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A visit to Spain
We arrived in Madrid on a lovely Sunday evening. We checked into the Hotel Lope de Vega. After we put our things into our room, we decided to get a cup of coffee at the coffee shop located within the hote. We walked around the hotel. We wanted to see what the hotel had to offer. The hotel is named after Felix Lope de Vega. Lope de Vega is a Spanish writer from the Golden Age of Spain.
We visited the Retiro Park in the middle of Madrid. The park was open only to the royal family when first built in 1632. Retiro Park was open to the public in 1767. There are buildings, statues, and gardens all through the park. There is a pond for paddle boats as well. We walked around and enjoyed the sights. Toward the south end of the park, there is a beautiful glass building called Palacio de Cristal. The building was built by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco in 1887. There are several museums in Retiro Park as well. Some of the original buildings are long gone due to wars and natural disasters.
We visited the Jardin Botanico de Madrid (Royal Botanical Garden). We walked along the paths looking at all the different kind of flowers and sculptures. There were botanists and researchers represented by the sculptures. The Garden has two greenhouses that are used to grow plants that would not normally withstand the climate of Spain.
Our next outing was to the Museo Nacional del Prado (The Prado Museum). The museum offers three different tours ranging from one to three hours. There are paintings by El Greco, Francisco Goya y Lucientes, and Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez. The walls are lined with beautiful paintings by not only Spanish painters but Italian painters as well. There are also Flemish, French, and German painters represented at The Prado. The outside of the building is almost as beautiful as some of the paintings. The architecture of the building is outstanding. There are statues of Goya and Velazquez located at a couple of the entrances. The original part of the museum was started in 1785. Juan de Villanueva, an architect, designed the building. The War of Independence started so the building of the museum was postponed. The building was not completed until 1819. Additions to the building were made in the early 1900s, the 1950s, and then again in the 1960s. In 1971, the Casón del Buen Retiro was merged with The Prado. Queen Isabella II gave the Prado to the nation of Spain in 1868.
The Alcazar is a castle located in Segovia. The age of this castle is unknown. The castle is built on a rock formed by the Eresma and Clamores Rivers. Many different kings and queens have lived in the castle. The castle was also used as a state prison, and a royal artillery school. The heroes of May 2nd, 1807 have a memorial in the gardens built under the rule of King Alfonso XIII. The view from the Tower of Juan II is absolutely amazing. You can see for miles in every direction.
Segovia is home to a Roman aqueduct. The age of the aqueduct is not certain. According to researchers, the aqueduct could have been built in the late 1st Century or the early part of the 2nd Century. The source of the water was the Frio River. Due to the vibrations and pollution of modern times, vehicle traffic has been banned from the area of the bridge. The people that built the aqueduct didn’t use cement. The stones were cut to fit perfectly in place. The design and structure of the aqueduct is wonderful for the time period. The amazing thing is they didn’t have power tools or a lot of the hand tools we have now but still managed to build the way they did. The aqueduct supplied the water to the town until the 1960s. In the 1990s, the aqueduct was restored but the water for the town has another source.
Our trip to El Escorial proved to be an excellent decision. There is a Monastery that was built for Felipe II. The building process took 21 years. Felipe II had already passed away when the building was completed. He did live in a section of the building called the Habsburg Apartments when he wanted to get away from Madrid for a while. That is where he passed away. His room was left almost the way he left the room when he passed away. The original architect was Juan Bautista de Toledo. After his death, his assistant, Juan de Herrera, completed the building. There are so many areas in the building. There is a school, several different museums, and a Monastery. There is even a library.
After leaving the El Escorial, we went to visit the Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen). As we got closer to The Valley of the Fallen, we saw a very large cross. The cross is on top of a cliff called Risco de la Nava and stands 492 feet. The Valley of the Fallen was built sometime between 1940 and 1958 for the people that died in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 under General Francisco Franco. General Franco along with Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera (founder of the Spanish Falange) is buried in the basilica at the bottom of the high altar. General Franco’s coat of arms is on one of the walls outside the basilica. General Franco was the ruler of Spain from 1936 until 1975 when he passed away. There is amausoleum and monument for General Franco. The architect of the mausoleum is sculpted with almost perfect shapes of all different sizes. The monastery was built by political prisoners that did not agree with General Franco’s views.
Palacio Real (The Royal Palace) was our next destination. Juan Bautista Sachetti constructed the Palace for King Felipe V somewhere between 1738 and 1764. The royal family does not live in the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is used for entertaining foreign diplomats and other important people from around the world. The Royal Palace has 2800 rooms throughout her halls. There is a room called the Hall of Columns. There are cherubs above each circular window. Under the windows are the columns.
Real Academia de Bellas Artes (The Royal Fine Arts Academy) has so many different paintings. El Greco, Goya, and Picasso are displayed here. Jose Benito de Churriguera designed the building in the 1720s. Originally the Arts Academy was a private residence. The Royal Fine Arts Academy opened in 1775. Today, this is a wonderful museum showing wonderful paintings by many of Spain’s wonderful artists.
Casa-Museo de Lope de Vega (House Museum of Lope de Vega) is where the famous writer spent the last part of his life. Lope de Vega was a writer in the 17th Century. There is a desk by a window where he used to write. He needed the light to shine in through the window so he could see. What looks to be the kitchen is a large hanging pot over logs.
The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia was originally a hospital under the rule of King Felipe II in the 16th Century. Jose de Hermosilla and Francisco Sabatini were the architects for the building. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica is displayed at this museum. This painting shows Picasso’s view of war with the dead soldier and child. The painting was completed in only two months in 1937.
Our next stop would be the Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes in Alcala de Henares. This is where Miguel de Cervantes was said to have been born in 1547. Cervantes started out writing a novel with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The novel turned into a rather large book called Don Quixote. This book is said to be one of the best novels of fiction to have ever been written.
There is a Castilian bureau from the 16th Century in the Master’s Chambers that is gorgeous. If the bureau is from the 16th Century, they have really kept a close eye to make sure there was no damage. The courtyard has a well off to one side with a place to sit near some of the columns holding the second story balcony up. The museum also has a library that contains works by and about Cervantes. Cervantes died on April 23. Every year on this date, one person wins the Cervantes award for literary works. The first prize was given in 1976.
The next place we visited was the Cathedral in Toledo. Construction started in 1226 but was not completed until 1493. Before the Cathedral was built, there was a sixth century Visigoth temple. The announcement that Joanna the Mad and Philip the Handsome, her husband were heirs to the Spanish throne was made at this cathedral. Directly behind the main alter is the El Transparente. Narcisco Tome was the sculptor. The altarpiece is Baroque dating back to the 18th Century. The sun shines in from above to show the illuminations of this alter. Mozarabic (Visigothic) services are still being held at this Cathedral. In 1086, the Church tried to stop this type of Mass, but that did not happen because the people of Toledo were angered. The services were allowed to remain.
Manzanares el Real Castle is located near Madrid. The architecture of this caste is an example of Gothic and Mudejar. There are details from times of the Renaissance and the Moorish. The construction of the caste started in 1475. The signing of the Autonomy Statute of the Comunidad de Madrid was at this castle.
The Church of San Nicolás de los Servitas also known as La Iglesia de San Nicolás de Bari is the oldest church in Madrid. Fuero de Madrid mentioned this church in 1202. The Fuero de Madrid set up laws and regulations for Madrid. This church also has Mudejar style architecture. The Church of San Nicolás de los Servitas has some services in the Italian language because of the church being recognized as the Italian Church of Madrid. There are exhibits throughout the church that show Madrid’s early history through the eyes of Islam.
The Plaza de Santa Ana was a convent built in 1586, until 1810, when Jose Bonaparte destroyed the building. There are two statutes of two different writers in the plaza. Pedro Calderon de la Barca was a famous playwright in 17th Century Spain. Federico Garcia Lorca was a poet killed during the Spanish Civil War. Lorca is said to be the best poet since the Golden Age of Spain. He was born in 1898, and died in 1936.