It was Ella Fitzgerald’s interpretation of Autumn in New York that kept spinning in my head as I visited the Spanish capital, Madrid.
Not so ridiculous though as I was walking through a cityscape filled with tall buildings, dense crowds, and trees covered in brown leaves.
There were also restaurants galore, bustling designer boutiques, and more bars than you can find anywhere outside of Manhattan.
Madrid also has the original Central Park, El Retiro, a 350-acre green oasis where we spent one of the most enjoyable days in early November.
We came across many live bands while exploring attractions like the Glass Palace, which holds art exhibitions, the Rosaleda Rose Garden, and the Parterre FrancÃ©s, which contains a Mexican conifer that is nearly 400 years old and considered the most old Madrid tree.
Then we went to Central Pond, an artificial lake surrounded by colonnaded monuments belonging to the Spanish monarchy until the end of the 19th century.
We paid eight euros, just under Â£ 7, to take a boat and were delighted to find a jazz band playing by the water’s edge as the sun was shining, even though the temperature was 12 Â° C.
We were at the Hard Rock Hotel in Madrid. This new Spanish offering is decorated with memorabilia from Latin American artists such as Madrid singer-songwriter Antonio Vega.
We found this to be a great base for exploring, with a rooftop bar where you can sip a cerveza while admiring the twinkling lights before heading to the Sessions restaurant on the ground floor. We ordered Asian-inspired tacos and generously portioned steaks and found the place to be as popular with locals as it was with guests, always a good sign.
After dinner, we’ll head to the nearby literary quarter – or Barrio de Las Letras – named after the great writers who roamed its streets in the golden age of the 16th and 17th centuries.
There are quotes from writers carved into the cobblestones of Calle de las Huertas and while the area is lively day and night, it is after dark that locals come out to gamble in the many bars and clubs.
In Taberna de la Dolores, we stopped for a drink at this traditional tavern, founded as a soup kitchen in 1908. The historic interior is cozy and we sampled glasses of Rioja for just Â£ 3, accompanied by small dishes from tapas to fill the stomach, from spicy patatas bravas to the Madrid specialty, fried calamari.
On Sunday morning, the Hard Rock served up a sumptuous brunch that included pastries, ham, various cheeses and eggs while a guitarist gently strummed in the background – the perfect tonic for my headache.
A guided city tour on an electric bike was the perfect way to get rid of the rest of that hangover. With the bike doing the heavy lifting, our guide captivated us with tales of the city’s history as we cycle through the streets.
We ticked off historic gems of the portico-lined Plaza Mayor and the Baroque Royal Palace and learned what life was like in more recent times during the reign of dictator Franco.
We stocked up on crispy churros dipped in steaming hot chocolate at the popular San Gines Mercado de San Miguel.
Ella might have sung the praises of New York, but Madrid in the fall is definitely something to sing about.
COVID: All British travelers to Spain over the age of 12 must now be fully immunized at least 14 days before arrival. Children under 12 are exempt if traveling with an adult. Current rules require a pre-departure test before returning to the UK and a PCR test by day 2 at the latest.
GETTING THERE: Ryanair offers flights to Madrid from just Â£ 7.99 in January. Fly from Bristol, Stansted, Manchester and Birmingham. See ryanair.com/flights/gb/en/flights-to-madrid.
STAY: Rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel Madrid start from 145 euros per night. Hardrockhotels.com/madrid.
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