We had not yet visited Plaza Espana and its monument to Cervantes, except to transfer tour buses there on our way to Toledo, so armed with a fresh ten-ride Metro card, we descended the Lavapies stairs to the Lineas Tres. Adjacent to the Plaza Espana is an Egyptian temple that was rescued from the flooding to build the Aswan dam in Egypt a half century ago. We had also discovered a house museum just a block away, so this morning’s excursion would be well worth the Metro ride.
Plaza Espana is not as large as the parks on the Prado side where we are located, but the Cervantes monument is interesting in its composition. Cervantes himself sits on a perch of stone overlooking bronze statues of Don Quixote and sidekick Sancho Panza, the two of them flanked by statues depicting the knight’s love, on one side her reality as a simple farm girl and on the other as the heavenly beauty Dulcinea.
Tourists flock to the statues of the knight errant and his devoted dark companion, all but climbing on the horse or donkey to get their photos and selfies. I would venture to guess that not a one of them has ever actually read the book.
Right behind the plaza is the Templo de Debod donated to Spain in 1968 by the Egyptian government to save it from the flooding caused by the Aswan dam. I remembered learning about this in high school and college, when it actually happened. I never thought I would see one of the rescued temples in the middle of Spain.
Before it was sent off for a new life in Madrid, the temple was built about 2,200 years ago to honor the god Amon and Isis. Inside the temple are displays that explain the carvings in the stone, including one section that depicts Augustus of Rome offering gifts. The interior of the temple is small, so the guards only allow about 15 people in at a time. We were lucky enough to walk right in, but as we departed, a line of visitors was waiting.
The temple takes no more than a half hour to visit, including photo time among the pillars outside surrounded by a moat-like pool. Then it was off to see our third attraction in the area, Museo Cerralbo, the only house museum we have detected in Madrid (well, short of the Royal Palace).
Museo Cerralbo was the home of the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, who lived there until his death in 1922. He donated the house and all its furnishings and art to the state upon his death. Today it serves as a fine house museum, showcasing the way of life of the very rich aristocracy of Spain at the turn of the 20th century.
The Marquis and his family lived quite well, surrounded by plush furnishings, early electrical appliances and fine art. One of the rooms displays a number of paintings by El Greco, and the entire house is filled with art from Italian and Spanish masters, rooms of Chinoiserie popular in that era, swords and assorted arms and numerous medals, awards and honors bestowed on the Marquis for his service to the Crown. The Marquis also enjoyed his billiards in a spacious room lined with a divan for the ladies to sit and watch.
As house museums go, this one is excellent. We are always entertained to see how the true one percenters lived in another century.
After our visit to the home of the Marquis, it was back to the Prado area for lunch and to meet our bus that would take us to El Escorial.
We arrived at the meeting point near Fuente Neptuno a few minutes early to wait on the bus from Bus Vision and the tour of El Escorial. And waited.
The bus was supposed to pick us up at 2:30, but by 3 p.m. we and another couple were still waiting. The guide on one of Bus Vision’s yellow city tour buses said the El Escorial bus was late in traffic. We kept waiting.
Several minutes later, the attendant in the booth where we had paid 83 euros for the tour came out to say that he called the company, and the bus had stopped at the pickup point early and left.
He was very accommodating and gave us a refund without question. I later filed a complaint on the Bus Vision web site but never heard back from them. Now, having wasted most of an afternoon, we trudged up the hill back home for cocktails and a pizza from one of the Indian restaurants on Calle Lavapies.
It was five euros.
El Escorial would wait for another day.