Archive for December 7th, 2020

December 7, 2020

One more time, Retiro park, Madrid!

Oh yeah like there is one more time in life, eternal Parque del Buen Retiro or simply Retiro! My closest grand park when lived in the city and many memories of all ages and family time. The Retiro is the lung of Madrid, I would add it is Madrid!

Again and again, the Retiro park is magical in Madrid. It is the place to be for visitors and locals alike and my childhood park par excellence. My dear late mother Gladys will take me here for strolls and boat rides , that are still the norm of many families.  El Parque del Buen Retiro has been written before in my blog on several occasions so what I am telling you again ,its worth it me think ,hope you too!

And can’t leave for last, as  Madrid city has proposals pending for Unesco World Heritage sites,these are pending due to the virus lateness, these are the Prado and Retiro! webpage Unesco: https://whc.unesco.org/fr/listesindicatives/5977

Ok move on, there are many facets to the park, and even thus most guides tells you to see in one day, you really need two if wants to know all its history. The Retiro park is mythical, romantic, adorable, a big green space in the middle of Madrid, and a past time for many generations of families ,including mine. I could not be by Madrid without stopping by at Retiro and see every corner of it if not in one passing on the next. The park has remained the same, like a photo of history, and that of Madrid.

You have the popular palaces of Velazquez and Cristal, the fisherman house, the gardens and the sports fields of Chopera as well as that lake full of boats. I visited some spots this time again.

However, let me give you some anecdotes of the park. In 2001, the city hall of Madrid decided to empty the lake to fix a problem of water loss. They found 192 chairs, 40 small boats, 41 tables, 3 garbage containers, 50 mobile telephones, umbrellas, wallets, pairs of shoes, and many others!

In 2010, the underground works in the area known as the «las Estufas»  or boilers, it was discovered two tunnels of bricks of unknown origins; a canalization of water from Arabic time around the 10C, part of the installation of the Royal Factory of Porcelain of the reign of Carlos III and the trenches fortifications of the Napoleonic troops or of the Civil War are some of the thesis for these tunnels.  In the older days swimming was allowed now only boating is done, on water temperature of 4C at midday.  In the movie, the “Circus World” in 1963, the city empty the lake so the filming can be done in the middle of the lake. Actors John Wayne, Rita Hayworth ,and Claudia Cardinale.

The lake as was known as the Big lake of Retiro or the “Estanque Grande de El Retiro”, as the official name was ordered built by king Felipe IV to recreate naval battles where he himself participated. The artificial lake is 280 meters long by 140 meters wide and a depth from 60 cm to 1,80 meters. Even with this depth many incidents of suicide were attempted…Not me just kissed my girlfriend on the boat rocking lol!!

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It has ,also, an impressive tree such as the Ahuehuete also known as Mexican cypress ,planted in 1630. It is located in the Parterre section where you can see it going in by the calle Alfonso XII. the tree measures 25 meters and looks like a candelabra as from its base many branches very thick comes out.

You will see pictures of the Bosque del Recuerdo ,done in 2005  as a garden inside the park to remembered the victims of the terrorist attack of March 11 in Madrid.  It is a wonderful garden indeed and worth the detour in the park to see it.

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You will see the Egyptian Fountain of the Canopian god  or better known as the Egyptian Fountain; this is the Fuente Egipcia del Dios Canopo,( Fuente Egipcia), a monumental fountain erected in the last part of the 19C to enhance the sides of the big lake in a neo Egyptian style with traces of neo classical.

You will find caves like buildings with a devilish figure on top or strange figures; these are several all around the old Casa de las Fieras or wild animal house which was part of the old zoo in the park;now it is a learning center keeping its wonderful ceramic tile work in the Jardines del Architecto Herrero Palacios or garden of architect Herrero Palacios.

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There is a famous fountain to the devil there or Angel Caido, fallen angel, but the one I like is that of Alcachofas, or Fuente de la Alcachofa. This one was raised in the last part of the 18C  facing the old vallecas gate or Puerta de Vallecas, and passed on to the Retiro park in 1880; there is a replica in bronze in the Atocha square in 1986.

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The boating in the lake is wonderful and very highly recommended to all visitors, and will have the opportunity to mingle with locals as it is very popular. In my days ,you could rent paddle boats, foot pedals and oar boats, today they are all oar boats for rent. There is a small house on the extreme left facing the lake to rent them. I tried them again when took my boys to it and then again!

Another wonderful garden inside the Retiro park is that of the Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez (for many years the park’s gardener) ;this is by Paseo Uruguay in the park. You will see here many things including the fuente de las Gaviotas,(seagulls fountain)  and the wonderful figure statue of Venus , and see the colony of Peacocks there.

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The entrances by avenida Menendez Pelayo are very nice such as those by the Puerta del Niño Jésus or Puerta de Murillo as well as the Paseo del Duque Fernàn Nunez. The Paseo del Duque Fernàn Nunez is name after the first Duke who had a castle nearby there ,and gave the land for the the park was turn into a Royal grounds and finally made available to the public in 1868.  Right on this paseo or street you will see the before mentioned fountain of the Fallen Angel done in 1874 on request by the duke in turn.

The Puerta del Niño Jésus, is located on the square of the same name where you entered the Paseo de del Duque Fernàn Nunez  that takes you to the  Rosaleda (rosary garden). Before reaching the Rosaleda see an old building from 1850 with a tower that is the Castillete Metereológico (sort of meteorological  small castle) ,inside ,it was installed the first optic telegraph of which depended from the Real Observatorio Astronómico (Royal Astronomic Observatory).

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And ,you have the Puerta de Murillo, by the Calle de Alfonso XII; this is an access gate to the park  with an wrough iron gate that takes you to the municipal sports complex of La Chopera inside the Retiro park. This area is known as chopera for the black poplar trees found around it. At La Chopera sports complex you can practice Handball, Football, Indoor Football, Football 7, gym, paddle, Tennis, and Basketball. I played football. Soccer when a boy and could not find a better park for it.

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In all , again, a magical place of my magical Madrid, a great city, great ambiance, very friendly, plenty of choices and great food. Not to mention, darn, the best park around, Retiro park in my mind forever!!

The tourist office of Madrid on the Retiro parkhttps://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/parque-del-retiro

Really hope you enjoy the post and do come when possible; this is Madrid at its best. We love each time in the city stop by here, again and again, we never get tired of seeing it. The Retiro Park is Madrid!!

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

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December 7, 2020

Madrid and my Bernabeu and Elipa!!

So now looking at these older posts nostalgia has sets in. Many memorable moments with family there, here, everywhere Madrid is more than a city I told you! And there are within some special places dear to my life. I like to tell you a bit more on the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and the sports complex of La Elipa!!!

Two memorable parks of my youth one and of always the other, without them Madrid will be just another city in my world map. I grew up there, playing baseball in the Elipa and part of the Real Madrid organization in Benjamin division at casa de Campo, the old training and field grounds ,then became a Madridista for life and Bernabeu is my second home.

Another chance to be by Madrid and of course, could not resist in stopping by even if there were no games just been around these places is special to me. Lucky enough to be able to be back and see them often. The temperature was nice and sunny around the 23C (73F)  in the afternoons and going down to 10C  (50F) in the evenings. A nice way to walk the city.

I first went to the Elipa park or the Parque Municipal de la Elipa; this is part of my district where I used to lived in the 70’s. It is surrounded in the north by El Carmen neighborhood , east by the cementary La Almudena  , to the south by the neighborhood of Moratalaz, and to the west the avenida de la Paz or the beltway M-30 . It is part of the neighborhood of Ventas, where the bullfight arena monumental is located,and the district is Ciudad Lineal , my residency district of old in Madrid.

I always came here by bus in my times it was the P13 and with the new EMT Madrid transport of modern Spain, the numbers were change,and now is the line 113. In 2007, (finally) ,they open a metro line 2 La Elipa , that is at the intersection of the streets avenida del Marqués de Corbera and calle Santa Felicidad.

I played for a team sponsored by the Real Madrid FC organization with the same name in a league of about 8 teams, most of the equipement was provided by the US air force base at Torrejon de Ardoz. Some of the teams I remember other than mine were, the Rayo Vallecano, Atlético de Madrid, Condepols, Piratas, Abraham Lincoln school, and the US air base team. The Spanish were learning the sport of Baseball and it was fun to be able to teach as well as played. They used to translate literally the English name and call it pelota de base or baseball!!!

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Today the Madrid baseball/softball federation is base at La Elipa with a training school and the sports field has been enlarged to offer programs in Basketball, Baseball, Football, indoor football, musculation and gym, swimming, padel, tennis, table tenis,and Volleyball. Also, a batting cage for practices batting the baseball,and nudist zone. 

For the nostalgia, I walked from my hotel along calle del Pez Volador and calle del Dr Esquerdo along parque de Roma, you see the Spain tower of television and radio RTVE, a sight indeed, and then crossing the passarelle bridge over the beltway M-30 (that was just finished when I left Madrid in 1974 ), and into the street on the other side turning left you go to a traffic circle and then see the signs for La Elipa ,follow it and you are there in 15 minutes! A memorable trip I can show my sons in August which we will be back and can show in person. memories forever of my Madrid!!!

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Of course, on the way back with time between flights, left Madrid T4 terminal to go and pay a visit to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu and a chance to have lunch by there. The Real Café Bernabéu was closed for lunch already so headed for the restaurant TGIF  (which i have been before) in the La Esquina del Bernabeu building by the plaza del Sagrado Corazon,and avenida Concha Espina. This Esquina or corner area is been torn down as I write to create a new complex and a covered roof Bernabeu stadium! Photos for the memories!!!

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The TGIFridays restaurant was great as usual and I ask to hurry up as needed to get back to the airport and they did it very fast, my burger, bacon and fries and a jarra or pint of Mahou Cinco Estrellas Madrid beer; all with a nice view of the square or plaza Sagrado Corazon. The resto has closed due to the Bernabeu stadium renovations. 

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I have been to the stadium several times over my life and never enough. I always dream of living not far from it and just spend my times there , around and inside…. It is what the true fan wish for all our lives.  Did you know that Don Santiago Bernabéu’s  mother was Cuban from Camagüey? And that he had no child from his wife (since 1940 who died in 1987) Maria Valenciano!

When I go , (and this will change next year with the new renovations) always go for the Fondo Sur (south) bleechers by the avenida Concha Espina, you can have the Fondo norte (north) by the calle Rafael Salgado, lateral Este (East) by calle Pedro Damiàn, and lateral Oeste (West) by Paseo de la Castellana. A quick walk around of the stadium before buying your ticket will give an idea.  There are four towers around the stadium with tower A between fondo sur and lateral este , tower B  between fondo sur and lateral oeste,tower C between lateral oeste and fondo norte and tower D between fondo norte and lateral este. You then have zones, in each section divided in six levels from those in the fondos closest to the field, to tribuna, and antitheater’s or theaters three laterals and four fondo with the fourth fondo the most far away from the field.

To read your ticket see the numbers : you have the puerta or gate to get in, then the color to show the section ,like mine are Red for fondo sur.Green is fondo norte, Purple for laterals and Blue for the tribunes and preferential seating.  Then the ticket show the vomitorios or exit lanes, this is the passage that takes you to the bleacher’s and tribunes, antitheater etc by which you walk to leave the stadium once the game is over.

Then, you go for your sector seating, this is a 3 digit number on your ticket usually with a letter. Once you reach inside passing before reaching the bleacher’s you need to go to your sector; these are divided in lanes or aisles so the even numbers are on your right and the odd numbers on your left; easy up to now ::) The first number means your level up the ladder in the stadium zone you purchase, the second number  and third pinpoint the seat so the first number may means high level, the second number tribune, and the third number a antitheater. If a first time, can be confusing but there is always personnel around to help you find your seat at all times.  Finally, there is your seat number indicated on the ticket and on each chair! easy I said.

Now arriving in Madrid ,how to get to the stadium? again easy all roads lead to Bernabéu! I have use them all and the car is still best ::) Only you need to be there early underground parking available or nearby. Then, you can walk from your hotel -2km is a good walking distance here go ahead! Then ,for the more social transport folks there is the cercanias or suburban trains, where you will reach the station Nuevos Ministerios from C-1, C-3, C-4, C-7  or C-10 trains. Afterward you can walk about 10 minutes . You have last I counted 7 bus lines passing by the stadium such as No. 14, 27, 40, 43, 120, 147 ,and  150. And of course, the metro/subway/tube on line 10 Santiago Bernabéu go up on the stadium exit , then once out turn to your right and see the Stadium!!! If you arrive from other city in Spain usually by Atocha then take line 1 metro to stop Tribunal, and the the above mentioned line 10. Ahh tickets to the game , the official Real Madrid site is the best .

If you are looking for a hotel for a game there, or just to see Madrid away from the tourist hordes, than I recommend the one I have always use when in town for a game ,and not with family; Holiday Inn Plaza de Carlos Trias Bertrán, 4. webpage: http://www.hotelmadridhi.com/ 

Of course, I am biased but to eat go to other than the above mentioned places you have the La Esquina Asador Sidreria and Zen Market in the Real Madrid complex.  In all, near the Nuevos Ministerios transports hub you have an El Corté Inglés department store and an FNAC electronics/books/Cd music etc store. Closer to the stadium you have the AZCA  or Moda complex of stores. see their posts in my blog.

In all, this is Madrid, and with the famous Bernabéu in tow and the true local Elipa to see the real living of the locals, you will have the best of both worlds and appreciate Madrid even more. Hope you enjoyed the post as I did!

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

December 7, 2020

A love affair with Madrid!!

Let me bring this memorable post hidden in my many posts in my blog. It is a nice story indeed and one that I quickly became attach to the point of meeting the writer! Let me tell you about a love affairs with Madrid!!

Madrid is big on my map, once bitten it is very hard to forget. There is a saying in town, that said, From Madrid to heaven, and a hole in the sky to look down on it everyday! I am always looking at it from wherever I am.

I have written many posts on it here in my blog, just search Madrid and you know what I mean. However, today , I will tell you about a book; yes a book about Madrid that made me think of how wonderful this city is and how lucky that I found it and also to read the book and exchange notes with the book writer.

The book is titled: A Load of Bull: An Englishman’s Adventures in Madrid; written by Tim Parfitt on Pan MacMillan Publishers London ISBN 978-1-4050-4619-0 year 2006.

It’s the real story of Tim Parfitt who in the 1980’s was given the task to start the publication of Vogue and later GQ Spain (after the dictatorship). He was working for Conde Nast in London and got a 6 weeks assignment in Madrid. This 6 weeks turn into 9 years and during this time he discovered the real Spain. “there wasn’t any other type of Spain, was there?” But there was, “there was Madrid”

He goes on to tell his story from his arrival in Madrid in January 31 1988 at the tender age of 27. His office was by the Plaza de España. I am not going to tell you the whole book, if you like Spain and Madrid specially then it is a require reading.

He goes on to mention many of the places I went as a teen living in Madrid ,I arrived December 30 1970.  Some of these places are still memorable for me and always seems to stop by either going in or just passing by again for the memories, the first that comes to mind is the Gran Café de Gijon.

He went on to Riofrio under the Centro Colon, this one sadly no longer open. He talks about his life there and the struggle with the Spanish language (poor guy !) ; the funny translation and the nuances of Spanish street naming.  Speaking of the Plaza de Cibeles and Paseo de Recoletos, the communication palace then now Cibeles palace passing under the Puerta de Alcalà where the Cafeteria Simpatia  is now.

At the corner of Calle Serrano and Calle de Recoletos was the Vogue building at No 4 Izda (izquierda=left). And where the welcome to Madrid was “where 8pm means 10 pm”! hahaha!

Where he tried his first dish of testicles or Criadillas! where he assembled his team of collaborators.  Vogue magazine was created in the USA in 1892, then UK in 1916, France, 1921, Australia 1959, Italy 1965, Brazil 1975 Germany 1979 and now Spain in 1988!!!

He learned that in Madrid the rush hours were  14h or 2 pm and  16h30 ot 4:30 pm, the times to go to lunch and come back, no one is in a hurry in the mornings nor to leave at night.

He speaks about my beloved Retiro park Parque del Buen Retiro especially on the side of plaza de la Independencia and go into the Palacio de Cristal. He learned to tapear or go out for tapas from 20h or 8 pm and better to stand by the bar counter as locals do.

Going for more old authentic Madrid he headed to El Timon near the Centro Colon  business building. Now sadly closed.  The Plaza de España and it’s statue of Don Quijote with Sancho Panza and the donkey and wandered down Gran Via to Calle Preciados off Plaza Callao and down towards Plaza del Sol; glorious!!!

You cannot missed the Museo del Jamon now a chain of restaurants and the wonderful Plaza Mayor. Go onwards to the Plaza de Oriente and into the Palacio Real; get the cable car or téleferico and ride over to Casa de Campo . One day try the walk or jog from plaza Colon to Las Ventas Monumental bullfight arena….!!!  

Buying an old typewriter from a gone shop in Calle Hortaleza and tried those different Spanish letter keys !!! How about the first date driving a taxi from Paseo Recoleto to the fountain of Neptune in the Plaza de Cànovas del Castillo ,then un to San Jeronimo and to Las Cortes or Spanish parliament out into Plaza Santa Ana to land in nearby Cerveceria Alemana ,who of course, this one is still there! And still one of my favorite. webpage: http://www.cerveceriaalemana.com/main/

And the party continue to Los Gabrieles (now gone 2004) and then Viva Madrid (still open) on the Marcha or walk of Madrid following the Movida . The webpage vivamadrid: http://www.restaurantevivamadrid.com/

How about going to Segovia and having lunch at Pedraza while looking up the Aqueduct in the Plaza de Azoguejo and leaving Segovia by the road to Soria and into Pedraza.Wonderful ride indeed!

Stop in Madrid at one of my all time favorites Cafe el Espejo en paseo Recoleto. More here! but just sit at the bar and enjoy the view in and out. Another favorite of us:webpage: https://www.elespejonouveau.com/carta/

Try the old yuppie place of Cafe Bar Castellana at paseo de la Castellana ,8. Well now gone.

He found out the Spanish way that we call just about anybody a “friend” even if hardly met and of course we refer to an intime friend those higher up that makes us look good; actually as the book ” THIS IS A LOAD OF BULL”. And of course, the other is ” mi casa es tuya” my house is yours, but we rather meet in a bar lol!!! Or the Viaducto or viaduc meaning we take the bridge over off days to connect into several like a long week lol!! old practice not anymore as it is the siesta….

He found out the big party is May 15 San Isidro for a long party…and into the late nights in bars like Archy, Pachà , Cafe Central (Plaza del Angel) and El Sol or the Cock bar in Calle de la Reina or Museo Chicote in Gran Via to end at Almonte a Sevillian club in calle Juan Bravo. Or a fancy Botin in calle Cuchilleros. Now Archy is closed. Pachà is now Teatro Barcelo… El Sol is gone too… The rest are still open!

Also, moving apartment to one by Calle Lope de Vega nearer the Prado Museum. A practice of hora intensiva or intensive hour ;this was done in Summers so you worked only until about 15h or 3 pm to avoid the heat without a lunch break; then do this after 15h for lunch and then Siesta until the evenings. Finding out in Summer of operacion salida or exit operation when folks leave Madrid to escape the heat; and they all leave at the same time lol!!! And by August 31st is operacion retorno, operation return and they all come back at the same time lol!!! Still going on today!!

One more tried Taberna  La Bola  a classic in Madrid still going strong, and another of my favorites: webpage: https://labola.es/

Saw more of the nearby towns such as Aranjuez and Chinchon. Going back to Madrid for something exotic El Cuchi Mexican restaurant near Plaza Mayor. El Cuchi is gone.

See and pay a visit to Las Ventas Monumental bullfight arena for a look of tradition. All official in Spanish here: http://www.las-ventas.com/ and of course do not forget to see the Museo Taurino behind it on the story of the bullfighter.

You come to the Calle de las Huertas and stop by La Fidula for a fino sherry or go on to Casa Alberto for a glass of red with a pincho.  You continue the food frenzy in the Calle Marqués de Cubas at the Catalan resto Paradis. Go back to the Plaza Mayor and visit the Cava San Miguel for a nice cold beer (now is La Taberna Chiquita not the same) . You should not missed two great ones of Madrid , Casa Paco and Casa Lucio,and one of the classic upper upper Zalacaîn. Sadly the 3 star Michelin Zalacaîn has closed due to the virus!

Getting back to the apartment at Lope de Vega, you can try La Dolores bar. Their Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/La-Dolores-723065071198019/

Again, one of my favorites; hoping to stay on. And further you come to Villa Rosa tablao flamenco off the Plaza Santa Ana, now closed.

Some fancy visits to the British Chamber of Commerce; club Puerta de Hierro, Club Equitacion de Somosaguas all special visits. Then go up to wonderful Navacerrada and eat at Casa Felipe Asador. Navacerrada was my first attempt of skiing at the tender age of 12, well did not work out ::) fell all over the place and decided it was not for me.  The resto here:  http://www.restaurantefelipe.com/

Time to move again this time to Serrano, 145 corner of calle Guadalquivir; nicer area still today. Here it is nice to jog alone Paseo de la Habana and along Plaza Sagrados Corazones next to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium at the corner of Castellana and Concha Espina.Now going huge renovation for a covered stadium!!

You came to the old ,Club 31 in Calle Alcalà 31; and for ligher meals go to Pasteleria Mallorca. The first one change owner and location but still Club 31 now at calle Jovellanos, 5. Visited the bullfight arena at Aranjuez and had a nice party in Palacio de Gaviria ,Madrid, which was and is a great place to be.

He continues writing about the new things found in Madrid and of course learning Spanish, this was already 1992 the year of the Barcelona Olympics. However, Madrid had totally seduced him. And he visit Carmona near Sevilla to be with a women he met Patrizia and visit her parents.  He found Restaurante La Parra a Seville style restaurant in Monte Esquinza.

The hit came later meeting Kirza half Dutch and half Danish but born in Malaga, hey welcome to Spain. She had two kids from previous marriage and was only 29. He move in with her and the kids on January 1993. New place Calle de Povedilla 13 parallel to Calle de Goya in Salamanca district. They tour together deeper into Spain, Sevilla and Ronda and going to parties together. Even to Barcelona where the stays were at the Hotel Arts in the Olympic Port. They were married in Holland and photos splashed all over the medias. The hotel Arts webpage: https://www.hotelartsbarcelona.com/en/

And they move out of central Madrid into a bigger home in Calle San Martin de Porres by the Puerta de Hierro.  Kirza was pregnant and his best friend Luis was diagnose of leukemia eventually passed away at 58. And Tim became the managing director/General Manager of Conde Nast Spain.  The son finally arrive Toby in July 7 1994 at the Clinica Nuevo Parque Madrid.

And this needed another moved to Monte Alto in Humera just outside Madrid. And  moving in nanny and the black retriever dog Barnaby. And the new born child was baptized in the Church of Humera.

And the journey is over. Tim said it, Madrid is one of the most perplexing, anarchic, and exuberant cities on earth: Madrid. He fell in love with the country, the city and its people and do like we once bitten by the Madrid magic. Or From Madrid to heaven and hole in the sky to look down on it everyday!

I happened to contact him and exchange emails with him as what struck more of the story which is awesome and the book is wonderful; was the fact that we both went on similar paths of places in Madrid and fell in love with the city me too young needed to move on with my mother or life would had be different for sure. I figure is a nice story to bring up again in my blog. Hope you enjoy it as I did again writing it

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

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