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Madrid: Hotel ME, formerly Grand Hotel Reina Victoria
The Me Madrid is an upscale establishment in the heart of the old city, which opened its doors in October 2006. In spite of being one of the most chic, cool and in of Spain's capital, its charm consists primarily in having reused very tastefully all architecture of its predecessor, the Grand Hotel Reina Victoria.
Reina Victoria's construction started on 1919, on a space previously occupied by the Counts of Montijo and Teba's palace. Construction finished on 1923 and, as soon as it opened its doors, it began being frequented by aristocracy, diplomats and artists.
Artists and bullfighters
Most everyone in Madrid, or at least everyone that has any interest with historic locations, knows that Reina Victoria was, during the better part of the XX century, the center of the bullfighting world in Madrid, and Spain.
Arguably the best bullfighter of all times, Manolete, who died on the sand in 1947, always stayed in room 406. Luis Miguel Dominguín, Joselito and Rafael de Paula, among many other well-known names in bullfighting, used this hotel as residence when in town for a face to face with the bull in Las Ventas bullring.
This is also the hotel where Merimée started writing Carmen, and where Hemingway stayed many nights, even mentioning the hotel in one of his books.
The facelift for Sol-Melia was under British architect Keith Hobbs from United Designers and took place in 2005-2006. This was the first hotel in the ME brand, a new contemporary and urban concept by Melia to fuse design, international cuisine and cutting edge music. And glamour aplenty, chic abounds in the ME.
The brand made a statement at their grand opening night, inviting up to 1000 guests of all spheres of the social circles, from successful business people to international celebrities like Cindy Crawford or Elsa Pataky, including international DJ’s and rock bands for a night of fun and charm in the heart of the city.
The Penthouse: Rooftop to beat all rooftops
I already spoke of the Me Penthouse in my article about some of my favorite rooftop bars. It just bears repeating my devotion to this fabulous space. It's not like I'm a regular there, I've just visited a handful of times, but my breath stops and my stomach takes a plunge every time I step off the elevator and into the wood flooring of the Penthouse.
Rated in many fashion, design, and time out magazines as one of the best rooftop experiences in the world, quite rightly so in my opinion, the Penthouse is a place you shouldn't miss if you're ever in Madrid.
You will read here and there and everywhere that its frequented by fashionistas and glamorous guests dressed to the nines, and it's pretty much true especially in the weekends, but don't let that deter you. Smart casual will get you in without so much as a nod by the doorman, except if there is a private event upstairs, or if the place is full to the tilt. If you really want to ensure gaining access to The Penthouse, besides choosing smart casual attire, chose a weekday for the visit.
What charms me the most about this beautiful building is that views from the top, producing a 360º panorama of Madrid that goes on for miles, compete and rather tie with the views of the building itself from the ground floor.
By day, this is a magnificent pure white structure in the eclectic style of the Modernism from the beginning of the XX century that combines traditional and modern elements. Its white walls, big bay windows and charming balconies with their wrought-iron railings that are shaped in the form of a wave, crowned by a tower in the shape of a lighthouse are enough to make one stop and look and, of course, snap a photo.
By dusk and night the building acquires an ethereal quality, achieved by a precise, state-of-the-art purple lighting, combined with the orange glow of the lamp posts below. It simply fascinates me.
I'm lucky to live close by, and have the ME in my route to come and go from and to places. I'm lucky twice that in the thousands of sightings I've caught of the ME in all my years living in Madrid it still makes my heart swell and my fingers itch for a camera. Believe me, you want to see the ME if you're ever in Madrid.
Photos not credited to third parties are mine.