Jane and myself spent three nights in the Mercure Madrid Plaza de Espana, as part of a short break.
The hotel has an underground car park, which we pre-booked, and our room was fully accessible with handrails and a roll in shower. The breakfast, facilities and staff were excellent.
It is ideally located to explore the bustling Gran Via, ‘the Spanish Broadway’, brimming with restaurants, shops and theatres, leading to endless plazas, parks and food markets whilst constantly surrounded by magnificent architectural buildings.
We walked everywhere, up to 14kms a day, but the hotel is close to the Metro and bus stops.
We aimed for any one of the numerous plazas, where Spanish families and tourists congregate in the sunshine to meet, drink and eat, surrounded by famous statues, and historical buildings.
Our favourites included: the vibrant Mercado de San Miguel, a wrought iron and glass covered food market, serving champagne with delicious seafood tapas; nearby, Puerta del Sol, a bustling plaza whose famous landmarks include a mounted statue of Charles 111 of Spain; and the stunningly vast Buen Retiro Park containing monuments, fountains, lakes, exhibitions and gardens to explore.
After the city break it’s a 200km / two-hour drive to the Castilla Termal Monasterio Valbuena.
We won a voucher for two nights, with access to the spa, at the autumn Abbotts Travel client night and quickly added a third night to our trip.
Upon arrival we immediately realised this is something special. Located in the heart of the River Duero (our favourite Spanish wine of late), the drive through surrounding towns and vineyards whets your appetite.
Although nothing can quite prepare you for the magnificent entrance to this 5* hotel. A converted 12th century monastery, the original courtyards, cloisters, towers and chapel, with beautiful original paintings, are retained.
There are tours within but we walked and marvelled at the coexistence of original features with the luxurious modern rooms (fully accessible) and spa facilities.
The monastery is surrounded by small wineries and there is a pathway along the River Duero. We used the bikes (€3) to explore the vineyard areas.
There are many bespoke Eat Northern Spain tours but we preferred to savour the outdoor infinity pool overlooking the river and hotel vegetable garden, and Jane used the indoor and outdoor thermal pools with their numerous massaging jets.
Relaxing is the name of the game and lunchtime was spent drinking beer with a salad in the outdoor courtyard surrounded by the inner walls, whilst breakfast and dinner are served in the restaurant, again with original masonry.
The food and wine is delicious and extremely good value - tenderloin steak with local red wine was our favourite - and the staff are great, as they are throughout.
With more time we would have explored the region. There are fabulous tours to restaurants and wineries, but for us it was the perfect relaxation after the exertions of Madrid.
Many thanks to Carly for organising and Elias of Eat Northern Spain for providing us with the opportunity to experience such a wonderful destination.