Sunday, 21 February 2010

20 February 2010 - Madrid

Our final day in Madrid and time to take a few pictures of where we stayed Hotel de les Infantas. It's categorised as a hostal not a hotel so doesn't always come up in all the typical hotel searches. But it's 4 star and I can't complain; it was a great place to stay and a brilliant location.

The hotel was just up from the La Casa de les Siete Chiminenas mentioned earlier on it the blog. We thought we'd better actually take a picture of the 7 chimney's in this haunted church.

Another shot of the hotel.

And our favourite Starbucks right on our doorstep. We had many a coffee from that place I can tell you. Way too convenient and not helped by the fact most Spanish hotels don't provide tea and coffee making facilities in the room.

View down our street from our balcony.

As with all our holidays we like to take a few photos of our hotel room. Both the main room and bathroom has lovely balconies overlooking the street below. Reminded me a bit of our apartment in the south of France.

Phoned for our taxi, packed in our luggage and it was back to the airport to begin our journey back home to Scotland.

What a fab trip and Madrid is a lovely city.

19 February 2010 - Madrid

Today was dry which was good since it was our last full day in Madrid and we planned on putting in a full day.

We swung by La Kitchen, the restaurant we ate at the previous evening just to take a photo of the outside. It's the non descript lower floor of this building.

First stop for breakfast was at Cafe el Espejo with Andrew’s favourite jamon, queso y huevo. I opted for hard bread with tomato paste and Iberian ham. Lovely. Our breakfast was almost interrupted by some filming that was taking place inside the cafe. It looked like an author doing a photo shoot for her new book.

Headed out and Andrew couldn’t resist another photo of that strange caravan that was parked up outside.

The centre of Madrid is always like a building site apparently. Seems the builders were having a laugh with these 2 boulders.

Now that we were fed our first trip of the day was to Tiffany’s for some shopping. Tried on a few rings and settled on the Tiffany atlas design band. Chuffed to bits with it and so was Andrew’s wallet as I managed to avoid the huge diamond and sapphire collections. Here's a picture of me sporting said new ring.

Now take note Stirling Council. The Spanish authorities go out of their way to disguise some of their more functional structures. In this picture you can actually see these rather nifty figure of 8 grit bins which double up as little seats too. So much better than our awful looking yellow plastic tubs!

We had the chance to take photos of some of the large sculptures found amongst the underpasses. This one here is made of bronze and it's called Proali and it is by Marcel Marti. Made in 1984.

This sculpture reminded me of a giant penguin but it wasn't. It's made of bronze too and is by Joan Miro and was made in 1975 and is called Mere Ubu. Must be worth a fortune.

Not all sculptures have nice rounded lines to them as you will see with this one.

And what do you do with a huge lump of concrete below an underpass? Why string it up on metal rods of course!!

And another sculpture. This one is called Toros ibericos and is by Alberto Sanchez. It was made in 1958 - 1960.

This sculpture consisted of 2 large objects which fitted together although I wouldn't want to try and place them together; they were huge.

Having tackled the 3 big art galleries in Madrid, today we were heading to 2 smaller ones. Museo Sorolla is a combined gallery and museum dedicated to the life of Joaquin Sorollo. The artist died around 1925 and this collection was given to the people of Madrid by his widow.

The entrance to the gallery is through a lovely Andulusian style courtyard garden. With tiled paths, little fountains and trimmed hedges it was really a very peaceful setting.

The main room inside the gallery was where the artist lived and worked. It resembled a giant Dutch barn with the double height walls filled with the artist’s paintings. Furniture including his desk and bed stood inside the room and gave you an insight into how the artist lived and worked in this, his studio.

What a tiny bed.

The room off this was a lounge with a semi circular glazed conservatory area. Looking up you could see the splendid tiffany chandaliers. Now that’s something I’d be quite happy to have in my house.

What a lovely area this would have been for sitting reading a book or painting.

You then head up a lovely staircase made from iroko wood to the upstairs gallery. Again filled with the artist’s work.

A final stroll out through the courtyard gardens before heading to our next port of call.

The second gallery of the day was Museo Lazaro Galdiano. He was a business man and publisher who died in 1947 and he too dedicated his vast collection to the people of Madrid. The collection covers 4 floors and comprises not only paintings but ceramics, glass, jewellery, armoury and my favourite........ large tapestries. Amber’s classic endorsement of this gallery was “it’s not rubbish like the others”.

We continued our walk northwards passed the Natural History Museum.

And how funny is this sculpture in the middle of the road? And funnier still if you wave at it tall jets of water shoot up into the air!!!

I just made that up about the jets of water!!!

Back on our walk and we headed up past Real Madrid’s football stadium – Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

We passed this government building. Looked a bit military.

We were heading northwards to see 2 iconic buildings in Madrid, the sloping towers of the Puerto de Europa. It was only afterwards that we checked and we had actually walked over 5 miles to get to these towers!! They are located at the end of Paseo de la Castellana. It’s an area likely to develop in years to come since the plan is to make this area one of Europe’s major commercial centres. It used to be Real Madrid’s training ground but they sold it because they were short of cash.

Four giant skyscrapers are already under construction in this area and the one you see in the pictures is by the architect Norman Foster and it reaches some 250m into the sky. I liked that one.

Still more sculptures were there to be discovered on our walk. This one had very limited appeal, just lumps of melted metal squashed together.

And as we headed back down our 5 miles we passed the footie stadium again.

Even some of the older, existing buildings in Madrid looked amazing. How tall is this one?

I thought this sculpture looked half finished. It was as if the artist had carved the head and an arm then gave up!

When traffic halts at the lights you sometimes see the street entertainers out trying to make some money by waving and throwing flags about.

But the best flag was this enormous one which was a gift to Madrid.

And remember the picture of the hotel that reminded me of a giant wedding cake? Well it looks even more like a big cake when it is lit up.

18 February 2010 - Madrid

A dry day today yay!! Off on our walking travels again today. Sadly another ill fated walk past the Monestario de las Descalzas Reales - Monastery of the Barefoot Royal Ladies which was once again closed. If anyone does get in to see this place can they please blog it and send us on details!!!

Still plenty of sights to take in our our way to somewhere we knew was open today. It seems everywhere you look there are interesting buildings, with paintings on walls or just architecturally nice to look at.

I think Andrew liked the building on the left rather than the giant adverts..........then again......

Some lovely apartments overlooking a plaza. Nice white van too!

This was a small square / plaza outside what looked like a government / military building flanked with guards.

And to match the bear with the strawberry tree statue there are homages to it on the pavements.

We had then arrived at the large cathedral next door to the Royal palace. It's called Catedral de la Almudena. This cathedral was planned ages ago and had a rather hard paper round during it's early years. Initially the building work was constantly delayed due to lack of funding and then along came the Civil War and it was bombed! oops. Eventually many years later work resumed and it only opened up again in 1993. In 2004 it hosted the wedding of Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz.

As we entered the church, if you wanted you could light a candle in memory of someone or to let someone know you are thinking of them. Now in most traditional churches, after a small donation, you take a small wax candle stored below and light it from one of the others. But things have obviously moved on since then. Now all it takes is 1 euro dropped into a slot machine and the next unlit candle on the top plate lights up! bingo!! Somehow it just didn't feel the same. I wonder why?

The inside of this cathedral didn't disappoint. The sheer height of the ceiling is jaw dropping. I say jaw dropping because after staring at the amazing painted ceiling and looking up for 5 minutes you did feel as though your jaw was going to drop off!! The pillars reaching up towards the ceiling, the stained glass windows........ just wonderful. I think the next few pictures say it all.

The church organ.

And are the colours here not stunning? So bright.

And then it had a very grand alter with steps leading up to it on either side. That's Andrew and Amber up there.

I thought the stained glass windows were unusually modern. But I liked them.

And more ceiling shots.

You get a feel for the scale of the place in this shot.

Despite suffering a severe stiff neck from looking up I spotted my favourite design on the ceiling. Thought it had a bit of the old William Morris design about it.

And this predominantly blue stained glass window.

And all of this entered from a huge carved door.

Standing back from the cathedral on the outside you can see just how big and grand it was.

Time to stop for a spot of lunch on the go at this bakery. We got what looked like a slice of French toast with jamon, queso and almondes. Not my favourite bakery purchase I must say!! Amber bought a lovely rose made from sugar.

One of Madrid's most famous plazas is Plaza Mayor so we wanted to head over for a look. The town was busy in this area for some reason. First there was a big bunch of football fanatics singing rather loudly and badly. The supporters were called ulraAslan and were supporting the Turkish football team Galatasaray who were playing Athletico Madrid. What a bunch of thugs they looked like. And quite threatening. So we gave them a wide berth only to be confronted by a lone, drunk and angry looking tramp who didn't take a shine to me when I refused to put money into his tin he was waving in my face. He started shouting or perhaps swearing at me in Spanish........ it was hard to tell with my limited Spanish but I knew he wasn't discussing the weather! Once again a wide berth from this one but he wasn't for giving up. So he starts to wave the tin in Amber's face.................... BIG MISTAKE............. BIG MISTAKE!! So what then ensued can only be described as a staring match but he got the hint that if he took one step closer to my bairn I'd be ramming his tin somewhere unpleasant!

But enough of that nasty stuff, now for some history about the Plaza Mayor. It was the brainchild of Felipe II and has what can only be described as a theatrical feel about it. Dating back to the 16th century with bits rebuilt due to fires in the 17th and 18th centurys, it's filled with frescoes on many of the walls. It can hold up to 50,000 folk and it was used for state occasions. Which all sounds very respectable but not when you hear the state occasions were public trials of heretics who sadly, if found guilty, ended up being executed. It also played host to jousts, plays and bullfights. You'd have to be sure to check your ticket before you arrived for one of those eh or you might end up getting a nasty surprise!

But enough sight seeing, off to locate a little gem of a place called Chocolateria san Gines. It's been on the go since 1894. As the name suggests it has something to do with chocolate. Located in a small side street we eventually found it passing by a lovely little book seller on the street corner with a fab collection of old books all stacked on shelves built into the actual walls of the building.

As the name suggests the place sells cups of thick hot chocolate and strips of donut batter for dipping in. Called Chocolat Con Churros. Oh and in case it's not sweet enough there is a shaker of icing sugar to sprinkle over them before you dip. We best do alot of walking today to burn this lot off!

And walk we did down to the last of the 3 big name galleries in Madrid - Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. It houses a vast collection of art owned by Baron Heinrick Thyssen-Bornemisza, his son Hans Heinrick and his wife Carmen [who incidently used to be a beauty queen married to Tarzan actor Lex Barker] She fairly "climbed up the social ladder" or should I say swung up the social ladder?

This gallery, like the other 2, also has a new extension but unlike the others I don't know how much this one cost!

The art collection begins from the 14th century and up to the modern day art. Some pretty nice impressionist art from Pissarro, Monet, Renoir, Degas and Sisley are housed in the new gallery. There are also some newer pieces from Miro, Pollock and Chagall. Then the odd Bacon, Lichtenstein and Dali. The collection is split between Heinricks pieces and Carmens art. In her opening statement she goes on to thank her husband for teaching her about art and how she then went on under his guidance to buy her own art that she likes. What it didn't say was how she also enjoyed the use of his hefty bank balance no doubt to purchase such art!!! We'd all have a collection as extensive as that dearie with your kind of pocket money!!

One of Andrew's favourite pictures:-

Time to had back to the hotel the get ready for dinner tonight. We walked past the Ritz who unfortunately were fully booked otherwise we would have stayed there!! Honest!!

And just round from our hotel this lovely Art Deco building which is also an art gallery. Amber nearly fainted at the prospect of yet another gallery so close to our hotel!!

Dinner tonight was in a restaurant I'd picked out before we headed to Madrid. It's called La Kitchen and we eventually got in to the place having arrived at 8.30pm initially which was 30 minutes before the place opened!

Superb food but a bit pricey. I opted for a fillet of beef with fancy potatoes. Andrew had the beef wellington with foie and Amber did us proud with a posh burger with caramelised onions and gravy. Desserts were equally delicious - vanilla and berry cheesecake, warm apple tart and a lemon and mango sorbet. One of my favourite eateries during our trip.

Finally, back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.