putting on the ritz: at home in madrid.
“In the middle distance a group of gypsies hastens with caravans, donkeys, and skinny dogs along the road, and beyond them all Spain seems to be expecting you.”
—Jan Morris, Spain
“Buenas tardes, madam, may I take your bag for you?”
I’ve barely stepped out of my friend Erin’s car before a crisply dressed doorman approaches me. Normally, I might have said yes, but it just so happens that for the last two weeks, this pack has barely left my side—whether literally on my back as I walk the Camino all day or locked away beneath my bed in the albergue dorms at night.
“No, gracias, I’ve got it,” I say and I can see the confusion in his eyes.
My limited Spanish doesn’t allow me to explain: that I’m a pilgrim, or was a pilgrim, and as my hiking shoes, walking stick and sleeping bag are no longer in my possession, this backpack is one of my few existing links to the trail I’ve just walked across northwest Spain.
He doesn’t question my insistence and instead leads me towards the front entrance. One whirl through a set of gold revolving doors and I’m in a different world.
I’m in the Ritz.
While hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail the past two weeks, I showered in cramped communal bathrooms, slept next to complete strangers, and wore the same thing every day. For fourteen days. As appalling as that might sound, I didn’t mind it so much.
What did sometimes get to me, though, was the lack of personal space at night, and not being able to have a bit of alone time to recharge before the next day’s walk.
After an experience like the Camino comes to an end, which was as emotionally intense as it was physically, sometimes all you want to do is curl up at home. Not go anywhere. Give your mind a break from the constant stimulation it’s been processing.
And that’s exactly what my time at the Ritz has been. I’ve been grateful to feel at home in Madrid, to not only have my own room again, but a desk to write at and an armchair to read in, all while sounds of the city and afternoon sunshine waft in through open windows.
Even as I write this, I know that when I check out tomorrow at noon, I’ll hoist that backpack up for the umpteenth time. But until I do, it lays idle in the closet while I rest. Chill out. Put my feet up.
Because that’s what you do when you’re at home.
Do you have any tips on feeling at home in a foreign city?
want to put on the ritz in madrid?
- Location: The Ritz is located on the Plaza de la Lealtad in Madrid, five minutes from Atocha train station and 30 minutes from Barajas airport. Walk for mere minutes in any direction and you’ll be at sights such as Retiro Park, the Royal Botanical Garden, and both the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza art museums.
- Rooms: The hotel has 137 rooms and 30 suites, each individually designed. Best available rates start at €250 for a Classic Room and €340 for a Deluxe Room.
- Contact: You can either call the Ritz at (+34) 91 701 6767, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the property at www.ritz.es.
Disclosure: I am kindly being hosted at the Ritz by Orient Express. While I am tremendously grateful for their hospitality, all thoughts and opinions you read here are from yours truly.