Viva la España!

Ancient Trees and Old Ladies

“Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by.  Glory Days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye. Glory days, Glory Days.” Bruce Springsteen – (Born 1949) American Singer

To put it as succinctly as possible, Madrid is a beautiful city that is the capital of Spain since 1561.  You will not find soaring skyscrapers that are set to engulf the sky while walking the streets of this city of over 3 million people, but what you will find is a subtle elegance of a long ago faded empire that is proud if yet tinged with a hint of decay.

The first mention of Madrid in the historical record is when the Emir of Cordova Muhammed I (852 – 866) constructs a fort next to the Manzanares river.  The Emir built the fort or Alcázar in Spanish to try to extend his power into the small fractured Christian Kingdoms of Castile, León, Navarre, Aragon, and Glacia to the North.

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Old Moorish Wall

The City was taken by the Christian monarch King Alfonso VI “the Brave” of Castile and León (1040 – 1109).

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Map of Royal Palace and surrounding land inside of walls.

Wedged between the Manzarnes River and the Royal Palace of Madrid is the Campo del Moro (Moorish Gardens).  The gardens get their name from 1109, when Ali ibn Yusuf (1083 – 1143) led a Moslem force to recapture the city from King Alfonso VI.  Ali ibn Yusuf camped his force in the forest there and attempted to capture the old Alcázar which ended in failure.  The idea of having a royal garden in this location would germinate in the reign of King Philip II (1527 – 1598).  Although he was unable to carry out his plan for construction, the seeds of the garden were planted and continued to grow.  They reached maturity during the reign of King Carlos III “the best mayor of Madrid” (1716 – 1788) who developed the garden and the adjacent palace.

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the main promenade
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Fountain of Shells built in late 1700’s – carved from Marcel Marble
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Calle de la Mate (Street of the Mate) lined with ancient trees.
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Flower bed inside of hedge row
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Bell Tower through the canopy
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Rose garden entrance

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The Promenade and I
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Dad disappointing a very colorful Javian Junglefowl (a type of pheasant from the island of Java – close to Indonesia)
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Ancient Trees and Old Ladies

From Baroque to Broke

“I call architecture frozen music.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) German Writer

The Royal Palace of Madrid is large.  It has 3,428 rooms.  It has 1,450,000 million square feet.  It is the largest palace in Europe.  It was inspired by Versailles.  In 1734, the old Alcázar burned to the ground when the French painter Jean Ranc (1674 – 1735) was deep into his cups, spilled the midnight oil, and burned the place to the ground.  Luckily for Jean Ranc, King Philip V (1683 – 1746) was not in the beheading mood, instead opted to hire Italian Architect Flippo Juavarra (1678 – 1736) to design and build a new grand palace at the location of the burned Alcázar.

Neither the king or the architect would live long enough to see it’s completion.  Construction started in 1738 and was completed in 1755 by a series of architects.

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Front Courtyard of Palace
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View of Caterdral de la Almudena from front of Palace.
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Jenell and the talking Mime
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The arched colonnade flanking both sides of the courtyard.

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The purpose of a Royal Palace is not only so that the Monarch can live a plush life.  The true purpose of a Royal Palace is to project awe.  It is to say “I am richer than you.  I am more powerful than you.  I am better than you.  Submit to the power of the King.”  And the interior of the Royal Palace of Madrid does just exactly that.  While roaming through the building it is hard not to just admire the ancient craftsmanship that you can see in every crevice of the magnificent building.

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Statue of King Carlos IV dressed as Cesar.
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Beautiful inlaid marble floor

From the grand entrance, the building projects wealth.  As you walk in you will turn and see the Oriel. You will see the coat of arms of Spain that is constituted from the smaller Spanish kingdoms the preceded it – Castile, León, Aragon, Navarre, and Grenada.  In the center you see the fleur de lis signifying a claim to the French crown thorough the Bourbon line.

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The Oriel

When you look up, you will see the jaw dropping baroque ceiling painted by Corrado Giaquinto in 1749.  This ceiling is quite impressive by itself, but what is even more impressive is that the entire building is full of these frescoes.

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The Triumph of Religion and the Church.
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The Grand Staircase
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Bust of King Philip V

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It was quite a shame that photography was not allowed in all of the Palace, but this room was especially impressive and I stole a shot while the guards were not looking.  The Gasperini room was where the King would go through the “dressing ritual”.

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The Gasperini Room

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The fresco above the Royal Chapel
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The crown room – were the king dresses for the Throne Room

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I was yelled at for this picture…

The interior of the palace is filled with beauty from the days of yor, but right outside of the palace walls, you can see the decline of the Spanish state from its former high.

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Graffiti in the park.


“The Italians and Spanish, the Chinese and Vietnamese see food as part of a larger, more essential and pleasurable part of daily life. Not as an experience to be collected or bragged about – or as a ritual like filling up a car – but as something else that gives pleasure, like sex or music, or a good nap in the afternoon.” Anthony Bourdain – (1956) American Food Writer

We had one proper meal while we were in Madrid yesterday.  We walked a few blocks from the Royal Palace and set down at Resturante Arcade – a Galician Restaurant.  I didn’t know anything about this restaurant, it was picked because of its proximity to where we were.  Even though we stumbled upon this lovely restaurant, I don’t think I could have picked a better one if I would have done research.  The food was fabulous.

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Eggs, prawns, and asparagus in foreground.  Dad working a smokey meñudo-esque meal in background.
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A quite lovely Spanish wine
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A braised lamb shoulder with potatoes and chiles.

This was probably the best lamb I have ever eaten in my life.

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