Tag Archives: Vodafone Sol

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:

The Bear and the Strawberry Tree – Symbol of Madrid

Position yourself on the sidewalk in front of the Ministry of Interior, the massive edifice with the clock tower, and you could hardly spot the statue from where it stands. Its height of 14 feet is not enough to be conspicuous from such a distance.

Still, you know that it’s there, its location being one of the most crowded in the whole area, an indication of its immense popularity.

Come closer, and behold, a bear nuzzles up a strawberry tree. The latter seems to be receptive of its amiable gesture. Such is an attractive sight, and an easy tourist draw of the plaza.

The Bear and the Strawberry Tree Statue, known among locals as “El Oso y El Madrono,” is a highly revered symbol of Spain’s capital, and one of the must-see attractions of Madrid.

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The popular figure is found in Madrid’s historical plaza, the Puerta del Sol. If you want to see it sans the large crowd, try to visit the plaza at around 1 or 2PM.

Go through Calle Alcala or Calle San Jeronimo (coming from Cibeles, Plaza de Independencia, and Sevilla), or exit the Vodafone Sol Metro station via the Alcala access gate, and you’ll immediately encounter the monument. As you go near it, certainly you can feel its imposing presence.

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The Bear and Strawberry tree statue provides cool shade on a sunny day, which is why people love to gather around and even sit beside it to rest, with their backs pressed against its stone base.

A handsome bronze-and-stone creation of prominent Spanish sculptor Antonio Navarro Santafe, it was inaugurated in 1967. Quickly enough, Madridenos embrace it as a prime representation of their beloved city.

Indeed, the monument is a top reason why everyone wants to visit Puerta del Sol. It has become a meeting place of sorts, with tourists making it a starting point of their tour of the plaza.

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Take an electric bike ride from any point in the city and park at Sol’s own bicycle station, located a few meters away from the statue.

A visit of Sol, of course, is not complete without a photo of the monument. However, it looks like all want to have their picture taken with the famous bear and tree, so one must be ready to wait for his turn.
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The statue glistens on a rainy night

Some want to immediately scour the plaza for its surrounding commercial establishments, which are a slew and all more than willing to cater to various whims.

Still, many others rare to see the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, and would rather visit it first. Effortlessly, it attracts people to its fold, especially those who want to experience its historical importance.

How to reach: Visit to the monument is easy, as a number of EMT buses start and end, or pass within or near the plaza itself such as 51, 5, and 150. If you are coming from Glorietta de Embajadores, Tirso de Molina, and Plaza de Cascorro, the EMT minibus M1 will take you to the plaza. A stone’s throw away is Metro Station, Vodafone Sol. Reach it after just a few minutes of leisure walking from Tribunal, Callao, and Gran Via.

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EMT Autobus 51 offers a convenient ride, with its final stop (ultima parada) located near the monument.