Sunday, July 29, 2012

Trip to Madrid Spain with Toddler

Summer 2012 July, we were off to our annual France trip to visit family. This is my little girl's 3rd trip to France. She is now 2.5 years old.

Decided to book a trip to Spain for a one week holiday. We just got back yesterday evening and I wanted to share my experience.

We booked a hotel at the heart of the city, which was a good choice. Easy access to the metro (mrt) and buses. The hotel we stayed in was AC Carlton part of the Marriott hotel group. Room was good and spacious. Plus free mini bar for the whole duration of our stay. We left the room in the morning an usually came back close to 10pm!

One must be informed that meals in Spain start very late... So for us it was late breakfast, late lunch and hence late dinner.

People were wry children-friendly. You can see they are welcoming when they see kids. However be warned that not all places provide high-chairs (unlike in Asia). Yet, despite that we still survived through nice restaurant meals.

We even booked a day trip to Segovia via their high speed train network called Renfe. Truly enjoyed that part because my daughter had the chance to see a real castle and the original contents of it. It felt weird and awesome at the same time to have a peak into the past medieval life via that castle in Segovia. The highlight of the trip was not just the awesome views of the aqueduct, but also the superb meal at Jose Maria restaurant which serve the best ever cochinillo (small pig). Sinful. Memorable! Total of €90 for me and hubby... Superb lunch! We were lucky that half way through the meal my daughter fell asleep (and we put her in the stroller).

One thing I didn't like was the liberated smoking all over Madrid. Every outdoor area you will find smokers. We had to consciously avoid them (and yet still run into them) as we sit for coffee or meals outdoors.

The parks were superb and we even managed a picnic. The Park Ouest is further off yet worth the visit. They had a small playground which my daughter enjoyed.

Since she is just barely 3 years old, we didn't bother with the Parque Attraciones because we feel she is too young. And at that price I would prefer to bring her to Disneyland in Paris or Hong Kong (a year from now).

Visiting Madrid is incomplete without some shopping at El Corte Ingles shopping mall. Which is superb by the way. Apart from the tourist discount (10%) and the potential EU tax refund, we saw premium customer service.

Day 1 of our Madrid trip we went to El Corte Ingles Plaza Del Sol and bought a stroller for my daughter. We forgot to bring ours and so had to buy one (I know, I know, how can we forget?!? That's a long story...)

After 4 days of use, we noticed that one of the wheel's rubber was misaligned. Though we tried to fix it kept going back to the misaligned way. On our last day at Madrid, we decided to try our luck and went with our receipt. They did not hesitate to assist and allowed us to change to a new one or perhaps top-up some money to buy another brand. So we decided to just buy something more premium (McClaren) which twice more than the original one we bought. Better safe than sorry. I found their customer service superb and had to write about it. We were so relieved and happy with the result.

Overall the people are friendly. Though most restaurants don't speak English , we managed to order decent food. Alexandra extremely enjoyed her share of jamon overload. We also had good Gambas al ajillo and Gambas a la plancha at the Salamanca District (pricey yet good) in this restaurant called la Casa del Abuelo on calle De Goya.

Highly recommended for families. Even their metro looked cleaner and safer that those in Paris.

Another thing I enjoyed more than Paris is the Prado museum. It was huge yet it housed the painting in smaller halls which allows you to enjoy each painting much more than being overwhelmed by a huge hallway (like is Louvre). The best past was they had painters doing actual paintings as they copy some of the masterpieces that hung by the walls of Prado. Loved it! Worth the money and time when in Madrid. They even have a nice cafeteria inside the museum where we had lunch so that we could enjoy a long day inside the museum.

As for outdoors, nice for walking, very pedestrian and stroller friendly.

Just be ready for ultimate sweating as the heat and temperature is different from France. We literally sweated a lot in this trip. And of course a lot of walking so put on good shoes.

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