Thursday's Child: Retiro Park, Madrid

Thursday, March 8, 2012
Last week I wrote about one of my favourite parks, Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.  Today I’ll share a completely different park that we visited on the same trip, this one in Madrid. 

Retiro Park is a beautiful city landscape, just a short walk from our hotel and the Prado museum.  While Park Guell celebrates the natural beauty of its surroundings, Retiro features sculptured trees and meticulous flower gardens.  Long paved promenades lead through the park, meeting each other at right angles. 

Built in the 17th century, the park was originally intended for the sole use of the Spanish royal family.  The gardens were made open to the public in the 18th century, but admission was restricted to those who were formally dressed.  (Admission rules have been relaxed somewhat since then.)

The heart of the park is a large manmade lake in the centre.  We spent an hour rowing around the lake, taking time to admire the enormous monument of King Alfonso XII by its side.  After disembarking, we meandered around its perimeter, enjoying the musicians and street artists.

One of the saddest days in the history of Madrid happened in March 2004, when a series of coordinated bombs struck its commuter train system.  A year after the bombings, 192 olive and cypress trees were planted in Retiro Park, one for each victim of the attack.

We weren't aware of the significance of those trees on the day we visited, but there was something about Retiro Park that seemed emblematic of the city of Madrid.  It's what we chose to do on our first afternoon in Madrid, our first afternoon in Spain, when we were still mastering the basics of the Spanish language. And as we enjoyed our lunch by the lake in Retiro Park, we felt like we had a little insight into this beautiful city and its magnificent country.

47 comments:

Mary Anne MacCrone said...

Gorgeous gardens - taking pictures there would be a dream! You are a lucky girl, Beth!

Belinda said...

That tree looks like a giant broccoli! I (sort of) want to eat it.

jhl said...

Oh! This brings back such memories for me ... my father was born in Spain, and I traveled there a few times as a child and young adult ... I've only been back once as an adult, but it was with my husband, and we went rowing on the lake in Retiro Park, too. :) Thank you!!

Aarthi said...

nice post

Angela Felsted said...

Retiro park is impressive. I especially like how they shape the bushes.

Valerie said...

The topiary trees are lovely, they remind me of Alice in Wonderland. And like Belinda mentioned in her comment, that first one is making me crave a salad! :D

Yummy said...

Gorgeous photos!

Cindy said...

Thank you for taking me to Spain--it's the only way I'll get there!
Beautiful photos.

Barbara said...

Haven't been to Madrid since the 90's, but I love the story of planting the trees in remembrance.
The art in that city is divine. Let alone the food.

Angie's Recipes said...

wow I really love these photos. The first one looks so fun.

Miriam said...

What a beautiful place! I like that they planted the trees for the victims. It doesn't replace the lost lives but it does send a beautiful message of healing and life.
Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

Carol said...

What a gorgeous place! Your pictures are beautiful.

Julie said...

What an interesting tree. I love seeing the landscapes in different places.

julie said...

That is such a beautiful park. Those trees are amazing! Thank you for sharing the pictures and the story behind it. :)

Neesie said...

What a beautiful park Beth.
I adore trees and your first photo produced a huge smile :D
I didn't realise I was going to Spain today...isn't life full of surprises!
Thank you for inviting me.
Have a great weekend :)

Pacheco Patty said...

We were right there but didn't have a chance to walk in the park! Your pictures are great and remind me of the fun time we had with or family in Madrid a few Summers ago;-)

Elaine said...

I really love that first photo of the trees. It looks like such a beautiful place to visit.

bakewithjill.com said...

I love all kinds of gardens, and this one looks fantastic. I love the tree in the first photo!

Katerina said...

This is a gorgeous place Beth! I've never been to Spain but I know it is a beautiful country!

Rita said...

What a beautiful post and pictures. Spain is lovely at this time of the year.We were there in March a few years ago.
Rita

cookingmisadventures.com said...

I want to learn how to sculpt my trees like that! Lovely park, sad story.

Pam said...

Those trees in the top picture are awesome!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Oh, man, Calgary is sooooo boring after seeing those photos (not that I was surprised at that).

I love the trees in the first photo.

The Golden Eagle said...

I love the fountain--it's so irregular, opposed to the usual perfect symmetry/sculpture.

Sounds like a beautiful park!

Lizzy said...

What an amazing park and gardens! I'd definitely love to visit...but I'll only get to the Madrid airport this summer. Some day....

Have a wonderful weekend, Beth!

Becki's Whole Life said...

One of my work friends is going to Barcelona soon and I was telling him about the Park Guell and he was going to check it out. one of the girls had been there and said it was amazing. This would actually be more my cup of tea with the gardens. They are both treasures, for sure!

lisa is cooking said...

What a beautiful park! Those sculpted trees are like living art. Sounds like a fantastic way to begin a visit to Spain.

Lori said...

Those trees in that first photo are amazing. At first I thought it was some kind of food. So perfectly manicured.

Anna said...

What interesting trees! Gorgeous photos and lovely writing, as always!

Raina said...

Just spectacular! I have always wanted to visit Madrid. The trees and shrubs are incredibly beautiful. They almost look fake.

backroadjournal said...

What a beautiful park. Thanks for sharing the photos.

Joanne said...

Ugh I remember those bombings. I love the idea of planting olive trees to remember...the trees of peace and friendship.

Kathy said...

I would love rowing around that lake! Such gorgeous photos! Love the first photo of the tree!

Lannie said...

beautiful pictures! would love to go sometime soon. that tree in your first photo is mind boggling

shaz said...

When I first scrolled into the post, I thought the topiary was some sort of interesting green dessert you'd made. Oops. Beautiful park, and post, and a little bit sad too.

Claudia said...

I have yet to visit Spain and desperately want to - the history - the art - the food! I remember the Madrid bombing well - it was indeed a sad day.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Lovely park. I visited Spain years (decades) ago, but mainly stayed on the southern coast. I need to make a prolonged visit. So much to see in the world! Thanks for the inspiration.

Cucina49 said...

It's been forever since I've been in Madrid, and I don't remember seeing public space that looked quite like this. Great photos!

Medeia Sharif said...

I thought that was broccoli at first, lol.

What a beautiful park. I'd love to go there. I haven't seen anything like that before.

Monet said...

We were able to visit this park, and it is truly lovely. This post brought back so many good memories! Thank you for sharing. I hope you are having a blessed Thursday!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

What a beautiful park! I love the trees in the first shot. Thanks so much for sharing your trips with us. I really do enjoy seeing them. :)

sweetandcrumby.com said...

I would think I had jumped into a fairy tale if I were there. The photos ethereal and breathtaking. So glad you shared these!

Amie Kaufman said...

Oh, I adored Il Retiro! I was SO ill in Madrid -- razorblade sore throat, fever, weak as a kitten, the works. And on top of that, I was trying to answer my agent's offer of rep from my sick bed! Once I was able to move around, my husband took me to the park for the day, and parked me on a rug with a series of icecreams. I read I AM LEGEND (quite a morbid book for such a lovely setting), and we listened to music floating across the water, watched ducklings and other picknickers, and had a lovely time! Such a beautiful, communal space.

beti said...

I've never seen a tree like that one! it is really pretty and different, the place looks lovely!

Barbara Jean said...

I'd really like to go to Madrid someday. I didn't feel that Barcelona was very "Spanish", and have heard Madrid is much better for that vibe.

Beth said...

We loved both Barcelona and Madrid, but you're right - they're very different cities. I hope you get to Madrid someday too!

sally said...

It has been a while since I visited Retiro Park in Madrid--I'll have to get out my pictures. Thanks for reminding me!

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