Monday in Madrid took off like a snail and a turtle had a baby. Then that baby grew up to marry a sloth and that Monday was the progeny of the snail/turtle/sloth hybrid. Not exactly what I wanted but maybe what I needed. I woke to chocolate croissants for breakfast and slowly took a shower and got ready. When we where finally ready we explored a little bit and took in a few blocks of Madrid before stopping at a tapas placed called Carpe Diem. I mean if your going to seize the day you might as well do it with tapas. I had the Huevos y hongos, while Red and Amelia ordered a vegetable paella. With full bellies we went back to the house for siesta.
Now I've been remiss to describe the location of our AirBnB yet. They call it the Casa Del La Sol, and it is indeed a sunny little place. It's on the top floor (5 stories) of one of the buildings that lines Calle Trujillo, a very little side street off of Santo Domingo Plaza. We're about half a mile from the Palace, and about a mile from the giant and beautiful Retiro Park. Only about 4 blocks away from the Gran Via. So we're pretty much in the middle of Madrid's City Center. The apartment wraps around the side of the building. So it's pretty much just a small twisting hallway with small rooms coming off it. It's pretty but quaint.
I wrote up yesterdays update while everyone else was napping. I then woke everyone and announced in 30 minutes I was taking off for Retiro Park to see the Crystal Palace. Retiro Park covers over 125 hectares, it's big. Often referred to as the green oasis in the heart of the city. In it there are all kinds of interesting monuments and gardens, including the Jardín de Vivaces, the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (Andalusian-inspired classicist gardens), the Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios, the Rosaleda rose garden and the Parterre Francés, which holds a Mexican conifer that is nearly 400 years old and is believed to be Madrid’s oldest tree.
In addition to its role as one of the city’s green lungs, it is also a popular spot among Madrileños who gather there for a stroll, to do some sport, visit an exhibition or take the kids for a puppet show. The park is home to a large artificial lake, where you can rent a rowing boat, and to the Velázquez Palace and Glass Palace which are both currently used as exhibition halls by the Reina Sofía Museum.
El Retiro is also filled with interesting sculptures and fountains such as the magnificent Monument to Alfonso XII, which watches over the lake and in spring of 2018 opened to the public an observation deck offering wonderful vistas. Near the Rose Garden, there is a statue of the Fallen Angel, the only sculpture in the world dedicated to the devil which curiously enough sits 666m above sea level. Other spots worth visiting are the Galápagos Fountain, which was built in honour of the then princess Isabella II, the Teatro de Títeres, which is the only theatre in Europe that stages puppet shows every weekend, and the large area known as Reservado de Fernando VII, which King Ferdinand VII decided to keep for himself and his family while the rest of the park remained open to the public. In this section of El Retiro, between Calle O’Donnell and Calle Menéndez Pelayo, you’ll find some of the king's "whims", small buildings or monuments designed as little retreats for the monarchs to rest and relax: Casa del Pescador, the Montaña Artificial and the Casa del Contrabandista which accommodates Florida Retiro, a modern venue with a restaurant that hosts all kinds of events.
While we didn't have time to explore all of the park we did make sure to take in what we could including the Crystal Palace. The Glass Palace in the Retiro Park is one of the finest examples of iron architecture in Madrid. The metal and glass structure was built in 1887 for the Philippines Exhibition of that year. Designed by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, the project was inspired by Paxton’s Crystal Palace. It was originally planned as a gigantic greenhouse to contain tropical plants but today it is used for exhibitions.
On our walk back came across the San Jerónimo el Real which is a 16th century church. The church has undergone numerous remodeling and restorations over the centuries. The remaining structure of the Hieronymite monastery once stood beside the royal palace of Buen Retiro. (A portion of that now serves as the Prado museum.) Its proximity to the royal palace also underscores a connection to royalty, serving for centuries as the church used for the investiture of the Prince of Asturias. In addition, a Mass to celebrate the investiture of King Juan Carlos I was held here. In part, this link was cemented also because Madrid only completed its Cathedral of the Almudena in 1993. For many centuries, the Church of San Isidro served as a de facto cathedral, but while this church was associated with the patron saint of Madrid, St. Isidore was also the patron of manual laborers, not royalty, thereby relegating the role of royal chapel to this church.
We where able to go in for a little while but as we where there a bell rang and people started to leave. I don't know if it was closing or if they where clearing out the tourists for some kind of mass to start. Either way it was beautiful.
We came home that night after buying some bread and wine from the local grocery store, and had a simple meal of pan con tomate and queso de cabra. This included some pepinillos and of course the vino. Everything wrapped up and we were off to sleep... at only 2 AM this time.