Father/Son Outing to Madrid 2.0

Father/Son Outing to Madrid 2.0

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.

The Carlos III Gate.

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.

The mirror-like Rio Manzanares.

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.

A marker on the bicycle path.
View across the river.
A worker’s truck parked beside the path.
The King’s Bridge looking toward the entrance to Casa de Campo.
The columns separating the bridge from Casa de Campo.
A fountain in Casa de Campo.
A ladder to the river.
Apartment buildings line the side of the river.
A jogger on the path passes under the Palacio Real.
The King’s Bridge. Just beyond the bridge is the Principe Pio area of town.
Several people and dogs out for a walk near the Palacio Real.

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.

Dam number 5 and the lock at the dam.
The pedestrian bridge over Dam 5.
The sign for Dam No. 5.
Looking across the granite toward the lock control room.
The Rio Manzanares flowing over Dam 5.
Dam 5 with the Palacio Real and Catedral de la Almudena in the distance.


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.

The story of the Segovia Bridge, completed in 1584.
The nearly 430-year old Segovia Bridge crosses over the Rio Manzanares.
A closer view of the bridge.
A man reeling in a fish at the Segovia Bridge.
A worker and his vehicle near the river.
At the Segovia Bridge looking toward the cathedral.
Traffic queuing on the bridge. The palace and cathedral are in the distance.


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.

The very intent dog, Rafael, at a riverside cafe.
There was a constant stream of people using the path in front of the cafe.
A water fountain at the Segovia Bridge.
A rare pack of wild Madrid Log Hogs.
A man and woman walk toward the hogs while a girl rides by on a bicycle.
A man traveling the opposite direction with no hands on the handlebars.

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.

A busy intersection near the bridge.
Detail of the Segovia Bridge.


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.

A teeny tiny gas station…
A traffic police officer near the gas station.
An ambulance navigating the streets of Madrid.

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 walkway in Athens Park toward the cathedral.
A water fountain in Athens Park.
A man and his dog preparing to cross the sidewalk.
Another view of the water fountain in the park.
The south side of Catedral de la Almudena.
The fountain at the Muslim wall of Madrid.
The cathedral is just beyond the Muslim Wall. The wall dates from the 9th Century.
A metal relief at the Muslim Wall depicts what Madrid looked like long ago. At the far left, the nearest silver feature is the cathedral. Above that, at the top left corner, is the horseshoe-shaped palace complex.

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.

Detail of one of the Corinthian columns in the cathedral.
Detail of a stained glass inside the cathedral.

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.

A baptismal ceremony in preparation in the lower level of the cathedral.
The family and the altar.
Detail of a typical floor vault. The inscription reads; mortal remains of don Candelario Gaiztarro and Arana Eceiza Arana and his family.
A statue of Jesus and Joseph.

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.

The famous painting, Our Lady of the Lily, dates from 1083, yes, 1083!
Detail of the ceiling in a side chapel of the cathedral.
Stained glass windows near the cathedral entry.

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.

The Bible verse in one of the crypts is from Revelation 14:13, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”
Detail of the mural above the tomb of Joaquin del Soto Hidalgo.
Angels carrying the tomb of Joaquin del Soto Hidalgo.
View from the tomb to the main altar.
A marker at the tomb reads, here lies he who in life was Señor don Joaquin del Soto Hidalgo.
The passage at the end of this crypt is from Romans 14:8, “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
The walkway on the west side of the cathedral.
A side chapel with a statue of San Fernando.
A depiction of the Holy Family.
A statue of the Virgin Mary.
Another statue of the Virgin Mary in front of a stained glass window.

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.

The main entrance to the lower level of the cathedral.
The southeast corner of the cathedral.
A building facing onto Calle Mayor.
The Cathedral Church of the Armed Forces.
A display outside the Geppetto Souvenir Shop.
The building at Plaza de la Villa.


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!

The owner of the guitar shop.
Inside the guitar shop.


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).

An electrical shop on Calle de Santiago.
A woman in the distance walking past a water fountain.
A creative garage door.
A red moped and a family with twins.
A florist shop.

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