QUICK GUIDE TO MADRID
If you need a change of scene but can only get away for a short time remember that Madrid is only a brief flight away from any city in Europe, and easily accessible by train or express bus from any corner of Spain. Leave your car at home as travelling round the city on the Madrid Metro is simple and the ticket pass reasonably priced. The best time to go up is on a Friday, hotels are easier and sometimes cheaper to book as business people leave the city for the weekend.
The capital of Spain is located in the heart of the peninsula, in the centre of the Castilian plain 646 metres above sea level, and has a population of over three million. A cosmopolitan city, a business centre, headquarters for the Public Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament and the home of the Spanish Royal Family, Madrid is characterized by intense cultural and artistic activity and a lively nightlife. Like any other capital city, Madrid has its own unique atmosphere and the best way to absorb this is to wander along the central streets discovering the centre’s most prominent attractions almost by chance.
The emblematic Plaza Mayor dates back to the start of the 16th century and until the last century was used as a marketplace. It was the scene of popular events, even public announcement of sentences during the Inquisition and executions, religious processions, bullfights, dance and theatre festivals. The most striking building in the large paved plaza is the Bakery house, with its colourful fresco-adorned façade. Beneath the arcades are an assortment of shops, outdoor cafes, taverns and restaurants. On Sundays a stamp market is held under the arches. Make a stop at the tourist information office here and pick up a simple guide book (in English) and map, and set off to explore this fascinating city.
Leave the square by the calle Cuidad Rodrigo, passing the San Miguel Market building, the roof supported by airy iron columns. Proceed along the calle Major until reaching the Plaza de la Villa. In these narrow streets there is an evident mixture of Moorish and Christian architecture making up the framework of what was once a medieval town sprinkled with convents and palaces. Follow Segovia street towards the 15th century San Pedro el Viejo church, which was built over a mosque and still conserves a 14th century Moorish tower. Make your way towards the Barrio de La Latina (Latin Quarters) and Cava Baja street where ancient shops and restaurants evoke the traditional flavour of Madrid. Nearby Cuchilleros street is bustling with olden-style taverns and in the back lanes surrounding Plaza Major you will find an assortment of crowded typical tapas bars.
The Puerta del Sol Gateway was once a 15th century defensive bulwark, part of a wall which enclosed the town. The former Casa de Correos (Post Office) was built in 1768 and is crowned with a tower with a clock on its four sides; the most famous timepiece in Madrid. At the stroke of midnight on December 31, the Madrileños hail in the New Year to its chimes. A marker on the ground indicates Kilometer zero from which all the country’s road distances is measured. Three historical statues adorn the plaza; a statue of Venus, the bear and berry tree which is made of stone and bronze displaying the city badge, and the third one representing King Carlos III.To the left, on Alcalá street you’ll find the Ministry of Finance, a former Customs House and good example of Baroque classicism. The head office of the Banco Español de Crédito was built in 1882-1891. The Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando was built in 1775 as a palace, remodelled in 1974, its priceless art gallery includes 16th and 17th century works by the Spanish School.
The fountain in Plaza de Cibeles, surrounded by some of the city’s most important monuments, has become an important symbol of Madrid. On the Southeast corner is the immense Neoclassical-style Palacio de Comunicaciones with its ornate stone walls once the main post office it is now the City Hall. Next to it, you’ll find the Naval Museum which displays interesting documents and relics along with ancient and modern model-ships of the Spanish Navy. The Bank of Spain stands impassively on the Southwest corner, started in 1891, it reflects neo-renaissance tendencies. The legendary Puerta de Alcalá in Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Square), was designed in 1778 and used to be the gateway to the city by the Aragón road.
The Teatro Real or Royal Theatre, built by Queen Isabel II, was remodelled and inaugurated in 1997 as the opera house. Nearby is the Plaza de la Encarnación, which is linked to the Plaza de Oriente, where the 17th century Monastery of the Incarnation is found. In the Plaza de la Marina Española the Senate Palace was built at the end of the 16th century for a community of Augustinian friars. Recently remodelled it is now the seat of the Spanish Senate. Continue along Torijareet to the Plaza de Santo Domingo. Proceed on the Calle de Trujillos and turn left at the Travesía de Trujillos which runs into the Plaza de las Descalzas, where you’ll see the 16th century Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. As you come back towards Plaza de Cibeles, you’ll find the Círculo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Circle), currently site of one of the most dynamic institutions in the cultural life of the city.
By the Plaza de Oriente you’ll see the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), constructed on the site of a Moorish fortress it was destroyed by fire in 1734 and later rebuilt in 1737. Opposite the main façade is the Plaza de la Armería. Circling the Palace is the Sabatini Park and the sloping enclosed gardens known as the Campo del Moro. Joined to the Palace is the Almudena Cathedral. The Royal Palace, not currently used as a royal residence, is used for state receptions so the more important rooms can only be visited when official acts are not being held.
Gran Vía is one of the main arteries in Madrid; an assortment of grand buildings with ornate façades, large cornices, colonnades and balconies dominate the Eastern end. Rising imposingly at the interjection of the Gran Vía and Calle Alcalá you’ll see the Metropolis Building. Near the Plaza Red de San Luis you’ll find the headquarters of Telefónica, the first skyscraper in Madrid built in 1929. A little farther along, you’ll come to the Plaza de Callao bustling with pedestrians, surrounded by cinemas, department stores and shops. Separating the Gran Vía from Princesa street is the huge Plaza de España, noted for two exceptional buildings dating back to the 1950’s; Edificio España and the Torre de Madrid.
From the Puerta de Alcalá heading north is the Salamanca district, where a large number of the select art galleries are concentrated, along with numerous prestigious shops selling designer clothes, accessories, jewellery and furniture. The Spanish Parliament in the Plaza de las Cortes was finished in 1850 with Corinthian columns. On the opposite side of the street is the Palace Hotel, built in 1912. The Lope de Vega House-Museum is located on Cervantes street, an area where other renowned Spanish authors, including Miguel de Cervantes, once lived. The Neptune Fountain has a statue of Neptune standing on a chariot wielding a trident. On the semi-circular Plaza de la Lealtad is another of Madrid’s finest hotels, the Ritz Hotel, a unique structure dating back to 1910.
Buen Retiro Park is the largest and most beautiful of all Madrid’s majestic parks, inaugurated in 1632 by Felipe IV. The 130 hectares of woodland form a green, tree-clad island in the middle of an asphalt jungle. The fine gateways are located in the Plaza de la Independencia, the Calle de Alcalá, Calle de O’Donnell, and Calle de Alfonso XII. White stone figures of the Kings and Queen of Spain peep out from the avenues of lofty trees and thick bushes, and just inside the park there is a large artificial lake where rowing boats can be hired. Inside the park is the lovely Crystal Palace, made out of iron and glass, and also the Velázquez Palace, both built at the end of the 19th century and currently used for exhibitions.
Prado Museum is located in an 18th building, considered one of the most important art galleries in the world, it houses masterpieces by Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Zurbarán, Raphael, Botticelli, Fra Angélico, Rubens, and Rembrandt among others.
Open 09.00 to 19.00; Sunday 09.00 to 14.00; Closed Mondays.
The entrance to The Royal Botanic Garden is beside the Prado Museum. These gardens contain about 30,000 different species of trees and plants from all over the world and were founded by Charles III.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, housed in the 17th century Villahermosa Palace, exhibits a splendid collection ranging from primitive Flemish to contemporary works. More than 800 paintings and sculptures, carvings, tapestries and other items are displayed. Open 10.00 to 19.00; Closed Mondays.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is on Calle Santa contains a permanent collection of Spanish contemporary art, as well as temporary exhibitions. It’s also the showcase of the famous painting Guernica, by Picasso. Opens 10.00 to 21.00; Sunday 10.00 to 14:30; Closed Tuesdays.
NIGHT LIFE in the city that never sleeps:
In the vicinity of the Plaza de Santa Bárbara, the Glorieta de Bilbao and Alonso Martínez, a large number of popular bars and pubs are concentrated.
The bars in the districts of Arguelles and Moncloa are generally frequented by University students and a younger crowd.
Malasaña, in the vicinity of the Plaza de Dos de Mayo, has countless old cafés and bars with live music, in addition to moderately-priced restaurants plus discos.
The streets of Paseo de la Castellana, Paseo de Recoletos and Paseo del Prado boast quality restaurants, cafés and popular night spots.
In the summer months and especially at night, open-air terraces abound in the areas of the Paseo de la Castellana and the Parque del Oeste.
Tapas are a wide variety of Spanish appetizers, and “Ir de tapeo” or bar-hopping is a popular tradition in the hundreds of bars scattered throughout the streets of Madrid.
Restaurante Botin is the oldest restaurant in the world and is included in the Guinness Book of Records. Founded in 1725, it is frequented by international celebrities. The ancient brick-arched dining room oozes history but more importantly the food is wonderful and not ridiculously priced. Specialities include suckling pig, roast lamb and oven baked hake. Situated on calle Cuchilleros.
An evening at a MUSICAL is a must. Currently showing, The Lion King is suitable for all the family. Set in the stunning fauna of Africa, this story is probably one of the greatest every told. With an international cast of more than 50 actors and songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice, the show evokes the story of Simba, through a blend of music, dance and African shapes conveyed through spectacular animated sculptures, elaborate costumes and impressive sets. At Teatro Lope de Vega, Gran Via 57.
Finally, don’t miss the Rastro, an incredible flea market with a retro atmosphere held each Sunday morning. A flood of humanity invades the narrow lanes and small plazas in La Latina district (tube station La Latina) in search of everything imaginable. When stalls fold up, around 14.00, amble along to one of the lively bars which thrive between Plazas Humilladero, San Andrés and la Paja, for tapas and a drink.
Smiling children, let’s keep it that way 🙂
Not very often you can make pictures of smiling ladies in Arabic countries. These shots are from the capital of Yemen, Sana’a, from the Jewish Quarter. And that is maybe the answer how I was able to see girls faces. I was thinking about the differences between people living in this place and me. They seemed to me to be much more lucky and satisfied, they smiled and laughed more … I also like the shy smile of young girls, almost grown up, surprised by all the people wanting to take their photo.
Written for A WORD A WEEK PHOTO CHALLENGE – SMILE.
La luna es una boca que ríe
en el cielo de Oriente Medio.
Los palestinos nos alejamos
del hogar y de la patria.
Lo perdimos todo.
Sólo el gran desierto
nos acoge y nos ampara.
Palestinos e israelitas,
de un mismo pueblo.
Mujeres y hombres,
con niños en brazos,
partimos hacia Jordania
en la roja oscuridad
de la noche sagrada.
Pasamos junto a los cuerpos
sin vida, ya sin sueños.
Estelas de sangre
riegan el largo camino
que siguen las aves
huyendo de las balas,
sin nido y sin ramas.
© IREL FAUSTINA BERMEJO
18 de noviembre
Cuánto tiempo… cómo estás? Ya ves, sigo aquí, escribiéndote… Pero ahora es diferente, sí?
¿Quién te escucha ahora cuando te encuentras solo, triste y melancólico? Me buscarás como solías hacerlo y me pedirás una vez más, por favor, que no pierda el contacto? O querrás que vayamos a tomar ese café, el que nunca tuvimos ocasión de tomar, a charlar?
Ofrecí mi amistad, así de simple, así de complicado, sin más interés que verte bien. Tenías mi apoyo, incondicional… Sentí tu llanto y escuché tus sueños.
Pasaron los meses, los años, y seguíamos escribiendo, chateando. Yo siempre animándote.
Contando mi vida, mis sueños, mis esperanzas… Enseñado mis poemas, mostrando mi manera de ser, como no lo hacía con nadie… Sin esperar nada, sin interés oculto.
Solo una cosa, pedí, que nadie malinterpretará mis escritos…
Recuerdo tu llamada, un sábado a las 9, y yo adormilada. Tanto me sorprendí, creí que la había imaginado…
Estabas en “tu casa” con tu novia, celosa… ¿Celosa de mi, por que? Porque la dejaste ver mis mails, correspondencia privada…
Era más fácil dejarla creer que tuvimos un tonteo, en vez de aclarar que éramos amigos…
La escuché, su voz alzada, mientras me imploraste que no te enviará más mails. Me decías que no tenías otra cosa, que en las relaciones te había ido mal antes y, que por favor, cortáramos el contacto…
Ya no espero tus emails, tus mensajes, tus llamadas… Ni tú las mías…
Sabes Amigo? Haces daño a todos quien te acerca, quienes te cogen cariño… No entiendes de la amistad, la complicidad, la sinceridad…
Esta vez no estaré allí por ti, violáste la confianza que había entre nosotros, y me siento sucia… Los amigos no deben hacerte llorar.
Bueno, tengo que irme Amigo, cuidate mucho, que te vaya bien
Pdt: Te dije que cumplo mis promesas, pero te hice dos, contarías… Rompo la primera, lo siento, de veras…
Por eso, aquí permanece mi email sin enviar
Nunca me di por rendida
aunque lo pareciera
por mi mirada taciturna
y mis neuronas vegetando.
Para afrontar el regreso
afinaré mi garganta
para gritar por las calles
que sigo siendo la misma.
Volveré aunque tenga
que saltar por las
Volveré porque no tengo
Volveré pese a que vivo
en mi nube y me declaro
Poema de @veranoaz
A veces una nube oscura se cierne sobre mi,
y cada gota de lluvia al caer
quema mi alma, nubla mi vista.
Oh nube impía que no me deja ver el sol,
el sol en su esplendor, su brillo de todos los días.
Como anhela mi corazón encerrado ver tu luz
como anhela mi suave piel volver a sentir tus cálidos rayos.
Oh nube impía cuan estorbosa puedes llegar a ser
y aunque me consuela saber que sólo seras pasajera
Quisiera que el viento soplara mas fuerte
para que así los ojos de mi alma
pudieran de nuevo ver el día.
Poema de: @LaMusaEscritora
MÁLAGA, the capital of Spain’s sunny Costa del Sol and one of the oldest cities in the world!
A typical Andalusian city, Málaga is bathed by the Mediterranean Sea, still fairly untouched by tourism and, to a large extent, the passage of time. It is quite fascinating to wander around the narrow streets of the old quarters.The Moors occupied the city until the mid 15th century, after which it prospered to become one of Spain’s foremost merchant centres. This illustrious past has left its imprint on the historic centre, particularly around the Alcazaba, a fortress which dates back to 1065 and is now a fascinating archaeological museum.
During the 19th century, Málaga was a popular winter resort for the wealthy famed for its elegance and sophistication. The impressive park on Calle Alameda dates back to this era and is recognised as being one of the most celebrated botanical collections in Europe. During the winter, open air concerts are held here every Sunday.
Málaga also prides itself on being a modern city with the heart of commerce dominated by Calle Larios. This was ideal place to start exploring the city as it is surrounded by attractive small streets and plazas.
The major sights in the old city centre include the magnificent Renaissance style Cathedral with a Baroque façade which offers daily guided tours. A number of ancient churches, each with its own distinctive style, are all located within a small area. The Castle of Gibralfaro was rebuilt by the Moors and is today a traditional Parador Hotel with amazing panoramic views over the town and bay. The name comes from the old lighthouse (“faro”) which used to stand on the hill to guide vessels into the harbour and also to warn of attacks by pirates.
Spain‘s celebrated painter, Pablo Picasso was born in 1881 in the corner house of an elegant yellow-toned building on Plaza de la Merced. His birthplace was declared an historic-artistic monument in 1983 and in 1991 it became the headquarters of the Fundación Picasso. The centre has been created to further cultural activities including the promotion of contemporary art. There are several galleries showing Picasso’s work, including the 16th century Museo de Málaga (Fine Arts and Archeology museum) adjacent to the Cathedral.
As well as being a cultural centre, Málaga is also a great place to eat out. The Malagueños love their food and the bars and restaurants here are where the real social life takes place. Tapas are an Andalusian tradition and a wonderful way to try a variety of local food. The best known local fare in Málaga is pescaito frito, an assortment of fried fish, including red mullet and small sardines, best washed down with a glass of ice cold fino at one of the many old fashioned bodegas in town.
Discovering the Málaga countryside and surrounding villages was a pleasant change and contrast to the city itself.
Axarquía is just to the east of Málaga city, a rich area for its historical interest. From the sea up to the high mountain the landscape is full of contrasts and has its own identity. It passes from the relaxing Mediterranean to deep valleys, high cliffs and steep clefts. One of its acclaimed characteristics is the brightness that attracts numerous artists from all over the world. The climate is tropical throughout the year with mild winters and hot summers.
There are several different itineraries recommended to get to know the region; the route of sun and wine, avocado, raisins, mudejar (Arabic art) and the route of oil. Discover valleys full of vineyards, farmhouses where sweet wine is made, picturesque white painted villages and the Montes de Málaga Natural Park to the north of the city of Málaga, almost completely surrounding the city.
Rich in vegetation and fauna, it is also renowned for its country restaurants serving cured meats, local wines or the typical mountain dish of migas – breadcrumbs with spicy pork sausage.The Park comprises an area of abundant mountain streams, unusual landscape of hills and the small valleys which have formed between them, normally populated by pine trees, confer upon the area a special beauty rarely found in other mountainous regions. This is one of the few enclaves where the chameleon is still to be found. The polecat, weasel, badger, wild cat, marten and wild boar also inhabit the area; the many birds of prey include the sparrow hawk, mouse and snake eagles, goshawk and golden eagle.
The Route of Sun and Avocado is largely a coastal route of surprisingly unspoilt sea-side villages between Rincón de la Victoria and Torre del Mar, where the cultivation of sub-tropical products such as avocado, mango and sugar cane plantations can be seen. It crosses Rincón de la Victoria, the hamlet of Macharaviaya, Vélez-Málaga, Benamargosa, Benamocarra and the village of Iznate.
Vélez-Málaga enjoys a privileged hillside enclave, which was already appreciated by the prehistoric inhabitants. The first settlement was possibly Iberian, later recuperated by the Phoenicians, and after consolidated by the Romans and Moors. The Villa is the original nucleus of the city, with an evidently Arabic rooted architecture. Of the four doors which gave access to the city, only two remain: the Real and the Antequera. Near the first is the beautiful fountain of Fernando VI from 1758.
Ancient houses are still conserved, with three-storeys, yards, tower, archways, and roofs with large wooden eaves, probably built by people from Vizcaya and Asturias who arrived after the Catholic kings’ conquest. Among the many historical buildings to be visited in Vélez-Málaga, the most outstanding are the church of Santa Maria la Mayor, in Mudejar style, which was a mosque during the Arab rule, and the Municipal Palace, which dates from the 16th century and was once the high court and the Granada captaincy.
The convent of San Francisco is important, founded by the Catholic kings, later erected in the Convento de Observantes, which is situated in the Jewish quarters of Vélez-Málaga. The convent’s cloister is composed by Mudejar archways on the ground floor and top floors. This suburb was first a residence for craftsmen and bourgeois and later for noblemen and royal officials. There are still a few palaces and ancestral homes, such as the Plaza de las Carmelitas, and the Casa del Mercader.
There are historical references of the fort in Vélez in the 13th century which is perched high above the town. Only the tower, Torre del Homenaje, of the castle still remains commanding a spectacular view for miles around.
Rincón de la Victoria, situated just 12 kilometres east of Málaga, makes a convenient base for those who prefer sea breezes and beaches, and the relative tranquillity of an overgrown fishing village.
Rincón’s greatest asset is its lively sea front and beach. From the westernmost cliff top marked by a Moorish watch-tower, the view sweeps down the length of the sandy beach, past the clutter of blue and white fishing boats, chiringuitos (fish restaurants on the beach), palm trees and clusters of thatched sunshades towards the bustling promenade.
The sea front itself stretches from one end of the town to the other. Two popular walks are along the sea front to La Cala, and to the shrine of the town’s patron, the Virgin del Carmen, embedded in the rock at the westernmost tip of the beach. The route to La Cala cuts through the cliff-side, going through three rock-hewn tunnels which have recently been improved to allow walkers and cyclists easy access.
Apart from sea, sun, sand and succulent seafood, Rincón de la Victoria has sights worth seeing. The fortress, Casa Fuerte, is set in one of the town’s few green spaces and doubles as an art gallery. Dating back to the reign of Carlos III, the fort was built in 1733 as part of the coastal defence against English pirate attacks.
Man first settled here in the Palaeolithic period, between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. Sites have been discovered from which a collection of tools and Stone-Age art have been recovered. The remains of Roman settlement and a third century Roman fortress are also located in the area. The Roman writer, Plinio, refers to a temple built here that was dedicated to the moon. During the 12th century the town was known as Bezmiliana.
There are interesting caves at Las Cuevas del Tesoro, the famous Treasure Caves where gold was reputedly hidden by the Moors. A series of underground caverns has Palaeolithic wall paintings, stalactites, stalagmites and underground pools. These are the only visible marine caves in Europe and are believed to be the prehistoric sanctuary of the goddess Noctiluca.
We had thoroughly enjoyed our short break and we had packed a lot of sightseeing into a couple of days but it was time to leave as home, family – and work – were waiting for our return.