Hello yet again, my usual greeting to one and all and thanks for all the views, comments etc. They are very much appreciated even if they still never fail to surprise me.
Also, I am going to make my usual suggestion to any new readers. This piece will make more sense if you start at the beginning of the series which you can do here. For the rest of you, well I am sure you know how to use the “read more” button by now.
You will remember from the last saga here that I had decided to break up my day on the 26th November, 2013 into two halves as I had spent so long going on about all the wonderful things I had seen in the Retiro Park, even though I had only seen about half of it. The second half will hopefully not be too long as my poor little fingers are dropping off from typing but looking at my notes and images there is a bit to go yet. Still, it keeps me occupied, a useful thing in these times.
I went out of el Retiro Park by the Northwest gate which left me back on the Calle de Alcalá which seems to be one of the major thoroughfares in Madrid. It runs for miles North and East of the Plaza Mayor right in the centre all the way up to the arterial road and the airport.
A very fine monument (bring a long lens).
It was immediately very obvious that my new camera was going to get a serious workout that day but that suited me fine as it was still lovely and sunny as it had been all day. I had not even stepped out of the Park before I was trying to get all arty by taking an image through the rather ornate park gates of the simply huge triumphal arch I had seen earlier. Here is what I wrote about it at the time.
This is the Puerta de Alcalá (Alcalá Gate), so named because it is on the Calle Alcalá obviously and the road in turn is so named as it is the old road to Alcalá de Henares about 30 miles to the Northeast. if you’re interested, that is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the writer of Don Quixote. All right, you didn’t want to know that.
The gate was commissioned in 1774 by King Carlos III and eventually finished in 1778. It is to the design of Francesco Sabatini (1722 – 1797) who was actually Italian but had received patronage from the King when the latter was formerly the Duke of Parma and Tuscany. This royal connection led to him being given many Royal commissions and elevated him into the innermost circles of high society with numerous honorary ranks bestowed upon him.
The King wanted to replace a much more modest gate which dated from 1599 and was not deemed by him to be grand enough for his Royal personage.
Whilst researching this piece I discovered that there are supposed to be shrapnel marks on it from a cannon shell many years ago. Unfortunately I cannot confirm this and the reason gives rise to the title of this section.
Although there are arches which would obviously accommodate pedestrian and cart trafiic, the Puerta stands in the middle of what must be one of the busiest roundabouts in Madrid. There is no pedestrian access to it other than to take your life in your hands and I really wasn’t in the mood to do that. If you want close up detail, I suggest you bring either a telephoto lens or perhaps a gyrocopter! Even at a distance, it is a wonderful thing to see and well worth pausing to admire.
I did summon the courage to stand in the sanctuary of the traffic divider and take this image down Calle Alcalá towards the centre which shows just what a grand boulevard it is. In a paraphrase of a joke that is probably as old as the arch, “Why did Fergy cross the road”? To get to the bar, of course. It was three o’clock in the afternoon, I had been walking about for ages, I had not even had a breakast beer yet and I had seen El Tablón which looked just like what I needed. Here is my original report.
“With a huge effort of will I had walked past a couple of terribly pretentious looking cocktail bars / coffee shops that sold alcohol or whatever they were but not really my scene.
The place was quiet and there were only two women siting at the bar with whom I managed a very basic conversation with my almost non-existent Spanish and their very broken English but they were certainly friendly enough. I found Madrilleños to be like that.
Looking round the place I noted the usual items of food around and by the smell the chef / barman was evidently cooking up something very lovely for the evening in a huge pot in the semi-open kitchen.
However, what caught my eye, almost inevitably, was that this was a bar / restaurant dedicated completely to bullfighting. The images may give you something of an idea. There are a number of stuffed bulls heads around the bar with the rosette of the matador that had dispatched them, there were photos (some signed) of the said matadors, everything was dedicated to bullfighting. It appears that the bullfighters themselves even patronise this place.
I was not ready to eat although I did peruse the menu and found it extensive but even by the standards of central Madrid, it did seem a bit pricy. I had a couple of beers, accompanied by the pincho (free bar nibble) provided by the barman and moved on”.
Of course the rest of my tip is now rendered redundant and I am starting to worry. This establishment is now closed / sold on and I am beginning to wonder if I had jinxed them or not as the same thing has since happened to another bullfighter’s bar I had been in the previous evening. I will be banned from every bar in Madrid at this rate!
Walking on down the hill and admiring the architecture I shortly came to another busy roundabout and I had to take an image of the magnificent structure you see here. It is not as old as I thought as it was only completed in 1919 after a hefty 12 years of cinstruction which was held up by various political rows. It was originally the Post and Telegraph Office, and that is some place to go and send a parcel to your Granny. The Spaniards do have a certain sense of style. Since 2007 it has housed Madrid City Council.
If I was facing the Cybele Palace, as it is sometimes known, then it meant I had my back to an equally stunning structure, which you can see here.
I had already visited the Casa delArabe (see the previous post for details) and was expecting this place to be more or less the same set-up only for the
Americas rather than the Arab region. I wandered in the main entrance of the magnificent building you see only to be confronted by a very polite but slightly bemused young lady. With my non-existent Spanish and her limited English, communications were not the easiest but the usual international smile and gesture system soon had me informed that no, I could not actually enter the palace, which it had formerly been but that there was an exhibition to the rear of the building. I thanked her and followed her directions.
I subsequently found out that the main structure is a working building although guided tours are available if pre-booked but only at weekends. So what is this wonderful building that people want to come and see? It was formerly the Linares Palace built in 1873 by, and named for, the Marquis of Linares, one Jose de Murga and his story is somewhat tragic.
Unusually for his time and social class, de Murga’s father had encouraged him to find a love match rather than take a bride for her position. He duly obliged and marched up the aisle with the local tobacconist’s daughter. In due course they had a daughter and then things went horribly awry for the poor couple.
The apparently liberal thinking father revealed to the Marquis on his deathbed that he had had an affair with the wife of the tobaconist and that he was, in fact, the father as well as father in law of his son’s wife. You can imagine what this meant.
The Marquis obtained a Papal Bull stating that the couple could live together in chastity and so the Palace was effectively built on an upstairs / downstairs basis with each having their own quarters. Interestingly there was no kitchen in the Palace with all food being portered in from a nearby restaurant.
The saddest fate befell the poor innocent daughter who was sent away to an orphanage and totallydisowned. Her ghost is said to haunt the place to this day. I was not in Madrid over a weekend but I shall definitely make a point of visiting the next time I am in the city.
Having gone to the rear of the building I walked through a delightful garden and spoke to another equallycharming young lady with somewhat better English who informed me that there was an exhibition on the exploration of the Pacific over the last half-millenia and that there was no entrance fee but a suggested
donation of a few € (I cannot remember exactly how many but it was not exorbitant). She regretted that the initial video presentation was only in Spanish but it turned out to be very professionally done and I got the gist of it all right.
Onwards and upwards and I visited the exhibition you can see in the images which contained some very interesting nautical artefacts. In fact, a good proportion of the exhibition seemed to have been loaned from the nearby Naval Museum. I should point out that exhibitions here are temporary and this
particular one was finishing in a couple of months so check the attached website for details of what is current if it is ever allowed to re-open to the public..
I really was hitting it lucky that day but time was wearing on and I knew I wouldn’t get much more done. Much more importantly, I hade a date! Because the hotel was such a trek out of the centre Siobhan and I had decided it was a lot simpler just to meet up in town and seeing we had both enjoyed it so much the previous evening we did a bit of a re-run of the first outing. We met up in the Casa del Abuelo for chorizo and a few other nibbles all finished off with those magnificent langoustine “lollipops”. A civilised amount of drink was taken and a reasonably early night had.
I was really enjoying Madrid yet despite that and having only been there for about 36 hours, in the next instalment I take myself out of Madrid completely. If you want to know where, how and most probably why I do this, you’ll have to stay tuned and spread the word.