The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – Madrid, and the Hop on Hop off Bus

Next morning Kerry wanted to catch up on her sleep so I ventured out on my own. I decided to see where our road led to (anticipating that I could find my way to Plaza Mayor eventually). So up the street past Plaza Nelson Mandela (Yes we are in a predominantly African neighbourhood), past La Morgue, and Taberna Tirso de Molina and past Tirso de Molina Metro, left, past the big chair, and suddenly I am into one of the connecting streets to Plaza Mayor (15 minutes). From there I went to Puerto del Sol and caught the hop on hop off bus again to visit some of the places I had seen on Tuesday. I caught the blue line to start with and went down to the national Museum for Art passing a “green” wall at least 4 stories high, viewing the rail station or at least the departure platforms added onto the old station. I was trying to find a building with a carillon and view the glockenspiel like parade in the carillon but found this other unusual display of powder and wig costumes instead – I am still on the hunt for the carillon. I chanced my luck on foot in the traffic to get a picture of Neptune in the centre of a roundabout, chanced upon Plaza Margaret Thatcher (some might say that the Fascists still rule in Spain), the display of sculptures under an overpass, the non de script HQ of the Armed Forces of Spain, before arriving at the stadium – Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home of Real Madrid.

Then I jumped on board the bus again to go to Plaza de Colon (I am sure it means something different in Spanish). The plaza is the roof top of a large car park which uses camera and radio technology to allow cars to enter and pay for the parking without stopping for a ticket fumbling with change or finding out your credit card has expired. The surface is parkland with an unusual sculpture/memorial to all the sailor/ adventurers of Spanish history. It also provided me with the best view of a memorial to Columbus which also has the names of all of his crew written upon it. A copy/ duplicate of the memorial is somewhere in New York. Note the contrast between the memorial and the office block behind it. I had completed the sites I wanted to visit so I went back to the apartment to see how Kerry was getting on.

After a bite to eat I dragged her through the path I had discovered to the centre of town. This time I took a slightly different path ending up at San Gines Chocolateria. Here they serve churros and hot chocolate and have done so since 1894. It’s not a sweet chocolate but after 6 sticks of churros I had enough. Hallowen is a big thing over here as is shown by this display on a building in the city centre. They are getting ready for Xmas too. We boarded the bus and went to the Temple of Debod a gift to Spain for its help to Egypt with saving the buildings in the Aswan Valley. From here we got great views of the Palace and the Cathedral. But we made the mistake of deciding to walk through the gardens – two hours later we arrived at the crypt under the Cathedral for Santa María la Real de la Almudena. It was very imposing. Many of Portugal’s wealthy families have buried their dead here. Then there is the cathedral containing the “The Estela de la Almudena” a great work, chiselled in silver, made ​​by the goldsmith Manuel Carrera and his team. This is a Work of Art, and the epitome of an art which unfortunately has disappeared due to the lack of craftsmen. Once again beautiful stone work and treasures locked up in honour of a dead saint.  As we left the cathedral we noticed this ancient olive tree standing alone. That’s enough for today so we waited for the hop on hop off bus to take us back to the Opera Metro. Due to road closures it was delayed so we walked finding Gepetta’s a wooden puppet shop and not much further we found San Miguel mercado picked up dinner and then went home via the Metro without the hop on hop off bus.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Iberian Peninsula – Madrid, and Flamenco

Tuesday has fulfilled it’s promise of rain. Clearly we are moving through autumn as it is scarves and coats for everyone. We have decided to do the hop on hop off bus today and tomorrow. It comes as no surprise that we are the only ones on the bus but that has not stopped the traffic. There are two routes the green line and the blue line. The green line predominantly follows Paseo de la Castellana north to Real Madrid stadium – Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and south to the Museo Nacional de Arte and the rail station, whilst the blue line is more east west following the Gran Via and visiting the Palace the Cathedral Plaza Mayor and Puerto Sol (the old town). The rain lasted about an hour – about the same time to go to the Stadium and change lines to go to Sol. During the journey we passed the Botanic Gardens where we started our walk on Sunday ending up at Jardins del Buena Retiro and got a picture of the grand entrance which we missed by walking through the centre of the gardens. By the time we reached Sol the sun was shining but the cold was there to stay. At least we got to see the bear and the Arbut tree symbol of the city (the Arbut tree is the tree that provides the cherries for the wine Modrono). We went back to the apartment to rest as tonight is a night of Flamenco.

After resting for the afternoon we left the apartment about quarter to six to take the Metro to the old town. Although our reservation is for 7.30pm, we arrive at Calloa metro station at 6.00pm to ensure we find the place. I was confident that I knew where it was but we had to take no risk about this. In Plaza Calloa we saw the buildings of Madrid displaying their magic by night. Our route took us past Plaza SanMiguel and the Mercador San Miguel, down an alley to Plaza el Conde de Mirande and the entrance for Las Carbonaras – we were 1 hour early. So we went back to San Miguel and had a glass of wine and marvelled at the tempting treats in the food cabinets.

We tried to get in a bit ahead of our 7.30 slot but no we could only arrive at 7.30. So on the stroke of the half hour we were there anxious to get out of the cold. Inside was warm and inviting and some patrons had already arrived (bastards) but even so we got the best table at the front of the stage beside the entrance for the musicians. Dinner was delightful. We had ordered the special menu which was a taste of a number of dishes as a sharing plate – everything from Spanish omelette, paella, ham, chorizo, breads, a beef stew and desserts. Just as I was scooping the last mouthful of dessert into my mouth, out came the performers – two guitarists (12 string guitars), two singers and 4 dancers. The performances were electric and passionate. However our excellent seats meant we were in danger of losing our wine glasses as one of the dancers twirled her shawl breezing just past us and the male dancer working up enough sweat to spray it everywhere with each flashing turn of his head. We thoroughly enjoyed this evening and if you get to Madrid you must see a flamenco performance.