Sarah Lahey and Suzy Gershman, Shopping BFFsWhile shopping maven Suzy Gershman tipples her way through Napa wines, she set a shopping challenge for her partner-in-crime, Sarah Lahey: visit three countries in five days to see what bargains she could uncover without compromising style or experience.

Dear Peter,

I’m often told that I have the best job in the world as Editorial Director for Suzy Gershman’s “Born to Shop” travel guides. Well, it just got better.

Suzy’s working on our new Born to Shop California Wine Country book, so she came up with a shopper’s challenge for me: Visit three countries in five days to find good buys on luxury goods without compromising style or shopping experience.

Chic Outlet Shopping Villages has outlets dotted outside of Europe’s major cities, so the idea was to use the outlets to connect quick shopping excursions through Madrid, London and Munich. Olé.

Don’t miss Suzy & Sarah’s roadtrip across the USA with the Postcard from San Antonio to San Francisco: Shopping & Roadtripping the Southwest US.


Suzy and I usually book our plane tickets online via airline Web site, but for this trip—put together at the last minute and of a complicated nature—I went to a consolidator to save money, time and hassle.

Blue planeI needed to fly from San Francisco to Madrid, and then on to London, Munich, and New York for a day of meetings before returning home to San Francisco. Total ticket price was $2,830 which is less than I could find online.

Better yet, my flights were all Oneworld and Star Alliance, so I got miles on my American and United frequent-flier programs. Yes, I checked before booking to make sure all the flights qualify. What I failed to check was my name on the e-ticket. My passport name reads Sarah Roach Lahey, but the tickets were issued to Lahey Roach Sarah.

I had to check in at a ticket counter—couldn’t use the kiosks—to explain the mix-up and ask the agent to override the system and insert my frequent-flier numbers. Most airline computers automatically reject numbers and names that don’t match in their records. Note to self: Next time, check name on tix before departure.

Want more advice for Spain? Try our Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Madrid


Las Rozas shoppingOnce in Madrid, my first stop was Las Rozas Village, the first of my Chic Outlet Shopping Village conquests, this one right outside of town.

It was pouring rain, so I grabbed a taxi and headed to Las Rozas, about 40 minutes by car from central Madrid. The fare was €35 each way, but if I’d spent €700 or more at the village, Las Rozas would have treated me to a free taxi ride back to town.

If you want to save euros on transport, there’s also train service from Madrid’s Atocha and Chamartin stations to Pinar de Las Rozas; travel time is about 30 minutes. Buses (# 625/628) run from Moncloa bus station every 15 minutes.

Antonio Miro, Purifcacion Garcia, Custo Barcelona, Camper, and Bimba & Lola are among local fashion labels represented at Las Rozas, along with many international big names including CH Carolina Herrera, Hugo Boss, Zegna, Petit Bateau, Pepe Jeans, La Perla and Burberry. Geox and Bally both provided opportunities to replace my rain-soaked mocs.

Prices at the outlets are discounted a minimum of 33 percent, althoug I found some items marked down 80 percent off regular retail. The selection was very good, the merchandise was seasonal, and most clothing styles were available in a full range of sizes. I was told that all goods are from past collections, but I’m sure I saw current designs in several stores.

Get more great shopping adventures in our complete Shopping section.

Madrid MugTo get off my feet and take a break from the rain, I headed to Starbuck’s for a jet-lag fix. I was also on a quest: to buy a mug. I have a collection of Starbuck’s City Mugs from most of the cities I’ve covered for “Born to Shop.”

The last time I was in China, I found that the styling on these City Mugs had changed. The mugs are now a bit smaller and color-coded by city with glossy colored insides. Pricey at €12 (about $18), I prayed not to break my Madrid mug before I got home.


I arrived back at my hotel, The Villa Real, in time for a quick walk around town before dinner. The hotel is centrally located next to the Spanish Parliament and Prado Museum, but I didn’t have time for sightseeing; still on my shopping list were ham, espadrilles, and an umbrella.

Ham or JamonPardon the expression, but I was in hog heaven when I walked into the Museo del Jamón. After sniffing (no sampling, unfortunately) and surveying all the hanging hocks, I bought a kilo of a mid-priced Serrano ham for €18. I wanted to buy more, but feared detection by the dreaded U.S. Customs canines. I will plead innocent if caught; smoked meat is allowed, right? I’ll say the swine flew.

Nearby, I checked out the competition at the Mercado de San Miguel (Plaza de San Miguel ). Alongside the ham vendors were fresh oyster stands, beautiful organic produce and a charming bar where champagne was being poured.

By the time I finished my search for ham, it was late afternoon and I was exhausted so I gave up on the espadrilles. The umbrella purchase was easy; street vendors appear out of nowhere in the rain, as in any city, and I picked up a compact cheapie for €5.

Get more Spain travel advice:

Art at the Urban HotelA couple of blocks up the street I inspected the Villa Real’s sister property, The Hotel Urban. This new hotel features an eclectic mix of avant-garde architecture and design where Oriental and Egyptian works of art are prominently displayed in the public areas and guest rooms. There are totems and figures from Papua New Guinea, Chinese portraits from the 18th and 19th centuries and an extensive collection of Hindu figures from the 19th century. It’s like visiting a museum.

The hotel’s Glass Bar is a must-see for the young, rich and tobacco-addicted. Next time, I’ll try the Terraza del Urban, a rooftop bar and restaurant where the air is fresh and martinis rule.

In search of tapas, I wandered up the charming Calle Libertad to Bazaar, a restaurant with Mediterranean decor and menu. No tapas, but a great dinner.

Last stop was Chocolateria San Gines on Pasadizo de San Gines, famous for homemade churros and thick, rich hot chocolate.

With jet-lagged hugs,

More from the Bargain Shopping Europe series:

By Sarah Lahey for Join Suzy & Sarah on the road this spring on the “Born to Shop” trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from March 10-15, 2010, with an optional Bangkok extension. Guests will stay at the InterContinental Asiana and participate in “In the Know” shopping experiences filled with authentic local experiences and off-the-beaten path venues. For more information, contact Sarah at srlahey @