After a night of next to no sleep I got up at 7:30ish AM on Wednesday. It needed to happen, it had to. My internal clock had gotten so stuck in it's routine that it was refusing to readjust. I was almost none functional until I walked into the kitchen to find that Amelia had made me a very strong cup of coffee. Seriously my wife spoils me almost every morning and now Amelia is presenting me with a damn perfect cup of coffee. It saved my life. THANK YOU AMELIA!!! I am truly blessed, and I it is by the grace of the fates that I am this lucky. I've done nothing to deserve this.
With a renewed determination from the coffee that I was going to not siesta today and continue the sleepless cycle I stayed up and had a wonderful and lite breakfast of mostly fruits. I continued my caffeine intake with Monster energy drinks, a Tim Hortons Double Double, and cafe solos at every place I could get one... Which is everywhere.
With enough energy to fly to the moon and back Red and I took off for the Plaza Mayor. Of course, we entered through the Heros vestibule. This portico lined square is situated at the heart of Hapsburg Madrid, the old part of the city and one of the capital’s most charming districts. Before Madrid became a capital city, with its wide avenues and boulevards, its footprint consisted of narrow streets, alleys, and passageways, which today take us back to the times of swashbuckling swordsmen and medieval rogues. The foundations of Plaza Mayor were laid, when Philip II's court moved to Madrid, on the site of the former Plaza del Arrabal, where the town's most popular market was located towards the end of the 15th century. In 1617, architect Juan Gómez de Mora was commissioned to create a greater uniformity amongst the buildings in this location, which for centuries had hosted popular entertainments, bullfights, beatifications, coronations and the occasional auto de fe. The middle of this Plaza is host to a statue of King Philip III. The statue of the king on horseback is one of the most valuable works of art to be found on the streets of Madrid. Designed by Giambologna and completed by Pietro Tacca in 1616, it watched over the entrance to Casa de Campo for centuries until, in 1848, Queen Isabel II borrowed it for the city, placing it in Plaza Mayor. Only during the two Republics has the statue been removed from what is perhaps Madrid's most emblematic square.
From there we moved on to the Mercado de San Miguel. Originally built in 1916, it was purchased by private investors in 2003 who renovated the iron structure and reopened it in 2009. The market is not a traditional grocery market but a gourmet tapas market, with over 30 different vendors selling a wide variety of freshly prepared tapas, hams, olives, baked goods and other foods. Beer, wine, and champagne are also available. Naturally, Red found the oyster vendor and proceeded snack on half a dozen and washed them down with Rosé Champagne. I was so proud, but I could not partake as food would have washed off the effects of the caffeine and before you knew it I would have been sleeping in the street.
We continued our march down Calle Mayor towards the Palacio Real de Madrid. Stopping in a few shops Red found a new charm for her bracelet of the El Oso y el Madroño. There is a statue of this in the Plaza del Sol which is a work of the sculptor Antonio Navarro Santafé and was inaugurated in 1967. It was promoted by the section of Culture of the City council of Madrid, which wanted to represent the main heraldic symbols of the city and of Spain with a monument.
Continuing on to the Palacio we turned the corner from Calle Mayor to Calle de Bailén and where face to face with the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena. I had no intention of visiting these but I was drawn to this massive structure with a plethora of statues adorning its architecture.
This is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. The cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993. When the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the Church in Spain remained in Toledo and the new capital had no cathedral. Plans to build a cathedral in Madrid dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena were discussed as early as the 16th century but even though Spain built more than 40 cities in the new world during that century and plenty of cathedrals, the cost of expanding and keeping the Empire came first and the construction of Madrid's cathedral was postponed. Making the cathedral the largest that the world had ever seen was then a priority, all other main Spanish cities had centuries-old cathedrals, Madrid also has old churches but the construction of Almudena only began in 1879. The cathedral seems to have been built on the site of a medieval mosque that was destroyed in 1083 when Alfonso VI reconquered Madrid.
Francisco de Cubas, the Marquis of Cubas, designed and directed the construction in a Gothic revival style. Construction ceased completely during the Spanish Civil War, and the project was abandoned until 1950 when Fernando Chueca Goitia adapted the plans of de Cubas to a baroque exterior to match the grey and white façade of the Palacio Real, which stands directly opposite. The cathedral was not completed until 1993 when it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. On May 22, 2004, the marriage of King Felipe VI, then crown prince, to Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano took place at the cathedral.
The Neo-Gothic interior is uniquely modern, with chapels and statues of contemporary artists, in heterogeneous styles, from historical revivals to "pop-art" decor. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel features mosaic from known artist Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik. The Neo-Romanesque crypt houses a 16th-century image of the Virgen de la Almudena. Nearby along the Calle Mayor excavations have unearthed remains of Moorish and medieval city walls.
If awe and emotion was the goal here they achieved it as I was overwhelmed and on the verge of tears as I walked in. I took it all in and photographed everything I could. I even bought a rosary at the gift shop.
From there we continued on to the Plaza de la Armería which is in front of the palace. After walking around the massive square and taking it in we bought our tickets for Palacio Real de Madrid and went in. This is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. The palace has 135,000 square metres (1,450,000 sq ft) of floor space and contains 3,418 rooms. It is the largest royal palace in Europe by floor area. I was not prepared for what was inside. Out of the 3,000+ rooms only about 25ish is open to the public but it is well worth it. I could only take pictures in about the first four and after that, it was no photos at all. If you get a chance then visit it.
Long before Madrid became the capital of Spain, Emir Mohamed I chose Magerit (the city's Arabic name) as the site for a fortress to protect Toledo from the advancing Christians. The building was eventually used by the Kings of Castille until finally becoming what would be known as the Antiguo Alcázar (Old Fortress) in the 14th century. Charles I and his son Philip II turned the building into a permanent residence for the Spanish royal family. However, in 1734 a fire burnt the Palace of Los Austrias to the ground, and Philip V ordered the construction of the palace that stands today.
Some of what we saw was the Main Staircase, designed by Sabatini with over 70 steps; the Throne Hall featuring a ceiling painted by Tiepolo; the Hall of Halberdiers, which Charles III turned into the Guards Room; the Gasparini Room, with its grand 18th century decoration on a floral theme; the Royal Chemist's with natural medicine cabinets, ceramic pots made by the La Granja factory, and even prescriptions given to members of the royal family; and the Royal Chapel, which is home to a collection of string instruments made by the legendary Antonio Stradivari. Yes, there was three Stradivari violins and two Stradivari cellos in that room. For the second time that day I was almost moved to tears. Also, the throne room is PIMP. Black and gold with accents of red velvet.
However, we are not done yet. Oh no, not by a long shot. Did I tell you how much caffeine I had? It was an epic amount. So now a walk up the street, around Plaza de Oriente, and to the Templo de Debod. This is an Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC, transported to Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaña Park. The temple was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government to save it from floods following the construction of the great Aswan Dam.
Works on the temple began at the beginning of the 2nd century BC at the orders of the Meroë King Adijalamani, who built a chapel dedicated to the god Amun and the goddess Isis. This chapel was decorated with high reliefs. Subsequent kings of the Ptolemaic dynasty built new rooms around the original core, thereby enlarging the temple. After Egypt was annexed by the Roman Empire, the emperors Augustus and Tiberius – and possibly Hadrian, too – finished off the construction and decoration of the building.
In the 6th century AD, following Nubia’s conversion to Christianity, the temple was sealed off and abandoned. In the 20th century, owing to the construction of the dam, the Egyptian government gave the temple as a gift to the city of Madrid and it was transported and rebuilt stone by stone in its current location. It was opened to the public in 1972. The reconstruction in Madrid kept the building’s original orientation; that is to say, from East to West. To help visitors understand the meaning of this magnificent location, its decorative motifs, and its history, scale models and videos can be seen and audiovisual material is projected on the walls.
The inside of the monument is currently closed to visitors, although you can still walk along the walkway during the temple opening hours. We still got to walk around it but it looked like they were setting up for some kind of big concert.
With that done the exhausting was starting to win out so we headed back to the apartment through Plaza de España and past the Monumento Cervantes. The monument to Cervantes was commissioned by King Alfonso XIII in 1915, on the 300th anniversary of the publication of the second part of Don Quixote. The main body of the fountain was erected in the 1920’s, but the full monument was not completed until the 1960’s, when the sculptures of Aldonza and Dulcinea were added on the side. This impressive monument stands behind a rectangular pool. The figures of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza stand on the central pedestal inviting passers-by to gaze at them amid the bustling life of the city. The contrast between imagination and reality is reflected in the two bronze figures which, unlike the other stone sculpture, are made of bronze. Behind them, presiding over the group, is the figure of Cervantes himself, holding a copy of Don Quixote. The sides are decorated with scenes from La Gitanilla (right,) and Rinconete y Cortadillo (left). The rear section is presided over by a female figure, symbolizing Spanish literature. At her feet lies a fountain featuring the coats of arms of all the Latin American countries, and in the top section, we can see figures representing the five continents, holding up a globe with an allegorical figure of Fame or Victory, which symbolizes the universal quality of Cervantes’ work.
After we got back it was fans on full blast while the heat of the day tried to attack our calm. We won that battle too. As the sun was setting we set off again to get a few pictures with the El Oso y el Madroño in the Plaza del Sol. You know... doing the damn tourist things.
After packing it was to bed and quickly to sleep. Tomorrow we road trip to Denia.