Madrid, with a population of more than three million, has been Spain's capital since the 16th century. Rising from a dry plateau, its lack of water means that most visitors leave without even knowing the Rio Manzanares struggles around the city's edge.
The city is not one of Europe's most beautiful, and is a product of the 19th and 20th centuries. Its essence is in its character, intense cultural and artistic activity and nightlife, and that captivates most visitors.
The Spanish also have a passion for football the one they play with the round ball so much so that the Real Madrid Club, the world's most successful, paid $65 million for the services of David Beckham, former star of England's Manchester United. He is reputedly paid $38 million a year for his talents.
Real Madrid's home is Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, which was founded in 1902. It continued to move and grow and in 1953 had a capacity for 120,000. In preparation for the 1982 World Cup the stadium was re-renovated and its capacity decreased to just 90,000. For the last couple of years it has been open to tours which go pretty much everywhere.
When the Beckhams arrived in Madrid they stayed in the elegant Santo Mauro Hotel. The French-influenced Palace celebrated its 100th birthday in 1994 and was the residence of the Marquis of Santo Mauro. Restored in 2002 the hotel has just 51 rooms. The old library is an elegant restaurant and former dance halls are meeting rooms. The original gardens remain unchanged.
Victoria Beckham loves to shop and she has no problem finding retail outlets in Madrid. Fashion for men, women and children from Spanish and international designers abound in Madrid. There is shop after shop on the streets of Almirante and Conde de Xiquena. The Salamanca area specialises mainly in jewellery, shoes, leather goods and furniture. Trilogia is a mens-only shopping paradise with Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Armani, Tonio Miro, Cavallio and Exte all on display.
To indulge in two passions, Victoria Beckham goes to Madrid Xanadu. This massive shopping complex holds Spain's only indoor snow slopes. It also has a go-kart track, cinema, bowling alley, nightclub, restaurants and mini theme park.
If you fancy a haircut while you are in Madrid, Peluqueria de Caballeros is the country's oldest salon. It would be advisable to know in Spanish just what you want before you sit in the chair! The alternative would be to contact Ben Cooke, David Beckham's London hairdresser. He flies to Madrid every week to cut 3mm off the golden locks and charges US$2500 for his services.
In the centre of Madrid, Night Club Ananda has combined the magic of India and Morocco in a multi-space terrace bar. Incense and candles set the mood for fashion shows and cocktails with chill-out or classic house music entertaining up to 1700 patrons. It's a favourite spot of the Real Madrid players. Security has been seriously upgraded since the paparazzi filmed Becks and Rebecca Loos there while Victoria was out of town.
The capital city of Spain.
CIT World Travel Group has a range of accommodation in Madrid starting at $156 per night, including breakfast. Three-hour city tours cost $75 per person.
Qantas flies daily to London with British Airways connections to Madrid, starting from $1903 from Perth, $1967 from Melbourne, $1981 from Sydney, $2009 from Darwin, $2025 from Brisbane and $2031 from Adelaide, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
CIT World Travel Group
Ph: 1300 361 email@example.com
Santo Mauro Hotel
C/ Zurbano, 36.28010 (Madrid)
Ph: 34 913 196 900www.ac-hotels.com
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Concha Espina 1, 28036 Madridwww.madrid-tickets.netwww.realmadrid.com
A-5 Autovia de Extremadura
28939 Arroyomolinos Madrid
Ph: 34 902 26 30 26www.madridxanadu.com
Peluqueria de Caballeros Barber
C/ Cuchilleros 15
C/ Toledo 16, 28005 Madrid
Ph: 34 91 366 58 87
Ph: 34 91 531 2601www.ananda.es