Meet the Spaniards With Tapas and Wine.
Imagine you’re sitting in a dimly lit jazz lounge. Everybody around you has a smile on their face, a drink on their table, and everyone is dressed with a classiness that you thought went extinct thirty years ago. Musicians from Blue Note Jazz label take the stage backed by brick in a typically New York-themed urban venue space.
The musicians smile as they approach the mic, ready to greet the crowd.
“Hola, amigos! Bienvenidos!”
A well stocked bar at Only You Atocha Hotel, Madrid.
This was not the New York accent you were expecting to hear. In fact, everyone around you seems to be chatting quietly – in Spanish – between sips of their specialty cocktails. It might seem peculiar to hear in a Manhattan-themed jazz club, only this isn’t New York. You’re actually in Madrid and you’re in the basement of the Only You Hotel Atocha which you’ll hear more about below. Keep reading.
Here in Madrid, Spaniards appreciate living well and will not be rushed. To put it into perspective, this is a culture that builds a daily two-hour siesta into their day. During this time, many stores close their doors to customers, showing how the Spanish people prioritize leisure over making some extra cash. As hard as it may be for people who only get a 30-minute lunch to understand, this built-in relaxation time allows locals to go home to nap or eat with the family to unwind.
Tapa Chef at Only You Atocha Hotel in Madrid.
I brought my girlfriend Megan, and we decided to delve straight into this culture where people are friendly, meals are long, and late nights out are a daily occurrence. We explored Madrid’s café-lined streets, and chatted with locals as they sat outside to enjoy their usual 3-hour meals with friends.
Taparias serve fresh fare throughout Madrid.
Sometimes, though, a meal actually means chatting over tapas and wine. You may have heard of tapas, which actually originated in Spain. Before coming to Madrid, I thought “tapas” meant “overpriced small plate of food,” which I’ve always hated since this was my experience in America. For someone who eats a lot (and no, I’m not fat, I just have a voracious appetite), I absolutely HATE it when I spend a bunch of money for a tiny little nothing that barely counts as a snack. And then the bill comes and I feel like I didn’t even eat!
Tapas “cover ” your dining out.
In Spain though, tapas are quite different. “Tapa” means “cover.” The tradition in bodegas (bars) is to place your small, often complimentary plate of food on top of your drink. And that’s what people do here. They sit for hours and hours, nibbling on a plethora of delectable snacks while chatting and sipping on two-dollar glasses of wine.
Hold up, let’s stop there for a second and focus on that last line. I’ll say it again. “Two-dollar glasses of wine,” seriously! And sometimes its even cheaper, like two dollars for a whole bottle! If you lived in a place where wine costs as much as a pack of gum, wouldn’t you sit for hours on end drinking and eating free food every day? We did, and it was fantastic!
Tapas appear everywhere in Spain.
One such place was the “Museo del Jamon” (the ham museum). Let me just tell you, Spanish people REALLY love their ham. When we arrived, this place was bustling inside and out with people of all ages standing at the bar, drinking wine, and eating snacks (mostly of the ham variety).
Inside the Museo del Jamon, there were literally hundreds of hanging ham legs dangling above. They love their ham so much, Spaniards buy entire legs of jamon iberico to celebrate an accomplishment, such as a promotion or engagement. Imagine, instead of a champagne toast, it’s a jamon iberico roast!
Spaniards really appreciate their wine and their social time. They even have a word for drinking on the streets with friends: botellon. We saw this in action every night around 10 p.m. Young and old people gather together in public plazas with wine and beer, chatting and drinking until they are ready to go out dancing at 1 a.m. – almost last-call time in the States. After dancing the night away, droves of tipsy patrons usually end up at places like the famous Chocolateria San Gines, open until 5 a.m., for a late night churro con chocolate.
The Restaurant at The Only You Atocha Hotel, Madrid.
We partied with them – especially the chocolate churro part, which I might add was muy delicioso!
Keeping up with the Spaniards is no easy task, which is why having a nice, relaxing home away from home is especially important in this vibrant city. Only You Hotel Atocha was the perfect place to recharge after a long day of celebrating life with the locals in Madrid. Why, you might ask? Allow me to tell you.
New York-themed and urban chic Only You Hotel Atocha is in a central area of Madrid which is how we were able to totally immerse into Spanish culture. At just a few meters from the Retiro Park, it’s positioned perfectly for a daily or nightly walk around town, but you might not even want to go outside as there are plenty of creature comforts in the hotel itself.
Meet friends in the lobby before a night of tapas.
The décor of the hotel mixes an urban industrial style with a Mediterranean flare. The chairs don’t match, the flooring is unusually shaped, and there’s a giant round bookcase that looks like it belongs in a museum. In fact, the entire lobby area feels like a museum. And one of the most unlikely things you’ll find in a hotel lobby is also there – a New York-style barbershop inspired by Frank’s Chop Shop on Manhattan’s lower east side! I unfortunately didn’t have time for a buzz (even though I really needed one), but it was nice to fantasize about getting that annoying task out of the way without even leaving the hotel.
Breakfast With Sol.
There’s also a bar and restaurant on the same lobby level as the barbershop. The restaurant serves up traditional Spanish tapas with one very weird item on the menu – cactus mousse with actual cactus inside! And no, they don’t have needles in them.
Having all of these amusements throughout the hotel is fantastic, but what about where to sleep? Well, the rooms aren’t huge, but they are very comfortable and well appointed. Similar to the lobby, the rooms have light fixtures that look like art, making you feel like you live in a swanky penthouse in NYC. With soft lighting, comfy pillows and a towel warmer in the bathroom, what more could you ask for?
The entire hotel is very visually appealing. Walls are adorned with brick-themed wallpaper, wooden furniture and various spotlight-like lighting fixtures that give off a sort of urban feel to the rooms. But décor aside, just peel open the drapes and remind yourself that you are indeed still in Madrid, steps away from all sorts of shopping and touristy spots around the city.
Comfy, chic quarters at Only You Atocha Hotel, Madrid.
The rest of the rooms are dispersed over seven floors, but it’s on the seventh floor itself that you’ll find the YOUniverse Restaurant and its impressive terrace. Here, you can eat in class with sparkling views of central Madrid as the light fades into a deep cobalt blue. They rotate out a different New York chef each month, so you won’t ever get bored with the menu as you return on different trips. You can also come here in the morning for the complimentary breakfast that samples a taste of Spain. You’ll find an assortment of cheeses, desserts, meats, and all sorts of traditional delights. The breakfast was a huge highlight of the hotel. Friendly Spanish chefs serve up fresh omelets and delicious, fresh coffee. It is the most important meal of the day, after all!
I’d also like to note that my absolute favorite type of cheese is manchego – a sheep’s cheese from Spain – and it’s plentifully available here! There was a HUGE wedge of it at breakfast, and you better believe I ate my fill! It’s very expensive in the United States, but here in Spain, manchego is relatively inexpensive. I admit that’s not a great reason to overeat cheese, but I did it anyway almost everywhere we went, especially at the hotel breakfast table.
Set For Tapas.
So speaking of food, let’s go back down to the lobby level where there’s an actual bakery! You can get cappuccinos, sweets (which my fiancé regularly had to stop me from overeating), muffins, and pretty much whatever you’d imagine you would find at a little bakery. There almost was too much of everything available as it made it tough to be motivated to go out and explore all the Spanish foods in the city. Everything was right there in the hotel. If the pastries weren’t enough, there are colorful bowls of candy in the lobby. I may have gained a few pounds during this stay, but it was worth it.
Splendid Madrid views from the terraza.
In fact, maybe you don’t even need to see Madrid. Just come and eat at the hotel, take in a jazz concert, get a haircut, see the view from the seventh floor, and then takeoff! No, but seriously, budget more than a few days so you can enjoy all the things Madrid and Only You Hotel Atocha has to offer.
One of the most convenient features of the property is the proximity of the nearest metro station, which literally is next door. There’s no need for a car or taxi, which is nice while on a vacation. My girlfriend and I walked everywhere and it was all safe throughout the area.
The trendy design near the elevators.
Any way you slice it, a trip to Madrid wouldn’t be complete without a uniquely Spanish hotel experience. And although the OnlyYOU Hotel Atocha is themed after an urban New York borough, The Spanish style, cuisine and culture oozes between the cracks and seeps into your overall experience at this unique property that is sure to leave you smiling for years to come.
Visit The Only You Atocha Hotel Madrid online.
Feature by Josh Edelson, Jetsetters Magazine Adventure Editor. Photos courtesy of Only You Atocha Hotel.
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