Father/Son Outing to Madrid 2.0
On the spur of the moment this morning, Tyler and I decided to go to the area where he had recently gone with his class on a bike ride. We caught the light rail and made our way to the Principe Pio Metro stop. One of the first sights we saw when we exited the station was the Carlos III 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 is near the town of Manzanares el Real. We had visited that town on January 4, while Hillary was here for Christmas break. When we arrived 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 was a bike trail on either side of the river. According to a marker on the trail, we were at the 2 kilometer point of a 30-plus kilometer trail which follows the river. That was near the King’s Bridge. The bridge was built in 1828. It runs from Campo del Moro on the west side of the Palacio Real to an entrance to Casa de Campo. There was a large fountain at the entrance.
We continued south along the river until we came to Dam #5. That dam was built in 1955. At the dam was what appeared to be a lock. It was in the center of the dam. It was not very large nor very wide. A canoe is probably the largest boat that would fit through it. We used the bridge over the dam to get to the west side of the river.
Our southerly course took us to the Segovia Bridge. That bridge was built in 1584. It was absolutely packed with traffic. As we got closer 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.
We crossed over the Segovia Bridge at the intersection of Calle de Segovia and Avenida de Portugal. The intersection was incredibly busy. Many impatient drivers were honking their horns. That noise was punctuated with what seemed like one siren after another.
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 Rollerblade by. Many of the people had dogs with them. At the cafe was a lady with a dog that looked like a very shaggy 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 there were multiple ambulances that 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 right at the curb. In other words, there was no driveway. A car simply stops at the curb and the driver say, “Fill ‘er up.” There was only one pump.
At the intersection were a couple of Madrid’s Mobility Police. Their only job is to find traffic snarls and then direct 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 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. This was sort of a mini Lombard Street. Near the top we found ourselves at a site called Muralla Islamica de Madrid (Muslim wall of Madrid). According to the various signs there, the wall was constructed sometime between 860 and 880. It was originally a fortress. It is from this area that Madrid grew to its present state.
The wall site is directly south, across the street, of 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 entered it today. It was amazingly beautiful. It cost us a total of 3 Euros to enter. Boy was it worth the price of admission! This portion of the Cathedral was built between 1883 and 1911. There are some 500 columns on this level. Each column is uniquely carved at the top.
As we entered, there was a baptismal ceremony just beginning for a baby. There were maybe a dozen family members there. We were still able to walk around and look at 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 Li’s. It dates from 1083. It was difficult 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. In between them was an amazing tomb. At first I thought it must be of a bishop or archbishop; however, in my subsequent research, I was not able to confirm that. 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 really 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 too expensive.
As we were walking, 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. According to the sign it was founded in 1915.
We walked inside and were greeted by a man in his late 50s. In 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 Euros. I gulped loudly and noticeably. I asked about the other option. He said those start at 750 Euros.
At that point, I changed the subject and asked him if they made their own guitars. He said they did. Because of my interest, he went to a breaker panel, flipped 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 woods used are cypress and rose. He told us there are four artisans there. In the course of 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 Euros to 9,000 Euros. We thanked him for his kindness and departed the store.
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 Euros. Our lun
ch began with piping hot bread and some butter (a very unusual item unless one asks). I had a 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 essentially a steak, but it is only about 3/8 of an inch thick; yes, 3/8 of an inch! Regardless, it was very tasty. For dessert, Tyler had vanilla ice cream with butterscotch and whipped cream. I had a coffee. All of that came to 20 Euros. 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.