Fui sobre agua edificada, mis muros de fuego son. Esta es mi insignia y blasón.
(On water I was built, my walls are made of fire. This is my ensign and escutcheon.)
– Motto of Madrid, Spain
From life’s simple stuff to grandiose pleasures, bring it on!
My first time to go out of Switzerland and visit another piece of Europe, the Madrid vacation has somewhat made me feel close to home.
I couldn’t help but repeatedly say this many times during our stay, “Madrid is like Manila. Manila is Madrid…”.
Madrid’s architectural beauty reminds me of a “could-have-been-better” version of the present Manila, or the old heydays thereof. Castillian baroque, as they put it, stands out in most buildings, and we found this classic design in the area we had stayed, Plaza Mayor. French and Italian influences are evident in some structures. I must admit, I am envious. I just wish that the old buildings in some parts in Manila, like in Intramuros, Quiapo or Avenida, could have been kept way better than what Madrid has done.
The Spanish people we met at the hotel, in the restaurants, at shops or at the streets, were all very nice and friendly. One time, when we were at the bullfight scene, this man in his 50s volunteered himself to take us some pictures, and upon knowing where we’re originally from, he jokingly said (in Spanish), “Ah, so you’re from the Philippines. You are Spanish! You must have spoken Spanish very well.” Apparently, un poco, seňor! His beaming smile and proud-sounding voice couldn’t stop me from assuming how we remind him (and the rest) of their grand empire many centuries back, and that we are the only country in Asia they once had. Talk about reminiscing the good (and the bad) old times with us, right? Well, this is another story to tell.
Madrid is really a captivating city that never sleeps. Well, most people would take short naps in the afternoons (a siesta), but come nighttime, almost everyone stays out and enjoys the nightlife pulsating with energy.
Madrid is also a fashion capital of the country. There are so many trendy boutiques to shop at, and more outfits to choose from. Sorry Switzerland, but Madrid has induced me to the things I mostly craved for for quite some time. Nonetheless, Switzerland is still a different beauty.
Here are the top things I like in Madrid.
1. Bus tour around Madrid
This is a great way to see the city’s fantastic monuments and sights, allowing you to get a good overall view of Madrid, with the flexibility to hop-off the bus to further explore any attractions you particularly like.
And then you can hop-on again to continue your tour as the next bus comes round!
You can hop on and off the bus as many times as you like on either of the routes, or even start one route, and join another at one of the interconnecting stops.
The routes are: Modern Madrid and Historic Madrid.
2. Los Museos: Reina Sofia y Prado
The vanguard of the early twentieth century is housed here; Spanish artists from the late 19th century to the Second World War such as Pablo Picasso (including his famous Guernica painting), Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, etc. The second half of the collection shows artistic trends from from the 40’s to the early 80’s with works by artists such as Antonio Saura and Eduardo Chillida.
The Prado is one of the most important art museums in Europe and amongst the best in the world. The collection includes sculptures, drawings, paintings and other art objects. The Villanueva building houses Spanish paintings from romantic to 19th century styles, as well as important works by Italian, Flemish, French Dutch, German and English artists.
3. La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espiritu Santo
Madrid’s main bullring is called La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo, or more simply, Las Ventas (Alcalá street, Metro: Las Ventas). Built in mudejan style, this impressive building is formed of red brick and ceramic tiles. The construction, designed by José Espelius and Muñóz Monasterio, was terminated in 1929, although the ring itself wasn’t inaugurated until 1931. Today the ring is also used for rock concerts and political meetings.
4. Flamenco at Tablao las Carboneras
Madrid has been listening to the best flamenco since the early 19th century and has seen the best artists triumph here.
Flamenco can be seen in many bars and taverns in Madrid. Normally you would go for an evening meal to one of these places, and listen to the music afterwards.
Flamenco baile is a dance of passion, courtship, expressing a wide range of situations ranging from sadness to joy. The technique is complex, differing depending on whether the performer is male (heavier use of the feet) or female (gentler, more sensual movements).
5. Shopping in Madrid
Like any modern metropolis, Madrid has several shopping centres or malls to choose from, dotted about the city. But Madrid is also a historical city, and small family-run shops selling traditional goods are still to be seen.
The central area around Gran Via, Plaza Mayor and the Puerta de Sol is home to many large department stores such as El Corte Ingles, FNAC and international clothes stores such as Zara, H&M and Mango.
This major shopping district extends towards Plaza de España and Princesa streets.
6. La Buena Comida
Spanish cooking has popular roots. It is the people’s cuisine. Most of it is down-to-earth, uncomplicated food, based on the ingredients available locally or the crops grown regionally. Mountains run through Spain in several directions, acting as natural barriers to communication and making transportation difficult until the last half of the 20th century. This is one of the reasons why cooking differs so much from region to region.
7. Mercado de San Miguel
By day the Mercado woos residents and visitors alike, with purveyors hawking everything from produce to fish, fresh pastas to pastries, cookbooks to cooking utensils. After hours, the crowd shifts focus to beers and tapas; the frutería closes; a wine bar draws a genial mob.
The Plaza San Miguel has been a haggling haven for Madrid’s homemakers and servants since the early 19th century. The iron-and-glass Mercado opened in May 1916, a monument to modernism and new ideas on hygiene, reminiscent of Les Halles in Paris. Eventually all but abandoned, the building fell into disrepair. Restoration began after private investors bought the building in 2003. In a nod to living green, instead of air-conditioning, the air is infused with water droplets; every few minutes shoppers are bathed in a blast of micro-rain.
8. Madrid Metro
9. Estación de Islas Filipinas
Islas Filipinas is a station on line 7 of the Madrid subway beneath the street Cea Bermúdez, between the Plaza de Cristo Rey and the intersection with Avenue of the Philippines in the Madrid district of Chamberí. The station opened to the public on February 12, 1999.
10. La Siesta
Siesta is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm.