Las Chicas travel to Madrid where Lisa joins an accreditation team to evaluate an American school for the week. But first, there’s time to sight see!
On our first full day in Madrid, we head for the Madrid Río. We run into a large crowd with lots of police milling about–Ebola demonstration, parade, or something else? We think we can get across the throngs crowding Paseo de Recoletos and Plaza de la Cibeles. But there are police on horses, many Spanish flags, and masses blocking the road. Not to mention metal barricades. We hear the thunder of Spanish fighter jets streaking yellow and red smoke across the sky.
Not an Ebola protest, as Lisa has already deduced given the number of families in the crowd. A marching band music plays over loud speakers. An important day, but what is this day? Hint: it’s October 12 and also celebrated in the United States.
The helpful tourist information clerk tells us it is the National Day of Spain. Mary asks “When Spain was united as one country?” and she replies, “When Columbus discovered America.” Oh! It’s Columbus Day! National Day is for everyone (El Día de Todos), we know, because this bus stop sign tells us:
From the ground floor tourist center, we go upstairs in this old palace that has been converted into assorted museum spaces. From the window, we see the parade of military regiments:
How will we ever reach our destination? We ride the Metro beneath the celebrating Spaniards. We exit near the entrance to the Royal Palace, a palace Spaniards compare to Versailles.
As we walk from the station toward the river, another street is flanked by police officers and mysterious black cars slowly roll by. Someone important must be coming, perhaps a minor dignitary, Mary surmises.
A Rolls Royce passes about 10 feet in front of us, and we see the King and Queen of Spain. They are coming home from the National Day parade. Las Chicas aren’t prepared for the moment, so we fail to get a photo.
Next, we walk downhill to Madrid Río, what used to be a beltway-type highway that the city transformed into a water way with fountains, cafés, multi-use paths and playgrounds. Lots of useful signage regarding distance, activities, and who has priority (not bikes).
Various signs in the pavement show the way to a playground (above), or exits to nearby streets.
View from Madrid Río of Cathedral de Almudena on the right and palace behind trees on the left.
We enjoy a stroll along the river, then return uphill to the palace and cathedral area.
On the previous day, we explored the inside of the cathedral. Design began in 1879, but it wasn’t finished until the 1980s. The Neoclassical exterior matches the palace next door, but inside, it’s Gothic in a mid-century modern kind of way. The King and Queen were married here. We liked the ceiling decorations, and Gothic arches, but didn’t stay long because the incense overpowered Mary’s delicate nose.
Las Chicas’ Madrid adventures continue for a week. Stay tuned.
© 2014 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.