Saturday, 30 April 2011

still sightseeing - by Theo

It's always great having friends to stay. Aside from the chance to catch up, it means we generally make the effort to get out and take advantage of this wonderful capital city we're living in - we may have been here for over 2 years now, but there are still sights we've yet to see. So, with our friends Sam and Stu taking advantage of the long weekend in the UK by paying us a flying visit, we thought we'd head over to the newly opened Manzanares park area in the west of the city.
With rain and thunderstorms forecast we decided to drive to allow for a speedy getaway and a place to dump the coats and umbrellas. Parking with surprising ease just below the cathedral, we walked past the Royal Palace and Plaza de España to one of Madrid's more unexpected monuments, the Templo de Debod. This 4th century BC Egyptian temple was given to the Spanish state in recognition of the role Spanish engineers had played in the construction of the Aswan dam (which flooded the original location of the temple). It's a rather bizarre moment, arriving at the top of the hill in the Parc del Oeste to see an Egyptian temple perfectly laid out with commanding views over the Casa del Campo.

We got Rosie out of her buggy for a walk about (with assistance), but she was more interested in climbing and descending the steps outside the Temple than actually going inside. Oh well. Meanwhile Stu kindly took what he described as the best photo of us that we'll ever see - we're inclined to agree.

Navigating our way down through the park past a rose garden, the Teleferico terminal (cable car), the school of ceramics and the railway line out of Principe Pio, we found our way to the tiny Ermita de San Antonio de Florida. Rather unassuming from the outside, this tiny building, which is next to an equally tiny and unassuming church, is decorated inside with some stunning frescoes painted by the Spanish master, Goya. There was a Spanish school party inside, but it didn't spoil our enjoyment. Well worth the trip.

By now it was getting on for two o'clock and I had to go back and move the car. Leaving the others in a promising-looking restaurant I hot-footed it up to the cathedral through the lovely Campo de Moro park, then drove back to temporarily abandon the car in some dodgy unofficial car park being supervised by two beer-swilling Romanians. Kate, Stu, Sam and Rosie had relocated to the terrace of the neighbouring bar, which was much more reasonably priced and we promptly stuffed ourselves (Rosie included, which was gratifying).

It now being Rosie's nap-time and the rain still not having materialised, a post-lunch riverside stroll was proposed and duly executed. Not much is made of Madrid's river, the Manzanares, which is often barely more than a stream in summer. However, it being springtime, the river was fairly full and flowing swiftly through a much trumpeted new riverside park.

We discovered a rather excellent rope walk play area, which gave us all a chance to release the inner child. The lack of shade offered by the young trees, meanwhile, led us boys to swiftly regret our choice of clothing and footwear (well, we'd thought it was going to rain) but it was still very pleasant to stroll in Madrid's newest green area, with its gorgeous views back up the hill to the palace and cathedral.

After a coffee back on the terrace we all piled into the car, tired and hot but well satisfied. The trip back to our flat gave us the excuse to take a short tour of the sights along Gran Via and Calle del Alcala, which was then followed by an evening of wine and cards and no rain! Que bien lo paso!


  1. I think you'll find that the Templo de Debod was given to Spain as a token of gratitude for Spanish help in saving the temples of Abu Simbel (as part of a UNESCO appeal) which had been put in danger because of the Aswan dam rather than as thanks for helping to build it. The dam was actually built with the help of Soviet technicians and machinery.

  2. Thanks for that; you are obviously better informed than our Guide Book. Honestly, what is the World coming to when you can't put your faith in the Rough Guide! T