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jorgesanchez Madrid - A travel report by jorge
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Madrid,  Spain - flag Spain
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jorgesanchez's travel reports

Crazy about Madrid

  29 votes
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In Spain we say De Madrid al Cielo (Crazy about Madrid) because no other Spanish town has so much to offer in terms of art, theatres, gastronomy, nightlife, etc. Please, try to read it by listening the theme song Entre dos aguas by guitarist Paco de Lucia. report of the month contest
Jul 2005

Plaza Mayor and Spanish King Felipe III
Plaza Mayor and Spanish King Felipe III
Madrid is a relatively new city, founded in 1561 as the capital of the then greatest Empire of the world where the sun never set, by our Hapsburg King Felipe II. In Madrid you can visit one of the three best and richest museums of the world: El Prado (the other two being Louvre in Paris and Hermitage in Saint Petersburg). But this is not all! Just in front of El Prado you will find two more magnificent museums: Thyssen Bornemisza, with hundreds of French impressionists and old Italians masters, among many other painters, and Reina Sofia Museum, with Spanish artists from the XVIII to the XX centuries, such as Picasso, Dali, Miro, Juan Gris, Santiago Rusinol, Zuloaga, Chillida, etc. (Salvador Dali donated all his better and most well known paintings to the Spanish Government. Famous Picasso's Guernica is also in this museum). This triangular area is internationally recognized as the greatest cultural concentration of art in the world. You will get crazy about Madrid; the city that will enthral you and you will feel in the seventh heaven, never wishing to go back to your country. Furthermore, since the first day you will be considered a madrileno, because Madrid people are the most open minded and extroverted in Spain. It is very easy to make friends there, even foreigners without any knowledge of Spanish. Take into account that half of the more than 3 millions inhabitants of Madrid are either foreigners or from other Spanish regions, such as Andalucia, Asturias, Catalonia, Extremadura, Aragon, etc. Madrid has the best Metro in Spain, with more than 10 lines, and the airport is reached for just 1 euro (or less if you buy a 10 trips ticket card). One of the lines goes round the town, encircling Madrid, like in Moscow. Since Madrid is geographically positioned in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, it is very convenient for travelling to any Spanish city, to Sevilla, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, or to Santiago. All Spaniards are very proud of our beautiful capital.

Favourite spots:
Royal Palace, at a short walking distance from Puerta del Sol
Royal Palace, at a short walking distance from Puerta del Sol
Madrid has three emblematic symbols: EL OSO Y EL MADRONO (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree, or “ericaceae arbutus”), a lovely metallic statue in the central Square Puerta del Sol. PUERTA DE ALCALA is a kind of Arch of Triumph erected by Sicilian artist Francesco Sabatini in the XVIII century. The third symbol is the fountain CIBELES, a Phrygian Goddess representing the fertility. The Royal Palace is an exquisite marvel. It was burned down in 1734 and reconstructed by Italian artists in notorious French style, reminding Versailles (our King then was Felipe de Anjou, grandson of the French King Louis XIV). Today this Palace is a museum. In its dinning room celebrate banquets offered to foreign Presidents, Kings, Ministers, etc. Our present King lives in the Zarzuela Palace, in the outskirts of Madrid. In El Prado Museum you will admire thousands of paintings by the greatest masters of the world: Velazquez, Goya, Fra Angelico, Rafael, Botticelli, Durero, Cranach, Rubens, Brueghel...etc.

What's really great:
Interior of the Bibliotheca. Frescoes by Pellegrino Tibaldi
Interior of the Bibliotheca. Frescoes by Pellegrino Tibaldi
The Monastery/Palace El Escorial is located at just 1 hour by bus or train from Madrid. It was erected in the XVI century by order of our King Felipe II, when he moved the capital of Spain from Toledo to Madrid, and holds the mausoleum of most of our Hapsburg and Bourbon kings. Inside there is a museum called the second El Prado for the quality of its paintings, an enormous basilica looking like Saint Peter’s in Rome, the second most important Bibliotheca in the world in ancient books (only after Vatican's) with thousands of old manuscripts, rare and precious books, illuminated Books of Hours, etc., and still other marvels like the miniatures of the Gallery of the Battles, where four Italian artists worked eleven years. Because of these riches plus its hundreds of tapestries made with silk and golden threads, its immeasurable frescoes, its sculptures from Pompeo Leoni to Benvenuto Cellini, ancient maps, and other startling treasures, we consider El Escorial the Eight Wonder of the World

Cross of the Valley of the Fallen and the Benedictine Monastery
Cross of the Valley of the Fallen and the Benedictine Monastery
SANTA CRUZ DEL VALLE DE LOS CAIDOS (The Valley of the Fallen). The cross of this monument, made on granite, which height is 150 metres, and the four statues representing the four Evangelists, is a grandiose masterpiece. In the interior there stand a Basilica of 300 metres long constructed in form of tunnel in pure granite inside a hill of rock, besides an old Benedictine monastery surrounded by exuberant nature in the middle of a stunning valley. It is a contemporary colossal work and at the same time a memorial devoted to the fallen, republicans and nationals alike, without difference of ideology, during our tragic Spanish Civil War (from 1936 to 1939). It will be better appreciated when the hatred created in it, which is still alive in some of our politics, will disappear forever, and the neutral people will admire it without political prejudices (Franco tomb is there). You can get to this Valley from Madrid by bus (less than one hour), or from the nearby Monastery of El Escorial.

Puerta de Alcala, one of the three symbols of Madrid
Puerta de Alcala, one of the three symbols of Madrid
Hotel PARIS, sited in Calle Alcala number 2, is a wonderful two stars hotel (in fact it deserves the category of 3 stars but the owner does not want to pay too much taxes!). It is situated in the central Square Puerta del Sol, the heart of Madrid, occupying the soil of an ancient monastery. A double room cost about 60 euros. There are several relatively cheap pensions around the street closed by. Hostal GALICIA, in Gran Via, besides the building Telefonica, is a cheaper choice and is located on a fifth floor. Hostal ITALIA, behind the GALICIA, on a second floor, is familiar but more expensive. Hostal METROPOL, in front of GALICIA, in Calle Montera, besides the building with the McDonald’s, is much cheaper but much worse. A pleasant three stars hotel next door to the same McDonald’s, is the hotel TRYP GRAN VIA, were stayed the American writer and Nobel Prize Ernest Hemingway writing his chronicles during our Civil War. There are also several youth hostels for backpackers.

Flamenco is a fiesta of passionate dance, music and colours
Flamenco is a fiesta of passionate dance, music and colours
As in the whole of Spain, the most loved folklore in Madrid is flamenco, an explosive amalgam of Spanish old singings and dances that were enriched and consolidated when absorbed aspects of gracious Gypsies movements coming from India, Jews chants from their synagogues, Arabs melodies, fragments of remote Byzantine liturgy, and North African rhythms. It was born in a marginal and intercultural Andalusian society (Argentinean Tango emerged under the same social conditions). Flamenco Clubs are called TABLAO. In Madrid I recommend CORRAL DE LA MORERIA, centrally located and probably the best, where Hugh Grant and Richard Gere go every time that they come to Madrid to promote a new film. CAFÉ DE CHINITAS is also OK and centrally located. EL CORRAL DE LA PACHECA is good, in an old wooden theatre of comedies, but far from the centre. FLORIDA PARK, situated inside the huge Parque del Retiro, offers a Flamenco Show with original modern elements, type lasers, vapours and other effects.

Corrida de Toros (Bullfighting) in the arenas LAS VENTAS
Corrida de Toros (Bullfighting) in the arenas LAS VENTAS
One of the most popular Pubs close to Puerta del Sol is LA FONTANA DE ORO. In the past was a kind of cenacle, like Rabelais’ Abbey of Theleme, where gathered our intellectuals of the XIX century. The Pub is renowned due to the novel with its title by our literature genius Benito Perez Galdos. One plaque in the façade of this pub reminds this fact. Today is a very pleasant pub with lively music serving Spanish and Irish beers, Sherry wines and cocktails, very frequented by Spaniards and foreigners alike, especially Americans staying in the Hotel Paris. Nearby is PLAZA DE SANTA ANA with many pubs and one Hawaii Kai. PALACIO DE CRISTAL is a lovely cafeteria/pub with piano music located in the sidewalk of the Boulevard Recoletos. A glamorous one In the Gran Via is CHICOTE, where you will notice fixed on its walls hundreds of photographs of famous personages who visited Madrid in the past, from Presidents of USA to renowned Italian movie actresses.

“Tuna” musicians with their guitars and bandurrias ready to play
“Tuna” musicians with their guitars and bandurrias ready to play
For excellent food in pleasant atmosphere, wander around Plaza Mayor and Arco de los Cuchilleros street, where you will hit upon dozens of restaurants. CASA BOTIN is the oldest in the world open without interruption according to the Guinness organization (you will even get a certificate stating the year 1725), and their speciality is sucking pig. For Spanish tapas try LUIS CANDELAS, a restaurant in a cave in front of BOTIN, where the waiters use traditional bandit clothes and reproductions of old weapons since Napoleon invasion of our country. During your dinner you will be delighted by the TUNA, groups of young university students dressed like in the XVI century who will interpret romantic songs such as Besame mucho or Clavelitos. Our King loves CASA LUCIO where the most delicious fried eggs in the word are prepared. For cheaper options go to CASA DOMINGO, close to the tomb of Goya, and order chicken with cider, or try the chain MUSEO DEL JAMON with tapas and tasty cured ham.

Other recommendations:
Astonishing panorama view of Toledo and the River Tajo
Astonishing panorama view of Toledo and the River Tajo
From Madrid you can make one day excursions to many interesting places, such as old TOLEDO, an exceptionally rich city in history and art, where every building is a museum. It deserves a special and prolonged visit. CHINCHON is a most original small village. In its central narrow streets you will find an exotic bull fighting arena (do not forget to drink the famous Chinchon anis). ALCALA DE HENARES has one of the oldest Universities in Spain and the house/museum where Miguel de Cervantes was born. SEGOVIA, with its Roman Aqueduct, the impressive Gothic Cathedral, and its stunning fairy tale Alcazar (castle), constitutes another unmatched choice. And if you have time, there are many more fantastic towns around Madrid: CUENCA and its hanged houses, walled AVILA, SALAMANCA and its beautiful Plaza Mayor, TOBOSO with Dulcinea charming house and the Windmills along the Quixote Route, and a long etc.

Published on Wednesday August 10th, 2005

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Tue, Jul 18 2006 - 09:07 PM rating by karlakern

Me fascinó como con tanta pasión has descrito esa bella ciudad, me encanta y más de la Madre Patria, buenas fotos y dan ganas de un vino tinto cerca de un buen fuego en una de sus casonas del centro, en octubre. ***** =)

Sat, Apr 08 2006 - 05:51 PM rating by tokyomike

OK, OK! I'm convinced already. I'll go. haha. VERY informative report. I actually turned down a teaching job there about 17 years ago. I'm regretting it now!

Mon, Sep 12 2005 - 04:13 PM rating by mistybleu


Congratulations on getting ROTM; this truly is a wonderful report.



Fri, Aug 12 2005 - 07:14 AM rating by gloriajames

great report and beautiful pics!

Thu, Aug 11 2005 - 10:06 AM rating by picasso

Very detaled and overly interesting to read with gerat images.Well done Gorge!-*****

Thu, Aug 11 2005 - 07:50 AM rating by magsalex

First class report.

Wed, Aug 10 2005 - 08:48 PM rating by rangutan


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