Madrid, Spain – March 3, 2012
On the spur of the moment this morning, Tyler and I decided to go to the area where he recently went with his class on a bike ride. We caught the light rail in Pozuelo and made our way to the Principe Pio (Prince Pio) Metro stop in Madrid. One of the first sights we saw when we exited the station was the Carlos Ill Gate. The date on it was 1775. It was striking because the sun highlighted its brilliant white colors against the blue sky.
We walked down to the Rio Manzanares. The headwaters of the river are near the town of Manzanares el Real. We visited that town on January 4, while Hillary was in Spain for Christmas break. When we arrived at Principe Pio, it was around 58 degrees. The sky was a beautiful blue, and there was zero wind. Because of that, the river was as smooth as glass.
There is a bike trail on either side of the river. According to a marker on the path, we were at the 2 kilometer (1.2 miles) point of a 30-plus kilometer (18.6 miles) trail which follows the river. That marker was near the King’s Bridge, built in 1828. It runs from Campo del Moro (Moor Field) on the west side of the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) to an entrance to Casa de Campo (cottage). There was a large fountain at the entrance to Casa de Campo.
We continued south along the river until we came to the Dam #5. The dam is a mere babe compared to other structures on the river, finished in 1955. At the dam there appeared to be a lock in the center of the dam. Neither very large nor very wide, a canoe is probably the largest boat that might fit through the lock. We used the bridge over the dam to get to the west side of the river.
We continued our southerly course toward the Segovia Bridge. Completed in 1584, I found it humbling to be at a structure nearing 430 years of age. There were dozens of vehicles on the bridge.
As we got closer to the bridge, we saw a man below the bridge fishing. As we watched, he caught a small fish. It looked like a keeper to me. However, he took the fish off of the hook and tossed it back in the river. Maybe this is a catch and release area like some of the rivers in Colorado. Or, perhaps he wanted a larger fish.
We crossed over the Segovia Bridge at the intersection of Calle de Segovia and Avenida de Portugal. The crossing was incredibly busy. Many impatient drivers honked their horns. What seemed like one siren after another punctuated the other noises.
About 100 meters or so south of Calle de Segovia (Segovia Bridge) we stopped for a coffee at Madrid Rio Cafe. It was right beside the bike path. While we sat there, we enjoyed the sun and our coffee and watched people walk by, jog by, ride by, and go by on Rollerblades. Many of the people had dogs with them. At the cafe was a lady with a dog that looked like a very hairy basset hound. His name was Rafael. She and Rafael soon left. We continued to sit at our table. Shortly, another couple arrived to sit down with their dog. The dog was a small greyhound or maybe a whippet. The odd and sad thing is the dog was walking on just its front legs. The rear legs were one or two inches off the ground. There appeared to be some raw wounds on its haunches, but no medical dressings. It was very odd. I have never seen a dog balance like that.
When we finished our coffee, we walked back to the Segovia Bridge. We watched the busy intersection for a while. Once again, multiple ambulances came through the intersection.
We walked east across the bridge to the intersection of Calle de Segovia and Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto. As we approached that intersection, we saw the smallest gas station we have ever seen. It was literally about the size of two porta potties placed side by side. It was adjacent to the curb. In other words, the gas station had no driveway. A car stops at the curb, and the driver says, “Fill ‘er up,” no doubt in Spanish. There is only one pump.
At the intersection was a couple of Madrid’s Mobility Police. Their only job is to find traffic snarls and then direct the traffic until things clear up. We stood there for a while to watch. Of course, while we did, two different ambulances came through the intersection at two different times.
From there we began walking up the hill to the Catedral de la Almudena (Almudena Cathedral). To get there, we walked through the Parque de Atenas (Athens Park). When we reached the eastern edge of the park, we found ourselves at the base of a street called Cuesta de la Vega. It was a mini San Francisco, California Lombard Street. Near the top, we found ourselves at a site called Muralla lslamica de Madrid (Muslim wall of Madrid). According to the various signs there, the wall was originally part of a fortress dating between 860 and 880. It is from this area that Madrid grew to its present state.
The walled site is directly south, across the street, from the Almudena Cathedral. At this street level was an entrance to the crypt of the cathedral. When the Monsignor and I were at the Cathedral in September 2010, we did not enter this part. I am glad we came today. It is amazingly beautiful. It cost us a total of 3€ (US$3.66) to enter. Boy was it worth the price of admission! Built between 1883 and 1911, this portion of the cathedral contains some 500 Corinthian columns on this level, each uniquely carved at the top.
As we entered, there was a baptismal ceremony just beginning for a baby. There were about a dozen family members there. The service did not intrude upon our walk around the Cathedral. There were burial vaults everywhere; in the floor, in the walls, and in each of the side chapels. Many of the dates of death were very recent. I told Tyler we were not just walking through a part of the Cathedral, but we were also walking through a cemetery.
The one thing in this part of the Cathedral that was far from recent is the mural of the Virgin of the Flor de Lis. It dates from 1083. It was challenging to photograph because there was a protective covering of glass, so it was hard to limit the reflections.
At the rear of the Cathedral, on either side, were additional burial areas behind metal gates. Between the two gateways was a fantastic tomb. At first, I thought it must be of a bishop or archbishop; however, in my subsequent research, I found he was an architect and author. The person’s name is Joaquin del Soto Dialog. He died in 1978. It was a very colorful and lifelike tomb. He must have been very loved and adored.
When we emerged from the cathedral, we walked easterly along Calle Mayor. We began to look for a place to eat. Everything we came across was either too expensive or did not appeal to us.
As we walked, I recalled that the area north and west of Plaza Mayor has several guitar shops. Leslie has said she would like a guitar, so I thought I would look. We came across a shop at Calle Amnesia, 1. It is called Antigua Casa Conde Hermanos, Sobrinos de Esbeso. A sign outside indicated 1915 as the founding of the business.
We walked inside. A man in his late 50s warmly greeted us. In my best Spanish, I told him my wife was interested in a guitar. He then introduced me to his son, Mariano Conde. I told him the same thing in Spanish. He asked if I was interested in a guitar made of Spanish materials crafted by an artisan or if I just wanted a guitar made of Spanish materials. Tyler and I conferred and opted for one made by an artisan. I asked Mariano how much one would cost. He said they start at 2,000€ (US$2,440). I gulped loudly and noticeably, asking about the other option. He said those start at 750€ (US$915).
At that point, I gulped and changed the subject. I asked Mariano if they made the guitars in the shop. He said they did. Because of my interest, he went to a breaker panel, flipped on a couple of breakers, and motioned us to follow him downstairs. That took us right into their shop. He showed us several guitars in the early stages of construction. He explained the two primary kinds of wood used are cypress and rose. He told us there are four artisans there. In three months they can make eight guitars.
Back upstairs, he mentioned that they build Flamenco and Classic guitars. He showed me one price list. The prices ranged from 2,000€ (US$2,440) to 9,000€ (US$10,984). We thanked him for his kindness and departed the store, thankful to have most of my Euros still in my pocket!
We were still hungry, so we continued our search for a place to eat. We found one called Colby Urban Restaurant at Vergara, 12. Outside they advertised a daily lunch special for 10€ (US$12.20). Our lunch began with piping hot bread and some butter (a very unusual item, hot that is, unless one asks). I had a glass of red wine, and Tyler had a glass of beer. For our first plate, we both had a Caesar salad. It was one of the best I have had. For our second dish, we both had Ternera a la Plancha. That is a grilled veal. It is only about 3/8 of an inch thick; yes, 3/8 of an inch! Regardless, it was delicious. For dessert, Tyler had vanilla ice cream with butterscotch and whipped cream. I had a coffee. All of that came to 20€ (US$24.40). It was a fabulous lunch.
We left the restaurant and walked about 200 meters to the Opera Metro stop to begin our journey home. All totaled, we walked about five kilometers (3.1 miles).