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yuliangpang Madrid - A travel report by yuliang
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Madrid,  Spain - flag Spain
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yuliangpang's travel reports

Thought-Provoking Business Trip to Madrid

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I have dreamed to visit Spain one day since I learned the story of "Don Quijote de la Mancha" by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, one of the most well-known western writers in China. But I did not expect the dream come true for business opportunities. report of the month contest
Jan 2009

Red Bull, sign of Prosperity
Red Bull, sign of Prosperity
Neither have I ever expected that my dream of visiting Spain came true in such an easy way, nor have I even expected that I could visit Madrid twice within one and half years for the same reasons. Thanks to the generous offer by the Spanish government for hosting two major international events for which I was luckily sent to Madrid, I took advantage of these valuable free time which I had during my busy business trips to explore this great city. These business trips also offered me something that I could not get from a simple travelling. I had chances to work with the Spanish people, to talk to them, or at least to approach them so closely. I should say I have a good impression on Madrid as well as the Spanish people.

I had very little memory for my first trip to Madrid in June 2006, except the complicated Metro system and the beautiful musics that I have ever heard in the metro, squares as well as the opening ceremony of the meeting. Why? The metro system shows me how good Spanishes at designing and managing, the musics show me their attitudes towards life and how romantic they are.

I did enjoy more my second trip on 24th-29th January this year. Because I got more free days to explore the city as well as a small town nearby called Toledo, I also had a very special Chinese New Year there. According to the Chinese Zodiac, this year is Ox. It happens that ox is very special in Spain and it is the symbol of the whole country, i saw it at many squares. I took a lot of pictures with this lovely creature, because I believed it would bring good luck for me. May I also take this opportunity to wish the Spanishes who love Ox as well as our globosapiens members a prosperous 2009!!!

There were many bulls in the city center, Puerta del Sol, but I chose the red one. Not only because it is the most colorful one, but also because red represents happiness and prosperity in China.

Favourite spots:
Road Map of Madrid
Road Map of Madrid
Madrid is the heart of Spain. It is not only the political capital of Spain, but also the economic engine of Iberian Peninsula, which can be strongly justified by those skyscrapers in the financial street, Calle de Alcala. Madrid is said to be largest city of Spain, the third most-populous municipality in European Union after London and Berlin. The population of the city is 3.2 million.

Madrid is so big that you may not expect to finish all the nice places within one or two days, but you may enjoy a pleasant and enlightening day if you just focus on its historical center, Puerta del Sol. It proves to be a smart time investment if you start your wandering from Plaza del Sol, the heart of Madrid, where you may not only see the heraldic symbol of the city, Bear and the Madroño Tree, but also enjoy a choice of radiating road network. In order to facilitate our job and give a clear picture, I have design four routes for you as marked in the picture. I will introduce it one by one.

What's really great:
The famous clock for celebrating the coming of the new year. 12 bells, 12 grapes
The famous clock for celebrating the coming of the new year. 12 bells, 12 grapes
Route 1-Fashion

Starting from Puerta del Sol to Plaza de Espana or a little bit further west, Tempio de Debod. It is quite simple, you just follow the most fashion street in Madrid, Gran Via.

Puerta del Sol is not only a hub for transportation, but also a place for gathering. Several things you can not miss:(1) the statue of a bear and a madrone tree (madroño) is the heraldic symbol of Madrid;(2) the momument of King Carlos III, he got a nicknam of "el rey alcalde" ("the king mayor") because he launched extensive public works programmes;(3) the clock, whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year. This activity has been launched since 31 December 1962;(4) The Tío Pepe advertisement, actually I did not know what it is for, but it was very eyescatching.

Along this route, you may also see Convento de Las Descalzas Reales, a royal monastery for young noblewoman in the 16th and 17th century. Now it is changed into a museum and opens to all.

sunset in the park housing Tempio de Debot
sunset in the park housing Tempio de Debot
Plaza de Espana is a must at least for Chinese, where you may see the legendary Don Quijote (tang ji he de in Chinese) and take pictures with them.

Tempio de Debod is just a few steps away, where you may visit this interesting ancient Egyptian temple for free. You may also have a panaromatic view of the Real Palace and Cathedral de La Almudena. But I do suggest you to come for the sunset, it is stunningly beautiful.

Sights Connecting Route 1 & 2

You are not necessary to return to Puerta de Sol after you finish Tempio de Debod, just a few steps away you will come to the most beautiful places in Madrid, which may also lead you to the starting point of the Route 2. Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and Catedral Ntra. Sra. De la Almundena (Almudena Cathedral) are the real things of Spanish architecture. Royal Palace claims to be largest royal palace in Western Europe with an area of over 135,000 m² and more than 2,800 rooms. Almudena Cathedral stands directly opposite to the Royal Palace.

windows of Almudena Cathedral with sunshine
windows of Almudena Cathedral with sunshine
Route 2-Church

Route 2 starting from Almudena Cathedral to Puerta del Sol, you may call it a route of churches, because there are a handful of churches along this road, but i will only recommend you a few of them:

Almudena Cathedral is not only the representative of Spanish churches, but also the presence of Catholic influence in Spain. This great project took long time to complete, Wikipedia says that the plan was initiated in the 16th century, but the whole project was not completed until 1993. Therefore it could be counted as the representative of contemprary Spanish architecture.

S. Francisco El Grande stands just a few steps south of Almunena Cathedral is worth of a visit. Iglesia S. Gines is also very impressive. There are some small churches which provide you a peaceful mind in this busy big city.

Do not forget these two neighboring squares, Plaza de la Villa and Plaza Major. Plaza Major is a rectangular, but the most interesting thing is one fully painted façade.

Park of Good Retreat
Park of Good Retreat
Route 3-Museum

This route will lead you to the most well-known Spanish museum, Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. I did not got any chance to visit these two world-class musuems. They are free at 18:00-20:00, but if you do love arts and museum, please avoid visiting at this moment, I saw a long long queque. The tickets are not expensive, 6 Euros for each.

After the museum, Parque del Buen Retiro (park of good retreat)will be a good choice for connecting the Route 3 and 4. The park is the lungs of Madrid, very big with an area of 350 acres. There are two artificial ponds very nice. One is built near an interesting architecture, Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), shining under the sunshine; the other is built near an impressive monument for Alfonso XII, you may rent a boat to fully enjoy the romantic times with your lovers. I visited the park during both my first and second trip, but at different season. In summertime, it is more crowded, but more enjoyable.

the magic power of architecture
the magic power of architecture
Route 4-Business Street

If you get out of the park from its northwest gate, you will see Puerta de Alcala, which is the starting point of my recommended Route 4, which actually just follows the business street called Calle de Alcala.

Plaza de Cibeles is a must along this route, you may not only appreciate the beauty of the fountain, but also the stunning architecture of the city hall as well as Banco de Espana at each direction.

Besides these 4 routes, I have a few things to say, but it is more general impression on Spain.

(1) Architecture

What really impresses me is shocking architecture that I have ever seen in Madrid, which reminds me of the famous advertimement in the Chinese CCTV saying that "stages extend as far as your heart goes", which actually would like to articulate the power of imagination. I saw this magical power from the buildings in Madrid. The most amazing thing is the triangular buildings, what the picture shows you is a flat building, but it looks triangular.

Interesting restraunt Called Museum of Jamon
Interesting restraunt Called Museum of Jamon
I would like to use this section to give you more information about restraunts and accomodation.

For food, you should try the cooked rice with seafood, as shown in the picture of last section, it is one of the special dishes in Madrid, but it looks more like the Chinese tradition.

As regards the hotels, I would like to strongly recommend the one that I stayed. It is a little bit expensive, but if you compare it with other restraunts nearby, it will be the most economic one. Rafaelhoteles Orense, four-star, address: Pedro Teixeira 5, 28020 Madrid, +34 915 971 568, Fax: +34 915 971 295,, or

The hotel also enjoys a nice location, the famous football statium, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu is in a 10-minute walking distance.

As regards restraunts, I found a very interesting one near the hotel. the roof of the restaunts is hanging hams, it is called Museo del Jamon, unfortunately that's all the information I had.

Other recommendations:
eating in Madrid
eating in Madrid
(2) attitudes toward the Spanish People

The creative designs in architecture tell me at least two things: the Spanish or more generally the Latin people are quite active in mind, they do not want to be confined by anything. Chineses say the style is the man, this findings can also be used to explain more broadly the general attitudes of Latin people towards life: they love freedom and quite optimistic.

Maybe it is because of this preference for freedom that I saw driving in Rome as well as some other cities around Italy is a disaster, few people obey the rules, but what I saw in Madrid is a more disciplined city particularly in terms of traffic.

(3) Food

I was really surprised when I found the fried dough sticks (Zha You Tiao in Chinese) in the local Spanish restraunt, which is very popular in Chinese for breakfast. It was my first time to see those traditional Chinese food in Europe, which further deepen my impression that the Spanish is not as conservative as other Europeans.

Published on Sunday February 8th, 2009

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Wed, Apr 01 2009 - 04:04 AM rating by louis

very interesting report. it seems that i missed a lot, ecause i haven't visited Madrid yet.

Sat, Mar 28 2009 - 09:33 PM rating by shubh

Thanks for sharing the information through this nice writeup. I like this place most for the welcome attitude of locals, no body disturbs the visitors and always seems ready to help out.
Adviser travel.justluxe

Sat, Mar 07 2009 - 02:34 PM rating by mistybleu

Great report, very detailed.

Tue, Feb 10 2009 - 06:00 AM rating by kwongmei

Yuliang, there are really quite some similarities between the spanish and asian food and that's why I always love to go to Spain or spanish restaurants. I read that the churros (Zha You Tiao) is originated by Spanish shepherds in the mountains centuries ago. It could well be that people in different part of the world think of something similar by chance. Anyway, i prefer eating this with congee cos the chocolate is too sweet for me. And good report!

Sun, Feb 08 2009 - 10:42 AM rating by pesu

Good idea, Yuliang, to organize your report by the 4 routes. Also liked to get to know your Chinese perspective again... :)

Sun, Feb 08 2009 - 09:48 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Thanks for writing about our dear Spanish capital! I am glad that you loved Madrid.
Wonderful report, with a chinese point of view very interesting.
Tio Pepe is a spanich sherry, and Museo del Jamon is a chain restaurant, like McDonalds, very ppular, good and cheap, around many parts of Madrid. Unfortunately we do not have Museo del Jamon in Barcelona, but I go very often to Madrid, the soul of Spain, for the best theatre shows, and the best food, and also the best open minded people.
But.... next time try paella with lobster! In your picture that is mixed paella with chicken. You should try paella with shrimps and other sea food!
And .... where is the sangria? Sea food Paella with sangria is the best combination.

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