Archive for February 9th, 2011

February 9, 2011

Madrid, Ventas and the bulls.


Its the ultimate Madrid visit, controversial by some, but love by most. Madrid is its cradle the ultimate expression of a Torero when he knows he reach the top. A must for every visitor to Madrid, to know the city , to know the country , to know its people. I live one metro/subway stop from there for four years !!!

The Monumental plaza of Las Ventas was finished in 1929, and on June 17 1931 it held its first corrida a benefit bullfight held at full capacity to  inaugurate it.  The monumental Las Ventas is divided in rings with a group of zones call “patios” /areas of gardens done in a mudejar architecture representing the different provinces of Spain . The arena  has a diameter of 61.5 meters (203 ft),the  seating capacity  is divided into 10 “tendidos” (group of 27 rows around the “arena”), some of them in the shade and the rest in the sun. The ones in the shade are more expensive than those in the light or sun.  When you to the counter for tickets you will see areas marked “sombra” or shade and “sol” or sun.  The biggest plaza or arena in Spain ,third largest in the world. There is an old saying that I would translate as “Madrid gives the money, and Sevilla gives the fame” . It has a seating capacity of 23 798 persons. The season starts in March and ends in October, with the biggest party during May on the Feast of San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid, and held since 1947.

Some of the great toreros that have triumph in this arena were Paco Camino, El Cordobes (Manuel Benitez), and Curro Romero. The arena has serve to hold many music concerts amongst the most famous those of  The Beattles, AC/DC, Manà, and La Oreja de Van Gogh. It was the scenario for the 2008 Davis Cup tennis competition where Rafael Nadal where in the semifinals he beat Andy Riddick for Spain to advance.

Behind the arena ,walking your way around it, you will find the Museo Taurino or the museum of the bullfighter, a nice presentation of this form of traditional expression . The hours are  during corrida season march to october from Tuesdays to Fridays from  9h30 to 14h30. Sundays and Holidays from 10h-13h. Out of Season from november to February, from Mondays to Fridays from  9h30 to 14h30.

To see the Novillada, which is novice bullfighters in action the prices in season of course are from 2,20€ to 63,90€ depending of the seat location and event. The normal corridas the prices are from 4.50€ to 127.90€.  There is a tel +34 902 15 00 25. You can ,also, buy in advance on internet at   However unless a special event, no need to do so in advance, you can buy same day as I always done without any hassles.  This is another popular venue for purchase over the internet Localidades Galicia

The Las Ventas Monumental plaza is located at 237 Calle Alcala, district of Salamanca, you get here by metro line 5 at stop Ventas or line 2. Arena is behind you!   You can come by taxi from your hotel, at the stand in Calle Alcala just in front of main entrance to the Arena.  By bus you can take any of these from various locations in Madrid ,the No 12 ,21, 38 ,53, 74, 106 ,110, 146 ,and 210. You can go to the Madrid public transport site for bus and metro information here

The main webpage for Las Ventas is here

You have Calle Alcala the main artery east west that goes into city center at Gran Via and on and on the other side can now take you to the airport Barajas or spent some time by the Retiro park or marveling of the famous monuments of Puerta de Alcala or Cibeles fountain.  No need to stay in hotels nearby as the transportation system is very good, however ,if insist the ones I know good are from the chains NH parque avenida, Rafaelhoteles Ventas, Hotel Silken Puerta de America, Novotel Punete de la paz, Hotel Convencion ( O’Donnell 53 street is an old favorite web ),you can book apartments known well to my family still there as Apartamentos Juan Bravo (Juan Bravo st 58-60 web  ).

For eating in the area head straight for Los Timbales, 227 Calle Alcala just across from the arena, my hangout and now reveal, you wont go wrong here, great food, great Spanish ambiance,and bullfight lingo always with decorations. You will need to try the Rabo Encendido or bullstails in fire dish, right off the arena the bulls are better ::) no web open from 7h to 01h0, tel +34 917 25 07 68. Metro Ventas lines 2 and 5. A bit further come to my old piso or apartment at Calle Alcala 337, here you have Docamar,  the best seafood on land in Madrid, great ambiance always lively social, Spanish, and a find by yours truly, Madrid lovers par excellence they have site for photos of old Madrid, metro Quintana line 5 (after metro Ventas, then Carmen then Quintana),try the raciones at the bar ,more and cheaper than tapas for a complete meal, webpage Another must in the area Los Clarines, Calle de Bocangel 2, metro Ventas or towards Manuel Becerra on a small side street off Alcala St but worth the secret, toreros a la carte, try the calamars or squids for tapas sublime.  webpage

Hope you are tented to try to see a corrida and judge for yourself is an awesome event,full of history and passion, just what you came to see in Madrid,Spain. This site in Spanish but tells you on the defense of this spectacle and how the bulls should be handle before admitted to the plaza, with great care and love.

Enjoy the ride into my Madrid!

February 9, 2011

Vaux-le-Vicomte, when a King is jealous !

When a King is jealous alright, this is a marvelous castle often overlook for lack of leaving Paris proper by most visitors. However, it is highly recommended.  To say the least been here many times as it is in my spouse’s region, and it was one of the first properties visited when coming annually to France since 1990.

The castle is not name for the city, the town ,village we better describe it is call Maincy postal code 77950 with a population of about 1700 inhabitants. It all became famous when the  Superintendant of Finance (from 1653)  of king Louis XIV ,Nicolas Fouquet  purchase the land of Vaux in 1641 AD from the inheritance of his decease wife .  In 1657, he hires the Architect Louis Le Vau to built a castle , the Painter Le Brun to do its decorations ,and the gardener Le Nôtre to create the gardens .  The talent of these man was already known to the king as they were used to do the similar work at the Chateau de Vincennes (bois de Vincennes) in 1651-1653 .When all is done, Nicolas Fouquet proudly showcase the property with a grand bal or party on August 17 , 1661, inviting the King itself and it court.  The Castle  17C architecture is the most important private property listed in the historical monuments of France

This was the beginning of disaster for him and his castle. Not just for this castle as it is the popular story, but because Nicolas Fouquet had fraudelent used the Kings’ money for other properties as well a total of 11 millions francs for which he recognise in front of the Tribunal only 8 millions.  Immediately all these events led the King Louix XIV and his advisers figure that the embellishement and grandeur of Vaux-le-Vicomte was due to the mis used of these funds. He was ordered arrested by the king  in September 5th of 1661 with the personage of Captain D’Artagnan , yes of the muskeeteers fame, the loyal guard of the king.  He is sentenced to 15 years in prison in Italy where he died on April 3, 1680.

The castle represent a French feodal architecture with four buildings ,two of rectangular shape along the gardens and two square along the courtyard; it has a Rotonda, Italian style in the center room with the king’s apartement on the left and the apt for Nicolas Fouquet on the right, the central room is of an oval shape something unique for the times. First floor or ground floor you have the Salon d’Hércules,Chambre des Muses (or Fouquet) ,there is a chimney in the Salon des Jeux or games room ,the antichamber of the king is not finished! as well as the chambre du roi or king’s room , there is the dining room, and kitchen . First floor or second floor (US) you have the bedroom of Nicolas Fouquet all is original ! ,Also, the one for Mme Fouquet all made of glass, plus a cabinet room or office . There is a huge beautiful garden as you can imagine fait par Le Notre,not to miss either about 3 kms of it French style. You,also, have a carriage museum in an adjacent building of carriages from the 19C to 20C. There is a water fountain show the second and last Saturdays of the month from about March to October, check site for exact dates as they change a bit year to year.  Also, the Saturdays from May 1 to October 9 thereabout 2000 candles are lit at night for a magnificent show of lights after 20h.  There are kids theme games, and a special masquearade party every year not to be missed if possible.

The Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte goes thru traumatic periods of inheritances and revolutions before falling by foreclosure sale to industrialist Alfred Sommier in June 15, 1875, he renovates the castle bring back its old belonging or make due imitations of the ones existing before, and the Castle is reborn, unfortunately he died at the castle in 1908.  The castle serves as a military hospital during WWI until 1918.  The castle  is today own by Count/ comte Patrice de Vogüé that inherit it in 1968 from his father Jean de Vogüé, nephew of Edme Sommier deceased in 1945 without descendants. The Count de Vogüé has done considerable work and publicity to make this property once again royal and magnificent for all to see.

You have several admission schemes from the individual 8€ to an all day pass for all for 14€ to a family pass for 44€.  The opening hours are every day from 10h to 18h from March 19 to November 13  2011. It is closed wednesday June 22 and it opens May 1 and 8 usually holidays in France.  You have restaurants inside for any budget.  To get here by car is to best take the A5a from Paris to exit/sortie  D215 road take it direction Melun, free parking.   By train from Paris Gare de Lyon take trains direction Sens or Montereau to station at Melun, there take the chateaubus 7€ round trip (weekends in period april to november ), the official webpage will tell you more here

You can,also, reserve in advance your tickets, but unless in period of special activity it is not necessary, site  . Many hotels/lodging to choose in the area but since so close to family never had try any, the page for the information is here

For restos the same, its usually a whole day trip, and you can bring picnic food for lunch ,eat at the castle restos or head for Fontainebleau where we do eat at Chez Arrighi, 53 rue de France , Tél +33  01 64 22 29 43 . no web, but from chateau take right to rue grande first left to rue de France.

Enjoy the visit! Cheers!!!



%d bloggers like this: