In the past decade Spain has garnered a reputation for the most progressive and forward thinking food on the planet. Spearheaded by Ferran Adria and his restaurant El Buili (The Buili), his techniques have influenced almost every chef to some degree. Compound this with the fact that Spain is only second to Italy in UNESCO World Heritage sites and it was an obvious choice for our first of many overseas trips.
Most of the upper echelon, Michelin type restaurants are located in the north, spread between Barcelona and San Sebetian. Unfortunately, Ferran had just closed El Buili and we were willing to bypass the region until he reopened to the public. But, Southern Spain was open for business and we had dos boletos al paraíso.
We’re in the middle of a global recession with parts of Europe immensely affected. The U.S. is struggling through 8% unemployment and Spain hit a record high 25% during the year. Iberia Airlines recently announced massive layoffs and restricted destinations. The day before our flight, there were protests throughout the country and Iberia cancelled over 200 flights. But the next day it was back to business, as is the manner with many European protests, and our flight into Madrid would be unaffected.
The outbound flight to Heathrow was at capacity with the only distraction being a heavy-set female planted right next to Jen who apparently missed her daily dose of Xanax. She had trouble sitting still throughout the duration of the flight, was talking to herself, questioned whether her teenage daughter had taken her medication and wore a tight sleeve covering the majority of her left arm. The purpose I can only assume was to generate circulation in the high altitude or she was paying homage to Allen Iverson. The connecting Iberia flight into Madrid was half empty and took a leisurely time departing, perhaps a sign of things to come. We landed at half past six at one of the trendiest and visually appealing airports we had seen. A quick taxi to the Hotel De las Letras to drop our bags off and we were off to our first night out in Madrid. It is Spain’s capital, the largest city in Spain and the third largest in the European Union after London and Paris.
(Arriving at Madrid-Barajas Airport)
Cities visited: Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, El Escorial, Cuenca, Valencia, Sevilla, Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera, Jerez, Puerto de Santa Maria, Granada, Cordoba
Length: 11 days
Biggest surprise: Jose Maria
Toughest reservation: Diverxo
Total attractions: 55
Cost per attraction: $15
Favorite experience: Museo de Flamenco
Most overrated experience(s): Mercado de San Miguel, Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Valley of the Fallen, Sherry wine
Top attractions: The Alhambra, The Prado museum, Casas Colgadas, City of Arts and Science Museum, Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso
Favorite stores: Valencia Central Market, Gummy candy stores located throughout various cities
City rankings: 1. Madrid, 2. Valencia, 3. Granada, 4. Sevilla, 5. Segovia, 6. Cuenca, 7. Toledo, 8. Cordoba, 9. Ronda, 10. Puerto de Santa Maria, 11. Jerez, Arcos de la Frontera, 12. El Escorial
Final Agenda (PDF)