by Joan Tupponce
Whenever Peter Smith visits Madrid, he tries to take in an opera at the 158-year-old Teatro Real. He is not alone in his enthusiasm for the opera house. Known for its magnificent acoustics and world-class stage, Teatro Real is one of the most popular attractions in Madrid. Visitors can browse through its museum or take a tour on days when there are no performances.
Smith is CEO of New World Pasta, which has a factory in Winchester. He travels to Madrid to visit the headquarters of New World’s parent company, Ebro Puleva, a worldwide food company involved in the rice, pasta, dairy, sugar and biofuels industries.
Ebro is the largest retail producer of rice and the second largest manufacturer of pasta in the world. The company has operations in Germany, France and Africa as well as North America. It had no presence in the United States until it bought Houston-based Riviana Foods in 2004 and New World Pasta in 2006. Riviana makes Minute Rice as well as Success and Carolina rice. Ebro now has about 7,300 employees worldwide and has been averaging 14 percent annual growth during the past three years.
Even though his trips to Madrid are filled with business meetings, Smith also enjoys wandering through the Museo del Prado. The museum, built in 1819, is well known for its collection of 12th-to-19th-century European art. The museum’s collection of Spanish paintings is one of the world’s finest and contains works from Francisco Goya and El Greco.
Within walking distance of Museo del Prado are two other noteworthy museums: the Museo Arqueologico Nacional (an archeological museum) and the Museo Reina Sofia (a museum of 20th-century art). “The city is rich with history and antiquity,” Smith says.
Located on the Manzanares River, Madrid spans approximately 234 square miles. “It’s a beautiful city,” Smith says. “It has lots of parks. My favorite is the Parque del Buen Retiro.”
The 320-acre Parque del Buen Retiro was built as a royal park and contains a large lake and is often populated by locals, tourists, street performers and sidewalk artists.
Other attractions in the city include the Royal Palace of Madrid and the National Library, a 19th-century landmark.
When the sun sets in Madrid, there literally is dancing in the streets. Locals and tourists head outdoors to party until dawn. “Madrid has a vibrant nightlife,” Smith says.
For an authentic experience, visitors stop in at cafes or restaurants that feature flamenco dancing. A well-known flamenco hotspot is the restaurant Corral de la Moreria.
Bullfighting also is popular in Madrid. It has Spain’s largest bullring, Plaza de Toros de las Ventas, which can hold about 25,000 fans.
The city’s economy
Madrid is Spain’s financial center and an economic leader as well as its political capital. In addition to finance, economic sectors include telecommunications, health and education. The city also has several centers noted for research and development. Vodafone, an English mobile communications group, and China-based Huawei, a telecom solutions provider, are creating an Application Innovation Centre with test laboratories that will develop products and services in mobile communications. Companies based in Madrid include Acciona SA, a construction, engineering and environmental services firm; Meta4 Spain SA, a computer software company; and Tecnocom, Telecomunicaciones y Energia SA, a telecommunications company.
Where to eat
Madrid is filled with a variety of eateries, from tapas bars to upscale restaurants. Many of the restaurants offer terrace dining. Peter Smith likes to frequent the Botin Restaurant. Opened in 1725, it is listed in Guinness World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world.
The American author Ernest Hemingway was a fan of its cuisine, which includes grilled shrimp, roast suckling pig and filet mignon. Other popular restaurants include Jockey, with French and Spanish-inspired menu selections as well as an extensive wine list; Zalacain, where you’ll find traditional dishes made from fresh ingredients; and Principe de Viana, where favorites include cod and mixed vegetables.
Where to stay
Whenever he can, Peter Smith books a room at High Tech President Villamagna hotel in Madrid, located in the city’s business center. The hotel’s design gives it a futuristic ambience. Glass fixtures and furniture are mingled with stainless steel and silver accoutrements and white marble floors. Other luxurious properties in the city include the elegant Villa Magna, the upscale Ritz Hotel Madrid and the Villa Real, whose architecture dates from the 19th century.