The Grand Road

It had rained the previous night, and the temperature had turned bearable just as my trip to Spain was coming to an end. Around mid-day I walked down Gran Via, a street full of shops, movie halls, theatres, bars and restaurants, and even one casino.

Construction of this road started in 1910, following 40 years of planning and dithering. In these 40 years musicals and satires were written about it, and the name Gran Via was originlly given to it as a joke. In the 19 years that passed before it was completed, 14 other streets were destroyed along with buildings around them in order to construct this showcase of urban planning.

I started my walk from the Plaza de España, near the end of the street. Brick facades just off the Gran Via drew my attention. The style was popular in the 1920s and 1930s, but the use of brick and tiles in decorating the facade makes them look very attractive even now. The buildings on the main avenue are in a mixture of styles, as you can see from the photos below.

Particularly notable for its chequered history is the Edifico Telefonica, which played a role in the defence of Madrid during the civil war, and therefore had the distinction of being the most frequently shelled building of that time. Ernest Hemingway was one of the war correspondents who covered the news from his haunt in the bar at Museo Chicotle next to this building. Perhaps he gave the name "Howitzer Alley" to this road at that time.

Unfortunately, it is hard to find a detailed list (in English) of buildings along this route, or their architectural history. But if you are willing to try to puzzle out the Spanish, then there is an excellent guide which you can find here.

On a slow Monday in Madrid

There is little to do in Madrid on a Monday. Most museums are closed. The main exception is the Reine Sofia, but The Family and I had been there a couple of Mondays back. So I crashed a film shoot (see the featured photo).

I walked about aimlessly. From the Opera I walked the length of the pedestrian Calle Arenal to the Puerta del Sol, where a gay pride banner was being set up. Then I ducked into the Corte Ingles at the corner to buy a bottle of wine and some olive oil. I walked to the head of the Gran Via, and then on to Plaza de Espana. It was a pleasant morning. Last night’s rain had cooled things down.

At the plaza there was a crowd of Japanese tourists, and I was surprised to find them posing with someone who looked Spanish. Other passers-by had also stopped to gawk. I saw the microphone and camera and realized that this was a film shoot. The actresses spoke in English. I sent the photos to my nieces, and since none of them could recognize the actresses, I guess they must be Spanish. Can anyone recognize them?

That broke the monotony. I walked on to the Royal Palace and back to the Opera to find a place for a small drink and a tapa instead of lunch.