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El Palacio Real top

The Royal Palace of Madrid is 2,000 rooms of imperial lavishness that serves as the official residence of the King of Spain. While the king doesn’t actually live here, he does use it for ceremonies. All the way back in the 9th century, the Moorish invaders built a defensive fortress on this site. Later, the Catholic kings constructed a royal residence here. Thanks to some strategic marriages with other European nobility, the Spanish royalty wound up as part of the powerful Hapsburg family and greatly increased its influence across Europe. During Spain’s heyday, vast rivers of gold and riches flowed in from the New World colonies. When the old castle burned down on Christmas Eve 1734, King Philip the V ordered a grand new palace built. Over time, frequent European wars and rebellions cost Spain territory, prestige and wealth. But the palace’s rich decoration and superb paintings reflect this country’s former status as the center of a great empire.


For more information, visit www.madridcard.com.


The Prado Museum top

The Prado is Spain’s finest museum and one of the best in Europe. It brags of more than 3000 paintings, a legacy of one of the world’s great global powers. The collection features a daunting array of Italian masterpieces including Titian’s Charles the V at Mulberg...Botticelli’s Story of Nastagio degli Onesti...and Tintoretto’s Washing of the Feet. The Flemish artists are equally impressive with Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights...and Van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross.

But there are three names that are most often associated with the Prado and the glory days of Spanish painting. They are: El Greco, Velazquez and Goya.

El Greco or the “The Greek” was born in Crete and moved to Spain in the mid 1570s. The artist soon became interested in Mannerism, that style of painting that was a reaction against the perfect proportions of the High Renaissance. In his works, El Greco deliberately distorted the scale and spatial relationships between figures.

Velazquez moved to Madrid in 1622 and established himself as the foremost artist of the royal court. Considered by many to be Spain’s greatest painter, he worked with extreme precision and had the ability to capture light with an almost photographic quality. Here, in the Triumph of Bacchus, he shows the god of wine cavorting with some very mortal drinking partners.

It’s been said that Goya, working in the mid 18th century, breathed new life into Spanish painting. After suffering an unknown illness that left him deaf, Goya became introspective and revealed a deep disillusionment with humanity. The Third of May depicts a bloody incident in which Napoleon’s invading French soldiers killed Spanish civilians. It remains one of Goya’s most moving works.


Visit the museum's website for more information. For more on the fine arts in Spain, visit www.spanisharts.com.


Las Cuevas De Luis Candelas Restaurant top

Madrid’s wealth of restaurants includes some great old traditional offerings. Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas (or the Caves of Luis Candelas) is one of Madrid's oldest taverns and is named after a famous bandit who is the Spanish version of Robin Hood. Legend holds that he stored his treasures in the cellars of this building, which dates to 1616.

The restaurant serves up the kind of hearty, grilled dishes that once satisfied the stonemasons who built this restaurant’s sturdy walls. You can get by speaking English in Madrid, but it’s fun to put that high school Spanish to the test. Today, though, I’m letting my friend Ana do all the work.

Soundbite: The house specialty is the suckling pig that takes three hours to prepare.

Soundbite: "In Madrid we make “callos madrilèno”. This is the traditional plate from Spain."

This tripe stew, long a staple for Madrid’s working class, is now served in the city’s best restaurants.


Find out more at www.gomadrid.com.


Flamenco Dancing top

When in Madrid, the one “must-see” entertainment has to be flamenco. It’s the traditional song and dance of the Gypsies of southern Spain, and is one of the country’s greatest gifts to musical art. Flamenco evolved over the years to include elements of Moorish influence. And in the 19th century, it was all the rage with the café society crowd. Outside of southern Spain, Madrid is the best place to enjoy this style of music. The core of flamenco is voice accompanied by guitar. Although dance is not a required, it adds an exciting touch to these emotional performances.


For more information about the restaurant featured in this show, visit www.corraldelamoreria.com. For other Flamenco shows, visit www.flamenco.org.


Hotel Ritz top

Those in search of truly majestic accommodations can do no better than the Hotel Ritz. Located across the street from the Prado, this is a home-away-from-home for European royalty. At the beginning of the last century, King Alfonso XIII returned from a trip through Europe inspired by the palaces that he had visited. The king aimed to build a luxury hotel that would rival those of other great European cities and enlisted César Ritz to personally supervise its construction. Even if a room here doesn’t fit into your budget, you can still stop in for a cool drink and enjoy the hotel’s genteel style.


Find out more at www.ritzmadrid.com.


Toledo top

This fortified hilltop city that was once Spain’s capital exudes history and art. As an urban center for more than two thousand years, Toledo has a striking cultural character. Simply wandering along its narrow cobbled streets might be the best way to appreciate the city. There was an important prehistoric settlement here even when the Romans arrived in the 2nd century BC. Later, the Visigoths came and claimed this as the seat of their kingdom.


For more information about Toledo, visit www.go-toledo.com.


Sword-Making top

For years, Toledo traded on its reputation as a consummate sword-making center. From the 15th to17th centuries, a prominent blade making industry flourished here and even today the city still supplies filmmakers and collectors around the world with weaponry. Medieval swordsmen knew that the outcome of a fight depended not only on the fighter’s personal ability, but also on the quality of his weapon. And the exceptional hardness of Toledo swords made them the most desired weapons in the world.


Toledo is located 43 miles SW of Madrid.


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For more on the fine arts in Spain, visit www.spanisharts.com.

Find out more at www.gomadrid.com.

For more information about Toledo, visit www.go-toledo.com.