As promised, here is my review of the Hostal Bianco II
in Calle de Echegaray, Madrid, plus one or two other things.
If anyone intends to travel from the south of Spain (Costa del Sol) to Madrid and speed is not important, then I would suggest taking the train. I took the Talgo 200 from Malaga to Madrid (Atocha Renfe). The journey lasts approximately 4.5 hours, and costs 86 Euros return in Tourista (second) class, this included return transfer on the local Cercania train Fuengirola to Malaga. The train is very comfortable, with video in all the carriages and a cafeteria. The changing scenery is well worth seeing and part of the reason why I wanted to travel by train to Madrid. The Malaga to Cordoba leg is particularly spectacular with high mountains and lakes. I was especially impressed by the views near the village of El Chorro, which is in the mountains to the north west of Malaga. From the train, I saw a venta (typical roadside cafe) in El Chorro which had magnificent views of the mountains and a lake. On my next visit to the Malaga area, I intend to visit El Chorro for some tapas and to enjoy the magnificent view. Interestingly, in Cordoba, they change gauges so that the train can run on the AVE high-speed line from Cordoba to Madrid. Heading out of Cordoba, the scenery continues to be spectacular, with lots of mountain tunnels and, eventually giving way to acre upon acre of olive groves. Nearer Madrid, the scenery takes on a more general farmland feel but with less greenness and more red soil.
On arrival at Atocha ( RENFE
) Madrid, I took the Metro line (Line 1 direction Puerta del Castella) to Sol. This is a short journey of only 3 intermediate stops (Atocha RENFE > Atocha > Anton Martin > Tirso de Molina > Sol. I used the Metro
a fair bit to go and see the Tennis Masters event at the Rockodromo in the Recintal Ferial of the Casa de Campo and would thoroughly recommend the purchase of a 10-journey Metrobus ticket. At just over 5 Euros, it is well worth it.
It is just a 5 or 6 minute walk from Puerta del Sol to the Hostal Bianco II.
I arrived at about 2.00pm on a Sunday afternoon. The reception was manned and after a short check in was given my set of three keys (external street door, internal hostal door and room door) and shown my room. For those of you who know the hostal, it was room 21, the one immediately on the left as you enter the hostal. I was very disappointed when I first saw it, as it was VERY small. Another disadvantage was that it had no window. However, it was clean and it did have an overhead fan, heating and private shower and toilet facilities, as well as a television. Some other friends were staying in the hostal at the same time. They had reported that on Friday and Saturday nights there a lot of noise from outside on Calle de Echegaray where there a several bars and clubs. A colleague had room 21 on those two nights and reported a lot of noise from the hostal door opening and closing, so much so that he asked to move rooms (hence I got his room!).
I should report that I was staying these on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights and had no problem with noise from the internal hostal door. The room was cleaned daily and used towels were replaced. The towels were a bit threadbare. Despite this, I quite enjoyed my stay. The hostal is in a great location for the centre of Madrid with many famous spots such as Sol and Plaza Mayor within a short walking distance. They did give the option of swapping rooms for the last night when another one became free, but since I had experienced no problems and had settled in, I kept the same room. The staff are friendly and helpful. Angel, the receptionist who was there most of the time was particularly helpful when a young American guest slipped and cut her head. He quickly telephoned for an ambulance to take her to the nearest hospital. I helped with a bit of translation and when I spoke to the American couple next day, they said they were will satisfied with the medical treatment that the young lady had received (it cost them $100 they told me).
There are some eating places on Calle de Echegaray itself and many more in the surrounding warren of streets. It is worth taking some time to walk around and find out what is there.
One particular favourite was a bar called Los Gabrieles, a few doors down from the hostal. As others have reported elsewhere in this forum, it is fabulously decked out in tiles depicting Andalucian scenes and flamenco music in playing most of the time. It has a certain ambience about it. If you are having a beer, it is fairly cheep but a spirit with a mixer and ca glass of white wine weighed in a 10 euros at night.
A couple of doors up from the hostal is a bar/restaurant called La Caserola. Although I only had one quick drink in there, the food looked good, with full meals as well as tapas and raciones. If I go back, I would like to try the restaurant La Caserola, it had a good feel about it. Given more time, I would have liked to have explored the surrounding streets more to find out what was available in terms of bars and restaurants. There are several places in the area where you can eat breakfast – varying from a croissant and coffee and churros and hot chocolate to a cooked breakfast. We use a modern eatery near the Sevilla metro stop called Faborit. For 1.95 euros you get a hot drink of your choice of toasted bread (baguette or brown) with a portion of olive oil and cut tomato to rub on top. For an extra 1 euro you can have freshly squeezed orange juice as well.
This was my first visit to Madrid and I enjoyed it. I have very little time to explore, since the main purpose of my visit was to see the tennis event. I did make some time to take the Madrid Vision
tour bus round the monuments. This was interesting and the 10.60 euro ticked allows you to hop on and off their busses all day. The three routes cover historical Madrid, modern Madrid and monumental Madrid. Each tour lasts an hour but you can move between tours as and when you want. On first boarding the bus, you are issued with a map showing all the routes and places of interest. The audio commentary is available in several languages.
Finally, I would use the Hostal Bianco II
again if I were to return to Madrid.