An index to blog posts from our Spain trip can be found on the first entry.
January 7, 2019
We had just one day remaining to us in Spain, closing with an overnight flight to Johannesburg. We stowed our baggage at “Lock and Be Free” on Calle de Toledo in the morning chill. We then hoped to find a shop that could serve a gluten-free breakfast. I am afraid we wandered quite a long time. At last we seated ourselves at a diner. The young staff read Natasha’s celiac disease card (in Spanish), and they looked perplexedly at its detailed descriptions. At length they settled on eggs and potatoes, with coffee for her and tea for me. Life was wonderful once more!
Madrid Town Centre
We had soon wandered into Plaza de la Villa, a medieval square that features some very lovely architecture. On our Monday morning, however, all the surrounding buildings seemed closed for business. It’s a shame, since it appears the Casa de Cisneros offers some Mudejar design elements (yes, even this far north!).
We had hoped to visit the Museum of the History of the Jewish Community of Madrid, next door. When we arrived, however, all entrances to the building were closed. I think it would have been an interesting visit, since I don’t know much about the Jewish community’s efforts to re-establish itself in Spain after founding a synagogue at Madrid in 1917.
We had a couple of opportunities to see the Cathedral Church of the Armed Forces, and both times we stopped to gaze. I wonder what it is about the facade that makes it seem so prototypically Spanish?
Of course, just a few more steps west brought us to Catedral de la Almudena, the seat of the Archbishop of Madrid. I was interested to learn that this church only began construction in 1879. The mosque that once stood on this site, however was demolished in 1083, the year when Alfonso VI reconquered Madrid in the aftermath of the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba. Again, it would have been nice to see the museum there, but now we were quite close to our main destination for the day!
One of the first exhibits we visited was Cartas al Rey, a temporary exhibition about Spain’s role in World War I. Of course, Spain was neutral, so one might mistakenly think it was doing nothing. The exhibit showed that the nation played a key role in communications among the belligerent powers. A great many of the exhibits, however, were more personal in nature; individuals throughout the world wrote to Spain to request help in locating prisoners of war and determining whether loved ones were alive or dead. It was touching.
From there, we passed into the castle proper. The grand staircase and mural ceilings of entrance hall were truly lovely. The passage then led in a circuit of the second floor. Bronze statues of Greek gods standing in muster room had been re-homed from the Seville Alcazar. In another room, I loved a massive clock and aimed my camera. Immediately, a guard was there with “No Photos.” Another room featured the current royal family portrait. It seemed almost photographic, though it had taken a decade to produce!
The rooms grew progressively more grand. I particularly loved the porcelain room. When we reached the grand dining room, I joked that the mirror at the end was entirely unnecessary to create a deeper look to the room. Natasha whispered back, “There’s no mirror,” and of course she was right! The silver and gilt place settings over the centuries were beautiful, though of more interest to my companion. We came out of the suites to courtyard balcony, and I felt a sense of relief at being in a more open space. I saw a pair of stone renderings of a royal duo at a distance. Natasha was sure it was the Catholic Monarchs at a glance. From there we entered the royal chapel. How beautiful! I felt that while the throne room was enormous, with lovely frescoes on the ceiling, the thrones themselves seemed less impressive.
Once we returned to the parade facing the cathedral, we enjoyed a view of the gardens, woods, and distant suburbs from the overlook of the palace.
Egyptian Temple, Peruvian food, and an English Court
We continued to a park north of the palace, where Natasha was delighted to see a skein of ice covering a shallow pool. She was discouraged to see young people throwing pebbles to try breaking the ice.
We continued to another park, where we ascended a long flight of stairs (murderous on Natasha’s ankle) to the top of a high platform. Even thought we knew what we would find, it was still a bit of a shock. Two centuries before Jesus, Egyptians constructed a temple to Amun and Isis. Subsequent generations expanded the temple with additional rooms. The Temple of Debod was eventually completed by Romans. When modern Egypt built the Aswan Dam, however, the temple would have been inundated, so the nation gifted the structure to Spain. It was rebuilt in 1972, the year of my brother’s birth! As we circumnavigated the temple, Natasha tried to discern which blocks were original and which represented replacements. She was excited to see a cartouche at its back. Madrid has struggled to keep this site secured, though, and that’s probably why we couldn’t see the inside.
From there we took a very long walk. We passed the Conde Duque Cultural Centre. We had walked for quite a while when we were surprised to encounter Leon the Baker, a chain of shops that are entirely gluten-free. We acquired three muffins and a chocolate chip cookie for me to keep my spirits high. We pushed up to the marketplace that contained a gluten-free restaurant, but the marketplace was closed, sadly. We back-tracked to a Peruvian restaurant for a lovely though expensive farewell meal. I had a cream sauce chicken with fruity, peppery overtones.
From there, we paused to visit the El Corte Ingles, a large shopping store, for some last-minute purchases, and then we descended to the subway for a run down to the luggage locker place. We had a lovely chat with the attendant, and then we strapped ourselves to the bags. With my heavier roller bag and Natasha’s large hiking backpack strapped to me, I was really struggling to make forward progress. Just the same, we managed to make our way down to Tirso de Molina and descend to the trains. Two exchanges later, we were on the subway spur to the airport, taking it all the way to the end for the international terminal. We paid the extra fee for air travelers, and we were on our way to the check-in desk.
Our honeymoon had finally come to an end, but Natasha and I are both over the moon to spend our lives together!