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Friday, April 19, 2013 (read 604 times)
Madrid Parks: Retiro, Casa de Campo, Botanical Gardensby Lauren
The World Health Organisation suggests that every city should have at least 10 m² of green spaces per inhabitant. Madrid far exceeds this recommendation with 16 m². Madrid has a high number of green spaces meaning that madrileños are never more than a fifteen minute walk away from a garden, churchyard, park or plaza. The Buen Retiro Park is located in the centre of the capital city of Madrid. Once located on the outskirts of the city, over the years, buildings have been constructed around the park so now it takes centre stage. The park used to belong to the King of Spain and his family until it was opened to the public in the nineteenth century.
The Buen Retiro Park is filled with sculptures and it has a peaceful lake in the middle. Back when the Retiro was Royal property, there were boats on the lake which engaged in pretend battles to amuse the royal family. Nowadays, in the summertime, visitors to the park can rent a paddle boat or a sea doo and enjoy the beautiful scenery from the water. One particular section of the park has been transformed into a memorial garden in honor of the victims of the 2004 Madrid Train Bombings. Atocha train station in the city centre is home to a unique indoor garden with more than 500 species of plant and ponds with turtles.
With a lovely selection of cafés and shops, Atocha train station gardens are the perfect retreat on a blustery day. Casa de Campo is a huge open space in the west of the city. It has a cable car that glides above the trees offering a fantastic view of the city. The Oak is the dominant species of tree in the Casa de Campo; some of them are over 100 years old! The Casa de Campo has an outdoor pool which is open to the public during the summer months as well as a zoo, a fairground and an amusement park. The Royal Botanic Garden was opened by the King of Spain as a research centre for herbal remedies and as animal housing for newly discovered species.
Nowadays, the Royal Botanic Garden is dedicated to the protection of the European Ecosystem. The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family although for most of the year they reside in their slightly more modest abode located on the outskirts of the city. The Royal Palace is surrounded by green open spaces, namely the Sabatini Gardens and the Campo del Moro. Interestingly, the Campo Del Moro Gardens (Land of the Moor Gardens) take their name from a Muslim leader called Ali ben Yusuf who allegedly camped there with his troops in 1109. The gardens themselves have fallen into disarray on several occasions due to a lack of funds.
Queen Isabel II of Spain ordered the construction of curving pathways and water fountains but when she died, the gardens were neglected once again until the nineteenth century when reconstruction works commenced anew. Nowadays, King Juan Carlos uses the Campo Del Moro Gardens to host royal banquets in the summertime. The Sabatini Gardens are named after an Italian architect who constructed the royal stables that were once located on the same piece of land. The gardens themselves consist of clipped hedges, pools, fountains and statues of former Kings of Spain.
The Spanish people in general are big fans of afternoon strolls. You will notice that the streets become busy in the evening with large groups of family and friends meandering through the streets to work up an appetite before dinner time. During your visit to Madrid, make like a true Spaniard, and take a walk through one of the many parks or gardens; a cheap way to see the best that the city has to offer while burning off a few of those delicious tapas!
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