Sunday, 21 February 2010

17 February 2010 - Madrid

Weather dry today which was a huge relief. We headed up towards the Church de les Alamanes again to see if we could get a better look inside. Alas..... there was a church service going on. People in Madrid sure pray an awful lot. But it was not all in vain as we decided to stop in at a little bakers we passed the day before. Lovely crusty roll with jamon and a little cake and Amber got a free pastry sweet thing. Yumm.

Having had breakfast we began the walk towards Palazio Real. On the way we passed a building which looked like it was in the early phases of having some foliage trained to grow up the side of it.

It was a fair walk to the palace but still plenty to keep us occupied on the way. Doesn't this stripy street look weird?

A very tall skinny building.......yip that's about all you can say about this.

Even window shopping is a treat when they paint murals like this.

Just past the main theatre and there it was the Royal Palace....... Palazio Real as they say in Madrid. Extensive manicured front gardens greet you. Along with the odd galloping horse statue.

There was a queue to get in. With it being a Wednesday, if you are a European citizen you get in for free. That's probably why it was so busy. We were entertained by an accordian playing busker though as we waited.

And while you are waiting to view the next lot of photos I can bore you with some history of the Palace Real. Built in 1764 by Felipe V after the original palace was burnt down in 1734. I say it was built by Felipe but it took the poor guy that long he never lived to move in. Carlos III got the magic keys to the place. Nowadays the palace is only used for ceremonial events. The royal family prefer to stay at a more modest palace up the road - Palace Zarzuela. And by the look of things, the absence of furniture inside makes me think they took all the furniture with them! Have they not heard of Ikea!

Anyway, back to queuing to get in.

After an "almost argument with a security guard", I sense there's a pattern developing with all my trips abroad. Well at the bag xray and metal detector thingy, the guard ushered Amber through who was standing right in front of me. Then he steps in front and ushers this entire family through in front of me. I would not have minded the wait but MY DAUGHTER IS STANDING STRANDED AT THE OTHER SIDE AND I REALLY WANT TO HASTE MYSELF THROUGH AND GET TO HER........Mr Security Guard please!!! Or send her back through then let us through when we can go through together!! eejit!

Ok, chill pill taken. And finally we were through into the main palace courtyard. The place is huge and quite beautiful if not a bit empty looking.

A picture of a very nice light fitting in the middle of the courtyard.

This gives you an idea of the scale of the place.

This section of the palace was the part we were able to walk around inside. No photos permitted inside though. You are welcomed in to the place by a very grand stone staircase. I noted that finances must have been strained in the royal household because there were brass rods and fittings on the stair for carpets but there were no carpets. Then again with such high numbers of tourists visiting any stair carpet would just be wasted.

We also saw the old pharmacy inside the palace which was an aladdin's cave of giant bell jars filled with herbs and medicines. All perfectly presented in purpose built cupboards and shelf units.

My favourite room was the porcelain room which had walls totally covered and decorated in porcelain. Here is a picture of it, just so different and grand.

Time for a spot of lunch in the cafe at the palace. Sign said if you don't see what you want then ask and we will make it up. Helpful eh?....... not........ you'd have thought I was asking the chef to shave an alien and poach it! OK maybe I need to go back and check on my Spanish!! Eventually I got what I thought I ordered. Also a strange Michael Jackson wacko fan sitting opposite us in the cafe sporting one of those surgical face/mouth masks that prevent germs spreading. I did have my bath that day!! cheek!!

Oh and before I forget we went in to see the palace's collection of armoury. It was well presented with large statues of galloping horses sporting the latest suits of horsey armoury. And they even had an armoury kit for a dog!!!

We were too late to head into the Cathedral de Almadena which is next door to the palace. But we did get to it another day. It's later in the blog.

Just time for one more photo shot as we looked back towards the palace.

I fancied living in one of the apartments across from the palace. Andrew has his eye on the penthouse in this block.

Next on the agenda was a trip to Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales or better known as the Monestery of the Barefoot Royal Ladies!!! I kid you not. Now with a name like that you just so want to go see it eh? It is currently home to 23 barefoot nuns by the way. It was originally a medieval palace and home to a succession of royal ladies who arrived with all their finery and expensive gadgets [did they have gadgets in those days???] anyway as the years went by and the next royal lady moved in, it soon became home to some wonderful art and furniture.

Which makes me think........ could the nuns not afford proper footwear???

It looked lovely from the outside since the place had received it's fully quota of visitors for that day and no more could get in to look round. Never mind.

Back to walking passed the nice bear and strawberry tree on the way in Puerta del Sol.

Something else intrigued us about Puerta del Sol and it was something that was written in the book we had about Madrid. The place is home to what they call Kilometre Zero, which is an inconspicuous slab on the south side of the square. This point is the absolute center of not only Madrid, but of Spain. Believe me it was hard to find!!! But find it we did.

We were meant to go see an art gallery but it was closed- Amber gave a huge sigh of relief!!! So instead we decided to head for a stroll round Retiro Park. Passed two rusty cross legged saxaphone players on the way.

Well you didn't think they were real for one minute did you? After walking behind Museo del Prado and up a hill, past some lovely looking up market apartments, we were in Retiro Park.

Ok now for the history lesson about the park. It covers an amazing 330 acres and dates back to the 17th century. It has a boating lake and a sort of grand pillared palladium style building. It is also home to one of the very few public statues to Lucifer, called the Fallen Angel.

Near the entrance to the park we walked up a spiral pathway lined by long poplar style trees. It reminded me very much of the parks designed by Charles Jencks. This part of the park also had a very calm, Japanese feel to it. Very relaxing for a stroll.

There are also 191 olive trees planted in this area in memory of those killed in the Madrid train station bombings.

We strolled up the central promenade and discovered the park has some residents in the form of little feral cats. Harmless enough, very timid. The promenade led to a wonderful fountain.

I have no idea why Andrew posted the next picture which is essentially the entrance to the gents loos in the middle of the park!!! Yeah, everyone will rush to see this photo!!!

I think the main highlight of Retiro Park has to be the boating lake. It's vast and with the most wonderful backdrop of a pillared palladium.

Inside the palladium were statues, all on a grand scale.

And then at the other end of the park another fountain, this one in full flow.

The fountain was planted up with the most weird looking cabbage like plants. What on earth are they? Answers welcome in the comments box.

This is the entrance at the far end of the park. As we were about to head out the park we couldn't resist looking back and taking a snap shot looking back up the park.

On exiting the park you are faced with one of Madrid's key landmarks, Peurto de Alcala. It was built in a neo classical style to commemorate Carlos III's first 20 years on the throne. Charming anniversay present eh? In it's day it was the largest city gate in Europe. It now appears somewhat belittled given it is marooned on an island not much bigger than itself in the middle of the busy thoroughfare Plaza de la Independencia.

We'd walked a fair bit today so it was time to head back to the hotel, stopping only to pick up some stamps from the tobacconist. Back at the hotel it was time for us to get ready to head out for dinner at an eatery a short walk away from the hotel. It's called Bazaar.

I loved the whole ambience of this place. Pleasantly laid out, fresh decor with beautiful shelves filled with food stuffs. The food was good enough but the service was more akin to a fast food place. I opted for duck foie millefeuille, Andrew opted for a lasagne dish with spinach and sirloin beef and Amber had a thai chicken curry with noodles. The fast food feel came when my plate was removed a split second before I put my knife down after completion!! Desserts were a bit mixed up and not quite what we ordered. When the waiter came to take our dessert order I said we hadn't decided so could he give us 2 minutes. This he duly did by standing by the table for said 2 minutes!!! Quite funny though......... I made him wait 3 minutes!! Amber and I swapped what we had because they brought her the wrong dessert but it worked out well since I really enjoyed the cherry tart! Amber thought the creme anglais tasted of shampoo. hmm.

1 comment:

Pamela said...

Madrid looks beautiful! I'm happy international relations were not strained by either the security check point at the palace or the request for poached alien in the cafe. Love the park. And the cabbage is just an ornamental/decorative cabbage. We use it all the time in Texas during the winter as it hold up well to the cool temps here. Very useful stuff.