Peter Greenbergs webcast on Madrid
When thinking of a fall or winter destination Spain may not immediately spring to mind but there is so much more diversity to this fascinating country than simply sun, sand and sangria. Having moved to Madrid from Britain, with its well-known weather uncertainties almost a year ago, I was surprised to find such distinct weather changes here. However, I have just spent my first wintertime in the city and have learnt to embrace the chillier season and can now see that Madrid makes for a perfect winter getaway.
This bustling, vibrant capital has one of the most variable climates in the country but as the seasons change so too does the atmosphere of the city, presenting another, less well known side of Spanish lifestyle and culture.
The temperatures tend to drop around early November and rise again by the beginning of March. In between these months I have to admit it does get a little nippy but on the plus side the days remain mostly bright, sunny and crisp throughout the season. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer the city’s rich indoor nightlife steps in with all its sparkle and vitality so you have even more opportunity to enjoy the bustling restaurants and cosy tapas bars so well established within the city.
Start off your day with a heart-warming breakfast of churros, a traditional and still very popular Spanish donut dipped in warm chocolate, the perfect winter perk. Madrid has a long history of café culture that rivals that of other European cities such as Paris and Berlin and Madrileños have been meeting in coffee shops to debate, catch up with friends and family and even been the base for great writers such as most famously, Ernest Hemmingway. Due to this great literary café culture here in the city there are a few historic places but my personal recommendation would be Café Comercial which is located right next to Bilbao metro station as, being slightly out of the touristy down town area, here you will see long entrenched locals and trendy youth alike.
Afterwards, you might jump into one of the city’s many available and affordable taxis to take you along the Castellana which is Madrid’s main artery road with picturesque views (all the way) to Retiro Park. In terms of city parks this is one of Europe’s best kept secrets, maintaining its beauty throughout the year and in frosty weather still often buzzing with people and stalls while the lake glistens in the winter sun. Generate some warmth by following the signs to Retiro’s beautiful Crystal House which is a hidden gem!! Built in 1887 this building, constructed totally out of glass, is a wonderful example of Madrid’s elegant history. See if you can catch a glimpse of the local black swans gliding past on the nearby pond. Refresh and keep warm with another hot drink in one of the park’s coffee shops.
Alternatives, perfect for a winter’s morning, could be a visit to the world famous Prado art gallery where you will be wrapped up in all the glowing colour and vibrancy expressed by some of Spain’s most renowned painters. Or shop til you drop in one of the capitals many shopping streets, I recommend the Salamanca district whose streets brim with high end fashion where you can cosy up on a winters day and kit yourself out for a stylish sub zero season.
Spaniards take pleasure in their lengthy lunches and so after working up an appetite, a winter’s afternoon is the perfect setting to enjoy Madrid’s famous Cocido stew. Packed with traditional meats, chick peas and nourishing vegetables, it is normally served hot and will arrive at your table bubbling and can be washed down with a local red wine (or two!). One of thy city’s well regarded restaurants is Casa Corola, in the Salamanca district. The art of relaxing Spanish style may take a bit of getting used to and an afternoon of Cocido may see you wile away the hours but this traditional meal is all about spending time together with loved ones and shouldn’t be rushed.
Come rain or shine the Spanish know how to enjoy life and I have loved the winter in the country’s capital. So if you are starting to think of what to do in the potentially dreary months this coming winter I recommend Madrid, it won’t disappoint. Even if the temperatures do drop the city’s exuberance does not and it has proved to be a real “hotspot” whatever the weather.
Mariana, one of our better guides in Sevilla, came to the office last week with a box full of Spanish Rosquillas she had cooked for us. She was in Madrid visiting and thought we would like to try her cooking specialty. We loved them so much that asked her to send us what was her family recipe for the traditional Spanish “rosquillas” . We hope you enjoy cooking them.
3 eggs, 250 ml olive oil extra virgin, 150 ml milk, 100 ml sweet anisette, 250 gr sugar, 900 gr flour approximately, 20 gr baking powder, grated lemon zest (outer lemon skin) of 2 lemons, 1 cinnamon stick, orange peels of 2 oranges, 3 or 4 cloves and 1 liter of olive oil approximately to fry the pastry
In the olive oil fry the cloves, 1 orange peel and the cinnamon stick to flavour it. Remove and leave it to cool down. In a bowl beat the eggs, the sugar, the milk, the olive oil, the anisette and the grated lemon zest. Next, add the flour with the baking powder little by little and knead the dough very well. The dough should be sticky. To make the doughnuts, smear your hands with oil to avoid the dough sticking on them. In the olive oil where you are going to fry the doughnuts, fry 1 orange peel to flavor it. Remove the orange peel. Fry the doughnuts medium temperature. Once fried, put them on a tray with blotting paper to drip the oil. Finally, coat them in ground sugar.
The Luxury Collection Hotel Maria Cristina Hotel in San Sebastian will be closing its doors next October 9th, 2011. The Maria Cristina is a classic in the city. It is one of the first five star properties in Spain that the King Alfonso XIII pushed to be built in the early 20th century together with Alfonso XIII Hotel in Sevilla, Ritz Hotel in Madrid, Westin Palace Hotel in Madrid, Alhambra Palace in Granada and so on. The property was built in the place where his mother and other members of his family spent holidays thus in order to push the upscale tourism and to to accommodate friends and family (royalty and aristocrats of the time!).
I spent many hours of my summers and holidays in the city (more specifically in Ondarreta beach with its colorful beach huts!!). My grandmother’s family is/was from San Sebastian. Thus I remember well how fascinated I was by looking the actors and actresses leaving the Maria Cristina Hotel during the International Film Festival of San Sebastian while I was a teenager (48 now!)
Now… that I am in the travel business I see the hotel as wonderful as it is but too tired and that has made me sad for years… Gracias Luxury Collection for taking care of our dear Maria Cristina. We I am going to visit you and sleep within your walls on March 23rd and then again on May 11 – 14th this year… It is going to be a wonderful farewell. I wish I am one of the first ones sleeping again within your walls when you re-open on June 30th 2012.
Helena Rohner is one of our more international Spanish jewelry designers.
She was born in the Islas Canarias (Canary Islands) in 1968. She designs using mainly silver although sometimes uses gold too. She loves including porcelain, semiprecious stones, wood and even Murano glass in her works.I love her work. It is easy to wear and makes me feel good.
A visit to her shop/workshop is a not to be missed when visiting Madrid. It is located in Calle del Almendro 4 – bajo in the heart of Madrid historical quarter. Helena’s Spring 2011 collection includes wonderful colors.
Have a look… http://www.helenarohner.com/helenarohner_PV11.pdf
Although Madrid is not located in the Himalayans… of course going to the moutain for Trekking is possible, and there are good trails to do so.
Just located 50 minutes away by car taking the A-6 Highway (you could also get there by catching the ¨cercanias¨ commuter train from Atocha Train Station that will take you to Cercedilla and then you´d have to change to take the cable car up to Cotos Station) you can do the very nice and not that known ¨Birds Lagoon Route¨, in the heart of the Guadarrama Range.
We can leave the car at Cotos Car Park, where there is a small Restaurant, Venta Marcelino, where we can have a coffee before starting the route.
The trail starts taking the cobbled esplanade which is not hilly. After a 20 minutes walk there is a small Information Point where there are maps about the area, we should turn right here and walk for another 20 minutes, then we´ll see a well indicated sign to go to the Birds Lagoon, and here starts the ¨hilly¨ part of the trail for around 1 hour and 30 minutes more. It´s not necessary to be fit, but a little bit would be recommended.
At the end of the trail we´ll see the very nice, especially in winter when it´s all snowed, the Birds Lagoon where you can stop and appreciate the nature.
On the other side of the mountain, you can admire the very nice views of La Granja & Segovia at the end.
The way back to Cotos Car Park is easier and faster as we just have to go down…
This is one of the better Trekking routes you can do near Madrid and it´s not crowded as others are. It´s quite well indicated with signs along the way.
It usually takes 4 to 5 hours (round trip).