After checking in for our flight from Madrid to Brussels, we were informed that we could use the VIP Access line.
The Fast Track Access VIP line is to the far left of the check-in counters.
After going down the escalator one floor, we got to a security area that was completely empty. It was like going through security in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, except in a bigger, brighter space. We were through in a matter of minutes.
After leaving the Sala VIP Puerta Del Sol lounge we headed to the gate where our plane was already waiting at the gate.
SN3722 Madrid to Brussels Departs: 12:35 PM, Arrives: 2:50 PM Seat 1A
Intra-Europe Business Class is an economy class seat with the middle seat blocked. In this case, we were the only two business class passengers, and were each given our own row.
Seated in the bulkhead, leg room was plentiful.
A bottle of water was offered pre-departure.
There were some interesting planes on the tarmac.
A hot towel was also offered.
A hot meal was served on the short flight. It consisted of pastrami, along with a tomato and mozzarella terrine. The entrée consisted of lasagna, which was rather soupy but tasted good. Dessert was not very good, and really sweet. I think it was a marzipan tart.
I chose a wheat roll, which was pretty tasty and sopped up the lasagna sauce pretty well.
The meal ended with a piece of dark chocolate.
The views over Spain were fantastic.
Drinks were refilled throughout the flight. The flight was pleasant but uneventful. Intra-Europe business class is not what you would call aspirational, but it’s amazing how service can be include a hot meal on a short flight. Although this flight was a little over a little 2 hours, hot meals are also served on flights lasting a little over an hour.
La Mallorquina is a famous bakery in Madrid. They are known for the Napolitana de chocolate, which is semi-croissant like. The bakery has been opened since 1894
The place seems to be busy from opening to close, as there was a steady stream of customers during our quick visit.
It was late in the day when we visited, so even the front window displays were dwindling.
Sadly, it appears that I mistakenly deleted my pictures of the Napolitana de Chocolate, but they are visible in the “Window Display” picture on the left. The dough is more bread like, but it is rolled up like an elongated jelly roll. There is a massive amount of chocolate in the pastry. The whole thing is dusted in powdered sugar. It is a little on the sweet side, but a very solid value for the money considering what most places charge for a chocolate croissant and the amount of chocolate in most croissants.
We sort of played this trip by ear and didn’t have a definitive flight back home. We had a couple of days in mind to return home regardless of award space. I was hoping that Lufthansa first class space would open up closer to our anticipated departure date range.
After leaving Porto, we planned on spending a couple of days in Madrid before heading home. The night before we left Porto, first class award space had opened up on Lufthansa, unfortunately I was unable to book these flights directly through Aeroplan’s website, and was forced to call. I will say that Aeroplan’s call center is absolutely horrible when it comes to wait times. It seems that typical waiting times are north of 45 minutes, and usually lasted at least 1 ½ hours. On a couple of occasions, there was an option to have the call center call you back.
When I finally connected to an agent, he could not see the award space I was seeing on United’s site. I told him that we were flexible in the date that we left and/or routing. Our anticipated two night stay in Madrid got cut down to an overnight stay.
Instead of flying from Madrid with a couple hour layover in Frankfurt before departing home. Our new routing looked like this: Madrid to Brussels with a 3-hour layover, then Brussels to Frankfurt with an 18-hour layover. Leaving Frankfurt, we had a stopover in Washington, DC before heading to Los Angeles.
Not the most desirous routing, but at least we were able to secure first class seats on Luftahnsa.
We had planned a two night stay at the AC Hotel Carlton Madrid. I had a free night certificate with Marriott from a prior promotion. The certificate was for a Category 1-5 hotel. The AC Hotel Carlton Madrid was conveniently close to the train station, although somewhat far from the city center.
There has been much discussion about the easiest way to get to the hotel, especially if dragging a lot of luggage. If taking the Renfe train, upon exiting the Atocha Cercanias station cross the street and enter the Madrid Puerta de Atocha station. Go down on floor and exit the building on the left side when facing the building. There will be a small bridge. Walk under the bridge where all the taxis are lined up, and keep going straight for a couple of short blocks. The hotel will be on your left about one block down.
Upon entering the hotel, there is a revolving door. Immediately after exiting the revolving door however, there is a small set of stairs. I’m sure this set-up has caused many people to trip or fall in the past.
Check-in was fairly quick. I was informed that breakfast is not provided for Marriott or Ritz Carlton Gold or Platinum members, but could be purchased for ~€18.
The lobby is very small, with cramped seating throughout.
There is also a small bar.
The hallways were clean and modern, although a bit narrow.
We were assigned room 610, a King room.
The room was on the smaller side, but there was enough space for our one night. The “king” bed were two twins pushed together. The beds were on the firmer side.
Two chairs were at the foot of the bed. The set-up was kind of strange considering the size of the room.
There was a bench/luggage rack in the corner, along with a mini fridge.
The desk was on the smaller side, but still functional. Outlets were conveniently placed and easy to get to near the desk.
A complimentary bottle of water was provided.
There was also a small shelf to place keys, wallets, etc., which was next to the closet and a set of drawers.
The bathroom was on the smaller side. There was a shower/tub combo, with the dreaded half door.
Oddly, the toilet was placed very close to the wall on one side with plenty of room on the other.
The sink had limited counter space, but there was some space underneath the sink.
The safe must have been taken from a stagecoach during the Wild West days, as it required a key to use, which was not provided in the room.
The hotel was perfectly fine for a one-night stay. As we had never been to Madrid before, I am sure location wise there are preferable options, but it met our needs for this trip.
After arriving in Madrid, checking into the hotel and getting settled in a bit, we decided to get a quick bite to eat. As it was late afternoon, a lot of restaurants were closed before dinner service started.
O Pazo de Lugo was close to the hotel, and got fairly good reviews on Trip Advisor so we decided to give it a go.
The Octopus with Mashed Potatoes came on a slate plate. The portion of octopus wasn’t all that big, but was cooked well. The octopus was tender, and the mashed potatoes helped to quell the stronger flavor of the octopus.
The Crostini with Steak and Blue Cheese was a lot better tasting than looking. The meat was tender and flavorful, and bolstered by the strong funk from the blue cheese. The roasted red peppers added a bit of sweetness to help counteract the pungency of the blue cheese.
Not very tapa like, but the Slider was actually pretty good. More like an oversized meatball, the burger was well seasoned and cooked to a nice medium. The fries were made from fresh potatoes, and reminded me of In-N-Out fries, but definitely not as good.
The Crostini of Sardine and Avocado seems like an odd pairing, but it somehow worked. The avocado helped to counterbalance the strong flavor of the sardine. The sprouts provided a nice crunch and freshness to the dish.
The Seafood Crepe was about as good as it looks. The crepe was thin but sort of soggy. The seafood filling wasn’t all that inspiring. The salad had greens that were so wilted, they should have been embarrassed to serve them.
Maybe we didn’t order the correct items, as I don’t see what all the fuss is about this restaurant. Prices are more budget friendly, but I don’t mind paying for good food. Based on this visits, I certainly wouldn’t come back.
Chocolateria San Gines is one of the more popular chocolate and churro places in Madrid. It has been operating since 1894. The place is deceivably big. Although the main room does not seem that spacious, there is a fair amount of additional seating downstairs. There is also outside seating as well.
The chocolate is rich and thick, and a little sweeter than I would have expected. The chocolate wasn’t so thick that you could stand a churro up in it but was still very good.
The churros are on the thinner side, but freshly cooked and nicely crisp. The combination of chocolate and churros is a guaranteed winner.