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Museo de America, Madrid (Museum of the Americas)

Across the upper portion of its distinct-looking facade is a large sign that bears its name. The building is every inch majestic that it is sure to catch the people´s attention, or just about everyone who passes by. It certainly got mine the few times the auto bus I was in passed through the area as I was en route to a few day trip destinations, like Segovia and El Escorial). Its grand and imposing edifice sprawled in a wide area of land along Ave. de los Reyes Catolicos is definitely worth a second look.

imageMadrid, indeed, bursts in so much art and culture, ready for everyone to experience and enjoy by way of the numerous museums scattered all around the city. The Avenue of the Catholic Kings is proud to be the site of one of the city’s major museums, the Museo de America, or the Museum of the Americas. Possessing a stately and solemn stance, I would have mistaken it for a basilica or a cathedral were ir not for the large name on its facade that identifies it.

The earliest collections procured and displayed within was initiated by Carlos III way back in 1771; this was the time when early excavations and archaelogical work were done in the American continent.

imageThe museum is one of the finest in Madrid to explore since it has within its collection countless pieces of artistic, cultural, archaeological, and even religious artifacts and valuable historical items, all of which come from every corner of the American continents.

All in all, 25,000 items belong to the museums collection, with some of the most valuable ones included in the collection of the Royal Cabinet of Natural History. Through the years, the museo became more established, and earned the reputation of being one of the most respectable Madrid Museums. As such, more and more donors from the far corners of the world contribute to making its collections richer and more diverse.

imageCeramics, vases, urns and similar vessels, helmets and headgears, paintings and other forms of artworks — visitors are assured of a wide variety of artifacts and antiquities to be seen and apprecated at the museum. Museo de America is certainly a must-see, whether you are an individual with a great curiosity on American antiquities or an avid history lover. Many of the items in the collections were donations from other prestigious museums and similar institutions.
imageIn the museum grounds stands a huge stone equestrian statue. You can see the museo in the background
imageYou can also find a rectangular pond with a statue of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (with inscribed description, Discubridor del Pacifico, or Discoverer of the Pacific in English) standing on one end

Direccion: You may visit the museum at Avenida de los Reyes Catolicos 6, Madrid

Horarios: : Museo de America is open from Tuesday to Saturdays, 9:30 Am to 3:00 PM and closed on Mondays

How to go: The museum is a few hundred meters away from Plaza de Moncloa. You can take the Madrid Metro and get off at Moncloa Station, via Linea 3 and Linea 6 – Circular. Take Avenida Plaza de la Moncloa, along which you will also find the Faro de Moncloa. The site is at the corner of Avenidas Victoria and de los Reyes Catholico. If you want to go via auto bus, available EMT lineas are 2, 44, 46, 61, 113, 132, 133

Nearby Madrid Attractions and landmarks:

1. Arco de la Victoria - You´ll never miss this tall monument if you´re passing by Moncloa. It is also considered a city gateway like those found at Toledo and Alcala; hence, it is called La Puerta de Moncloa.

2. Quartel General del Ejercito del Aire – the headquarters of the Spanish Air Force, a major landmark within the Moncloa-Aravaca district

3. Faro de Moncloa – observe and marvel at the city via a bird´s eye view — this you can achieve by climbing up the almost 100-meter high observation tower called Faro. Be awed by various Madrid attractions from up high – such as the Palacio Real, the Columbus Towers, and even as distant as the mountain ranges of the Guadarramas. It´s definitely worth your time — try to drop by before or after you made your visit to the Museo de America.

Admission Prices: 3 euros (regular) and 1.50 euros (reduced price)

When is admission free?
Entry to the museum is free during Sundays, the 18th of April and May, October 12 (National Day of Spain, and December 6 (Spain´s Constitution Day). Minors, students, and individuals over the age of 65 can also enter for free

Official Website of the museum

Map:

Parque el Buen Retiro’s Monumento a Alfonso XII

In front of El Retiro Park, Madrid‘s huge and rectangular-shaped Estanque Grande del Retiro, which is also referred to as the Great Pond by the distinguished Spanish architect Cristobal de Aguilera, is the magnificent monument of Alfonso XII. 

The statue is located halfway of the pond’s side adjacent to Plaza de Maestra Villa, within its eastern portion. The statue towers over everything else and is seemingly looking over the wide expanse of the estanque. The latter itself is an important part of the park in that it boasts of a rich Spanish history that started from Phillip IV’s reign, where it served as a recreational venue for the royals and their court to ride the boats and fish.

It was in 1902 when the plan to build a monument to Alfonso XII was formed. Consequently, a contest endorsed by then Queen Maria Cristina that would determine the architect for the monument project was held, with architect Grases Riera as the eventual winner.

The equestrian statue of Alfonso XI is made in bronze and known to be one of the tallest and largest structures inside the park.  The middle of the last century saw the structure being neglected, allowing it to deteriorate. It was in the 80’s when restoration were done. A number of statues and figures nearby also had to be replaced as part of the restoration.

Visit Alfonso XII Monument at El Retiro Park:

Today, no visit to El Retiro Park should be made without visiting the monument. You will not miss it, in the first place, since the estangue is near the main entrance to the park, the Puerta de Alcala. Walk towards Calle Nicaragua, along which is the front portion of the pond. You will have to take either Paseo del Estangue or Paseo de Valenzuela to reach the statue on the other side.

Near Puerta de Alcala is the Retiro Madrid Metro of Linea 2, which is right inside the park itself. From the station is a short walk to Fuente de los Galapagos and Paseo del Enstanque.

Nearby park sites and attractions:

Palacio de Velazquez, Palacio de Cristal, Cecilio Rodriguez Gardens

imageSunny day, blue skies with wispy clouds here are there — it was indeed a perfect morning to visit the Monument of Alfonso XII at Buen Retiro Park in Madrid

imageI was lucky to have chanced upon the spacious area in front of the equestrian statue as still empty. I could only presume that as the day progresses, it will be filled with tourists excited to take shots of the monument and the pond.

imageI took this shot of the estanque and the monument of Alfonso XII one early morning, and so the quiet and tranquility in the place is still apparent. The estanque was said to have been a witness to a number of Spanish kings and their entourage proudly displaying their gondolas as they wade through them, while at the same time, music was being played.

imageIn this picture is one of the four lions carved out of stone materials, fine masterpieces by exceptional artists, Pedro Estany and Agapit Vallmitjana Abarca. They are placed near the steps that lead to the central monument. Also nearby are four mermaids in various positions; such statues are creations of Parera Saurina, Coll y Pi, Rafael Atche, and Antoni Alsina.

imageAt the back of the monument are ionic columns forming a  beautiful collonade that further enhanced the Alfonso XII monument. These structures were also constructed by Pedro Estany. The steps beneath the statue are often used by visitors and tourists to sit around and stay while waiting for the setting of the sun.

Map:

Plaza de España: Madrid’s Premier Square

imageThe grandest square in Madrid, and perhaps the whole country, is the Plaza de Espana. Located at the western portion of Gran Via, this square is a must-see Madrid attraction if only for its wide expanse filled with sculptures and lush greenery. It boasts of a spacious area that covers roughly 36,900 square meters, no wonder it is listed as one of the biggest in Spain.

One would observe that the plaza is well-tended and maintained. Its central fountain is an inviting sight — complete with statues and a strong, flowing water — features typical of a major Spanish square. I had visited the park a couple of times during the earlyv hours, and often I would see gardeners caring for the greens and keeping the surrounding clean. Evidently, it is a maintained plaza, with every corner serving as a perfect spot to have photos for cherished souvenirs.

Plaza Espana is a major spot in downtown Madrid among tourists from all over and locals as well. It is not surprising since its location is strategic, acting like a crossroad that leads to many other Madrid attractions – such as the Royal Palace, the gardens of Sabatini and Campo del Moro, the Puerta del Sol, Debod, Retiro Park’s Rose Garden, and Plaza Mayor.

1. Monumento de Plaza de Espana

At the center of the square is the Monumento a Cervantes. The tall structure itself, with the globe on top, is made of granite, while the sculptures standing on its sides are made of Sepúlveda stone and bronze as main materials. In the photo below, on the left of the monument is the Torre de Madrid, while on the right is the Edificio Espana.
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2. Water Birth Fountain

The Fountain of Water’s Birth at Plaza de Espana, known locally as the Fuente del Nacimiento del Agua, is like any other found in a typical Spanish square — it serves to further add aesthetics to the place. It features the sculpture of fountain nymph Naiad holding a pitcher from which the water pours.
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3. Miguel de Cervantes

The centerpiece of the square is the Monument of Miguel de Cervantes, erected at Plaza de Espana in 1929. Cervantes is the country’s most celebrated writer and novelist, and author of the Spanish novel – Don Quijote de la Mancha.
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4. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Bronze Statues

Don Quixote on horseback holds a metal lance. To his left is his assistant Sancho Panza with his donkeyimage

5. Aldonza Lorenzo

A. Lorenzo’s stone sculpture, a fictional character in Don quixote de la Mancha. She is also known by the name of Dulcinea del Toboso.
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6. Edificio España

Directly in front of the plaza is the much-photographed Edificio Espana. Constructed in 1953, it is popular among tourists because of its simple yet attractive facade of white and rust hues. image

7. Torre de Madrid

Popular plaza edifice and located along Gran Via is the Torre de Madrid. Like the Edificio Espana, it is touted as a precious Madrid landmark and city treasure.image

8. Real Compania Asturiana de Minas

Directly facing the plaza and the Calle Bailen is Real Compania Asturiana de Minas. With its construction spanning 8 years, from 1891 to 1899, the French-inspired edifice is one of the most admired examples of architecture of its time.

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Visit Plaza de Espana via:

Metro: Plaza de Espana Station — Lines 10 and 3 service this station, found right within the plaza. It is also connected to Linea 2.
Bus: C1, C2, 3, 48, 44, 133, 1, 46

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Map:

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu of Real Madrid

In Madrid, Barcelona, and anywhere else in Spain, football is the game popularly played, which is understandable as it is the country’s national sport. Football is arguably this country’s biggest passion, and I dare say that the Spaniards live and breathe this sport. When it comes to football associations, La Liga, meaning The League, is the crème de la crème of them all, and recognized in all of Europe as the most prestigious.

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium – Home of Real Madrid

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
The fact is that football is of utmost importance in Spain. Nobody will dare miss an important match — people will either rush to the stadium in droves, or watch the game on TV. Discussions about the outcome among friends and family is commonplace. It seems like everyone loves to analyze and give a piece of his mind about a game. And while nights are still quiet when the favorite team loses, horns are honked and bars are filled post-game and long after just to celebrate a win.

The most popular and the winningest team in the history of the sport is Real Madrid – with almost 80 local and international titles under its name. The last Championship that it won is the Champions League the year, beating another Madrid team, the Atletico Madrid. Both fought a contested game that ended at the score of 5 to 3 in a penalty shootout.

Real Madrid has as its home the popular arena known as the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, or simply the Bernabeu. The team club also owns and manages it.

One can imagine the scope of the sport facility in terms of area – it’s huge, and easily occupies a whole block. In fact, the Bernabeu Stadium is the third largest in Europe, and second in Spain. In terms of accommodation, it has a seating capacity of 80,000 spectators at any given time.

Bernabeu Tour

Side view of Santiago Bernabéu

If you’re visiting the city proper, it is a must that you see Estadio de Bernabeu. Consider it the icing on the cake of your dream Madrid vacation. It is true if you are a football aficionado, and more so if you’re a fan of the city’s famous Real Madrid team. While there is a guided tour, going their own your own and touring it at your own pace, a self-guided tour, in other words, is quite a thrilling experience as well.

The stadium imparts to visitors the rich and exciting history of Spanish football. You will learn and be amazed as you tour around; as a guest, you will be delighted to find out you given access to various areas in the stadium. Indeed, the money that you will pay for the Real Madrid stadium tour ticket is well worth it if only for the thrill of being within one of the capital’s most beloved sports edifices.

Needless to say, the massive size of the sports stadium is just amazing, its sheer size and the attendance that it enjoys every time a game is played there are a reflection of the great love that the Spaniards have for the sport.

Prices of Santiago Bernabeu tickets:

Bernabéu stadium fieldI was part of the big-sized crowd that enjoyed the December 2o15, Copa SM El Rey match between Real Madrid CF and UE Cornella, the first and only [so far] football game I’ve watched in Spain

Cost of Santiago Bernabeu stadium tour tickets are as follows:

1. Adults: 20 euros

2. Children: (up to 14): 14 euros

The tour comprises:

A. Entrance to the stadium

B. Self-guided (tour at your own pace)

C. Access and tour to stadium areas such as the locker rooms, presidential box, press room, the Best Club in History room, the pitch, the dugout, Real Madrid’s official store

D. Beautiful panoramic view of the field and the whole stadium

When to tour to stadium:

1. The Stadium can be visited any day of the week.

2. If you plan on going there on a weekday or Saturday, they entertain visitors starting 10AM up to 7.30PM.

3. If you want to tour on a Sunday or a holiday, time of tour of the site is between 10:30AM and 6.30Pm.

How to buy Real Madrid game tickets:

Stadium of Santiago BernabéuIntently watching the game between UE Cornella and Real Madrid, where the latter won. The win further strengthened their standing at the Copa S.M. El Rey

1. You may purchase Real Madrid tickets directly at the stadium’s ticket selling windows.

2. La Caixa Banks sell game tickets. Go to one nearest your area.

3. Purchase tickets online, via the Official Website of Real Madrid. Tickets bought on the Internet are priced higher. While more expensive, you are assured of an entrance to your choice match.

[Note: Avoid buying tickets sold outside the stadium during game days as these are fake ones.]

How to reach the Stadium:

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Autobus: Take Paseo de Castellano via car or autobus, and just before you reach Cuzco (if coming from Nuevos Ministerios), you will be treated to a magnificent sight of the stadium. Auto buses that pass through the estadio are 27, 5, 147, 40, and 150.

Madrid Metro: To reach the place via Metro system, take the Linea 10, and get off upon reaching its own station, Metro Santiago Bernabeu.

Map:

Exploring Plaza de Isabel II: Back in Madrid [Back to Reality]

Till now, brimming in me is this euphoric feeling created out of the experience I had from my trip to Southern Spain’s Andalucia. While I was still thinking (and gushing) about it, rereading the articles that I wrote about it, editing them, adding images – I thought it’s high time that I lift myself from this and switch to normal mode, and go about my usual, normal days in Madrid like I didn’t leave at all.

I must say, however, that I was glad I made that trip to Cordoba and Granada’s Alhambra because these are just awesome, historic sites that are must-sees, even if once in your lifetime. Frankly I came out from that trip racking my brain, trying to make an iota of it comprehend what I just witnessed and experienced. At the very least, the trip served to prove there’s so much more to see outside Madrid – ones that are as fascinating and beautiful.

But so far, Andalucia is the best, bar none.

imageAnd so, these days I constantly remind myself that my blog is all about Spain’s capital. After two consecutive outside-the-city articles, I need to post one that discusses anything Madrid (this is necessary in the quest for search engine optimization). This particular post is about a topic that I am really fond of, and have written about many times already – Madrid’s plazas. Let’s visit one that’s right in the city’s midst — Plaza de Isabel II.

Isabel II is small, much smaller than the larger ones like the square of Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Cibeles and even Plaza Major.

But certainly, it’s no less popular.

In fact, it never runs of crowds all throughout the day – maybe it’s because of the many seats scattered in the area, several in front of Teatro Real, as well as the long concrete bench that line the border between the square and Calle de Arenal, the street that immediately adjoins it.

I was lucky to have passed by the place last Sunday as I got the chance to watch a group of dancers that did a couple of traditional-type dances to the delight of everyone around. They were doing the Chotis, a popular, age-long Spanish dance usually performed during important occasions such as the Fiesta de San Isidro.

imageGoing to Isabel square was not intentional really, I was there to while away time as I waited for the 6PM mass at San Gines Church. Fortunately, I chanced on these three lovely dancers in their finest chulapa attires and performing the lusty dance called Chotis in front of the Teatro Real. Lucky day indeed for me, having been treated to a chotis show

No ordinary square

Plaza de Isabel II is not like those ordinary squares. It is special mainly because it’s dedicated to one of the historic queens of the country – Reina Isabel. It is a quaint and beautiful square, connected to Plaza del Sol via a partly pedestrianized street – Calle Arenal. Also within walking distance is the another square, the Plaza del Oriente, the Royal Palace, and the Jardines de Sabatini.

At times, you would think you had enough and must have some time away from Madrid’s bars and similar places that are all about busy, noisy, and sometimes (this can’t be denied) nauseating goings-on. A great alternative are those plaza – they offer open spaces with plenty of fresh air and warm sunshine, benches to sit in and have some great chats, and sometimes, entertaining outdoor performances. Of course, one of them is the Isabel II Square.

Here’s what to see at Plaza de Isabel II

imageTeatro Real or Teatro Opera is a unique edifice in that its front and back facade face two squares – Plaza de Isabel and Plaza del Oriente
imageStatue of Isabel II, standing in the middle of the plaza, dedicated to the Queen Isabel II
imageReal cinema, also known as Cine Real Opera, is a theater fronting the Plaza de Isabel II. At the time it was inaugurated in 1920, the cinema was considered the largest theater not only in the city, but in the whole of Spain,. It boasted of a seating capacity of 1000. By the looks of it, the theater is now non-operational, although it is said that theater shows and acts are being held here from time to time

imageA man takes a rest on a concrete seat in front of the Opera Theater

imageTaberna Real Restaurante is found at the corner of the plaza and Calle Arenal. It is the restaurant of choice by many locals and tourist if only because of its special location – within a plaza that’s historical in its own right. One can enjoy the nice views and interesting happenings at one of the city’s important squares by getting a table at Taberna’s outside dining area. Tapas and vinos are priced quite high, but if only for its location and ambiance, it’s all worth it

imageThis is Calle Arenal, the street that connects Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Oriente, and the Palacio Real to the Isabel II square

imageThe Opera is one of the Stations of Metro Line 2. Next nearest station is the Vodafone Sol

Map:

Lavapies: Barrio at the Heart of Madrid

I’ve been here in Madrid for more than a year, and hate the fact that I still struggle with Spanish. And so before I quit on my language learning ability, if it does exist, I did some online research and came upon Asilim, an Lavapies-based institution offering language and integration courses for foreigners.  I didn’t enroll there, realizing that I can take free classes at a municipal school at Bravo Murillo. The search, however, piqued my interest in Lavapies, and led me to finding out more about it.

imageLavapies Metro Station, along Calle Argomusa, brings you right at the hustle and bustle of the barrio, La Playa de Lavapies.

imageYou may opt to start your tour at La Plaza de Tirso de Molina. In the middle background (vaguely captured) is the Teatro Nuevo Apolo, popular for its art deco-styled building, and known to be one of the most active in Madrid, in terms of programming.

I guess Lavapies owns the bragging rights to being in the middlemost part of the city (well, a little to the south of Madrid’s center, that is).  A number of barrios can lay claim to this actually, since many are found within the central area of the city. The popular ones (which I’ve already visited) are Puerta del Sol, Toledo, Moncloa, Colon, Gran Via,  and La Latina. These are great neighborhoods, and there are many more that I didn’t mention. For now, let me focus on our subject as it charms me the most.

One of the first things I learned is its supposedly not-so-good reputation, which I thought isn’t, really. Whether it’s true or not, there’s no denying that Lavapies is one of the most colorful barrios of Madrid. Be bewildered by the utter multi-cultural diversity of the place. Being there is like submerging in a sea of nationalities – Asians (mostly Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis), Moroccans, Middle East nationals, and Latinos, of course. They took advantage of its welcoming arms and cheap rent prices to settle and build communities.

Lavapies has become a haven of sorts for foreigners who wanted to invest or venture into business. It’s a place where immigrants from anywhere in the world coexist peacefully and forge strong relationships with the Spanish locals. In fact, they were able to establish communities within the barrio with great success that they might as well claim it as their own, and call it their Little India, Mini-Morocco, or Little Whatever-country-they-belong-to, and rightly so. Isn’t it just fair to call Lavapies Madrid’s cultural melting pot?

First Visit to Lavapies

image Old apartments in front of Plaza Agustin Lara. Housing in the barrio are available at low rent prices, attracting more and more young people to move in.

image South Asian Shop sells authentic Indian clothing and bags. Located along Calle Caracava.

As an Asian (Filipino) trying to blend into a new place, Lavapies’ known openness to foreigners has such a great appeal. This fact rings loudly, as attested to by many I know, giving me the impression that it is one of Madrid’s most foreigner-friendly places.

Of course, not all that I’ve heard about the barrio are praises and all. Some on the Internet have labeled it as unsafe (I refrain to use the word “dangerous” as I realized that this is not true ). In its defense, I can only think of a popular quote, “every rose has its thorns.” I strongly resent the unfair label, so I thought that being there in the middle of the action is the best way to disprove it.

Off to the Barrio

The starting point of my tour is the Ultima Parada of Autobus 27 at Glorietta de Embajadores (You can take this bus at Plaza de Castellana). A short walk through Miguel Servet and Calle Valencia and I found myself right in the middle of the Plaza de Lavapies. It was quite limited in area, with a small playground occupying a significant part.

Looking around, the uniqueness of the place is evident. Lavapies is atypical compared to other Madrid barrios. Surrounding the plaza are a number of foreign-owned restaurants, alimentaciones, and mobile phone and electronics shops, alongside their Spanish counterpart. It was almost 4 pm, and business was brisk that time of the day.

I assess that the establishments this part of Lavapies thrive since the nearby Metro Station attracts quite a good number of commuters. It is apart from the fact that the important roads converge and traverse through it, being the heart of the barrio.

I later learned that the Playa de Lavapies had been the site of the fountain where the Jews used to wash their feet (hence the name) before proceeding to the nearby synagogue, through a road now known as Calle de la Fe.

Bohemian Vibe

If you’re looking for a place where Bohemian and chic scream loudly,  Lavapies is your best option. It offers opportunities for the free spirited to experience and savor unique poetry, arts, and music. Performances are done in restaurants, cafes, and the sidewalks. Streets become stages for evening events, especially during weekends.

Just be warned, if you’re uninitiated, about the presence of odd-hairdoed and dressed artists and similar advocates come nighttime. Indeed, Lavapies speaks Bohemian, and there is no doubt that its varied-culture  nature contributes all the more to such an alternative atmosphere.

Known as a gathering place for the Bohemian crowd is the El Juglar, at Calle Lavapies, 37. It features various shows and performances at affordable entrance fees.

A safe barrio

Why do some people shun it? Why the fear, when in fact, like the rest of the city, there is strong police visibility in Lavapies, as evidenced by the regular rounds of mobile cars within the vicinity?

In my opinion, Lavapies is safe. Even for tourists. Whenever I’m there, the plaza serves as my hangout where I eat on the bench whatever food I bring. I wander around tirelessly, treading as many streets as possible just to pass time. And I always do this in my lonesome. Clearly, the place is safe as safe can be.

image Shot of Escuelas Pias made more picturesque because of the beautiful day. Escuelas Pias was formerly Colegio de Lavapies, burned down during the Spanish civil war in 1936. The present ruins serves as a library and the UNED Associated Centre.

Here’s a funny incident: As I approach Escuelas Pias via Meson de Paredes, someone in a group lazing around by the street corner caught my glance and nodded at me. Between acknowledging the nod and ignoring, I decided on the latter, and continued to walk while trying to look nonchalant. Obviously, I tried to avoid them out of fear. Was I taken aback when from a distance, I saw them having a seemingly normal conversation with a elderly couple.

I felt horrible – but I thought I couldn’t be faulted for having such a reaction. While I do think of Lavapies for the most part as safe, the Internet has triggered me somehow to have even  a tinge of doubt about it. A blogger even warned about the possibility of experiencing shady offers as one walks its streets. I was told a similar story by a friend. Don’t stare, avoid eye contact was the advice I got (Hence, my reaction with the group).

I thought that my foolish, paranoid reaction was unwarranted. In retrospect, I would have done the opposite and taken advantage of the chance to interact with the locals. Damn these crazed nerves – they always get the better of me.

Me Encanta Lavapies

After a number of visits, here’s my verdict – Lavapies is no different from any other barrio in Madrid. In my opinion, it’s even better. It’s cool, hip, and vibrant. It might be loud and rowdy, but not to the point of being raunchy. I’d live there in a heartbeat – if only I could.

I love that it’s near Puerta del Sol, which I consider the heart of Spain, while meters away is Rastro, for that Sunday morning flea-market shopping you don’t want to miss. Asian stores are everywhere. Doner Kepab is there (a few of them scattered, actually), with its Middle Eastern fare a good-enough alternative to the Tel Aviv version. There is a comic shop (El Collectionista) along Calle Tribulete. A health store (Planeta Vegano) at Calle Ave Maria. A herbal apothecary shop (Herbolario El Druida) at corner of De la Fe. Easy access to the highly efficient Metro. Great choices of cafes and theaters. The popular Mercado San Fernando (which I initially mistook for a church) is nearby. What more could you ask for?

While Lavapies exudes a dark character (what place doesn’t?), it’s just one of its many sides. In no way should it be labeled as seedy, or downright bad, as a few blogs do – because it’s not. Every place has its own evil, but good is there to cancel it out. The presence of opposing traits makes a place normal and livable, even great. Lavapies, the little barrio in the heart of Madrid, is exactly like that.
imageCool-flavored drinks, cozy ambiance, fast Latino beats, and even DJs – all this you can enjoy at Amor Voodoo along Calle de Lavapies.
imageSidreria is one of the more popular restaurante along Calle Argumosa. Spanish restaurants are complemented by their non-local counterparts to provide more options to diners.

imageSouth Asian restaurants ready up tables along the sidewalk of Calle de Lavapies. Photo was taken at around midday; a few hours more and diners are expected to come in. Indian dishes are rich and spicy, easily compensating the rather bland table covers.

imageCafe Barbieri at Calle del Ave María, 45, Lavapies. Located near the plaza, the cafeteria has been in business since 1902. One of the authentic Spanish cafes that exude Old Madrid. In 2015, it had major changes under its new management. Popular in Madrid for its delicious coffee fare, Cafe Barbieri is also known for staged performances.

imageI stumbled upon Paticano building at Traviesa de la Primavera, where masses for the “Iglesia Patolica” are said to be held. This “religion” recognizes the rubber ducky as their god.

imageThe sign says it all. This store sells all kinds of products for its Asian, Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern clients. Many others are strategically located within the neighborhood.

image The M1 minibus is a convenient ride to Lavapies, traversing the barrio as it takes its route from Embajadores to Sol and vice versa.

image A quick stop and coffee at Carrefour Lavapies affords one a panoramic view of the playa and Metro station.

imageBiblioteca de Humidades UNED is located next to the Lavapies Metro Station.

imageOne thing is true about Madrid; every major place in the city is not without these three establishments – churches, cafeterias, and casino and gaming shops. Lavapies is no exception.

imageTheater Valle-Inclan is a stone’s throw away from the Metro Station and Biblioteca de Humanidades, UNED. Its site is where the Old Olympia Theater once stood. Offering the latest in theater technology, Valle-Inclan regularly presents programmes that feature the best contemporary writers and artists.

imageA graffiti artist made a steel canvass out of these metal shutters of a restaurant along Calle Lavapies. Similar “works of art” are found all around the neighborhood.

image Commuters congregate in front of Lavapies Metro Station.

imageLa Playa de Lavapies is the lifeline of the barrio.

imageWelcome to the start of Calle Lavapies, side of Tirso de Molino. I walk along a few others – presumably on their way to work at or around the Plaza, or even beyond (Embajadores).

Puerta Europa [Gate of Europe] of Plaza de Castilla – A Stunning Madrid Attraction

imageIf you are within the northern part of Madrid, you might want to tour and explore the area, wondering what Madrid attraction might be there to marvel at.

Just pass by the roundabout where Paseo de Castellana and Bravo Murillo meet, or take a Madrid Metro ride at the Plaza de Castilla subway station, surely you will not the two leaning buildings or towers that stand on the opposite sides of the sprawling metro and autu bus station — they are collectively known as the Puerta Europa or the Gate of Europe. If only because of the unique stance of these skyscrapers, tilted at a 15-degree angle, they deserve to be considered as major icons of the city.
imageEnjoying major attention from the tourists visiting the Gate of Europe is the Calvo Soleto Monument, which faces away from the towers and looks into the Paseo de Castellana

Formerly known as the Torres KIO, (KIO stands for Kuwait Investment Office), its current name is the Gate of Europe or Puerta Europa. Today these impressive 115-meter tall buildings located at this quiet part residential-part business (judicial) part of the city is the property of two major banking institutions of Spain – Bankia and Realia. In fact, you will be able to find the names of these two banks shining brightly on the top part of the buildings come evening tim.

imageEstacion de Plaza Castilla. I frequent this Madrid Metro Station, not only because it houses 3 important lineas that bring me to various destination, Lines 1, 9, and 10, but also because it serves as the stop to Autobus 27, the bus that ride whenever I go to Lavapies and Embajadores.  At the far left of the photo is the Caja Madrid Obelisk

These twin buildings have the bragging rights for being the first inclined or leaning buildings in the world. Its creators were architects from the US, John Burgee and Philip Johnson; these talented American duo were commissioned by the Kuwaiti Investment office to design the towers. Without, the Plaza de Castilla and its surroundings were never the same again after the towers, the KIO Towers, opened for business in 1996.

Also in the plaza, in the midst of the roundabout, is the Obelisk. It is a slender yellow-colored metallic structure that never fails to get the attention of many passers-by. Its official name is Caja Madrid obelisk, so-called because its construction is funded by the popular Madrid bank of the same name. Anyone can notice that this beautiful creation by Constantin Brancusi fully complements the overwhelming presence of the Puerta Europa.

Within walking distance is another popular set of buildings — the Cuatro Torres (Four Towers) — located in the nearby Business area.

imageCalvo Sotelo Monument – another awesome Madrid attraction within the Plaza de Castilla area
imageJust across the Realia Building, located along Mateo Inurria, is the Fundacion Canal or Canal de Isabel II. This is the service agency that ensures the provision of the water supply in order to meet the city’s requirements. It is under the ownership and management of the the Madrid Government.

How to go:

Take the Metro Metro Station lines 1, 9 and 10, and get off at Plaza de Castilla metro station. The plaza station also serves as the parada to a number of auto bus lines such as 27, 149, 173, 174, and 176.

Mapa:

Easy Going Around the City Via Madrid Metro Rail System

Undoubtedly, Madrid Metro or (Metro de Madrid, in Spanish) is commuting at its finest. The convenience and ease of travel that this mass transit system at Spain’s capital city brings to people cannot be denied. I can’t see any flaw in the system. Trains arrive promptly, and there were even a few times when they come earlier than the announced time of arrival (flashed on a digital sign). Station names and arrow signs are located conspicuously within the Metro to guide commuters properly. There is evidence of sparse vandalism in a few cars and station walls and glass doors, but in general, the metro is clean.

imageTurnstiles to go in and out of the Metro. At the left of the photo is a machine where you have your abono de transporte activated for use for 30 days. The same machine disposes single or 10-journey billetes, which cost from 1.50 to 2.00 euro, depending on the length of your ride, and 12.20 euro for the 10-ride tickets. At right is a booth manned by Metro personnel that accept inquiries or extend assistance, like if your abono malfunctions (this happens to me at times).

Like most metro systems of other major cities in the world, Madrid Metro can be confusing especially for first-time riders. It took me more than a month before I could ride the train finally with confidence, with nary a fear that I’d be lost or take the wrong train or line. I consider myself now as an expert rider. Gone are the days when I would sometimes forget which platform to wait for the train and which way to exit.

Once I had the misfortune of misplacing my 10-ride ticket ( I have yet to apply for an abono then) while a random inspection was being done at the Alvarado Station along Bravo Murillo. Everyone had to fall in line and show their billete or abono card for scanning to verify if indeed they were valid. Rummaging through my pockets, I got two tickets, but I couldn’t determine the one I used for that ride. The Metro officer, who speaks English, asked why I presented two tickets, to which I replied that both are good anyway. “Bien,” she retorted, “otherwise you would have to pay a fine.” “Great Scott!,” I exclaimed to myself in silence, and prayed hard that there wouldn’t be any problem. Was I relieved when both indeed turned out valid.

Thankfully now, I own an abono that I can use for a full 30 days, day in and day out. Incidentally, you can apply for yours at a designated Metro office. There is one at Puerta del Sol, which surprisingly has a short line of applicants considering that it’s situated in a busy location. I got mine at Plaza de Castilla. The whole process took me around 15 minutes, including waiting time, which is no time at all since I was assigned a cita or appointment schedule via the Internet. Remember to bring along your passport or ID card for identification. Also, make sure to have 4 euro as payment for the corresponding fee. Once you receive your card, you may go to the machine to have it ready for use (this will cost you around 54 euro). Did you happen to lose your abono? Just report it at a Metro office and they will gladly replace your card with a new one.

imageEmpty escalators can be an ordinary sight at many stations in the city. If you want to experience busier stations, try those at Vodafone Sol, Moncloa, or Nuevos Ministerios, and be prepared to jostle and deal with tons of fellow passengers.

Needless to say, Madrid’s Metro is one of the most efficient and accessible subway train systems in the whole of Europe. You must love using the Metro regularly, if only for the ultimate riding satisfaction that it offers. While you’re at it, go and get your abono (if you don’t have one yet). It’s the essential tool that not only makes for a convenient Metro ride, but a lot cheaper one as well.