Christmas in Madrid 2007

Navidad_2007This looks like it’s going to be a bumper, fun-packed Christmas in Madrid. I have just taken a look at the Christmas agenda from the Madrid City Council tourist section and it looks like 2007 will be even better than 2006. I find that the build up to Christmas in Spain is much better than places like the UK, where trees, lights and other paraphernalia start appearing in November – Marks and Spencer and the like even start selling bloody Christmas puddings in October!

Even though the Christmas lights went on a week ago, many of the other activities are staggered over the Christmas period. Like last year the Plaza de Colón will be turned into a fairytale island. Nativity scenes will be found all over the city – often in churches, history museum – and the new headquarters of the Madrid City Council (in the Palacio de Cibeles) will hold the principal nativity scene, created by José Luis Mayo. If you have never seen these before, the ones in Madrid are often sights to behold.

The Plaza Mayor has the traditional Christmas stalls where you can buy trees, nativity figures and a number of annoying products – like spray snow and fluorescent lights – that kids love.

If you want to go ice skating, you can either go to Azca (Metro Nuevos Ministerios) or the Campo de Moro (Metro Príncipe Pío or Opera). I went to Azca last year with my wife and children and there was both an ice rink and mini toboggan run – both father and son loved it!

The Plaza de España will feature a craft fair from the 20th December to the th January, where around 200 stalls will be displaying mainly gifts from Madrid.

Nore information can be found on the esMadrid website.

Palacio de Linares to Remain Open Until October

Palacio de Linares Wikipedia

One of Madrid’s most emblematic palaces, the Palacio de Linares, will keep its doors open until October. The Palace, which can be found on one corner of the Plaza de Cibeles,  dates from the 19th Century and is well-known for its beautiful architecture and exquisite interior. It also has an interesting history and is said to even have its own ghosts. The story of the palace and its owners is actually very sad. The palace was built by the Marqués de Linares for both himself and his wife. His father had educated him to choose a wife without consideration of her financial or social class. This he did and he married the tobacconist’s daughter. What he didn’t know was that his father had had a relationship with the mother and his wife was the result!  He only found out when his dying father, God bless him!, sent him a letter to inform him of the situation.

The Pope at the time, Leo XIII had to issue a papal bull which allowed them to live together but in chastity. In order to forget the shame the Marqués threw all his energy into the building of his palace, where budgets and time had no constraints. The Marqués and his wife told the architect that they would like the Palace to be split in two, with him taking the ground floor and the wife the upper floor. What is interesting is that they didn’t have a kitchen, but instead relied on food being delivered from Lhardy, a Madrid restaurant which still operates today!

Opening Times
Saturdays: 11am to 1pm
Sundays: 11am to 1pm
Mondays: 3pm to 5pm

Cost
6 Euros for Adults; 2 Euros for Retired people; students 3 Euros and Under 12’s Free.

Website
Casa de América

Related Links
Photos on 20Minutos Website
Walk the Paseo del Prado and Paseo de Recoletos

Casa de Campo – A Walk In Madrid’s Biggest Park

6a00d8341cb24853ef00e54f0e80e08833-640wi
Yesterday, I went for a lovely walk to Madrid’s Casa de Campo. Situated to the west of the city, it used to be the hunting grounds for the Spanish Monarchy. It covers a staggering 1,722 hectares – compare that with Retiro Park’s 142 hectares and Central Park’s 340 hectares – and you could say it gives the city a great pair of lungs! The park was given to the people of Madrid on the 1st May, 1931 under the Second Republic and now provides a wide variety of activities to Madrileños – mountain biking, triathlon, walking, running, etc. 

I actually went to the park with my son and daughter and my father-in-law in order to ride the cable car. The Teleférico runs from just inside the park to the edge of another park, Parque del Oeste and offers wonderful views of the Royal Palace, the Cathedral and old Madrid. The ride took us around 11 minutes and covers a distance of about 2.5 kilometres.

Having received such a lot of rain over the past couple of weeks the Casa de Campo was a beautiful green colour. I was actually quite surprised to see so few people there, seeing as it was a beautiful Saturday in April. It seemed like the perfect place to unwind from the bustling city centre of Madrid and have a picnic under the pines with a cool glass of beer. According to my father-in-law the place has got much better since the clampdown on cars entering the area. The only cars I saw around the cable car were those which were transporting cyclists to a cycle race. And boy, does this look a fun place to go for a ride or do some mountain bike racing.

If you’re looking to get to the park, the easiest way is to get the Metro to Lago or get the cable car from Argüelles.

December Suggestions from Metrópoli

15o Planes

Metrópoli has a really good guide to what you can do in Madrid this December – it is in Spanish, though. They have come up with 150 suggestions for what you can do in the coming weeks – eat, drink, be merry and much more. Interestingly, they have broken them down into 15 categories – based on different types of personality. These range from the sportsman (woman), the art lover, the over 65’s, under 18’s, the shopaholics, singles, and a good few more. There are some really cool suggestions here – there is even a category for those who think they’re cool!!

Changing the Guard at the Royal Palace

On Saturday 21st, October 2006 they will be changing the guard at Madrid’s Royal Palace. However, instead of soldiers dressed in modern, military uniform Madrid will turn the clock back a couple of centuries and military personnel from the three armed services will dress in costumes from the era and will be accompanied by carriages from the Patrimonio Nacional, gun carriages and military marches. The event will be presided over (spot the direct translation!) by the King’s eldest sister, the Infanta Pilar de Borbón.

The event will take place at 12 pm.

Madrid Features in New Coke Ad

I was watching an advert on British TV last night  when, suddenly, images of Madrid flashed across the screen. It would appear that the latest advert (only in the UK?) for Coke Zero features some of the prominent buildings of Madrid’s business district. I saw Madrid’s Torre Picasso and one of the bridges which spans the Castellana. Let me know of any other buildings you recognise.

NOTE: This is not an endorsement of Coke Zero, which contains Aspartame amongst other things. Here are some interesting links:


MP calls for ban on ‘unsafe’ sweetener

Aspartame: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
EU to Reexamine Safety of Aspartame Artificial Sweetener

I think I’ll get off my soapbox now!

Ramón Durán Photo Shoot Madrid

For quite some time I have been aware of, and admired, the photographic work of Ramón Durán, through the popular website Flickr. Ramón is a doctor and urology specialist who works at one of Madrid’s hospitals. In his spare time he takes some quite stunning photos. Here are a selection of his Madrid photos which he has edited using HDR (High Dynamic Range Imaging). Clicking on them will take you to Ramón’s photos on Flickr, where you can get descriptions on the photos and how he created them.

Debod (HDR) madrid, two landmarks (hdr) La Catedral debod de noche (hdr) El atardecer junto a Palacio reflejo eclesial // ecclesial reflection
Palacio Real, nocturno metropolis Terminal 4 Debod 2 Puerta de Europa Plaza Mayor (HDR)
La Cava de San Miguel (HDR) Colegiata de San Isidro (HDR) La catedral de noche (HDR) Puerta de Palacio (HDR) Arcos de Palacio  - HDR Los Portadores de la Antorcha -  HDR Farola de la Plaza Mayor - HDR       

Barrios de Madrid

The other day I had an interesting comment added to one of my web posts. Here it is:

I am looking for a good description of the personalities of the various sections of Madrid in order to determine in which neighborhood I’d like to stay. Any ideas?
Thanks

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to do a little bit of searching and came across a couple of good sites which offer information on the various barrios of Madrid. The obvious starting point was Wikipedia which has a basic overview of some of the more popular ones in its Madrid Wiki page. The Spanish version of Wikipedia also details 8 of the barrios in its barrios de Madrid section.

I also came across a superb supplement in the online newspaper 20 Minutos (in Spanish), which is called La Tierra de los Mil Barrios or Land of the Thousand ‘Barrios’. It offers a detailed overview of the barrios both in central Madrid and the suburbs and is accompanied by photo galleries and statistical details – many also have visitor comments.

6a00d8341cb24853ef00e54f692c278834-640wi

Let me know if you come across any good barrio guides.

Translation Tool
Google Translation Tool

Knife Sharpener on the Streets of Madrid

Knifesharpener

I read an article a few weeks back which was talking about the fact that the practice of knife sharpening was dying out in some developing country and thought to myself: "well, it’s still alive and kicking in a first world country (Spain)". Ever since I first came to Madrid I have seen these men sharpening knives on the streets all over Madrid. They always carry a sort of whistle with them, which they blow to catch the attention of (mainly) housewives and will then, for a small fee, sharpen the knives. In order to do this, they simply peddle away and sharpen the knife on the circular stone which stands between the handlebars.

The above picture was taken on c/ Arenal, just a few steps away from the Plaza de la Villa.

Madrid Opens Ice Rink for Christmas

Picasso1
This year the Madrid City Council will be moving the Christmas Ice Rink away from the centre of the city to the heart of Madrid’s business district. The idea is to try and spread the Christmas events over an even greater area – there will also be a children’s ‘fun factory’ (factoría  de ocio) in the Plaza de Colón.

The ice rink will be located at the foot of Torre Picasso and will open on the 22nd December and run until the 8th January. It opens at 10 in the morning and closes at 9 p.m. Torre Picasso was, until recently, the tallest building in Spain and is the home for many multinational companies. Nearby, you will also find the largest belén (nativity scene) in Europe, which is made up of 1,200 pieces and covers an extensive area. You will find that the large department store El Corte Inglés is located near there, as is Habitat, and the shopping centre Moda. There are also a number of shops in Orense street.

Metro
Santiago Bernabeu or Nuevos Ministerios

Christmas Lights around Madrid

Christmas_lights_el_pais_1
This year the Christmas lights were lit on the 26th November – probably the earliest that they have ever been lit. This year the city council have opted for 2.5 million bulbs – 500,000 more than last year. The areas of Gran Vía, Alcalá and Recoletos will have a snow theme, Puerta de Alcalá and Cibeles, "tongues of fire"; Mayor, a ceiling of light; Chueca, Confetti, and Colón, illuminated water.

The Palacio de Comunicaciones will be specially lit up for the Christmas period (20th December-7th January) and Nativity scenes wil light up the outside walls, from the 21st to 29th December, of the following religious buildings:

Parroquia de la Virgen de la Paloma y San Pedro el Real
Pza. de la Virgen de la Paloma
Basílica de San Francisco el Grande
Pza. de San Francisco
Real iglesia de San Andrés
Pza. de los carros
Basílica Pontifica de San Miguel
c/ San Justo, 4
Iglesia catedral de las Fuerzas Armadas
c/ Sacramento, 11
Iglesia de San Nicolás de Bari de los Servitas
Pza. de San Nicolás
Parroquia de Santiago y San Juan Bautista
Pza. de Santiago, s/n
Real Monasterio de la Encarnación
Pza. de la Encarnación, 1

Related Articles
Christmas Nativity Scenes and Markets in Madrid

Madrid Virtual

Madridvirtual

Here’s an article, entitled 360° Virtual Tours of Madrid, that I wrote last year but which many new visitors might find of interest. It talks about a Madrid-based website which displays great, virtual 360° panoramas of some of Madrid’s most famous landmarks, such as the Royal Palace, the Plaza Mayor and the Reina Sofia Museum. The website is called Madrid Virtual  and it is run by Carolina Borgesi and her husband Germán González Garrido. 

A Walk Through La Latina

Just over a month ago I took a walk through the streets of La Latina (Metro: La Latina) – one of Madrid’s oldest and most enchanting barrios. eThis is somthing that I often do as you never know what you will encounter in its small streets and alleyways. Aside from the great bars and restaurants like La Taverna de los Cien Vinos and El Madroño, you will find wonderful buildings, squares and churches.

Imprenta_cicerone_1
One of the most curious places I came across this day was Imprenta Cicerone, I think it was in c/ Águila. As you can see by the picture it looks pretty plain on the outside but inside it housed a treasure trove of old and new bullfighting posters – there were stacks of posters laid out when I walked past and some on the walls dated back 50 years. I couldn’t tell if they were for sale – if anyone does know this, please let me know.

It appears that many of the old buildings (and disused shops) in La Latina are getting a facelift and I’m sure that this will mean more bars, restaurants and smart shops. An old "Chocolate con Churros" shop was being turned into a bar as I wandered around and an old tavern was getting a lick of paint and a new bar!

San_francisco_grande_1 Just crossing Carerra de San Francisco you can see the impressive church of San Francisco el Grande, which was completed in 1784 and has one of the largest domes in the world – measuring 33 metres in diametre – and has 6 side chapels. Inside you will find paintings by famous Spanish painters Goya y Zurbarán. It may look non-descript from street level but just take a peep inside and you will see that it is anything but.

San_andresOn the other side of the street you come across a nice little square called the Plaza de Carros (carts) – which acted as a stop for carts/carriages in old Madrid. There are quite a few nice bars around here – you may even want to have a drink at an outside table. The church which is adjacent to the square is called San Andrés and dates from 1662 – it was the the first resting place of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro.

To the right of the church (East) you can see the Museum and House of San Isidro, which houses a well where he was said to have performed one of his miracles.

Palacio_anglona_2Heading north from the Plaza de Carros I came to the down to the Plaza de la Paja. The Plaza de Paja was the old Moorish area
of Madrid,  where the most important muslim market was held. In
Medieval Madrid it was the place where the nobility had residences –
the Spanish Queen Isabel la
Católica, for example, had a palace here.

Jardin_anglona_2I have walked through this area many, many times but had never seen a door in the brick wall at the far end of this Plaza – it reminded me of the book ‘The Secret Garden’. Entering this door you come into the Jardín de Anglona – a garden which stands directly next to the Palacio de Anglona and which was restored a few years ago by Madrid’s City Council.

Jardin_anglona_1It is so surprising to see such a small, pleasant
garden in the middle of old Madrid.
Not being a gardening expert, I
would say that it is very simple with a small number of trees and
benches, neat little lawns and some shrubs! – an ideal place to stop
and contemplate c/ Segovia and the old buildings that surround it or, alternatively, just read a book.

Madrid’s Top Summer Terrazas

One of the highlights of summer is eating or drinking in one of the city’s many terrazas. Terrazas (street café’s) are extremely popular in Madrid and are a wonderful way of spending an evening in the city. They are open through summer until September and cater for all tastes and budgets, though in places like Retiro Park they are open all year round. Some of the best places to enjoy terrazas are the Paseo de la Castellana and the Paseo de Rosales. El Mundo newspaper has an exhaustive list of the summer’s top terrazas on their website which, though written in Spanish, categorises them into barrios, displays their food specialities and gives the price range.   

Fiesta of the Virgen de la Paloma

The month of August sees a number of fiestas going on around the city. Probably the biggest and most wel known is the Virgen de la Paloma, which has been celebrated since the 18th century. Around ‘old Madrid’ – Plaza de las Vistillas, La Paloma and Toledo streets and the Plaza de la Paja and Plaza de los Carros you will find a number of events (concerts, processions and street events) going on and people dressed in traditional Marileño costume. The fiesta starts on the 11th August and culminates on the 15th with the procession of a picture of the Virgin through the streets carried by the fireman of the city council.