Archive for August 6th, 2019

August 6, 2019

The Carillon of Madrid!

And while we are at it, why not tell you something unique of my beloved Madrid. As said cannot be too far from it. It is a problem really as very difficult for me to go elsewhere once the big vacation time arrives…. Madrid is more than a visit for me. After many years my family has gotten used to it or surrender lol!  If in Spain, need to at least past by Madrid.

Now here is something unique in Madrid and Spain. A carillon of singing figures and just by the apartment we will be staying in Barrio de las Letras neighborhood! The Plus Ultra building singing figurines!

The Plus Ultra building is in the Plaza de las Cortes 8, next to the Westin Palace hotel, in front of the Congress of Deputies and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, closely watched by the Statue of Cervantes.


It was acquired in 1941 by the insurance company Plus Ultra (formerly Groupama), 100% owned since 2015 by Catalana Occidente. Their official site is here: Plus Ultra insurance company

It occupies part of the site of the former palace of the Dukes of Medinaceli (most of the site is occupied by the Hotel Westin Palace) and was built as a rental house for the Marquis of Amboage. Although the Plus Ultra building dates from the early 20C c. 1913, ordered to be erected by the Marquis of Amboage, the Carillon was inaugurated on December 20, 1993 by the Infanta Pilar de Borbón, Duchess of Badajoz.

On the balcony of the first floor there is a carillon that in addition to giving the hours at specific times of the day presents a small spectacle of mobile figures, the only one in Spain at the time of its inauguration. The carillon plays the anthem of Madrid, La Marseillaise, the Radetzky March, Libiamo ne ‘lieti calici of La Traviata, the Ritirata of Madrid and the Boccherini minuet, among many others. With the holidays, the list expands to universal Christmas carols like White Christmas.

The Goyesco (as a Goya style)  Carillon looks out from one of the balconies on the first floor of the Plus Ultra building. When it comes into operation, it captures the attention of pedestrians, who for a few minutes stare at the movements of the figures.

The Carillon consists of five figures designed by cartoonist Antonio Mingote, all of them from the Goyesque era: the painter Francisco de Goya, the Duchess of Alba accompanied by a dog, King Carlos III, a Madrid Maja (local women) and the bullfighter Pedro Romero. During the more than three minutes that the small show lasts, the figures perform a series of movements limited to the sound of a music performed by the 18 bells installed on the sides of the clock. This music varies as we hear it at different times.  Each of the five figures performs a different movement: the bullfighter Pedro Romero tempers his crutch before the onslaught of an imaginary bull, a manola (women) greets with her fan, Carlos III of Spain – the mayor king of Madrid – shakes his head, the Duchess of Alba will greet with a handkerchief and the painter Francisco de Goya draws in the air with a brush. To see the Goyesco show there are several sessions a day, at 12h, at 15h, at 18h and at 20h. On December 24 and 31 ,it also works at midnight. It is recommended to be very punctual since its entire duration is short.

 The Carillon was manufactured in the Netherlands by a company specialized in such rare gadgets. Although the technical realization is complex, the resulting spectacle is very simple and at the same time unique in Madrid. Indeed, a marvel worth the detour to see it and of course something different in wonderful Madrid.

This is what you will see and hear from YouTube

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

August 6, 2019

Barrio de las Letras , Madrid!

So here I am getting ready for my big European summer vacation in you will guess right my beloved Madrid. Many choices but always comes down to the heart! The city that I lived as a teenager and came back so many times over the years, it has become like my second home. Walked it, trained it, bused it, planed it , biked it, you name it I have done it all there . Not too shabby when Spain is the second most visited country in the world according to official UN WTO tourist organisms figures. 85 millions in 2018! And you want to know from my official subscription to the WTO , well , the most visitors come from the United Kingdom, France , Germany, Italy, Holland and the USA.  As to Madrid, well 10,2 million in 2018 with the most coming from the USA, then the United Kingdom, Italy , France, and Germany in that order.

And now let me give a primer on my spot and the history of it which I love. To Madrid to heaven and a hole in the sky to look down on it everyday! 

The Barrio de las Letras or district of the Letters, also called of the literati and the muses, is an area without administrative entity of Madrid in the City center or Centro district. The zone is delimited, towards the west, by the Calle de la Cruz and the Plaza Jacinto Benavente; to the east, by the Paseo del Prado; to the north, by the Carrera de San Jerónimo; and, to the south, by the Calle de Atocha. Some of its most emblematic routes are the Calle de las Huertas, Calle del Prado, the Calle Echegaray, and the Plazas or squares of the Angel and Santa Ana. It owes its name to the literary activity developed throughout the 16-17C. Some of the most outstanding writers of the Spanish Golden Age, such as Miguel de Cervantes, Quevedo, Góngora (who lived in the same house as his literary antagonist, Quevedo), or Lope de Vega and his idolized Marta de Nevares

Although most of the preserved buildings were built in the late 19C and early 20C, from the time of the Golden Age have survived the House-Museum of Lope de Vega, where the writer lived between 1610 and 1635 , open to the public as a house-museum; the Convent of San Ildefonso de las Trinitarias Descalzas, where Cervantes was buried; and the Church of San Sebastián (where it is believe Lope de Vega is buried).

.In the number 87 of Calle de Atocha, one of the roads that limit the neighborhood, was the printing press of Juan de la Cuesta, where the premier edition of the first part of Don Quijote de La Mancha (1604), considered the masterpiece of literature in the Spanish language. The Palace of the Count of Tepa, the Royal Academy of History and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Madrid belong to the 18C. Other buildings of architectural interest are the   Teatro Español or Spanish Theater, the Simeón Building and the Ateneo de Madrid. In this neighborhood there were also some essential pieces of 20C Spanish dramaturgy, such as the grotesque Luces de bohemia of Ramón del Valle Inclán.

María Pacheco,  was very popular after giving up her chicken pen for small theatrical performances, which ran from noon until late at night. The Corral de la Pacheca, which later became known as Corral del Príncipe, was the place of entertainment for the people of Madrid, who came every time in greater numbers to see the works of Calderón de la Barca ,and   later, of Lope de Vega. At present, classical works continue to be performed in the same enclave, transformed into the Teatro Español b. 1849, located in the same Plaza de Santa Ana that today houses the statues of Calderón de la Barca and Federico García Lorca. Nearby, on Calle del Príncipe, stands the Teatro de la Comedia, inaugurated in 1875 .On the opposite side of the Plaza de Santa Ana is the modern Me, one of the most suggestive hotels in Madrid, located next to the Plaza del Angel. In it highlights the Café Central one of the temples of jazz in Madrid.

The Church of San Sebastian, with wonderful archives. It contains a large part of the lives of illustrious people who were baptized   there such as  Ramón de la Cruz, Jacinto Benavente were married ,and –Larra, Zorrilla, Bécquer– or received homage after their death. Among its death certificates are those of Lope de Vega-buried right there-Ruiz de Alarcón and Espronceda. In its old cemetery, current nursery, was where José Cadalso, one of the most prominent names in Spanish literature of the 18C, tried to unearth the body of his beloved, the actress María Ibáñez. That experience served him to narrate his famous Noches Lúgubres. Or Lonesome Nights. In the Plaza Matutes you can stop to observe the building that hosted the press of the newspaper El Imparcial, where Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer worked. After the junction with Calle de León , you will meet the Comedians ‘quartent or representatives’ ghetto, where idle and unemployed people gather, especially authors and comedians.

Between the Calle Huertas and the old street Cantarranas -now Calle Lope de Vega is the Convento de las Trinitarias. Founded by king Felipe III in 1612, with a sober and austere line, owes its survival to the Royal Academy of History. In the convent, which became part of the headquarters of the University of Alcalá, Miguel de Cervantes is buried, which was closely linked to the order of the Trinitarians after they paid their release from the Algerian dungeons where he spent five years in captivity. The author of Don Quixote shared a thousand times scenario with his great and young rival Lope de Vega. During the final stretch of his life, Cervantes lived in Calle Huertas and then in that of Francos-now called Calle Cervantes-in front of the comedian’s room and very close to his enemy, Lope de Vega, who lived in a house from where he left once dead, followed by all the people of Madrid to the Church of San Sebastián, where he is buried.

The Calle Lope de Vega leads to the Church of Cristo de Medinaceli, long venerated by the actresses of the time who filled the church of Jesus with false male devotees. Object of devotion of thousands of Madrileños still in our days, is a chapel that was part of the Padres Trinitarios Descalzos or Barefoot Trinitarian Fathers and that was regularly visited by Lope de Vega, Calderon de la Barca and Tirso de Molina, writers ordained priests who moved their dramatic   works , previously represented in the vicinity of the churches, to the corrals of comedies. Opposite the Convento de las Trinitarias, on the corner of Calle Lope de Vega , is the one that was Quevedo’s house. This is remembered in a large plaque on the façade where one does not take into account that it was once the home that Góngora bought with great effort when he settled in Madrid.

The Paseo del Prado and the Plaza de las Cortes, where a statue of Miguel de Cervantes and the Palace and Villarreal hotels stand. A few meters away, since 1884, is located the Ateneo de Madrid, Madrid’s famous center for talks, forums and cultural meetings. Also, the Congreso de Diputados or Spanish parliament where the laws of the Nation are created. The museums of El Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía occupy an area that witnessed the life and miracles of our writers of the Golden Age. Today, the area, also known as the District of the Muses or Parnassus-in honor from the poem of Cervantes, Viaje al Parnaso– welcomes since the last quarter of the 20C, has concentrated a great activity of nightlife in bars, taverns, nightclubs and other places around Calle de las Huertas and Plaza de Santa Ana with numerous shops, hotels, cafés and breweries that make it one of the nerve centers of the historic center of the city. And I will be back here in this area , plenty to tell soon.


Congreso de Diputados of Spain parliament our apartment will be very close to it!

tourist office of Madrid on the Barrio de las Letras

And it has its own webpage but in Spanish, here: Barrio de las Letras webpage full of info in Spanish

On the above webpage I give the headings from left to right: Visits, pleasure, shop, eating places, contact the site, the association of merchants, and the Directory. Enjoy the Barrio de las Letras, I always have and looking forward to another splendid vacation. The only sadness with us this will be our first summer vacation in Spain without my dear late wife Martine, RIP!  I am sure I will have my weak moments there too.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



%d bloggers like this: