The 48HourPowerJaunt is a streamlined vacation where everything has been mapped out and booked for you in advance, based on your personal preferences. My recent jaunt to Madrid included: luxury hotel accommodations, full body massage treatment, private “Tuk Tuk” ride around the city, ticket to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a Tapas Dinner Tour of the best tapas restaurants in Madrid hosted by a local expert guide, and, as a bonus, front row seats to an authentic flamenco dance performance.
The 48HourPowerJaunt is the brainchild of Gabriella Ribeiro, who is also the founder of http://www.explorateurjourneys.com/ Gabby is a client and she called me a little over one month ago to tell me about her new endeavor and to get my thoughts on how to market it. I loved the idea and started pitching it informally to friends and family the very same night. The response was universal. Everyone wanted to do this! I called Gabby the next day to tell her that I thought she was on to something BIG and she invited me to go on a 48HourPowerJaunt so I could check it out for myself.
Here’s an overview of my adventure:
FRIDAY AFTERNOON in NYC
I arrive at JFK at 3:00pm on a Friday and grab a small snack near the Iberia gate at the tiniest of bars, Thirsty, before my 5:00pm flight. Note the Iberia plane awaiting my arrival.
Iberia allows passengers just two carry-ons, which is perfect for a 48HourPowerJaunt. So I bring a small, but strong, packable backpack, cram my purse into the backpack, and then the backpack, along with my small polka dot spinner, will be my two pieces.
This is my first time traveling internationally on my own. It’s a seven-hour flight, but civilized, and my Bose noise-cancelling headphones help me mentally prepare for the adventure that awaits.
When I arrive at 6:00am, the airport in Madrid is nearly empty except for these two guys grabbing a couple hours of sleep.
The 48HourPowerJaunt itinerary says that my private driver will meet me “right after customs.” The driver is waiting for me with a sign that has my name on it—first time EVER for this and it was AWESOME! He picks me up is a SWEET big Mercedes van. The city is quiet. The driver is friendly and points out the landmarks of Madrid during our trip to the hotel.
The Barcelo Torre de Madrid hotel is OFF THE CHARTS amazing!! The hotel manager politely greets me and lets me know that I am getting a super early check-in, which is not the norm. I am extremely grateful for the possibility of grabbing a couple hours of sleep after a very long flight. I never sleep on airplanes, unfortunately.
The snazzy hotel elevator. “Welcome to Madrid!”
SATURDAY MORNING, 6:45am
The bellman takes me to my room and introduces me to all of its high-tech features. The room is modern and clean, yet also warm and luxurious—a perfect “home away for home” in this cosmopolitan yet historic city.
It’s now approximately 7:00am in Madrid and I send emails to my mother and husband to let them know that I’ve arrived.
8:00am, hotel phone rings. My 48HourPowerJaunt concierge is calling to make sure I arrived okay and that I got the special envelope at the hotel front desk that includes my ticket for my tapas dinner tour tomorrow evening. She tells me I got UPGRADED to see a flamenco show as well. SCORE.
Check out the vast array of amenities in my comfy room!
I fall into the deepest sleep possible and the alarm wakes me at 9:30am, just in time for my full body massage at 10:00am, which is fabulous. It’s a special exfoliating massage with honey. Very relaxing. I’m back in my room at approximately 11:15am.
I skip lunch so as not to “fill up” before my pre-arranged “Tuk Tuk” tour. Sasha, the very tall Tuk Tuk driver, arrives to take me on my first adventure in Madrid.
Saturday Afternoon—Tuk Tuk Ride
Sasha [not pictured] smiles warmly and is so incredibly NICE. He speaks nearly flawless English, which is good because my Spanish is no está bien. I’m a little hungry so I ask if he can drop me off at a Vegetarian-friendly restaurant at the end of the tour. He calls a woman at his office to get a good restaurant recommendation.
IT’S HARD TO DESCRIBE HOW FUN THE TUK TUK TOUR IS!! Apparently, it’s a real novelty because lots of people on the street stop to look at it and point and smile! I feel like a celebrity!
Sasha takes me around and points out Madrid’s highlights while I shoot some video and lots of photos. It’s the perfect way to explore the city upon arrival: open air, private, and fun!
The woman at Sasha’s office has found an EXCELLENT choice for my first meal in Madrid— a place called Reinta Vegetarian—and it looks LOVELY. Sasha tells me to mention that he sent me and I am immediately ushered over to a table that says “reserved” on it. Already feeling the VIP love! AND THEY HAVE SUPER FAST WI-FI!!!!
Saturday afternoon—Late Lunch at Reineta
Soup Tradicional Vegetable Vream 4,30 € (I think it was this one, if not, one that is similar)
Courgette, carrot, potato and herbs de provence
Pumpkin Raviolacci with Gorgonzola and walnut sauce 9,80€
Vegan chocolate Brownie 4,00 €
The waitress brings me the menu, which is understandably in Spanish. She offers an English menu but brings me another one in Spanish, so “Google translate to the rescue.” My Spanish is pretty rusty, so I had downloaded Google translate before leaving NYC, which was a smart thing to do.
Saturday Night—Garra Hotel Bar
It’s now Saturday night. After my HUGE, afternoon delicious meal, I decide to stroll around the area near the hotel. It’s similar to New York’s Times Square with LOTS of people milling about and with theater options such as Mama Mia and The Lion King. There are swanky hotels in this area to get a fancy cocktail, but I’m not dressed for that, and a local pub is uninviting, so I head back to the hotel and check out the absolutely GORGEOUS bar, GARRA.
SUNDAY MORNING in MADRID
I grab a quick bite at the hotel breakfast buffet and it doesn’t disappoint. There are many self-serve options.
First item on today’s agenda is to visit the El Rastro Flea Market.
It’s fun to see what the locals do on their sunny Sunday. However, I’d say that many New Yorkers could easily skip this, especially if you didn’t check luggage and won’t have room to bring back any souvenirs.
Next stop is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
I grab a cab and show the taxi driver my phone with the name of the museum and the address. He speaks no English and, as we’ve established, my Spanish is not so hot, so it takes me awhile to figure out that he’s telling me he can’t drop me off close to the museum. There’s LOTS of gridlock and lots of police directing traffic. I finally figure out what the driver has been trying to tell me. “TODAY is the Madrid Marathon.” He drops me as close to the museum as he can get and absolutely refuses to take a tip, since he wasn’t able to get me to my destination. I thank him profusely and go on my way.
A ticket to the museum was included in my 48HourPowerJaunt welcome package, which means I don’t have to waste valuable time waiting in line.
Here are just a few of the absolutely stellar works I saw at the museum. Dali’s Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, Gauguin’s The Fire at the River Bank, Vincent Van Gogh’s Evening Landscape (one of my favorite paintings of all time), and Piet Mondrian’s Composition in Colours.
It’s now 4:00pm and I haven’t eaten lunch. I also need to get ready for this evening’s tapas tour so I decide to get something at the hotel bar. Unfortunately, I’m in too much of a hurry and fail to ask the bartender if the dish is vegetarian and it’s not. Too bad as it looks DELICIOUS! Even so, they’re nice enough to take it off the bill.
Sunday, Early Evening—Tapas Food Tour
Meet at the statue of Cervantes for our tapas food tour.
At 5:00pm, I take a cab to the statue of Cervantes, Plaza de las Cortes, Madrid, 28014, to meet our tapas food tour guide, a very friendly young woman named Paola. My 48HourPowerJaunt concierge made sure my name was already on Paola’s list, so I’m all set for the tour. Tonight, there are six of us on the tour, including a married couple from Houston, Texas, and two women from somewhere in Tennessee on the tour. ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE VERY WELL-TRAVELED.
Paola asks each of us when we last ate, which I think is smart because she probably wants to pace the tour accordingly. She is outgoing, funny, and compelling. We all like her!
Paola is explaining that “tapas are not something you EAT, they are something that you DO.” (Love this so much!!) She takes us to a little out of the way place called: LOS GATOS. Address: Calle de Jesús, 2, 28014 Madrid, Spain. This place is WEIRD and PERFECT!!
Because I’m on a guided tour, I feel free to take LOTS of photos of this restaurant, something I would not have felt comfortable doing as a lone traveler. But since the shop owner knows that we’re tourists, and we have a guide to wrangle us and make sure we don’t cause too much mischief, he’s okay with it.
Los Gatos serves VERMOUTH (with ice) to go along with the tapas. I never imagined drinking straight vermouth before, but Paola explains that “this is the good stuff” so I try it. She warns us, “Only drink the Vermouth that the bar has on tap. That way, you KNOW it’s quality.”
Let’s just say Vermouth is an acquired taste, but it goes very well with the delicious tapas. I don’t try the tapas that have baby eels on them, but my compadres do and the delicacy receives an enthusiastic “thumbs up.”
The décor in Los Gatos is funky and eclectic. There’s a mural of a skeleton drinking beer at a bar. He is drinking Mahou. Paola says: “Worst beer in Madrid. Don’t drink it.” And that’s good enough for me.
The next stop on our tapas tour is Taberna del León de Oro. This place has such awful Yelp reviews that I NEVER would have gone here. Luckily, my experience was the absolute opposite of those reviews!! At each stop we had wine that paired well with each restaurant’s specialty tapas. I’ve been a fan of Rioja wines ever since I saw Jay McInerney (yes, the guy who wrote Bright Lights, Big City) give a presentation on wine at Union Square Wines.
He said something to the effect of “Rioja is the toughest wine you will ever love.” To which some of the wine snobs in the crowd smiled in agreement while others snorted their disapproval. WINE CONTROVERSY. This is for me!
To say that the Rioja I had at Taberna del León de Oro was the best Rioja I’ve ever had is no exaggeration. It’s also one of the best WINES I’ve ever had of any variety. The label looked familiar to me, but I didn’t think much of it until I got back to NYC and saw this: http://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/drinks/a4252/jay-mcinerney-october-14/
The pairing they create for me with the Rioja is a simple piece of bread and some super flavorful Blue Cheese. Here’s a photo of some yummy meat made from a very large purple pig that eats a lot of acorns. (As a vegetarian, I had to plug my ears for the rest of the story about said pig.)
Then it was on to the MAIN EVENT of the evening—one of the perks I received for booking this 48HourPowerJaunt. We’re going to see an authentic flamenco show and we’re sitting in the front row!! YES!!
Paola tells us that what we, as Americans, think of as flamenco dancing is actually a kind of glamorized, romanticized, perhaps even sanitized version of it. The real deal is raw, passionate, emotional, and comes from feelings of deep longing.
We’re ushered into the tiny theater just as the show is about to start and given nearly overflowing glasses of red sangria. The show begins and I immediately understand what Paola is talking about. The woman on stage is dancing with such force that her flower barrette flies off her head and onto our table. Her pain is palpable yet beautiful.
These performers are ALL IN. Their commitment to the dance leaves me wondering, “Am I ‘ALL IN’ in my life?” To be honest, no, not yet, but I’m working on it. And taking a chance by going to Madrid for the weekend is a great start.
After the flamenco performance we are off to DINNER. Hard to believe, but yes, we had one more stop. This was another highlight of the trip because we all got to really sit and talk and share about our lives in the US and hear about Paola’s life. She was shocked when I told her that many Americans, who are full-time employees, are afraid to take the vacation time they have coming to them. They are afraid they might get fired, so they work like maniacs to try to get ahead. “That’s why I’m a freelancer,” she tells me with a smile. I tell her tha’’s one of the reasons why I’m building my own business, too. The food and drinks are flowing and are delicious. I’m in the moment, so I only snap one lone photo from this dinner but the guy from Texas captured a great group shot of us with his selfie stick. Yep, we’re tourists and we’re having a blast!
We walk as a group to one of the main streets and then wave goodbye and wish each other well. Madrid, you will be missed. The city could not be more beautiful under a sprinkle of stars and a sliver moon. It looks like a painting, though I’ve seen paintings that aren’t nearly this pretty.
I grab a cab and head back to the hotel. There’s traffic, but now that I’ve learned the “lay of the land,” I know exactly where I am and ask the driver to leave me one block from the hotel. He gently protests, because he wants to drop me right at the door, but I prefer to walk and take everything in. I took a lot of cabs during my trip and I found that every single driver was committed to getting me EXACTLY where I wanted to go, unlike some of my experiences with NYC cabbies.
I need to pack as quickly as possible and get to sleep. The next morning, I decide to get up early and have breakfast at the hotel.
MONDAY MORNING—Getting Ready to Leave Madrid
Most places in Madrid don’t open until 10:00am and I’m getting picked up by my driver for the airport at 9:30, so there won’t be time to explore any local haunts before I go. There’s only ONE thing I didn’t do in Madrid and that’s sample the Churros and hot chocolate. I was so full after the meals I had, there was no room!
Luckily, the hotel has a Churros bar complete with hot chocolate to dip them in! They may not be as good as what I could find elsewhere in the city, but they are damn tasty all the same. There’s even an omelet station where you can choose whatever fillings you’d like. Extravagant. I know it’s going to be many hours before I get another meal, so I’m happy to see the enormous variety of good choices.
The driver picks me up half-an-hour early at the hotel (without being asked to, which is awesome!) and we’re off to the airport. It’s rush hour in Madrid, which looks like rush hour in New York, but not as bad. I hustle to get through security and customs, making it to the gate in time to board. The sun is shining and it’s perfect flying weather. 48 hours in Madrid was the perfect introduction to this fabulous city. I loved it so much that, if I had the option to extend my stay, I absolutely would have. However, I’m glad I made the trip, because now I know that I definitely want to go back for another #48HourPowerJaunt to #Madrid or an EXTENDED jaunt that is several days longer.
Sad to leave Madrid, but so happy to see the skyline of my favorite city, as we make our final descent into JFK on a bright, sunny Monday
The Pitch Girl’s #15SecondPitch for her #48HourPowerJaunt to Madrid
While sitting at the plush Garra hotel bar in Madrid, a very polished British woman told me, “All you really need in ANY city is 48 hours—IF you know what you are doing.” This was her response after I told her that I was in Madrid testing out this new 48HourPowerJaunt concept for my client. When you have only two days to spend at a dream destination, don’t leave anything to chance, invest in a once-in-a-lifetime adventure where you will have the absolute best itinerary—one that is created just for you.