Through the Gate of the Sun

The Puerta del Sol square with the statue of the Charles III of Spain aka the El Rey Alcalde at the center.

Madrid was cold and wet the day we arrived, not a good welcome for first time tourists, but nothing three paellas can handle. The next day was a complete opposite though. A bright and sunny day met us when we stepped out of our hotel to head to another food stop. Nice.

But it’s not always good to fill your mind with food all the time, even on a food tour. Not only do I feel like I am already raking in the calories and gaining weight long before the food touches the palate but also miss out on the nice attractions as I make my way to the restaurants of the day. Case in point, I never knew I was standing on one of Madrid’s famous sites on our way to lunch.

I never knew I went past a most important “entryway.” Honestly, it seemed like one of those busy crossroads that we come across all the time (smack on the forehead!), and where the fan store was. Luckily, it was the same route we took heading back to the hotel.

The plaza was one of Madrid’s important portals called the Puerta del Sol aka the “Gate of the Sun” (yes, quite timely for us as it was a sunny day), named (and decorated with the rising sun) as such because the original gate faces the east where the sun rises.

Puerta del Sol was one of the entryways of the walled city of old Madrid. Having the Post Office in the area, it was considered a very important meeting area since it was where the latest news from around Spain and elsewhere would be received and emanate.

The House of the Post Office building is used today as the office of the President of Madrid.

The area was made even more interesting to the masses who gather at the Gradas de San Felipe (the steps to the Saint Philip church at the square) and listened or take part in the news delivery/exchange of opinions (speculations, rumors and gossip included), making it one of the most prolific mentideros de la Corte (more appropriately translated as “places of the City where people buzz about other people”).

The scene hasn’t changed much today. The place is still one of the busiest spots in the city, only with more people. The Post Office building is still standing and used as the office of the President of Madrid, the head of the regional government of the Autonomous Community of Madrid. On the ground on the northern side of the edifice is the “kilometro cero” plaque serving as the symbolic center of Spain and the basis of the numbering in the Spanish road system.

City streets radiate from the Puerto del Sol, two are visible from this shot of the square.

In the square are some of Madrid’s famous landmarks—the clock that chimes to welcome the new year, and in turn, mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes; the statue of Charles III of Spain aka the El Rey Alcalde (the mayor king); the heraldic symbol of Spain—the Madreño tree and the bear; and the statue of Mariblanca.

Mariblanca’s statue stands where the old fountain of the square was.

I won’t keep you hanging. With the high traffic in and around Puerta del Sol, trade and industry has grown with it. Shopping establishments are bountiful in the area including several El Corte Ingles department store buildings, a bevy of cafes and restaurants, and nearby, bars and dance clubs that will keep you up until the sun rises.

Interesting characters appear at the square Captain Jack Sparrow & Rafael Nadal (their lookalikes, at least)

For more travel & lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 21, 2014.

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