All posts by talkmadrid

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia: Heart of Barcelona, Spain

imageIt was a pleasant surprise that I got an online message from a favorite aunt based in California, who was excited because she learned I visited Barcelona. She told me about her own trip to the Catalan city, which I was more than happy to hear.

She gushed about her Spanish experience, euphoric about her tour of Sagrada Familia. Traveling halfway around the world was by no means an easy feat and their trip to Spain came with serious expenses, but she swore seeing Gaudi’s mammoth of a masterpiece more than compensated all this. If given the chance she said, she and my uncle would love to go through it again, if only to relive the experience.

I told her that I had already been to Barcelona, but was not able to tour the Sagrada due to time constraints. Hearing this, she was clearly frustrated, and wished I had the chance on the first visit. She egged me go back soon, and with entry tickets to the basilica.

Finally, Sagrada Famila

The first time I went to Barca, I only had half a day to spend there, which meant being content with the more easy-to-reach Barcelona attractions like La Rambla, the port, the beach, New City of Arts and Sciences, and the Old town. Like other Spain attractions such as Santiago de Compostela and Valencia, Barcelona was such a beautiful city that I found myself planning for a revisit in the future, albeit, nothing was definite.

Now, the recent talk with my aunt got me fired up and really committed to seeing Sagrada that it must have caused the Universe to heed my inner desires to return to Barcelona. To make a long story short, I was presented with another great opportunity to go there. Friends are going to the city and I was asked to come along.

It’s a coincidence that like the first, my second visit to the place proved to be unexpected as people decided on another spur-of-the-moment, car-travel, eight-hour-long trip. But this time, everyone was more excited as the main reason for going there was to see the basilica. And so it didn’t matter that the trip was a total of 8 hours, which was probably that long because of the number of stops. In my case, such long trips are burdensome as they always render me sleepless (I could hardly get a decent shut-eye during long travels, even if it happens in the middle of the night).

I’m back, Barcelona!

And so, the revisit happened at last. Early morning we passed by at the Philippine consulate in Spain at Plaça Reial, wandered through the area as we waited for the time of our scheduled entry to the Sagrada, and saw another beautiful Barcelonan church , the Catedral de Barcelona. We then went back to the plaza for some lunch, and finally 30 minutes before 1PM, went straight to the basilica.

Always, the sight of the basilica is mesmerizing from afar. But this also led me to wondering when its construction will finally be completed.  This time, I contented myself with just a few shots of the facade upon finding out the battery charge of my mobile phone had gone down to almost half empty. I needed to save as much battery as I expected to make tons of shots once I went inside.

After just a few minutes of staying in line, my group was able to go inside and see La Sagrada Familia. One of the most noticeable features inside the church is the hanging Crucifix, below a yellow umbrella that seems to glow. Everything inside church, the altar, walls decored witg stained-glass, the religious sculptures — everything is simply amazing.

La Sagrada Familia is one reason why people would want to visit Barcelona. While it can be disappointing that the basilica is in perpetual construction, with scaffolding here and there, it sseems that total completion is within just a few more year. I’ll make sure I’d be back to see again and witness the basilica’s full and glory when that time comes.

Facts about Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia

image1. Antonio Gaudi was assigned the construction of the church in 1884, but did you know that he was not the original choice, but another Spanish architect Francesc del Villar? Gaudi was offered to replace del Villar after the latter had major disagreements with the people in charge of the project.

2. One reason why Gaudi’s own vision of the church has not been followed is because of the fact that portions of the basilica were damaged during Spanish Civil War. Likewise, after Gaudi’s death, work was continued by a number of Spanish architects, such as Lluis Gari and Francesc Quintana. Another famous artist, Josep Subirachs, was assigned to work on the facade.

3. Antonio Gaudi has a religious reason for getting involved in the building of the La Sagrada Familia. To be specific, he wanted it to be the last place sanctuary of Christendom.

4. The beloved Barcelona architect made sure the basilica is filled with Christian symbolism. For instance,once the holy edifice is finished, 18 towers will have been finished, representing the 12 Apostles, the 4 Evangelists, the Blessed Virgin, and Jesus Christ. The tower representing Christ will be the tallest of them all, and on top of it, a gargantuan cross will be placed.

5. The towers representing the four Evangelists – St Luke, St Matthew, St. Mark, and St. John will be capped by their respective symbols — an angel, a bull an eagle and a lion.

6. Antonio Gaudi lived to see the completion of the Nativity Facade. His death in 1926 was both tragic and senseless, as the master was hit by a tram on his way to the Sagrada.

7. Gaudi lived much of his life within another one of his creations, the Park Guell. He enjoyed his walks from his house located inside the park to his work at La Sagrada Familia.

8. His abrupt death in 1926 derailed the making of the Pasion facade, and the construction of the basilica in general. Eventually, another Catalan artist, Josep Maria Subirachs i Sitjar, was commissioned to continue with the construction. Many argued that his work was a world different from Gaudi, his being mainly straight and linear, while the latter´s were of curves. Debates subsided when the work of Subirachs proved to be impressive.–

Great photos that will make you want to visit La Sagrada Familia:

Facade of the Church showing the birth of baby Jesus. The Nativity facade faces the east of Barcelona. Gaudi’s vision of the church includes 18 towers. So far, eight has been built — these are four at the Nativity and another four on the Pasion facade.

imageWhen touring the interior of the basilica, you will surely not miss the prayer door that’s made of bronze. Inscriptions of the powerful and meaningful prayer phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” in 50 languages fills the door. Found the tagalog translation in the bottom part.imageTourists marvel at the stunning interior of the Sagrada Familia

imageChrist on the cross hangs under an illuminated umbrella, which for me suggests a floatng jellyfish, suspended in midair over the main altar. It is located in the apse of the church, the area of which is filled with columns or pillars resembling trees bountiful with branches seemingly reaching out to the heavens. The thick, solid columns are obviously meant as strong support to the whole structure of thr basilica.

imageThe stained glass windows of predominant red, orange, and yellow colors are so beautiful you simply couldn’t take your eyes off them. All you wanted to do is take your time in examining their details. The hues are bold and intense as the stained glasses are kissed directly by the rays of the sun during that time

Holy water font baecelona's sagrada familiaThe holy water font of the church in the shape of a shell or oyster

imageA closer look at the holy inscriptions in the basilica door

Passion facade Sagrada FamiliaFacade of La Sagrada Familia deficting the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. Includes the suffering of the Lord as He was cruxified. This part of the church is meant to reveal the sins of men.  According to stories, Antonio Gaudí magnified the suffering and death of Jesus, intending to make everyone realize the graveness of his sacrifice just to save mankind.

imageThe four towers over the Passion Facade, facing the Barcelona city center. Note: Access to the towers (including those at the Nativity) is not included in the regular entry ticket. Tickets to the towers can be bought inside.

Address:
La Sagrada Familia
Calle Mallorca 401
Barcelona 08013 España

Opening hours:
November – February: 09:00 – 18:00
March: 09:00 – 19:00
April – September: 09:00 – 20:00
October: 09:00 – 19:00
25 and 26 December, 01 and 06 January: 09:00 – 14:00

Tickets are on sale until half an hour before closing time

Disabled Access: Yes

How to get to La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona Metro System: Sagrada Familia, Blue and purple lines (lines 5 and 2 respectively)

Hop on hop off tourist buses (Barcelona City Tour) will also drop you off the site,

How to enter the premises:

1. Main access — Entrance is at Calle Marina, at the basilica’s Nativity facade, whether you’re touring as an individual or as a group.

If you belong to a primary or secondary school group on a guided tour, entrance is at Calle Sardenya.

Getting Tickets:

Regular entrance tickets are bought at Calle Sardenya. Persons with disabilities and their companions, as well as friends of La Sagrada, can have their tickets bought at Calle Marina.

Note: The schedule when La Sagrada Familia is open to the public isn’t fixed and be be altered depending on the important activities happening within the church.

Sagrada Familia Website

Buy tickets online

Map:

Craving for Tapas or Just About Any Other Food? Visit Chueca’s Mercado San Antón

imageClean. Gastronomic. Inviting. These are the adjectives that fittingly describe Mercado San Antón as a market that’s worth a visit, and many revisits after. Located in the middle of the hip and diverse neighborhood of Chueca, right in the corner of Calle Augusto Figueroa, did you know that the San Anton Market wasn’t always the roofed establishment like it is now?

Once, it resembled any other traditional Madrid market, complete with the usual wooden drawers, shelves and containers upon which various wares are put and displayed. The St. Antony’s Market in English, it’s so-called because of its proximity to a neighborhood of the same name. It has taken a modern look after undergoing a major renovation in the early 2000’s, much to the approval of Chueca locals as well as regulars coming from all over Madrid.

imageEntrance/lobby of the market along Calle Augusto Figueroa. Displayed on the wall is a directory of the tenant-establishments, indicating where they are located on the three floors

What to find in Mercado San Anton, Madrid

San Anton Market has three main floors, each with specific designations on what it serves or sells to the public.

1. First Floor: The Market

imageThe first floor is filled with stalls that sell “wet” and “dry” produce such as fish, meat, cheese, fruits, and vegetables.

imagePeas, beans, spices, and grain products

imageNicely stacked up in shelves are mangoes, persimmon, avocados, grapes, and many other fruits of bright and even hues, indicating their premium freshness and quality

imageThis floor isn’t strictly selling fresh produce, but it also has its share of food kiosks and bars

2. Second Floor: Comer y Llevar

imageFood kiosk serving all sorts of tapas with bacalao and sea foods as main ingredients. The second floor of the market has become a watering hole of sorts for tapa lovers and food connoiseurs

Spanish tapas at San AntonBelow the kiosk’s sign that says Tapa Espanola are an array of mouthwatering options. Not only does the second floor serve the popular Spanish delicacy, but other food varieties as well such as pescado (fish), hamburgers, Greek and Japanese food, postres and gelado, and vino

imageAsador de Manuela serves a variety of hamburgers

imageOccupying a part of the second floor is the Trapezio, the activity area of San Anton Market. From time to time, the exhibit and sale of novelty and eclectic items are held here. It also serves as a venue for cooking and tasting demos and shows.

3. Third Floor: El Restaurante

Much of the top floor of the building is La Cocina de San Antón, the market’s own restaurant. According to the esrablishment’s website, it assures the customers that it cooks and serves only the freshest and highest quality food ingredients, most of which come from the market’s own products. On the menu are popular, traditional Spanish cocidos, some of which are fused with the cuisine of other countries to afford customers uniquely international flavours.

Terrace at Mercado de San Anton RestaurantThe La Cocina de San Antón comes with a rooftop bar and a dining terrace, which I thought is the restaurant’s inviting feature, since Madrilenos do love to to eat el fresco, whether alone or with family and friends. Such a setting affords the diners to relish the best eats, engage in endless chats while under the blue city skies, and enjoy the fascinating views of the immediate surroundings of the barrio below

Tapas

Fancy Spanish tapas like I do? Let me tell you what I love about them. They’re bite-sized and so are easy to eat, but just a few pieces are enough to satisfy. To the shoestring traveler, they are top choice for food, being easy on the pocket.

But above all, tapas are full of taste. Bonafide lovers couldn’t be faulted for their unsatiable craving for these Spanish foods – they are just gastronomically divine. And when it comes to my first encounter of San Anton’s tapas, everything was sumptuous, to say the least. All that I ordered — the bacalao, pulpo, and cheese — they created an explosion of flavors in every bite.

Here are the tapas (and hamburguesa) I tasted at Mercado de San Anton:

imageBacalao Ajoarriero (Ajoarriero codfish), 1 euro

imageBrandada de Bacalao con cavier de lumpo (codfish brandada with lumpfish caviar), 1 euro

imagePulpo a la Gallego (Octopus Galician style), 1 euro

imageQueso de cabra con mostaza y miel y cebollas fritas (Goat cheese with mustard, honey and fried onion), 1.5 euros

imageQueso brie con frutos rojos (Brie Chees topped with red fruit jam), 1.5 euros

Hamburguesa

imageAsador La Manuela takes care of customers looking to dine on grilled food items. I decided that I must have a taste of its hamburger (selling for 6 euros, without fries). How was it? The Crema de Casar spread over the hamburger lends quite an intense taste, which only complemented the patty’s succulence and meaty flavor. Overall, it makes for a delightfully delicious meal.

Location

Mercado San Anton
Calle de Augusto Figueroa 24B Madrid 28004

Nearby Madrid attractions

Museo de Historia de Madrid, Gran Via, Plaza Callao, Plaza de Cibeles

Map

The Market’s Website: San Anton

Palacio de las Cortes de Espana – Home to the Spanish Congress of Deputies

imageGreat things abound that make Madrid a place to marvel at, they include the beautiful and majestic public offices found all around the city. Tall, sprawling, and possess impressive architectural designs — these are the qualities that the country’s government buildings have in common.

A fine example is the headquarters of the Congreso de los Diputados or the lower chamber of Spain’s legislative beanch, located at the Carretera de San Jeronimo. The Congress of Deputies in English, this branch of the Spanish Parliament is housed at the Palacio de las Cortes de Espana, the single most important edifice at the Plaza de las Cortes,

imageIt boasts of a grand design highlighted by the six columns in its entrance that lends strength to its dacade. The building is touted as one of the best examples of the city’s neoclassical architecture.

It is relatively new compared to other buildings in Madrid, having only been constructed in 1843 under the helm the Spanish architect Narciso Pascual Colomer and during the reign of Reina Isabel II. Still, the palace boasts of interesting stories about it, like its location being the former site of a convent. Needless to say, the Congress headquarters is one of the reasons the Carretera de San Jerónimo enjoys an influx of tourists throughout the day.

imageRenowned architect Pascual y Colomer is responsible for the neoclassical style of the building, while the attractive relief found in the upper front is a creation of sculptor Ponciano Ponzano. The most popular portion of the relief is the depiction of a lady with a girl on her side. Ponzano is also responsible for sculpting the two bronze lions found by the building’s staircase. His other creations are figures that represent various aspects of the state, such as Justice and Peace, Agriculture, and Fine Arts.

It is easy to reach Palacio de las Cortes since it is connected to Puerta del Sol via San Jeronimo street. It is also near other important tourist spots of Madrid such as Prado Museum,Puerta del Sol, Atocha station, Reina Sofia Museum,Plaza de Espana, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Cibeles Palace.

Opening hours:

Lion in front of Palace of the CourtsIndividual visits: Congreso de los Diputados is open to the public during Saturdays. Visiting time is from 10:30AM to 12:30PM. Schedule may change during the month of August, depending on the official activities.

Group visits: Guided tours are scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9:00AM to 2:30PM and 4:00PM to 6:30PM. Time of visit may change during August, depending on scheduled official activities. Reservation is a must for guided tours.

Address:

Calle de Floridablanca, 28071 Madrid

How to Reach:

Long shot of Palacio de los CortesThe best way to get to the site is via Madrid Metro, with Sevilla, Banco de Espana, and Vodafone Sol as the nearest stations

Autobus: 3, 5, 9, 10, 15, 20, 34, 37, 45, 46, 52, 53, 203, 150

Admission

Enttance is Free, however visitors are required to present and ID or passport.

Map:

image

 

15 Fun Things to See and Do In (and Near the Vicinity of) Puerta del Sol, Madrid

imageBustling, reverberating, full of life — these words perfectly describe Puerta del Sol, or the Gate of the Sun in English. A gargantuan, irregularly-shaped plaza in the midst of Madrid, it serves as a focal point from which important streets like Calles Preciado and de la Montera branch out and lead to various other major Madrid spots, like Plaza del Callao and Gran Via, respectively.

Needless to say, Puerta del Sol is the heart of Spain.

Whether you’re a backpacker, a first-time traveller, or a high-flying businessman-jetsetter en route to Madrid, it is a must that you include Puerta del Sol in your itinerary. Surely, you will by enthralled by the place and its immediate surroundings as you spend the whole afternoon exploring its attractions, souvenir stores and kiosks, casas de juego (slot machine shops), spanish cafes and restaurantes, churches, and a lot more.

Here are 10 things that you will want to see and do in and around Plaza del Sol:

1. Step on the Kilometro Cero Marker

imageThe Kilometro Cero marker is proof that Puerta del Sol is the heart of the country. Located on the sidewalk in front of the Ayuntamiento building, take a picture of the marker with your feet stepping on it. This is traditionally done if it is your first time in the square.

2. Ogle at the Oso y el MadronoimageThe Bear and the Strawberry tree statue is regarded as one of the city’s important symbols. In fact, you will find its depiction in the official coat of arms of Madrid. El Oso y el Madrono is one of the most visited attractions of the square.

3. Be amused by the square’s street performersimageimageStreet performers must be permanent fixtures of Puerta del Sol. You might chance on one corner a motorcycle rider floating high with his bike, and on another a human statue playing chess. Others scatter all around the square as they act out the Predator, Edward Scissorshands, and various characters, mostly from Disney. Each one is eager to get the attention of passing tourists. Be wary about taking their pictures, however, as it isn’t free. See to it that you have at least a euro to pay afterwards.

4. Brought along your little ones? Delight them with kid’s face paintingimagePuerta del Sol is the ultimate fun place for kids if only because of the street performers dressed up as various fantasy characters. Heighten their excitement even further by having their faces painted with the likeness of popular cartoon heroes like Spiderman and Incredible Hulk. (Find the artist in that part of the plaza nearest Casa de Correos.)

5. Shop till you dropimageEl corte Ingles is arguably the most popular retail chain in the country. Packed with shoppers even on ordinary days, El Corte sells just about everything, even insurance, trip tickets and pet care supplies. The best times to shop — and get more out of your Euro — are the months when prices are at their lowest, like the mid-year months of July and August, and post-Christmas month of February.

6. Ride the Madrid MetroimageThe Metro Train Station has several access points in the plaza.  Known as the Vodafone Sol, it’s one fast ride that connects Puerta del Sol to other beautiful spots of Madrid. Adequate signs make riding the metro quite easy even for first-time riders. I suggest you take a city pocket map from the metro info counter; it is free, and definitely a handy guide.

7. Explore the Nearest (and equally popular) squareimageThe historic Plaza Mayor, Sol’s “Little Brother” (as I like to call it), is an enclosed square that once served as a bullring. Walk through the porticoed paths on its sides and check out the souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. Need assistance in touring Madrid? Visit Madrid’s largest tourism office, housed at the square’s Casa de la Panaderia

8. Buy all the souvenirs you wantimageLooking for an authentic abanico? Buy a traditional Spanish fan at Casa de Diego. Plaza Mayor boasts of shops that offer tons of souvenir items of all types, like porcelain statues of Flamengo dancers or toreros, Madrid shirts, mugs, and plates, keychains, and many others.

9. Sit by the central fountain
imageIn the midst of the square are two fountains, both of which have ledges that serve as popular resting places. Any spot here is perfect for you to people watch, gaze at the Casa de Correos and the giant billboards, or simply rest and while the time away.
10. Stroll around the royal gardenimageA must-see is Jardines de Sabatini, which is a mere few hundred meters away from the plaza and just beside the Palacio Real. In contrast to the dizzying pace at Sol, here you’ll experience a relaxing promenade. Filled with manicured hedges and lush greeneries, stroll by the garden’s sandy paths while checking the magnificent view of the Royal Palace from time to time.

11. Chomp on a bocadilloimage Maybe you turned hungry after all that wandering around all morning. Want to try some Spanish sandwich? I suggest that you opt for some bocadillos of Museo del Jamon, located along Calle Major (there is another one in Carrera de San Jeronimo). Jamon, lacon, chorizo, cheese — you can eat all your favorite bocadillos for 1 euro a piece. Have them served with a cold glass of cola or a chilled copa of beer. What an affordable and satistying snack that’s enough to get you going for the rest of the day.

12. Visit nearby churchesimageimageThe San Gines Church (above) and Almudena Cathdral, located along Calle Arenal and Calle Bailen respectively, are popular among the locals and Madrid old-timers. Both are two of the most revered in the city, and are often the sites of the yearly major religious events.

13.Have a feel of Spanish royaltyimageAppreciate the facade of the stately Palacio Real in Calle Bailen or explore its interior even, to marvel at the finest furniture and work of art created by Spain´s most revered artists and craftsman.

14. Relish on a Suckling PigimageA few hundred meters from the square, along Calle Cuchilleros, is Sobrino de Botin, famous for its roasted suckling pig. Order whole so you could cut it into half using the plate’s edge. Eating at Botin affords you the bragging rights for having dined at the world’s oldest restaurant.

15. Wiggle your way around on a segwayimageTour the plaza and beyond by renting one of those fast-riding, two-wheeled, foot-controlled contractions. Many who had done so swore the segway was a uniquely exhilarating way of exploring Sol.

The list doesn’t stop here. In fact, there must be tons of exciting things to do that will make for a truly memorable visit of the square. Drop on by if you’re in Madrid, and find out for yourself why it is a must-see. Do so, for your trip to Madrid, Spain is not complete if you didn’t see Puerta del Sol.

Madrid Attraction: Biblioteca Nacional de España

imposing national museum of SpainThe library’s facade turns yellow when kissed by the rays of the afternoon sun. If you’re someone with a great fondness for beautiful edifice, the biblioteca is one you will marvel at.

Have you ever been to the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid? If you’re going to the direction of Plaza de Cibeles and Barrio Atocha via Paseo de la Castellana and Recoletos, you certainly will not miss it due to its sheer size and magnificence. The National Library of Spain in English, it is the largest library of the country, and one of the largest in the world.

The building is right in the corner of the paseo immediately after crossing the Plaza de Colon. In front is the Museo de Cera and Colon Metro Station.

Wealth of resources at Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid

The library boasts of large collections of books, documents, and reading resources. More than 26 million items are found in its keep;these are mainly 15 million books, thousands of “revistas” and journals, and various forms of manuspcripts and printed materials. It also possesses numerous items in different medium types such as audiovisuals, sounds and music scores, and electronic-based documents.

The library’s collections are overflowing that the items which could not be accommodated here are sent to an extention library located in Alcalá de Henares campus. The latter must be an appropriate choice for the library’s extenstion site since Alcala de Henares is considered to be the university town of the Communidad de Madrid.

Enjoy the Services of the National Library of Spain

While most public libraries in Madrid, and Spain as a whole, offer loan privileges, this is not the case with the National Library. In order to enjoy access to designated books and various library resources, you need to obtain a reader’s or researcher’s card.

Q1. What is a Readers Card?
Once you acquire your own Card, this affords you the basic privilege to borrow books.

Q2. What is the validity duration of the card?
It is valid for 3 years.

Q3. What are the requirements when applying for one?
You must present any of these legal documents: national identity card, residence permit, valid passport, driver’s license.

You can also apply for a card thru its website. Upon the approval of your application, you may claim your card at the library upon presenting any of the required ID’s.

Needless to say, Biblioteca Nacional is no ordinary library; but clearly, it reaches out to as many would-be users as possible, ensuring its easy accessibility via its Reader card.

Library Museum

Did you know that the Library has its own museum? 

Known before as the Book Museum, its task is to aid the library in providing the maximum educational, cultural, and recreational benefits to users and visitors. It also offers the public valuable information on the library’s history, operations, and various resources.

The museo’s collections include a number of valuable artistic and cultural pieces such as paintings and sculptures, and items that pertain to books, reading, and education, like typewriters and equipment used in the making of books.

imageThe library was built in 1712 during the administration of then King of Spain Philip V

imageThe Statue of Alfonso X, or Alfonso the Wise, stands on the entrance staircase of the building. He was the 13th-century ruler of Castile and Leon

imageBeside Alfonso X’s statue is that of San Isidoro. It is advisable to secure your own reader card to take full advantage of the benefits of being a borrower

imageIf you are a bibliophile, Spain’s national library is the best place for you to hang out and enjoy any of the immense reading resources that offers

Nacional Library of SpainOne of the two main gates of the building in front of Paseo Recoleto

How to go to the extention site:

Direccion: Meco, Alcalá de Henares, 28805 Madrid

By autobus: In Madrid, take bus number 227; upon reaching the town, take autobus 12, 250, 2

By Train: Ride the Renfe Cercanías Lines C2 and C7

Horarios:

Library hours: Mondays to Fridays: 9AM to 9PM; Saturdays: 9AM to 2PM

Museum hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays: From 10AM to 9PM; Sundays: 10AM to 2PM

Please refer to the website (by clicking at the link below) for any possible changes in the opening hours.
Admission: Entrance is Free

Library’s Website

Mapa

Photo of the Week: My Spanish Torera

imageI really thought the taxi driver had finally faced his worst nightmare

imageAlas! This is not a scene at the bullring of Las Ventas or El Pueblo de Chinchon, but a photoshoot in the corner of Carrera de San Jeronimo and Calle de Sevilla

imageLet’s give it to our “torera” who played the part to a T, albeit she still struck me as comely and every inch a lady

How often do you come across a Spanish torera in the middle of a busy street of Madrid, garbed in the traditional bullfighter outfit and on a defensive stance? Not too often, right?

Luckily, I chanced on one yesterday, she with her one hand with a firm grip on a sword raised high, seemingly ready to be thrusted onto a charging bull, and the other on a bright red cape.

Obviously she wasn’t Cristina Sanchez de Pablos, and neither did I secure a ticket to a Las Ventas bullfight event. Nonetheless, our subject was an absolute charmer while she did all those poses, which I assure you was a lot (upon much prodding by a “relentless” cameraman, I supposed).

Anyway, these pictures are such a great way to start my blogging week they even had me adding a new category: Photo/s of the Week. More pics like this to come, hopefully.

Navideña Feria Internacional de las Culturas 2016, Matadero Madrid

Navideña Matadero Madrid SpainMadrid, Spain is just magical in December. At this time of the year, the whole city spruces up, illuminates, and sparkles, what with all the holidays decors, trees, and xmas lights put up in many streets, avenues, and plazas. Weekends during this month means crowded shops and malls, plazas and streets overflowing with people, and restaurants and cafes filled to the brim.

Likewise, you can expect many Yuletide-related activities and events to happen, many of which would culminate on Christmas day, or by the end on the year, or at the latest, on the Feast of the Three Kings.

Madrid, Spain: Ciudad de Las Ferias de Navidid

Come Christmastime, Madrid becomes the city of fairs, and all things related to the merry season.

In instance, you can treat yourself to an interesting “feria” (especially if you’re an antiquarian) called the Almoneda at IFEMA Feria de Madrid which happens twice a year. The December fair, which is near Camp Naciones Station, offers an impressive display of antique items, paintings and other art pieces, and rare collectibles. The fair promotes its items as holiday gifts. Entrance to the Almoneda is free.

Another ongoing fair in Madrid is the Feria Mercado de Artesania de la Comunidad de Madrid at Plaza de España. It’s a free-entrance fair that started last December 10, 2016 and will end in January 5, 2017. The event is all about craftman and artisan items originating not only from the Communidad de Madrid but other autonomous Spanish regions. The fair is right within the area of Plaza de Espana, and so, it’s very accessible. The best way to get there is via the Metro (Lineas 3 and 10), where you get off at Plaza de Espana Station.

Navideña Feria Internacional de las Culturas at Matadero, Madrid

imageKnown as one of Madrid’s main centers for the culture and arts, Matadero, Madrid at Barrio Legazpi acts as the host of this year’s Navideña Feria Internacional de las Culturas. (Christmas International Cultural Fair). Various exciting and fun activities are scheduled to happen on the different facilities at the center and are meant for everyone of all ages to experience and enjoy this season.

Thru Navideña, Matadero Madrid gives Madrilenos and tourists the chance to make the most of the holiday season and enjoy a wide variety of entertaining activities such as movies, theater plays, exhibitions, workshops for kids, readings, art workshops, and so much more.

International Bazaar at Plaza de Matadero

Highly-awaited at the Navidena is the bazaar that involves the participation of the majority of embassies in Spain. All are assigned stands or kiosks that effectively serve as a platform where they can present and promote their country in the best way possible. I believe this is one of the most attended and liveiest fairs in the city because of the large number of participants to the event, which is more or less 75 countries.

Other Fun-Filled Navidena Activities

Apart from being able to enjoy roaming around a unique bazaar, have a taste and experience of various foods and cultural traditions from 75 or so countries, people are afforded various other fun activities in the event.

Every day, from december 15 to the 23th, different performances and events are scheduled to happen; such as cooking demos, film showing, concerts, cultural and traditional dances, plays, and more food tasting. The children are treated to story-telling, teatro infantil, anime cartoons, and so much more.

Just some of the many activities and the sites where they happen are as follows: the BID16 exhibition, a Latin show of modern designs, at Central de Diseno; a collective exhibit called El Ranchito-Rusia at Nave 16; toddler and children’s activity workshops at Casa del Lector; and engaging films to be shown throughout the duration of the feria at Cinetaca.

As promised by the event organizers, the event is meant to make the people understand and appreciate Christmas more. And as the current site of the event, Matadero Madrid welcomes everyone to witness and experience all performances, activities, and events, all of which will focus on “La Navidad”.

For a complete list of activities and corresponding schedules, you may refer to the Navidena Feria’s Official Website.

imageThe kiosks of the embassies are located at the Plaza Matadero, the area in front of the Nave 16

imageDay one at Matadero: 6 in the afternoon, yet only a few visitors roam the area — it must be the bad weather

imageMany children’s activities such as storytelling, storytelling and various workshops are held at the Casa del Lector

imageOnce the Yuletide decors were lit, this helped liven up the Yuletide spirit at the Plaza Matadero

imageThe kiosks of Israel and Finland. Navideña is aptly called “cultural” because of the participation of various countries

Navideña Feria Matadero Madrid Philippine Embassy Big smiles from the staff and officers of the Philippine Embassy to Madrid as they gamely pose for the camera

navideña feria, Madrid spainColombia keeps a jeep filled with sacks of coffee beans near its kiosk — one of the impressive displays at the Navidena

String lights Navideña Matadero MadridThe evening at the fair made brighter and more Christmassy by the holiday string lights

imageCineteca schedules excellent quality films in time for the Christmas fair

imageThe crowd intently watch a martial arts exhibition at Plaza Matadero, Day 2 of La Navidena

imageExhibition called BID16 is ongoing at Central de Diseño, showcasing Latino modern designs

imageSunflowers, stems and all drape from the ceiling of one of the halls, a Basurama exhibit that started last September and is still ongoing to become a part of the fair. The site was once a freezer and storage, a huge one at that; this was  when the place was still a slaughterhouse

Do come with your family and kids while the event is still on. With a great variety of fun and exciting things to see and do in Navidena Fair, it will surely make your Christmas this year a lot more special.

Name of activity: Navideña Feria Internacional de las Culturas

Duration: From December 15, 2016 to December 23, 2106

Time open to the public: 12PM to 9PM

Site of Activity: Matadero, Madrid (Ride  the Metro, Linea Circular and get off at Legazpi)

Entrance: Free

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La Iglesia de San Nicolas — The Oldest Church in Madrid

La Iglesia de San Nicolas, MadridBasilicas, cathedrals, parroquias — the Spaniards do love their places of worship, treating them as their go-to place after toiling the day at work, and their quiet sanctuary every weekend. They have such great respect for their churches that throughout the centuries, generations upon generations of Spanish builders put immense time and effort in the construction of these edifices, turning them into architectural and design masterpieces. It is typical for the churches’ interiors, such as the altarpiece and the nave, to be awed at, if only because of the fine, intricate details put into them.

Undoubtedly, Spanish churches, big and small, are not just creations of impeccable craftsmanship, but are great works of art.

Noticing how even the most recently built churches in the city possess the most breathtaking appearance, I always wondered how the oldest church of Madrid — Iglesia de San Nicolas de los Servitas — would look like. I always picture it to be a tall, imposing edifice sprawled on some major city plaza. Imagine how surprised I was when I finally got to visit it. The church was hidden in an inner street, obscured by surrounding edifices. Immediate streets are narrow, and the space in front is cramp, giving anyone a hard time taking a good photo of the church. Albeit still, it is located within the center of the capital.

Evidently, Saint Nicholas is a regular church, but considering its location, I deem it is still appropriately-sized to accommodate and serve the local parishioners of that particular area in Central Madrid.

Oldest Madrid Church

La Iglesia de Sn Nicholas dates back in the medieval 12th century, and so it is now listed to be the oldest parish church in Madrid, after the original Iglesia de la Santa Maria de la Almudena was torn down. Throughout the centuries, it had undergone a number of changes both in its facade and interior, particularly the small chapels found within.

Iglesia de San Nicolas bell tower and its Mudejar features

Iglesia de San Nicolas bell towerUpon closer look at its edifice, you would know that it exhibits a Mudejar or Moorish design, most especially in its bell tower. Not a few archaeologists have strongly suggested that it might have been originally a mosque. Another theory is that a Muslim place of worship was standing in its location.

The bell tower, in particular, is the oldest structure of the church. It is said to have been built in as early as the 12th century. This must be the reason it was the first to be recognized as a Spanish National Monument, way back in 1931. The rest of the edifice was built and finished about three centuries after, during the 15th century. Recognition of the church itself came in 1978, as a Bien de Interes Cultural.

Italian Iglesia de Madrid

The San Nicholas Church is often referred to as the city´s Italian church, since from time to time the mass is said in Italian. For a mass to be performed in the said language, a request must be done beforehand, together with an assurance that a large number of Italians will attend. They must have adopted the church as their own because of its proximity to the Institute of Culture of Italy, which is just nearby, also at Calle Mayor.

San Nicholas Church Bell Tower MadridThe bell tower, exhibiting rich Mudejar features, was constructed long before the rest of the church, way back in 1100’s.

Iglesia de San Nicolas Traviesa de BiomboAt the back of the church is the Plaza del Biombo, from which pedestrians can take the Traviesa del Biombo, a narrow and short passageway that traverses the side portion of the church and into its front

Iglesia de San Nicholas Baroque ReliefYou will find on top of the main entrance to the church a sculpted Baroque relief of San Nicolas, a work of art by Spanish sculptor Luis Salvador Carmona

How to find Iglesia de San Nicolas

Direccion: Plaza San Nicolas 6, Madrid 28013

Madrid Metro: Opera Station (Lineas 2 and 5), Vodafone Sol Station (Lineas 1, 2, 3).

From the Opera, you will have to walk down to the right direction of Calle de Vergara. Turn upon reaching the corner of Plaza Plaza Ramales and continue until you reach Plaza San Nicolas.

From the vodafone station, take the right side of Calle Mayor, passing by Plaza de San Miguel and Plaza de la Villa. Turn right at Calle San Nicolas and a short walk will bring you to the church.

What time to visit:

Mondays: 8:30AM to 1PM
Tuesdays to Saturdays: 9:00AM to 9:30AM; 6:3PM to 8:30PM Sundays: 10:00AM to 2:00PM; 6:30PM to 8:30PM

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Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande

imageReal Basilica de San Francisco el Grande

Madrid, Spain has some of the most beautiful churches that it can be proud of. Not all are grand in size. Some are average or even small, like a number of community churches (or paroquias in Spanish) scattered in many barrios and neighborhoods within the capital.

The city, of course, is not without cathedrals and basilicas. It boasts of a number that could match the most stunning ones from other European countries.

Needless to say, Madrid churches, big or small, are all beautiful and majestic in their own right.

For instance, near the Palacio Real is the Catedral de la Almudena with its imposing, sky-high edifice that brags an impressive baroque design.

Needless to say, it is a suitable home to the Nuestra Seńora de la Almudena. Devotees to the beloved Lady flock by the thousands to the church during its feast day, which is on the 9th of November.

Also found within the popular tourist areas of Puerta del Sol and Opera, along the Calle Arenal is the Church of San Gines, where I occasionally attend the Sunday mass. San Gines is one of oldest churches in the city, and is known to hold some of the most important religious activities and events in the city. Aside from the masses, I visit the church on a regular basis because of St. Jude Thadeus, to whom I am a devotee. His statue stands on one corner of the church, near its entrance.

Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande

imagePortion of the church facing the Dalieda garden

Still, another beautiful church located in the barrio of La Latina, near the Lavapies barrio and Embajadores, is the San Francisco el Grande Basilica. This basilica is dedicated to Saint Francis, and is said to have been built over a monastery that was founded by the Saint himself. Built in the 1700’s by King Carlos III, San Francisco Basilica is one of the five Basilicas Reales of Spain. Once you enter its interior, you will immediately be entranced by its stunning apse and lobby that form a circular shape.

What makes the church both unique and impressive are its set of domes, which consists of a big dome for the main chapel and six complementary small ones installed over the chapels that are distributed on both the southern and northern portion of the edifice.

The basilica was constructed from the common materials available during those times, mainly granite rocks. You would notice that the facade is built out of bricks and plaster material.

The San Francisco el Grande Church is a sight to behold because of its dominant design that is patterned after the Spanish artist Francisco Cabezas’ own style. The completion of the project was ensured by the great Italian architect Francesco Sabatini, creator of the Jardines de Sabatini. The interior of the holy edifice is filled with valuable artistic and religious items, including the finest works of art and masterpieces by Francisco Goya.

Dalieda de San Francisco

imageAdjacent to the basilica is the dahlia garden known as the Dalieda de San Francisco el Grande, where bountiful and in full bloom are a number of dahlia and other flower species and colors, especially those of yellow and red varieties.

imageThere is a wide terrace on Dalieda’s far end, from which you may enjoy a spectacular view of the Western portion of the city and beyond. On the same spot stands a sculpture named “El Sueño de San Isidro.” Finished in 1952 by renowned sculptor Santiago Costa, this particular work consists of two statues of what appears to be an angel providing comfort to the beloved saint. Unfortunately, there was no marker that could identify the two figures.

Where to find San Francisco el Grande

image

Location: Calle San Buenaventura 1, Madrid 28005

Means of transportation: Via Madrid Metro, La Latina Station

Schedule of daily masses

Laborables: Morning masses are held at 8:30 AM and 10:00 AM

Festivos: Schedule of Sunday masses are as follows — 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 1:30 PM, 8:00 PM

Museum Hours:

Inside the church is a museum that’s open to the public from Tuesday to Friday, from 11AM – 12:30PM and 4Pm – 6:30PM; and Saturdays, from 11AM – 1:30PM. Hours are subject to change depending on any scheduled religious ceremonies.

Admission price: Regular adult: 3 euros; Reduced price: 2 euros

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Casa de la Villa, Ayuntamiento de Madrid [Old Town Hall]

imageWe all know that the Palacio de Cibeles is the City of Madrid´s current Ayuntamiento or town hall, where its administrative functions and duties are performed. However, not many might be aware that the original town hall of the city is found near the Puerta del Sol, along Calle Mayor. It’s name is Casa de la Villa — and it is often referred to as the Old Town Hall of Madrid.

It is easily the most visited building among those found within the Plaza de la Villa, and early in the morning, throngs of people would already flock to the square and appreciate this beautiful Juan Gomez de Mora-designed edifice. There’s no doubt that Casa dela Villa is very popular if only for its historical importance as the city’s former main headquarters and town hall.

The monument is easy to reach since it is in a stragetic location, being situated between two popular Madrid squares — the Plaza de Oriente and Puerta del Sol and just along a street tourists and locals must know. The square is full with rich history itself, acting as the site of various important events that occured during the ancient, Renaissance period of Madrid. Its former name is Plaza de San Salvador, after the Church that bears the same name.

imageStately facade of the Town hall impresses many visitors and tourists. Not only did it function as a town hall, but Casa de la Villa was once designated as a jailhouse for the city´s prisoners

Plaza de la Villa Madrid, SpainIn honor of the death of famous Captain General Alvaro de Bazan, a bronze monument was sculpted by Mariano Benlliure and erected in the middle of the square, right in front of the town hall. On its pedestal are words by Lope de Vega honoring him. Bazan was the Captain who commandeered the Spanish Armada. imageHouse of Cisneros used to  be a palace from the 16th century and was built under Jimenez de Cisneros, the nephew of Cardinal Cisneros. The latter was the founder and builder of the Universidad de Alcala, found in the Comunidad de Madrid town of Alcala de Henares. Various renovations were done in the property, which included connecting the building with the Old City Hall via a short enclosed walkway.
imageThe enclosed walkway between Casas de Cisneros and de la Villa, serving as a connection or bridge between the two edifices
imageThe bridge that connects the House of Cisneros to the Old Town Hall was built during the early part of the 1900’s. The narrow street that traverses between the two buildings and below the enclosed walkway is called the Calle Madrid. It is connected to other small streets; these are Calle del Rollo and Calle Duque de Najera

imageThe House and Tower of the Lujanes take pride in having two of the oldest Madrileno architectural designs — these are the Gothic and Mudejar styles. The tower is said to be the older of the two structures; it has been in existence since the start of the 15th century. Originally the home to Gonzalo Garcia, it was acquired by Pedro de Luján in 1450

imagePlaza de la Villa is considered to be of high historical value since it is the focal point of ancient Madrid, being the site of the seat of old city´s administrative power – Casa de la Villa. It was here where streets found in the city´s old and original layout are connected — Calles Madrid, Cordon, and El Codo

imageThe facade of the building that faces the Calle Mayor. On its immediate side is the Palacio Marques Canete, or the Centro Sefarad. Just nearby is the building of the Italian Cultural Institute.

Want to see Casa de la Villa?

If you want to know more about the monument and perhaps see its interior, the best time to visit is Mondays at 5 PM, when a tour is held for visitors, and conducted in Spanish and English.

How to find Casa de la villa

Direccion: Plaza de la Villa 5, Madrid 28005

The historic edifice-monument is easy to reach: From Puerta del Sol or the Opera, walk the length of Calle Mayor until you reach Plaza de la Villa, at Number 5. The site is near two Madrid attractions, which incidentally are both Palaces, or at least named as such. These are the Palacio Marques de Canete, or the Centro Sefarad Israel (located immediately after the Casa) and Palacio de Abrantes or the Italian Cultural Institute (right in front of it).

Nearest Metro Stations: Vodafone Sol (Lines 1 to 3); Opera (Line 2, Line 5)
Auto buses near the site: Numbers 3, 20, 33, 39, 50 to 53, and 150

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