Madrid (Spain)

January 2018

The visit began at the starting point for measuring the distances of the country’s six national roads.

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Kilometre Zero - Slab Marking the Geographical Center of Spain

The marker is outside the clock tower on the old Post Office building in Puerta del Sol Square.

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The Old Post Office Building

Puerta del Sol originated as one gate in the city wall that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century.

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Monument to King Charles III

On the east side lies the statue of The Bear and the Strawberry Tree, the heraldic symbol of Madrid.

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The Bear and the Strawberry Tree (El Oso y el Madroño)

To have great views for free nearby is the Corte Ingles Supermarket.

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Panoramic Views from the rooftop of the Corte Ingles Supermarket

On the top floor, there is also a food court.

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Tapas

Among the great things to do in Madrid is to explore the world of tapas.

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Tapas

A tapa is an appetizer or snack and may be cold or hot.

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More Tapas

After the quick snack, the walk continued with a quick stop to admire the facade of one of the city's cultural icons: Teatro Calderón de Madrid.

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Teatro Calderón (Calderón Theater)

Nearby is the Plaza Mayor Square, once the center of Old Madrid.

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Plaza Mayor

Dating back to the 15th century, the square was the town's main market.

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Plaza Mayor

There are ten entrances to enter or exit the square.  

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Square with the Casa de la Panadería to the right

Just outside there is a basic bar called La Campana, very popular for its bocadillos de calamares (filled rolls studded with deep-fried calamari) - Madrid fast food as its greasy, filling best. 

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Bocadillo de Calamares, morcilla & bravas

But feeling adventurous, the next stop was San Miguel Market.

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San Miguel Market (Mercado de San Miguel)

Established in 1916, San Miguel Market is one of the oldest and most alluring markets in Madrid. 

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San Miguel Market

With its stunning 20th-century glass walls, the market is a fine example of iron and glass architecture in the Spanish capital.

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San Miguel Market

At first glance, San Miguel may seem like a tourist trap.

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San Miguel Market

An average of 60,000 people come to browse and graze here en masse every week.

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San Miguel Market

While you might not have the time to tour through all of Spain’s unique regions, you can sample the Galician specialty pimientos de padrón, pintxos from the Basque country or Asturian Sidra all in one trip.

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Some day Juan, some day ...

I found the prices to be high, but someone may argue quality doesn't come cheap.

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San Miguel Market

Between the market and Plaza del Sol there a few churrerias offering churros.

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San Miguel Market

A churro is a fried-dough pastry normally dipped in hot chocolate with sugar often sprinkled on top.

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Churros

To burn the extra calories, the walk continued towards the Royal Palace. It is no longer the royal family’s home but is still their official residence.

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The palace is on the site of a 9th-century Alcázar ("Muslim-era fortress").

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Emir Mohamed I built the fortress to protect Toledo from the advancing Christians.

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The Royal Palace

In 1734 a fire burnt the palace to the ground and Philip V ordered the construction of the palace that stands today.

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The Royal Palace

On the east side, there is a garden marked by a row of statues, known as the Gothic kings.

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Juan and Sancha

The sculptures represent rulers of the early Christian kingdoms.

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The Sabatini Gardens (Jardines de Sabatini) have the remainder of the statues. It is a nice spot to chill out of the city's heat (in summer).

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Sabatini Gardens

Walking towards Moor's Field you can see Puerta de San Vicente, built between 1770 and 1775; dismantled in 1892 and rebuilt from 1994 to 1995.

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Puerta de San Vicente

Campo del Moro (Moor's Field) gives an appreciation of Madrid in its earliest days.

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Moor's Field (Campo del Moro)

Here an Almoravid army laid siege to the city in 1110.

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Moor's Field (Campo del Moro)

The troops occupied all but the fortress (where the Palacio Real now stands), but the Christian garrison held on until the Almoravid fury abated and their forces retired south.

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Peacock

The park is designed in the Romanticist style.

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The 20 hectares of gardens that now adorn the site were first laid in the 18th century, with major overhauls in 1844 and 1890.

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Black swan

Retracing my steps took me to Principe Pio Shopping Mall.

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This old train station has the only Juan Valdez coffee shop in Europe.

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Beans from Colombia were a mainstay of ground coffee sold in the US and Europe, but prices were low, and the flavorful varieties were often blended with lesser quality non-Colombian beans to make them more palatable and saleable.

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And this is one of the reasons why I don't like blends.

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Colombian delicacies: Buñuelo, Pandebono and Almojábana

Close by is Plaza de España, a large square at the western end of the Gran Vía.

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Cervantes Monument

At the center of the square is the monument to Miguel de Cervantes.

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Statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

The plaza is flanked by Madrid's first skyscrapers, the 142 m (466 ft) Torre de Madrid ("Madrid Tower"), built in 1957 and the 117 m (384 ft) tall Edificio España ("Spain Building"), built in 1953.

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Cervantes Monument

From Plaza de España you can easily walk to the west end of the street that never sleeps, Gran Vía.

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Gran Vía

Gran Vía is the busiest, most popular street in Madrid.

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Gran Vía

It is 1300m long and more than 100 years old and lined with some of the most sought-after retail shops in town.

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Callao Square - Gran Vía

Permanently crowded with shoppers and sightseers, the street is a showcase of Art Nouveau and Art Deco facades fronting its banks, offices, and apartments, and huge posters on the cinemas.

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Construction started in 1910 and ended in 1929.

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Callao Square - Gran Vía

The Gran Vía was one of the most challenging urban constructions in Spain as it was necessary to demolish over 300 buildings and 50 streets.

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The Metropolis Building located in Gran Vía and Alcalá Street

Thanks to this thoroughfare, the city center was better connected to the north-eastern part of Madrid.

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Instituto Cervantes

The east end of Gran Vía connects to Calle de Alcalá, close to Plaza de Cibeles square.

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The Cybele Palace (City Hall)

The Plaza de Cibeles is a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures with fountains that has become an iconic symbol for the city of Madrid.

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The fountain of Cybele Palace

Following Alcala street will take you to the first modern post-Roman triumphal arch built in Europe, The Puerta de Alcalá ("Alcalá Gate", from the Arabic word القلعة al-qal'a, "citadel")

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Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá) 1778

The gate is older than the similar monuments Arc de Triomphe in Paris and Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

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Retiro Pond (Estanque Grande del Retiro)

You are just a few steps away from one of the largest parks in the city, the Buen Retiro Park (Parque del Buen Retiro, literally "Park of the Pleasant Retreat")

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Retiro Pond (Estanque Grande del Retiro)

The park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park.

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Retiro Pond (Estanque Grande del Retiro)

In 1902 the plan to build a monument to Alfonso XII was formed.

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Monument to King Alfonso XII

The equestrian statue of Alfonso XI is made in bronze and known to be one of the tallest and largest structures inside the park.

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Monument to King Alfonso XII

The middle of the last century saw the structure being neglected, allowing it to deteriorate.

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Monument to King Alfonso XII

It was in the ’80s when the restoration was done.

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Monument to King Alfonso XII

A number of statues and figures nearby also had to be replaced as part of the restoration.

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Monument to King Alfonso XII

Situated in the middle of the Buen Retiro Park, the 19th century Palacio de Velázquez was originally built for a national exhibition to celebrate the mining, metallurgy, ceramics, glass-making, and mineral water industries.

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Palacio de Velázquez (Velázquez Palace)

The Glass Palace, in the shape of a Greek cross, is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework on a brick base decorated with ceramics.

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Glass Palace (Palacio de Cristal)

Its domed roofs make the structure over 22 meters high.

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Palacio de Cristal ("Glass Palace")

The glass palace was created in 1887 to house exotic flora and fauna as part of an exhibition on the Philippines, which was then still a Spanish colony.

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Palacio de Cristal ("Glass Palace")

The exhibition spilled out into the park itself and included a reconstruction of a native Philippino village. The palace is used today for contemporary art exhibitions organized through the Reina Sofia Museum.

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Palacio de Cristal ("Glass Palace")

Nobody knows just how many stray cats there are on Madrid’s streets, but council sources put the total number of colonies at 400.

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Feral cat

On another park, Parque del Oeste, another attraction is the Temple of Debod.

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Temple of Debod (Templo de Debod)

In 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the consequent threat posed by its reservoir to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy.

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Views from the Temple of Debod

As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel temples, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.

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Magpie

Getting tired, I took the metro to visit Las Ventas.

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Las Ventas Bullring

The massive bullring has Neo-Mudéjar style, one that was popularised by the Arabic Moors of the 12th century.

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This gives the structure a more ancient look than it actually is.

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Plaza Toros Las Ventas is the third largest bullring in the world. The largest is the Plaza de Toros México in Mexico City, and the second largest is Plaza de Toros Monumental de Valencia in Venezuela.

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Las Ventas can seat 25,000 people and it measures 60 meters in diameter.

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Time to have some morcilla. Morcilla reflects the country’s commitment to minimizing food waste and their deep respect for eating locally.

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More morcilla (black pudding)

Like much of Spanish cuisine, paella started out as basic food for poor people.

Get a big flat dish, throw in some rice, add whatever else you can find, and cook it slowly over a fire.

Mine took 40 minutes.

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Paella

A visit to Reina Sofia Museum helped to digest the paella.

Located on the Art Walk, the Reina Sofía houses works by Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris as well as Picasso’s masterpiece: Guernica.

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Face of the Great Masturbator (Salvador Dalí) 1929

The walk towards El Prado museum provided more interesting sightings.

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Palacio de las Cortes where the Spanish Congress of Deputies meet

Together with Cibeles Fountain, Neptune Fountain is one of the most beautiful and majestic fountains in Madrid.

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Neptune Fountain (Fuente de Neptuno)

In this ornate fountain is an eighteenth-century sculpture of Neptune, the god of the sea holding a trident while riding on a carriage pulled by two creatures with a horse-shaped upper-half and a fish serpentine-tail.

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Neptune Fountain (Fuente de Neptuno)

Worth to mention is The Monumento a los Caídos por España.

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Monumento a los Caídos por España (Monument to the Fallen for Spain)

The monument is built on the place where General Joachim Murat ordered the execution of numerous Spaniards after the Dos de Mayo Uprising of 1808.

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Back to La Campana Bar

Time to say goodbye with a last visit to La Campana Bar.