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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Two Weeks in Spain - May 2014 - Great Hotels and Great Food

We stayed in 3 very different hotels during our 13-night visit to Spain in May.  In Barcelona we stayed at the Doubletree Alexandra, a Modernisme style hotel that is now part of the Hilton family of hotels.  I've seen a lot of hotel guestroom corridors over the years, but I don't recall any that were painted black.  Given the modern feel of the city, and our focus on the Modernisme architecture, it seemed like a very appropriate choice, and I would recommend this hotel to anyone planning a visit to Barcelona.

The room was small, but very nice, and the location of this hotel, on Carrer Mallorca just off the Rambla Catalunya, is excellent.  A very nice buffet breakfast was included as well.

In addition to Ceveceria Catalana, the restaurant near our hotel in Barcelona that I mentioned in another post, we also enjoyed the Basque style of tapas called Pintxos.  You pick whatever you want from the big plates on the bar, and put the little wooden picks in a cup on the table, which they then count when you've finished in order to tally up your bill.

We weren't sure what some of the selections were, but everything tasted good.

We stayed at a modern hotel in Zaragoza as well, and it, too, was in an excellent location.  The Hotel Alfonso is just a half block from the main pedestrian street that leads to the big plaza. There are a lot of hotels in Zaragoza, and the prices are reasonable; I would recommend the Alfonso.  Nice breakfast buffet included, and the little lemon candies were pretty good too.

It was a bit early in the season for the rooftop pool, but I did go up there to check out the views of Zaragoza.

For our hotel in Madrid we went the opposite direction, with a more traditional looking hotel, the Atlantico, which is centrally located right on the Gran Via.  The interior of the rooms were modern and very nice, but it still had that Old World feel.  I can recommend this hotel as well, just skip the optional breakfast buffet.  

The top floor of the Atlantico has a small bar and several common area rooms with varying decor, as well as a couple of outdoor terraces.

We had a late evening snack at the hotel one night. Ham, cheese, bread and nuts, accompanied by a glass of wine.

The first thing we did in Madrid after checking into our hotel was to find someplace for a late lunch.  The desk clerk recommended Sirena Verde, a seafood restaurant a couple of blocks up the Gran Via.  We ate in the lower floor casual section, there is also a more formal dining room upstairs. 

We figured it had to be good when we spotted the fresh octopus in the case by the door.

We had been in Spain 9 days at that point, and still had not had Paella.  We definitely found the right place in Madrid for it.

We were pretty hungry when we arrived, and when they said that the paella would take 30 minutes to prepare we knew that a snack was in order.  Pulpo ala Plancha, grilled octopus, was just right.

We liked Sirena Verde so much we had to go back a few more times.  Here's a little appetizer they brought out for us one evening.  Mussels and olives.

The Pulpa Gallega (Gallician-style octopus) was very tasty, as was the Gallician-style vegetable soup called Caldo Gallego.  I need to either find a place that serves this sort of food around San Diego, or find a way to get some fresh octopus to grill myself.  The seasoning is easy enough, just olive oil, sea salt and paprika.

Of course we had to find someplace to try out Churros and Chocolate. The trick with churros is to make sure you get them freshly made, not ones that have been sitting around for a while.

Yes, they are every bit as greasy as they look. But they do taste good dipped in that dark chocolate.

The desk clerk at our hotel also recommended a little place nearby called Puerto Rico. He emphasized that everything was made in house.  We ate there twice, and it was excellent both times. 

They eat dinner late in Spain. Really late by our standards.  We went into Puerto Rico one evening around 9:00pm, it was still light outside, and they were just setting up for the dinner crowd.  It was like going into a dinner restaurant in the U.S. around 5:00pm.  It only started to fill up as we were leaving.  

We didn't have a bad meal during our entire trip. Perhaps one or two that were nothing special, but for the most part the food we found was really quite good.  We did walk into, and immediately back out of, a couple of places, but I think you need to be prepared to do that in order to eat well while traveling.  
Well, the end of the flan pretty much marks the end the travelogue of our short trip to Spain in May of 2014.  We can't wait to go back.


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San Diego, California, United States
About me . . . When I'm not working I like to be out exploring and photographing. I do this blog just for fun, and to be able to share these images with friends. I hope you enjoy viewing these images as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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Header image: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Cibola, Arizona. End image: Downtown San Diego, California skyline from Coronado Island. Profile picture: Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, by Heather Baiamonte.