Tag Archives: King Juan Carlos

Travels in Spain, The Royal Palace and Cathedral in Madrid

Madrid Royal Palace

We had skipped the Palace visit the previous day fearing that it would be too busy following the celebrations for five years of the reign of Filipe VI and the backlog of visitors so today we arrived early and joined a long line of people waiting to pay up and get inside the Royal residence.

It was 14th June and the next day was going to be sixty-five years old but the half price concession was a day away and although I was prepared to try and blag it the man at the entrance wanted proof of age so I decided not to risk pay desk humiliation and meekly handed over the full adult fee.  Anyway, I am sixty-five now (old and cranky according to Crystal) so this shouldn’t be a problem in the future.

I have visited other Royal Palaces in Spain at San Ildefonso O La Granja, El Escorial and Arunjuez so I was interested now to visit the most important of them all.  In fact the King of Spain has eight Royal Palaces to choose from but I suspect he doesn’t stay at any of them very often, most are close to Madrid and one is on the island of Mallorca.  By comparison the Queen of England also has eight Royal residencies but only one is officially a Palace (Buckingham of course). France doesn’t have a monarchy so has no Royal Palaces.

Madrid Palace Gardens

Once inside we began the tour and were immediately aware of the extreme opulence and the wealth of the Spanish Royal Family.  Obscene amount of money actually, there must surely be a way of redistributing such massive amounts of wealth.  If King Felipe VI got out a bit more into deprived areas then surely he would have a pang or two of guilt.

Currently there are twelve monarchies in Europe but rather surprisingly Spain is only ninth in the wealth list.  There are forty-five monarch states across the World but sixteen of these are courtesy of the Queen of England in her role as Head of the Commonwealth.  The three richest Royal Families in Europe are heads of State in three of the smallest countries, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Monaco.  I suspect also that Tsar Vladamir Putin is worth a bob or two.  Surely these people could spread it around a bit?

The walk through the rooms inside the Palace took nearly two hours so it was a good job that we were only visiting twenty-three out of three thousand four hundred and eighteen or else we would have been there for three months or so.  It was a good tour which finished with the Royal Crown Jewels and then the massive throne room.

Outside we wandered through the central courtyard and then to the Royal Armoury where there is a large collection of armour and items of warfare.  As within the main Palace photography was not allowed so this is a postcard that I had to buy in the gift shop…

001

…and this is a picture of my own collection of medieval lead soldiers which was a massive waste of money mistake and which was once in the house but is now relegated to an out of the way display in my shed…

Medieval Soldiers

Following the Calle Mayor we arrived at the city cathedral which seemed unusually modern and the reason for this is that when the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the Church in Spain remained in Toledo so the new one had no cathedral. There obviously wasn’t a great deal of urgency about the matter however and construction of a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena did not begin until 1879 and due to the volatility of Spanish politics throughout the twentieth century was not completed until 1993.

I am usually nervous about visiting cathedrals because I am aware that Kim is not especially keen.  She thinks that they are all rather similar and I confess that secretly I am forced to agree with her on this point.  Often they are instantly forgettable and all of the detail of the many merges into one.

Madrid Cathedral Exterior

As it turned out this one was a very good one, the usual trappings of a Cathedral of course but also some nice little twists with some good exhibitions and displays which even Kim enjoyed and almost a month after the visit I can recall a lot of the detail.

Leaving the Cathedral we walked back again to the City Centre, we were going to eat at what had become our favourite bar close to the hotel but the owner explained that there was a staff shortage and the kitchen wasn’t open so we went instead to a nearby place where we had enjoyed our daily breakfasts.  I had grilled squid, Kim had a generous tuna salad but for some unexplained reason Richard and Pauline had another calamari baguette which I thought was a very odd menu selection.  It looked equally as bad as the previous day and they both confirmed that yes, it was. Some people never learn.

Madrid Calamari Bocadillo

One thing I found interesting today was that the King of Spain doesn’t allow pictures in his house but the Lord God doesn’t mind.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

More Cathedrals of Spain

Advertisements

Travels in Spain – Madrid, Don Quixote and a Royal Celebration

Madrid Royal Palace

When I am in Italy I look out for statues of Garibaldi and when I am in Spain I try to find statues of Don Quixote to add to my collection.

Perhaps the most famous statue of him is in the Plaza de España at the extreme western end of the Grand Via and quite close to the Royal Palace and the Cathedral so early one morning I selfishly walked us all down there just to get my picture. This was to end in disappointment because the entire square was closed off behind ten foot high wooden boards hiding a lot of building work as the square was being completely restructured.

I caught an ellusive glimpse of the statue but not clearly enough to take a picture so I bought this postcard instead…

006

Don Quixote is a novel written by the seventeenth century Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and is regarded as the most influential work of literature to emerge from the Spanish Golden Age.

It is the story of a man who believes that he is a knight and recounts his adventures as he rights wrongs, mistakes peasants for princesses and “tilts at windmills” mistakenly believing them to be evil giants. As one of the earliest works of modern western literature it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published. In 2002 a panel of one hundred leading world authors declared Don Quixote to be the best work of fiction ever written, ahead even of works by Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

don-quixote-book-cover

Cervantes has also been credited with shaping modern literary style and Don Quixote has been acclaimed as “the first great novel of world literature”. Since publication in 1605 it is reputed to be the most widely read and translated book on the planet after the Bible. I tried to read it once but found it rather heavy going so gave up quite quickly but as we walked along I resolved to have another attempt.

The others superficially sympathised with my disappointment about the failure to see the statue but I could tell that they didn’t genuinely share it as we walked next to Parque del Oeste to see the Egyptian Temple of Debod.

Madrid Egyptian Temple

I was surprised to find a genuine Egyptian Temple in Madrid but it turns out that in 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and the consequent threat posed by its reservoir to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to help.  In 1968 as a gesture of gratitude for the assistance provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel temples that were due to be flooded and lost forever the Egyptian State donated to them the temple of Debod.  It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture that can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.  Well, who knew that?

The Temple was closed to visitors today due to unexplained ‘technical reasons’ but there were some very good views over the city from the top of the park so we stayed for a while and then continued our walk towards the Royal Palace gardens, the Jardines de Sabatini.

Madrid Palace Gardens

There were lovely walks though the gardens but a lot of police ‘do not cross’ lines and we were soon to find out why when we left and made our way to Palace itself where there were crowds of people outside all waving tiny Spanish flags and trying to see through the gates. It turned out to be part of a celebration of five years of the reign of the King of Spain Felipe VI who was crowned here in June 2014.

Our intention this morning was to visit the Palace but this plan was now in tatters because the place was closed while the celebrations inside continued. So we made our way to nearby Plaza de La Armeria which separates the Palace from the Cathedral and from where there were good views inside the Palace courtyard where we could see the military displays and the arrival of the distinguished guests.

The Royal flag was flying from the top of the Palace which was a sign that the King (full name – Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y de Grecia) himself was there today but to be honest we were quite unable to pick him out. Eventually the soldiers and the military bands all marched off and the crowds melted away into the shadows of the side streets and feeling lucky to have been there at the right time for once we slipped away ourselves back to the city centre.

We thought it might be better to return to the Palace for the visit the next day when it was most likely not to be so busy so today instead we found a nice shady restaurant for lunch and then more or less repeated the guided tour of the previous day but this time at our leisure.

I will bring you back to the Palace in the next post.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Travels in Spain, Windmills

Spain WindmillConsuegra Windmills SpainDon Quixote Alcala de Henares

European Capital of Culture 1992 – Madrid

Philip IV and the Palacio Real

There was a definite autumn chill in the air when we went early to breakfast today, early because we were planning to visit the capital of Spain, Madrid.  Kim and I had previously planned to visit in March but due to a misunderstanding about train bookings on my part we didn’t make it.

This time there could be no such problem because there isn’t a train station in Chinchón so we were planning to go by bus.

It was still cool as we waited for the five to ten bus to arrive but we trusted the weather forecast and were in our shirt sleeves, which drew some looks of open-mouthed disbelief from the local people who were wrapped in woollies and big coats.  I must confess to having been a bit uncomfortable and I was glad when the banana yellow no. 337 bus arrived dead on time and we relieved to find that the driver had the heating on.

Alcalá de Henares Madrid Spain

It is only forty-five kilometres to Madrid but that is by the direct route and the bus didn’t take the direct route as it meandered around the back roads and made several stops on the way.  For the first part of the journey the journey was through fields of brown earth scorched into submission by the long Castilian summer and now waiting expectantly for winter respite and some rain.

Later it did speed up as it reached the outskirts of the third largest city in western Europe (after London and Berlin) and joined a motorway that took us to the final stop just on the edge of the central part of the city.

It had taken just over an hour and by the time we arrived it had thankfully begun to warm up.  We could have walked to the centre but we weren’t completely sure just how far that was so instead we elected for the metro.  Kim was nervous about this because the last time on a metro was in Athens when she had her camera stolen by a pickpocket.

This time she kept a vice like grip on her belongings but she needn’t have worried because it was way past rush hour and we didn’t share the carriage with that many passengers, which meant that it was easy to keep clear of those on board that she distrusted – and that was everyone by the way!

City Symbol of Madrid

It was only a short journey underground and we emerged quickly into the sunshine in the Plaza de la Puerto Del Sol right in the centre of the city.  After Paris, London, Rome and Barcelona, Madrid is the fifth most visited city in Europe and there were a hundred and one things to do and see but all of the interesting stuff had to wait for a few minutes because the first thing Kim, Sue and Christine wanted to do was to go to a cake shop for a snack and a coffee.

This confused Mickey and I but we really had to concede mostly on account of this being Kim’s birthday and she was most determined to have a birthday cake before lunch.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in Madrid, compared to London, Paris and Rome it only achieved capital status relatively recently, and there is no iconic building to define it, no Eiffel Tower, no Colosseum and no Westminster Abbey or famous cathedral or castle either so I was curious about what we were likely to see.

Madrid Cathedral

After we had had quite enough cakes we returned to the street and walked first in a westerly direction towards the Old City and the Palacio Real.  On the way we detoured via the Plaza Major the original city square with a large cobbled pedestrianised area, perfect for people to meet and chat and with grand buildings, a central statue and pavement cafés all around the sides.  We stayed for a while and then continued with our sightseeing.

It was an unusual day, it was approaching midday and there was a clear blue sky but it was cool in the shadows of the buildings and it was already obvious that we wouldn’t be enjoying the same high temperatures of just a couple of days ago.  We passed through the Mercado de San Miguel, which was no doubt once a proper indoor market but has now been converted to a rather trendy bijou sort of place with specialist food stalls offering small samples and a good range of vibrant tapas bars.  We might have stayed for a snack but we were still full of cake so we just wandered through and left.

Following the Calle Mayor we arrived at the city cathedral which seemed unusually modern and the reason for this is that when the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the Church in Spain remained in Toledo so the new one had no cathedral. There obviously wasn’t a great deal of urgency about the matter however and construction of a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena did not begin until 1879 and due to the volatility of Spanish politics in the twentieth century was not completed until 1993.

Catalonia Spain

Next door to the Cathedral is the Palacio Real de Madrid, which with an area of one hundred and thirty-five square metres and nearly three thousand rooms is the biggest Palace in Europe and more than twice as big as Buckingham Palace in London.  It is the official residence of the King of Spain but he doesn’t live there, probably because it must be a bugger to heat in the winter and it is only used for official State Ceremonies.

King Juan Carlos and the Royal Family choose to live instead in the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.

We walked around the outside of the white stone palace and admired the views over the royal gardens and then visited the adjacent Plaza de Orient a spacious and well laid out pedestrian area with an extravagant fountain and equestrian statue of Philip IV surrounded by immaculate gardens with lines of statues of former Kings celebrating the period of the Reconquesta.

__________________________________________________

More posts about Royal Palaces:

Spain 2009 – Arunjuez

Palace Real Alcázar, Seville

San Ildefonso o La Granja

Palace of Versailles

Peterhof Palace, Saint-Petersburg

Buckingham Palace, London

__________________________________________________

Entrance Tickets – The King of Spain’s Palace at Aranjuez

Aranjuez Spain

King Juan Carlos has eight Royal Palaces to choose from but I suspect he doesn’t stay at this one very often because it didn’t look very ‘lived in’, if you know what I mean; most are close to Madrid and one is on the island of Mallorca.  We walked through the gardens and then paid the entrance fee to go inside and take the tour through a succession or rooms (all the same, by the way) and then some exhibits about life at the Royal Spanish court through the ages.

Read the full story…

Aranjuez leaflet 1

My Personal A to Z of Spain, J is for King Juan Carlos

La Granja de San Ildefonso

P3250850

The town was quiet and there weren’t many visitors and we walked to the Palace through the front garden and to the pay desk where admission was free on Wednesday if you could demonstrate European Union citizenship so we flashed our passports and avoided what was actually a very reasonable €4 admission charge.

The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso is a palace set in extensive gardens in the French style of Versailles that was built for Philip V in the early eighteenth century and remains today an official residence of the King of Spain.  In the days before air-conditioning the Spanish Royal family used to like to leave Madrid in the baking hot summer months and take up residence in the mountains where the climate is cooler and more agreeable and looking around the place it was easy to understand why.

Inside the dark rooms it was quite cool and an attendant in woollies and a topcoat looked at me in my shirt sleeves as though I had escaped from an institution and gave a surrogate shiver as we examined the exhibition of Flemish tapestries before moving through a succession of state rooms all of which had magnificent views of the adjacent gardens. Best of all was the Royal bedroom with a perfect balcony vista overlooking the fountains in the garden.

I didn’t get a sense that King Juan Carlos actually uses this room anymore and he probably has an apartment somewhere hidden away, which has a twenty-first century specification with wireless Internet access and Sky TV that this one certainly didn’t have.

From the Palace we walked through the King’s back garden along the row of fountains all of which represent themes from classical mythology, including Greek deities, allegories and scenes from ancient myths. They are cast in lead to prevent corrosion, and painted over to simulate the nobler material of bronze, or lacquered over white oxydised lead to imitate marble.

Amazingly the original waterworks and piping are still functional: they rely purely on gravity to project water up to the forty-meter height of the fountain jet of Perseus and Andromeda because an artificial lake, El Mar, lies secluded at the highest point of the park, and provides a reservoir and water pressure for the whole system. Today, only a few fountains are active each day and only during the real tourist season but twice a year, on the feast days of San Fernando and San Luis all twenty-six fountains are set to work, providing what must be a truly memorable aquatic show.

Seville

PB290423

We returned to the Cathedral square, the Plaza del Triunfo, and had to make a choice between visiting the Cathedral or the Palace and because of Micky’s aversion to churches we chose the Palace. It was a good choice because the fourteenth century building was a jewel box of patios, halls and gardens. It has been the home of the Spanish Monarchy for seven hundred years and the upper floors are still used by the royal family today as its official Seville residence.

Aranjuez

Arunjuez

In mid afternoon we arrived in Aranjuez, parked the car, stopped at a café where we sat near the window and lamented the woeful weather and then walked the short distance to the Royal Palace. King Juan Carlos has eight Royal Palaces to choose from but I suspect he doesn’t stay at this one very often because it didn’t look very ‘lived in’, if you know what I mean; most are close to Madrid and one is on the island of Mallorca.

We walked through the gardens and then paid the entrance fee to go inside and take the tour through a succession or rooms (all the same, by the way) and then some exhibits about life at the Royal Spanish court through the ages.

Palacio Real de Madrid

Philip IV and the Palacio Real

Next door to the cathedral is the Palacio Real de Madrid, which with an area of one hundred and thirty-five square metres and nearly three thousand rooms is the biggest Palace in Europe and more than twice as big as Buckingham Palace. It is the official residence of the King of Spain but he doesn’t live there, probably because it must be a bugger to heat in the winter and it is only used for official State Ceremonies.

King Juan Carlos and the Royal Family choose to live instead in the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid. We walked around the outside of the white stone palace and admired the views over the royal gardens and then visited the adjacent Plaza de Orient a spacious and well laid out pedestrian area with an extravagant fountain and equestrian statue of Philip IV surrounded by immaculate gardens with lines of statues of former Kings celebrating the period of the Reconquesta.

El Escorial

The Palace at El Escorial was built by King Philip II, who, reacting to the Protestant Reformation sweeping through Europe during the sixteenth century, devoted much of his lengthy forty-two reign and much of his seemingly inexhaustible supply of New World gold to stemming the Protestant tide.

He ran his Spanish seaborne Empire which stretched from the Netherlands and southern Italy to North Africa, Latin America and the Philippines from his headquarters at El Escorial which was designed as a monument to celebrate Spain’s role as a centre of the Catholic Christian world.

Since then, El Escorial has been the burial site for most of the Bourbon and Hapsburg Spanish kings of the last five centuries and the Royal Pantheon contains the tombs of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (who ruled Spain as King Charles I), Philip II, Philip III, Philip IV, Charles II, Louis I, Charles III, Charles IV, Ferdinand VII, Isabella II, Alfonso XII, and Alfonso XIII. In 1984, UNESCO declared The Royal Site of San Lorenzo of El Escorial a World Heritage Site and more than half a million visitors come here every year to visit the place.

After our late lunch we made our way to the complex of El Escorial which has been described as ‘the oppressive monument of the first totalitarian state in Europe’ and ‘the mausoleum of Spanish power’ and although the expansive courtyard was bathed in afternoon sunshine the grey building did indeed appear cold, vast and imposing and it was easy to see how this dull monolithic exterior came to represent Castilian military virility and the expression of religious might and it certainly wasn’t as handsome as the other Royal Palaces that we have visited at San Ildefonso, Madrid and Arunjuez.

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

______________________________________________

J is for King Juan Carlos but it could well have been:

St James

Jamon Ibeirco

______________________________________________

Spain 2011, Consuegra, Tembleque and Aranjuez

Consuegra Windmills Spain

I realise that this isn’t the correct technical meteorological term but when we woke up the next morning, it was as though the sluice gates had been opened and it was absolutely chucking it down!

From outside there was the sound of (very) heavy rain and when the shutters were opened we were confronted with a blanket of thick grey cloud and horizontal precipitation thrashing against the window – it was all a bit dull and dismal and did not look at all promising.  But, I have great faith in the expression ‘rain before seven, clear by eleven’ that I was reasonably confident of improvement as we mopped up the wet tiles under the balcony door, dressed and went for breakfast.

Read the full story…