Lounge Review: Madrid Airport T4S (MAD) Velazquez Lounge, 31 December 2015

Madrid (MAD) Terminal 4S Iberia Velazquez Lounge

Well, am I glad I skipped my hotel breakfast for this.

The Velazquez Lounge is hidden in the duty free area, but after you get in, it is very spacious, and comparable in size to the Heathrow Galleries Lounge. The entrance is in the middle of the lounge, and they have buffets on both ends, and the offering is about the same.

Madrid (MAD) Terminal 4S Iberia Velazquez Lounge Madrid (MAD) Terminal 4S Iberia Velazquez Lounge

They have a buffet, which serves three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food timing is more Spanish, i.e. lunch is around 2-3 pm, and dinner is closer to 8-9 pm. I was there for breakfast. While the prepackaged food doesn’t look exactly appetizing, their hot breakfast was really good. The hot station had mushrooms, scrambled eggs, bacon, smoked salmon, and cold cuts. They have some decent pastries, and they also have little cups of Haagen Dazs! While I’m not entirely certain, they use chinaware from Melia, so I’m guessing they are catered by Melia hotels?

Madrid (MAD) Terminal 4S Iberia Velazquez Lounge Madrid (MAD) Terminal 4S Iberia Velazquez Lounge

I wish I knew more about alcohol, but well, I don’t. Anyway, the selection seems pretty extensive.

Madrid (MAD) Terminal 4S Iberia Velazquez Lounge

The wifi speed was pretty decent, and you can locate the password by checking the flight information screen.

Overall, this is a nice international lounge with some decent food and beverage offering.


And I stayed in a Glorified Dorm Room – Hotel Review: T3 Tirol Madrid, 29 – 31 December 2015

T3 Tirol Madrid

An Indian OTA, Make My Trip, had a promotion, whereby people using their App, would get a 60% discount (up to 2700 INR/40 USD) on all hotel bookings. The sale lasted around 48 hours, and I was fortunate enough to get in on the sale. In Madrid, I booked with T3 Tirol, which is a 3-star hotel in an excellent location by the metro station, Argulles. I paid 27 EUR per night. Overall, while the hotel has a nice vibe, I felt that I had a switcheroo pulled on me, because my single room was more like a glorified dorm room. It’s not bad value, it’s just that, that class of room is not reflected in the hotel’s pictures.

Check In/Check Out:

Fast and painless both ways. All that one can ask for.


Great! While it’s not in the heart of the tourist action, it was probably a 20-min leisurely stroll, and it’s across the street from one end of the brown line, Argulles. So if you want to get around via metro, it’s super convenient. There’s some shopping and food nearby, so there’re options.

T3 Tirol Madrid


It’s a glorified dorm room. It’s clean, but it’s more like a super single bed. When I booked a single room, I was not expecting this.

The bathroom is also like a glorified dorm room. Clean, but very dorm-like. I’ll let the picture speak a thousand words. You would not want to spend much time in the room.

T3 Tirol Madrid


It was complimentary, and it was decent.

T3 Tirol Madrid


Continental breakfast, and it was included in the rate. The pastries were nice. It’s decent, but it wasn’t great, so on the second morning, I decided to check out without breakfast, and take my chances with the Madrid Airport Lounge. (I won that gamble)

T3 Tirol Madrid T3 Tirol Madrid


Not exactly personal, but not rude either. It was certainly quite the case of you get what you pay for.


It was decent value. If I actually paid the full rate (~50+EUR), I’d be very pissed with what I got. The decor of the hotel is actually modern, but I wish I was made aware that I was booking into a glorified dorm room. Great location, though.

Spain: Madrid, 30 December 2015


Ah, my one and only day in Madrid. Initially, I had planned to get a day metro pass to ride the metro around and see more sights, but sometimes, one can know a city more intimately on foot. So, I decided to walk from my hotel in Argulles to Gran Via, and Puerta del Sol.


It has been some six years since I was last visited a European city (Athens, maybe?). As I walked down Gran Via, and wandered around the tourist-popular streets and plazas, I marveled at the chariots, and statues perched atop these grand buildings. The end point of my aimless wandering led me to very elegant Palacio Cibeles. While its ornate architecture was a visual stunner, the thing that truly caught my attention, was a banner hung across it: “Refugees Welcome”.


The area around Puerta del Sol is also quite interesting, even if it’s not quite my scene. I think I enjoyed looking at the Christmas/New Year light fixtures hung on the streets above, but the plaza itself was too crowded. I think it’s really the love child of Times Square and Disneyland, thankfully without the high entrance fee of the latter. There are a lot of street artists on Arenal street feeding into Puerta del Sol. If anyone wants to enlighten me about how some of these street artists seem to levitate, please do leave a comment!


While I really wanted to spend more time wandering, and also visiting some art museums, by the mid-afternoon, I decided I had to get some work done. I wound up at a Starbucks (argh!), which is actually located on prime people-watching real estate. Located on Arenal street, it is a bi-level, and on the upper level, you can get some great views of the street, if you can score a window seat.


After a couple of hours of work, I decided to backtrack, and go to a chocolate shop for some churros and dipping chocolate (4 EUR). I wound up going to 1902, mostly because I was lazy. The churros were nicely fried, the dipping chocolate was pretty decent, but the service wasn’t exactly friendly.


To walk off some of the chocolate, I decided to wander some more. Initially, I thought I had seen everything. But when I wound up at Plaza Real, it was worth the extra little trek. The square is very magnificent, and reminiscent of other European grand squares. For some reason or other, Brussels comes to mind. It is enclosed, and they had a different set of light fixtures. They also had a Christmas market going on, but it wasn’t too interesting for me.


As it was just the late afternoon by this point, I decided to go to another café to get in another couple of hours of work. After seeing all the different light fixtures in Madrid, I was very excited for nightfall, and to see how the city will be lighted up. It certainly didn’t disappoint. I retraced all my steps earlier in the day, to hit some of the more interesting spots. It was truly a lovely walk. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but it certainly reminds me why I love wandering around cities so much.


Madrid Madrid

Madrid does have a bike share system. I went to check it out, but it wasn’t exactly clear how much a day pass costs. It didn’t seem possible to find out that information without filling out a rather extensive, personal information screen. Also, they don’t provide helmets, and coming from a city that has a helmet law, and fresh from a couple of falls in the past month, I was a little skittish about renting a bike to see the sites more efficiently. Having said that, their annual pass for 25 EUR (if I understood the system correctly) seems way cheaper than my annual pass for ~80 USD.



Coffee + Chocolate: 9.50 EUR (2.50 + 3 + 4)

Dinner: 12 EUR

Hotel: 27 EUR

Total: 50 EUR

Lounge Review: Sala VIP Cibela, Madrid, Spain, T1, 26 December 2015

Madrid T1 Sala VIP Cibeles

Located right after passport control, the lounge is actually rather large, it’s just that the full seating availability is not evident when you first enter.

I was here around noon, and it was very busy. The food offering is not exactly inspiring – think of it as food available at 7-Eleven. They had a lot of pre-packaged sandwiches, pastas, rice, and falafel. If you wanted your food hot, you could use the microwave, and then throw it on a plate. This is really self-serve in its highest form. The food did its job, but really didn’t taste good. As I was walking by a Burger King later, I wish I ate that instead (but I’m too cheap to pay for food)

Madrid T1 Sala VIP Cibeles

The wifi was fast, and the beverage offering was nice. They also have a Nespresso machine, so that kept me well-caffeinated, and thus, happy.

Overall, this is a middling lounge, but it has everything that you would need. The food is kinda bleah, but if you’re hungry, or want to grab stuff fast for your trip, it’d do the job. Just don’t be expecting to like your food.

Madrid T1 Sala VIP Cibeles

Morocco to Spain: Marrakech to Madrid, 29 December 2015


T’was a travel day. I’m mostly just getting my butt from Marrakech to Madrid. I stayed at the hotel until the noon check-out. I made the mistake of taking a taxi just stationed outside the hotel (read: tourist trap). It’s actually a short ride from the hotel to the airport (~2 miles), and the taxi ride should have cost, at maximum, 70 DH. But the taxi driver pointed at some stupid sign on his taxi, saying that he drove me from the further place (not true), and demanded I pay him 100 DH. I just told him that all I had was 50 DH, and 3 Euros, and he could take it or leave it. In retrospect, I’m still pissed that I even gave him the 3 Euros. It’s not a big amount of money, but I hate being extorted by dishonest people. More than that, it’s also the assumption that travellers are stupid, and deserves to be fleeced. Oh well.


After that, it was just a waiting game at the Marrakech airport. Marrakech airport is quite a small airport. They provide 1.5 hrs of free wifi, but you’ll get logged out every 30 mins, so you need to re-log-in every time. You can use multiple devices to extend the free wifi time. Food at the airport is rather pricy (~60 DH sandwiches), so if you are trying to save some money, you should pack some of your food.


My Ryanair flight was delayed, so that kinda sucked, because I was already going into Madrid rather late (8+ in the evening), and the late flight meant that I was getting in even later. Fortunately, we did board eventually.

After getting into Madrid T1, I followed the clearly marked signs to the metro station, which is located closer to T2. I got a ticket (5 EUR) on the metro for my station. Thankfully, my hotel is actually on the brown line, so it was one simple change, and a ride to the end of the brown line. I got into my hotel by 10 pm, and after a quick check-in, I went to grab some Burger King before turning in for the night.


Transportation: 50 DH + 10 EUR

Food: 200 DH + 8 EUR

Accommodations: 27 EUR

Total: 250 DH (~25 USD) + 45 EUR

Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport, 23 December 2015

Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport

When I started planning my whirlwind trip to the Iberian Peninsula, I decided to build a rest-day after my trans-Atlantic flight. This led me to the Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport. The sticker price for the room was 66 USD, but I used TopCashBack for 5 USD cash back. Also, I paid with my IHG credit card to get some points. This, stacked with a couple of deals, yielded me around 8000 (worth ~ 56 USD) points. This brought the actual cost of the room down to around 5 USD. They also offer free airport shuttle both ways, so that sweetened the deal even more.


It was quick. There wasn’t a line for both check-in and check-out, so there was no wait either way. I was upgraded from the run-of-house room to a suite, so that was even better (??? More on that later). As a platinum, I was offered a choice between a drink at the bar, or 600 points voucher. I took the points. Location It is near the airport. It is really an airport hotel. The area around it is a complete wasteland, and its neighbors? More airport hotels. If you are going to choose between airport hotels, you might want to think about the food on offer, because there’s really nothing around, so you will be stuck with what the hotel has to offer. Room service prices seemed reasonable (~10-15 EUR for most entrees), but I was so tired that I pretty much just passed out.

Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport


I was given the King Bedroom Suite, which is the best room they have. It is large, with an entryway, and a walk-in closet. The seating area is also quite substantial, although it is not a separate room.

The highlight, or in my opinion, the weirdest thing, is the shower. It is this transparent thing that is central to the whole room. I’ve seen something like that in other hotels, whereby the bath/shower area offers peek-a-boo views from the bedroom area, but most do offer privacy options. Not in this case. There’s no way you can actually activate some privacy screen. There’re even blue lights, if you want to highlight that *erm* sexy shower show even more. There’s also a bathtub with Jacuzzi functions. But given my fatigue, I just took a quick, very weird, shower, and passed out in bed. They also offer a double vanity, and the toilet and bidet are in a separate little area with a door, if you want even more privacy.

Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport

In the room, they offer a Lavazza Mio machine, and Lavazza pods. It was pretty nice, if not super intuitive. The bed was comfortable, and I had a good night’s sleep. I also didn’t hear any neighbors, so that’s good. However, there are not power plugs near the bed. The manager did leave a (mass) note by the bedside table, and two little chocolates, though! The mini-bar/fridge contained two sodas and a bottle of water. Apparently, the mini-bar, coffee and snacks (two cookies) are complimentary on the first night. I did have some coffee and hot chocolate, as I woke up super early.

Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport


It was not included in my rate. But a glance at the room service menu suggests that a simple continental breakfast is about 6 EUR.


It was decent.


It is a good airport hotel. The shuttle to the hotel might take a little while sometimes, due to traffic. If you arrive outside of their regular hours, there is a board posted by the hotel shuttles with their number – call them. Be sure to book your shuttle back to the airport when you check in. It is an efficient outfit, if you are simply planning on an overnight stay. The bathroom sure was trippy, but I guess I can’t complain too much about a suite upgrade.

Hello Iberian Peninsula: Spain, Portugal, Morocco, 23 – 31 December 2015

I got in on the British Airways premium fare sale last week (transatlantic business class for ~1000 USD, without Avios discounts), and while I actually had no plans of flying again this year, this mileage running opportunity (more on that later) was a bit too good to pass up.

23 Dec: Madrid, Spain

24 Dec: Madrid, Spain – Lisbon, Portugal

25 Dec: Lisbon, Portugal

26 Dec: Lisbon, Portugal – Madrid, Spain – Rabat, Morocco

27 Dec: Rabat, Morocco – Casablanca, Morocco

28 Dec: Casablanca, Morocco – Marrakesh, Morocco

29 Dec: Marrakesh, Morocco – Madrid, Spain

30 Dec: Madrid, Spain

31 Dec: Madrid, Spain

While others with bountiful British Avios managed to get their out-of-pocket costs down to around ~300 USD for a transcontinental Business class flight, I don’t have any Avios. Nevertheless, this trip makes a lot of sense to me. I get to fly to Europe in Business class comfort at Economy class fares (Seattle is generally not a great market for fare sales to Europe), and in addition to that, because of a OneWorld deal, flying transatlantic in business or first class will give me 25,000 bonus miles in AAdvantage. As a result of this ~$1000 trip, not only will I get to visit three countries I haven’t been, but I will get around 45,000 miles, which is good for either an economy round trip to Central America, or a one-way business class ticket to South America.