Visiting Madrid: the Espionage Capital of World War II

Much of the action in the Valhalla Trilogy takes place in Spanish Guinea (now known as Equatorial Guinea) during and up to the end of the colonial era. Indeed, the opening scenes of Beyond Ultra and some of the most dramatic scenes in the next book take place in Spanish Guinea.

By the 20th century, Spain’s remaining colonial empire was confined to Africa, including Spanish Morocco, Ifni (a little enclave surrounded by French Morocco), Spanish Sahara, and Spanish Guinea. These colonies were administered from this non-descript building in Madrid.

This building is now part of the Interior Ministry and must still be sensitive since the Guardia Civil police didn’t like me taking pictures and only allowed this one shot.

There are other venues in Madrid that are famous, or infamous, for their role in espionage during World War II and the Cold War.

One of these was the Embassy Tea Room, which Antonio described as a “nest of spies” during and following World War II. This bar and restaurant has hosted Madrid’s elite for decades, and it was a thrill to have lunch there on our trip.

The Embassy, as it’s called locally, was a real-world espionage setting and there were undoubtedly many more in Madrid, a neutral country in World War II along with its Iberian neighbor capital in Lisbon, Portugal, which I visited in 2011.

In my novels, the Palace Hotel, further down Paseo de Castellana, is a frequent meeting place for my protagonists, as well.

The Palace, built in 1912, is a Madrid institution, along with its neighbor, the Ritz, across the Paseo. In the hotel, the most intimate meeting place would be the Copper Bar, located off the lobby.

Of course, there are many other interesting places in Madrid where my novels’ heroes and villains would meet. The Spanish culture, especially in Madrid, is a very social one. People meet at bars and the many outdoor plazas, which are packed on most summer evenings. Our favorite is the Plaza Santa Ana, in the city center.

One of the most famous bars on Plaza Santa Ana is the Cerveceria Alemana. Hemingway used to drink here (among many other places in Madrid and elsewhere).

We have enjoyed our time in Madrid as we meticulously conduct the final research needed to complete the last two books of the Valhalla Trilogy.

After a week in Spain’s capital city, we headed out to the wine country in the Ribero del Duero and Rioja in northern Spain. But that will be a later post!

It’s a thrill to be researching these locations all over Spain that are so important to Spain’s history and to the Ortega and Hoffman families in the Valhalla Trilogy.

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