and extremely uncomfortable desk chair. The amount of furnishing in that fairly large space was pretty poor, but I guess you can’t complain about having space while in Europe.
There was also a drab small LCD TV at the corner of each area of the room. I mean Clarion Inns have bigger televisions these days. The welcome amenity for our room was just two bottles of spring water, which could be rather disappointing if you are expecting some wine or fruit. A nice touch on the part of the hotel was that guests could order complimentary tea/coffee/hot chocolate to their room once a day.
The bedroom featured Westin’s king sized heavenly bed with two side tables. Again nothing special, but it’s always nice to have the extra space.
Double doors from the bedroom led to the large bathroom with a shower, bath tub, and double vanity. As you can see below, a glass door with the hotel’s coat of arms again separated the toilet from the the rest of the bathroom.
Anyway, as you can see the rooms were nothing stand out, but they certainly were spacious, decently modern, and clean.
After finishing up my brief tour of the rooms, we roamed the streets of Madrid for a couple of hours. I’ll have more on where we went in a later post, but we basically had enough time to go the Cybele Palace and its observation deck for the sun set.
We were very much famished by the time we came down from the observation deck since we hadn’t eaten in over 8 hours. But unfortunately restaurants in Madrid don’t open until 8 pm for dinner, so we headed to the Starbucks adjacent to the hotel for some refreshments.
We tried to walk around for a bit more, but Madrid often becomes extremely windy after dark so we headed to our rooms for some R&R before dinner.
Spanish food isn’t geared for vegetarians so our only choices for a substantive meal nearby ended up being a couple of Indian restaurants. Though I initially tried to read reviews as I walked, the windy and rather cool weather outside just made me pick the closest one. This ended up being a great decision:
Dinner @ Indian Aroma
Address: Calle de Ventura de la Vega, 6, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Hours: 1–4PM, 8PM–12AM
Phone: +34 913 69 23 33
The walk to Indian Aroma took exactly 5 mins. Locating the restaurant was extremely easy using Google Maps on my phone (data via T-Mobile’s free intl roaming).
It was a cold, and windy night in Madrid so we were very much eager to go inside for some warmth. Luckily the restaurant wasn’t too busy and we were seated immediately. Though the restaurant wasn’t the classiest restaurant in terms of style, the decor was very warm and pleasant without being gaudy (if you understand what I mean).
It was well past 9 pm, but there was a decently sized crowd in the restaurant with almost all the seats being taken by the time we had our appetizers. It looked like Madrid and for that matter Spain in general is all about late night dinners.
There were only two waiters in the restaurant, but they really made their way around quickly between tables. At no point did I feel like we were kept waiting for too long. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the entire staff spoke English, which isn’t always the case in Europe.
The restaurant serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, but I’m only going to include the vegetarian options. The rest of the menu can be found here.
I started off with some Mango Lassi, while my sister ordered the Pakora. All appetizers were served with lime pickle, tamarind chutney, and mint chutney.
The Vegetarian Entrees:
For the main entrees we ordered the Saag Aloo, Tarka Dal, Bhindi Bajee, Paneer Kadai, Steamed Rice, and Raita. The food took about 15 minutes to make it out and everything was served on top of miniature buffet warmers, which is always a nice way to keep the food warm.
The staff were extremely nice in catering to our pickiness: everything we ordered was made garlic-free (my parents don’t like the smell of garlic) and without peanuts, cashews, and pistachios etc (my sister is allergic to all of the above).
As for the breads, we ordered butter naan, onion naan, and aloo paratha, which were all excellent.
Overall, the food was very good and we were absolutely stuffed by the time we were done eating. Obviously there was no room for dessert at this point so we just asked for the check. In case you are wondering, the dessert menu read as follows:
I think the true surprise came when we were presented the check. After having been to Switzerland, Austria, and the UK recently, I was expecting the bill to cost no less than 80 Euros. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that the bill was around 60 Euros.
Indian Aroma offers some great Indian food in central Madrid at reasonable prices. The service, ambiance, and decor were all extremely pleasant to not only eat, but socialize as well. This restaurant pretty much served as a great introduction for me into how much value there is in Spanish tourism as opposed to the rest of Europe. Restaurant prices appear to be in line with what they are at similar places in the U.S!
After my parents and sister headed off to bed, I once again took to the streets of Madrid. I’ll have more comments about that later, but here is one of the shots I took of the hotel on this photo walk:
Breakfast at LA ROTONDA RESTAURANT:
The next morning we woke up fairly late with surprisingly little jet lag. And guess what we did? We headed to get more food 🙂
La Rotonda Restaurant is a fantastic setting for a meal with its old world splendor, and altogether classy atmosphere. The mosaic windowed dome with the golden chandelier is absolutely stunning when you walk in, make sure to bring a camera folks.
As I mentioned before, breakfast was free for us as SPG Platinum members. And this included the full breakfast buffet and any drinks ordered separately. The buffet itself was absolutely extensive including all kinds of croissants, cakes, danish pastries, donuts, and more. Order me a heart attack 🙂
The buffet also offered various takeaway items which included a couple of different kinds of granola bars, packs for taking gluten free cookies, and all kinds of bottled juices.
The cereal selection was also a bit more extensive than your average hotel and included 8 different varieties.
There were some fresh juices on offer as well including the usual: orange juice, and tomato juice among others.
And of course there were some churros and chocolate syrup, which I had to have.
There were a good variety of cheeses and meats on offer.
And then there were some hot items which included hash browns, scrambled eggs, and some kind broth.
There was an extensive variety of fresh fruits on offer with the pineapple being especially awesome.
I mean they didn’t leave anything out of this buffet because it included both pancakes, and waffles along with 4 different kinds of syrup.
I was one happy customer with my chocolate covered waffles, churro, and lone pineapple.
And of course I had to have some of that freshly squeezed orange juice, which is simply awesome. A big boo to fancy U.S hotels for serving Tropicana as opposed to this stuff.
The service was good and disorganized at the same time. Waiters would line up and follow one after the other to ask if we needed more juice, tea, or coffee after we had already ordered some. This led to some confusion and extra beverages on the table.
Overall, the breakfast at the La Rotanda is an absolutely fantastic experience, and is definitely one of the reasons why this is definitely one of the best Westin hotels.
The Westin Palace Madrid is perhaps one of the highlights of Starwood’s Westin brand. It provides decently sized accommodations, great service, and plenty of that old European flavor at great prices. Furthermore, the hotel’s location in the center of Madrid, across from the Prado, makes it the perfect stepping block for exploring Madrid. I would say my experience was perfect, but I do have to comment on an oddity before I stop rambling. The concierge didn’t have an idea about the hours of the Royal Palace and so we ended up going there just after closing time. A little annoying, but maybe he didn’t understand what I asked? Anyway I wouldn’t think twice before booking this hotel again.
What are you thoughts on the Westin Madrid? Is it just me or does Spain offer more value than the rest of Europe?