Tag Archives: Madrid

Shy and Retiro – the parque to be in Madrid!

The Prado is one of the most important, and popular, museos in the world. Here are some queues on the first of May to prove it!

Here are the queues I walked right by because I bought my Three-Museo Pass (Prado, Reina Sofia & Thyssen) the day before!!

The Prado is filled with history, not only of art, but also of humans and their relationship to nature. There are gods, of course, love, sex and death all captured by the male gaze; Goya, Velazquez, El Greco … It is an overwhelming place of virtuosity and glory. One needs to have a break. Go to the Parque, perhaps?

The Gate on Calle de Alphonso XII - put your back to El Prado and walk right in!

The Gate on Calle de Alphonso XII – put your back to El Prado and walk right in!

I sat under this tree and ate my bocodillo for lunch. It is a cypress.

I sat under this tree and ate my bocodillo for lunch. It is a cypress.

Remember when Babar the Elephant got to be King? One of the many kind things he did for his people was to make a lovely park where they could promenade and play. I’m quite sure Jean de Brunhoff modelled the King’s park on this one.

Imagine having an apartment over looking this park!

Imagine living in an apartment over-looking this!

El Retiro, or Buen Retiro Parque, in Madrid, used to be the Royal playground until it was given to the people in the nineteenth century. Like Babar’s park it’s formal, organised into different areas of play and people use it all the time. Lots and lots of people. It was known as the great art wonder of the world and is jammed full of buildings and sculptures. Even a Crystal Palace!

Amazingly there were hundreds of people walking around on this day but not in this photo!

Amazingly there were hundreds of people walking around on this day but not in this photo!

It’s a reasonable size, 1.4km squared or (350 acres in old measurements, which considering the Imperial nature of this place, is probably suitable). While there are other parks around Madrid (the biggest is Casa de CampoEl Retiro is the most formal, and the most central.

Fuente del Ángel Caído - perhaps the only sculpture of the devil in the world?

Fuente del Ángel Caído – perhaps the only sculpture of the devil in the world?

One of the highlights of the park is the statue of the Fallen Angel. The Devil, writhing in agony, was built by Ricardo Bellver, while the base, with the cheeky devils and creatures, was added later by Franciso Janero. They say it really is 666 metres above sea level.

Cheeky Devils!

Cheeky Devils!

Dappled shade for a quiet moment

Dappled shade for a quiet moment

There were people everywhere! Rowing on the ‘Pond‘. Picnicking. Canoodling. Walking, running, skateboarding, practising their swing dancing … There were folks chucking frisbees, bashing balls with bats, kicking balls and there were dogs. Lots and lots of little dogs. Some big ones, some running about chasing a ball and a white pit bull pulling her owner. And some cats.

Not the only cat in the park

Not the only cat in the park

Imprisoned rose garden

Imprisoned rose garden

At the foot of the Cuba memorial, the fountain plays

At the foot of the Cuba memorial, the fountain plays

The base of the Cuba memorial

The base of the Cuba memorial

Monument to Cuba

Monument to Cuba

There is a House of Cows (not open) and Velazquez has a palace! (Also not open), both exhibition spaces.

The rotunda not good enough for this band!

The rotunda not good enough for this band!

Buskers busked, cafes sold pizza, coffee and coke. The smell of sweet chestnut blossoms mingled with flying balloons and everyone seemed to be having a really good time. Perhaps they’d enjoyed the puppet show or one of the playgrounds?

Retiro_balloons

The competition to have your show run here is fierce

The competition to have your show run here is fierce

I approved of some unkempt areas where quiet souls lurked in shady nooks.

Gone to seed

Gone to seed?

It's not possible to escape battles and warriors, this is Spain.

It’s not possible to escape battles and warriors, this is Spain.

The atmosphere hummed. If there was shouting it blended into the happy relaxation burble that was Madrid’s Public Holiday.

It was the 2nd of May.

http://marcaespana.es/en/culture-and-singularity/arts/paintbrush-and-chisel

http://marcaespana.es/en/culture-and-singularity/arts/paintbrush-and-chisel

 

Three Fountains in a Paseo

Madrid is full of sculptures. You might remember these from ‘La Comunidad’ by Alex de la Iglesia.cranesI’m obsessed with Madrid’s roof top sculptures generally. I have no idea how they got them up on the buildings. Nowadays, clearly, they wrap ’em in bubble wrap and stick ’em on a crane. But, then, how? Slaves? Stood end to end? How did they hold them steady when they put the cement under them? Built scaffolding? These things are made of iron! There’s a horse, rearing, with his legs full of lead, down by the palace. That’s only a couple of metres but these things are ENORMOUS! On four or five storey buildings!

So much art in Madrid one must visit the Golden Triangle of Museos, The Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen. I bought a three Museo pass and went every day of the long weekend. Here is my brain after three Museos. 3-museo-confusionSo I went for a walk. What did I find?

Three big fountains; all in central Madrid, all in a line in the Golden Triangle of Art, or the Paseo del Prado, and two of them have magical powers. For football teams. Now, I’m sorry, I can’t go into details about teams and football stuff but given the theme of this blog we will explore earth, sea and fire. Let’s start with the sea.Neptune01The first big marble guy is Neptune, the God of the Sea. He’s in front of the Prado, the Thyssen and the Ritz. Location, location, location! Traditionally, if his team (whatever) won, all the fans would jump in, climb up and celebrate with him. After the enthusiasts broke bits of him off – trident ? – the powers-that-be now protect the sculpture, allowing only one fan to get in and wind their favourite scarf around the king’s neck. Neptune‘s got some traffic going on around him, quite a nice flower garden and generally high regard.cib-wideOn the further side of the Paseo is the Goddess of Earth or Nature, Ceres, or Cibeles, with her own plaza. She represents fertility and the lions represent our relationship with fiery nature. She’s got the big traffic roundabout. A lot of traffic. She’s also suffered at the hands of her football tribe over the years. They even found one of her hands when they drained the ‘pond’ at El Retiro. So she gets big protection, with just the one scarf, after a big game as well. cibmidshotCibeles has got some major company in the location department with the magnificent, highly ornate Communications building (art gallery, post office and town hall combined), America House (furthering Latin American relationships), and the Bank of Spain. Myth has it that the Bank’s gold vaults lie under the sculpture. Apparently, if an attempt is made on the bank, the fountain’s waters will flood the corridors and drown the burglars. Our tour guide is reasonably sure that’s why the fountain is currently under repair. He reckons there’s a few drowned robbers under there RIGHT NOW!cib&missile-buildingThe other thing about Cibeles is this weird missile building. I think you’ll agree there’s something a bit unsettling about it.

Finally in our tour of three fountains, is the least important to football fans, ApolloApollowidePoor Apollo. Stuck in the middle. The lost one. At least he’s got the Four Seasons so he won’t get lonely but he certainly sees very little traffic. He represents fire. He’s also supposedly the God of Art, Music and Beauty, but, according to our tour guide (Ramon from Sandeman’s Majestic Madrid Walking Tour), Carlos III, the king not exactly known for his well-balanced features, decided the face should be modelled on him. The sculptor (apparently Alfonso Giraldo Bergaz) did his very best but we all agreed it was probably ideal the head is far from the ground. Apollo-very-CU

All these elemental sculptures are in the Paseo del Prado. You can see the lot in 7 minutes. Originally designed as a promenade for wealthy people, this is now a Paseo for Tourists and very lovely it is too. That’s just three sculptures. Imagine what glory is in the three Museos? I just can’t tell you.Screen-Shot-fountains

Three gardens in Madrid

The golden angel sculpture is on top of a bank.

The golden angel sculpture is on top of a bank.

The centre of Madrid is a brilliantly-lit, highly-decorated, antique dreamscape. There’s people everywhere but let’s ignore them for the moment. Let’s look up. The buildings are ornate, very grand and to Australian eyes, very old. The sky seems close, I suppose because there are no tall towers, or even trees, blocking out the clouds. When you do look up, it’s to sculptures. It seems every building is topped by some grand beast or muscular god holding a weapon, wrestling with their own mythology. And nearly every building that appears to be a majestic castle, turns out to be a bank or the Department of Agriculture!

Ornate government building in Madrid

Ornate government building in Madrid

Over the centuries there’s not much that untrammelled nature can do in these city streets. Potplants cling to tiny balconies tesselated along the walls of the thinner side streets, the angular stalks of the spider’s web that is Madrid’s traffic structure. Eager trees lean into light that strikes into plazas or sidles into thin one-way alleys. There are, of course, many parks in Madrid, most central and famous being El Retiro, a royal retirement haunt featuring a large pond, a Crystal Palace and a statue of the Fallen Angel at 66.6 feet above sea level. It does seem on first glance that Madrid has successfully tamed and trained nature!

Botanic influences abound

Botanic influences abound

But three different gardens in just one small corner of the city captured my imagination. The first is the formal Royal Botanical Gardens, a kind of zoo for plants.

Orderly formal displays

Orderly formal displays

It’s on the Paseo de Prado and it’s structured into formal parterre on three different levels displaying plants from all around the world.

Tiny hedges for tiny plants

Imagine having to trim the hedges?!

Tiny hedges box in neatly planted varieties that sometimes, like banksia roses, do their level best to explode out of their cages.

Escaping plants?

Escaping plants?

The Botanic Gardens are surprising for the tranquil atmosphere in the centre of a busy highway. Joining the motos and the sirens, marching just a little further down the Calle, past that Department of Agriculture, one comes to another ornate building. Par for the Madrid course, it’s not a castle at all, it’s a railway station.

Atocha Railway Station

Atocha Railway Station

Inside this amazing hangar is a jungle. Known as the Greenhouse at Atocha Station, there’s a pool of turtles clustered together like insects at the foot of the ferns. TurtlesMist sprays over the plants and it’s possible to see some of the palm trees must take a beating in the summer. What a great place to come to the restaurant or one of the bars before heading for a trip on a very fast train!Atocha-int

Finally in this botanical tour of a very small section of Madrid is a vertical plant wall outside the CaixaForum.longshot-wall

looking-down

Looking down

From a distance this looks like a painting or a carpet. Close up it smells lovely.

wall-cu

Looking up

Rows of plants buoyantly fly into the sky. A pleasing way to spend an afternoon. And on the way home, why, what’s that building?

The Department of Public Administration.

The Department of Public Administration.