Thursday, September 27, 2012

How careful should you be going to Portugal

How to be safe in Portugal

Portugal has a relatively low rate of violent crime; however, crime in all categories is increasing. The biggest crime risk is from pickpockets and purse snatchers, particularly at popular tourist sites and restaurants, or on public transportation. Rental cars and vehicles with out-of-town or foreign license plates are frequent targets for break-ins.

Take Precaution

Remove the temptation - visible luggage or personal items from cars when parking, especially near popular tourist sites. The American Embassy has learned of some cases where travelers discover a flat tire and someone immediately volunteers to assist. Capitalizing on the distraction, an accomplice meanwhile steals valuables from the vehicle.
  1. Keep your car doors locked when stopped at intersections.
  2. Don't go into isolated or poorly lit areas and don't use ATMs in poorly lit areas. 
  3. Carry limited cash and credit cards with you, leaving extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at home or in a hotel safe.
  4. Stay with your belongings in airports, train stations and other highly trafficked areas.

Trains: Public transportation is considered safe and reliable; however, during the summer months, there are occasionally reports of youth gangs accosting passengers riding trains between Lisbon, Cascais, and Sintra. The authorities have increased their patrols in response to these incidents.

Taxis: Taxis are a reliable means of transportation, though you should be alert to possible discrepancies between the meter fare and the amount requested by the driver. Always ask the taxi driver to use the meter. A tourism information kiosk in the arrivals area of the Lisbon airport sells taxi vouchers at standardized prices for many locations in the city and metro area. As part of this voucher service, a member of the tourism office will also escort you to your taxi. Some cases have been reported involving taxi drivers in the arrivals area of the airport who overcharge, threaten and/or harass passengers.
Beaches: Beaches are generally considered safe, but beach-goers should not leave their personal belongings unattended. Youth gangs have been known to congregate along the beaches between Lisbon and Cascais and occasionally accost beach-goers. The authorities have increased their patrols in response to these incidences.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Portugal is 112. For social welfare emergencies such as domestic violence or child abuse dial 144. English-speaking operators are available.There is also a SOS immigrant line with English speaking operators ready to help you in case of emergency. You may contact them at 351 808 257 257 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Just be cautious and you will be fine.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

A thought for today...

There is a difference between feeling gratitude and appreciation for something, and feeling attachment to something. Appreciation and gratitude are states of pure love, while attachment contains fear - fear of losing or not having what you are attached to. When it comes to something you want in your life, appreciation and gratitude attracts, and attachment pushes away. If you are feeling afraid that you will not get what you want, or losing what you have, then you have attachment.
To remove the attachment, keep shifting yourself into a state of appreciation and gratitude, until you can feel that the fear has gone.
By Rhonda Byrne

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Religion & Weather in Portugal


Initially influenced by the gods of pagan cultures during the pre-Roman centuries, like Spain, Portugal eventually followed the path of Catholicism. However, unlike Spain, Roman Catholicism in Portugal was blended with folk practices, spiritualism, and a tendency to revere Saints rather than a direct relationship with God.

In Portugal, God and his Saints were seen as loving and serene, full of forgiveness and not maniacally focus on suffering as the path to heaven. Religious practice also took on a more regional character with strong church attendance in the North and less than 15 % attendance in the South. The practice of religion in Portugal has shown striking regional differences. In modern times, metropolitan centers like Lisbon have less than 30% regularly going to church. Even in the villages where the Church was once the center of the village and decorated with gold leaf, today you find many of those churches in disrepair.

In Portugal, a great deal of the religious experience incorporates folk practices such as witchcraft, pagan festivals, and worship of Saints as intermediaries to God - so much so that the church now recognizes these practices and participates in village life along side of some of them.

As a case in point, the most famous religious celebration in Portugal has been a celebration of the vision of the Virgin Mary to three children in the village of Fatima in 1917. The worship of the Virgin Mary as "Our Lady of Fatima" far overshadows the worship of God in this small village in the district of Santarem and it  has led hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to visit the Shrine at Fátima each year, many in the hope of receiving healing.

In the remote Northern villages, you may find a jumbled mixture of  Catholicism, witchcraft, magic and sorcery. You may even find a remnant of Islamic culture where some still believe in the "evil eye" and feared those who supposedly possessed it.

While better education and a migration to the cities has lessened the hold of these folk beliefs, you will still find ample sorcerers, palm readers, and Taro ships throughout Lisbon. In Portugal and remnants of its colonies, a strong undercurrent of superstition still remains.


As you plan your trip to Portugal, you will need to pack based on the regions you plan to visit. Topography, latitude and proximity to the ocean affect the climatic condition of various regions.

Portugal is basically divided into three parts;
  1. Mainland Portugal
  2. Madeira Archipelago
  3. Azores Archipelago
This is what to expect"
Mainland Portugal
  • Hot and dry Summers.
  • Sunny and comfortable Autumns.
  • Mild Winters with little snow.
  • Sunny and comfortable Spring
Madeira Archipelago
  • Subtropical weather with mild temperatures all year long.
Azores Archipelago

  • The Gulf Stream and position of the island region create year round mild and comfortable conditions.

    The Mediterranean climate of Portugal causes rainfall during the winters. Portugal Weather is moderate throughout the year making it possible for the tourists to visit the place all the year round.

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    Capitol, Geography and Currency in Portugal

    Lisbon, the Capitol of Portugal

    Lisbon, the beautiful city by the sea! 
    Amazing enough it resembles Rio de Janeiro which is situated in Brazil and was the capital of the Portuguese Colonial Empire from 1808 to 1821. Note 1 below

    Brief history

    The area that Lisbon occupies has been populated since the Neolithic period. Like most European capitals, Lisbon development included much conflict. Occupation by Iberians, Celts, Romans, Sarmatian Alans, Germanic Vandals, Visigoths, Vikings, Moors, French, Islams, and Slavs. A period of diversification in cultures and religions.

    Finally, under the banner of Afonso I of Portugal, Christian forces brought Lisbon back into Christian hands in 1147. A popular story of this reconquest of Portugal is that there was a bishop who was killed by the crusaders and that the people prayed for intercession of the Virgin Mary. This act proved to the Knights of Christ that the population was Christian. Arabic ways lost their influence and Muslims converted to Roman Catholicism or sent home.
    In 1255, Lisbon became the official capital of Portugal. During the last centuries of the Middle Ages, the city expanded substantially and became an important trading post with both northern European and Mediterranean cities. The growth of this era provided a stable economic base, interrupted briefly by the Castilians, which allowed Portugal to become a powerhouse in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Most of the Portuguese expeditions which led to the building of the vast Portuguese Colonial Empire were launched from Lisbon. Along with the growth of the empire, Lisbon became the European hub of commerce and culture with its tentacles in Africa, India, the far East and of course, Brazil.

    Then war broke out again as the Kingdom came down on the wrong side of European power, at least for the short term. Napoleon invaded Portugal  in 1777 in reaction to the Portuguese King's support of England. This lead to the "Great Escape" of 15,000 to Brazil where they set up the Kingdom of the Portuguese Empire until Napoleon was finally defeated. In 1821 the royal family moved back to Portugal, leaving Prince Dom Pedro I to rule the colony.


    Lisbon is also the largest city of Portugal - located on the coast where the Tagus [Tejo] River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. With its cities rising from the ocean in an abundance of sunshine, its limestone buildings with red tile roofs provide a dramatic contract to the brilliant blue of the ocean and skies.
    With the Serra da Estrela, Spanish Sierras a Gata, Gredos and Guadarrama, to the North, Portugal's highest peak is 1991 meters. As you move south you will find the hills of Portugal. Descending from the table lands to the ocean, the largest river, Douro, crosses Northern Portugal from East to West.


    The Portuguese Escudo was the currency of Portugal until the introduction of the euro in 2002, Inflation made the Escudo virtually irrelevant, and centavo coins were withdrawn from circulation.

    Note 1 - The Transfer of the Portuguese Court to Brazil occurred on November 29, 1807 when the Portuguese royal family and its court of 15,000 escaped Lisbon just days before the army of Napoleon captured Lisbon. Along with them, they moved the capital of the Portuguese Colonial Empire to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For thirteen years, Rio functioned as the capital of the the Portuguese Kingdom.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Introduction to Portugal, Lisbon


    I am so happy to talk about and take you to Portugal where my grandparents were from. My grandmother was from Coimbra and my grandfather was from Porto, I  lost them when I was very young; but, retained a love for the Portuguese culture and history.

    Situated on the southwestern tip of the Iberian Peninsula its shape is almost rectangular. Its geographic location along the Atlantic coast, gives it a the ocean as 50% of its border (832 Km). It should be no surprise then that Portugal became a world leading sea power, competing with the Spaniards and English for World Domination with their colonial empires. Portugal occupies an area of about 91,600 sq Km, including the islands of Madeira and Azores.

    Portugal has a population of more then 10 million people. The capital is Lisbon with a population of 1.5 million.


    Portugal is an unbelievably beautiful country with:
    1. Lush rivers, forests and valleys of the center and north
    2. Contorted southern coastline of beaches, cliffs and coves 
    3. Arid plains of the Alentejo region with its groves of olive, oranges, cork and vines
    4.  Mountains in the north
    Dazzling flowers announce the early arrival of Spring, carpeting hillside everywhere while summer lingers late into fall encouraging sea-bathing in September and October.

    The main mountain chain is Serra da Estrela, an extension of the Spanish Sierras da Gata, Gredos and Guadarrama. The highest point of Portugal is 1,991 m.

    The Portuguese coasts show an alternation of rocky promontories and wide sandy bays.
    Most of the rivers descend from the mountains. The largest is Douro which crosses northern Portugal from east to west. The Mondego flows though Coimbra. The Tagus follows the Spanish frontier for a while and then crosses central Portugal to enter the sea in a long estuary on which Lisbon is situated.

    You should not rush to explore Portugal, indeed, Portuguese talk of their nation as a land of "brandos costumes" or gentle customs or ways. (Be careful with false friends like costumes which have an English equivalent that is not the same thing. :-)


    While it is geographically small, Portugal has a tremendous cultural and social diversity. Highly sophisticated resorts dot the Lisbon and Estremaduran coast, drawing thousands of European tourists for the past fifty years. Lisbon maintains its old-fashion look and feel while integrating thoroughly modern amenities. When you are in the farmlands of the Alentejo, the mountainous Beiras, or northern Trás-os-Montes you will see people living as though Portugal is a old world, undeveloped country.


    Portuguese is an international language--the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with approximately two hundred million speakers of Portuguese. Portuguese is spoken in:
    1. Europe (Portugal); 
    2. South America (Brazil); 
    3. Africa (Cape Verde, São Tomé e Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique); 
    4. Asia (Macau, a territory of China, 
    5. Indian State of Goa, and East Timor).
    You can have a wonderful time in Portugal, you will love the food and people are so nice.

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Barcelona, Spain

    Before we leave Spain, I have to tell you about beautiful Barcelona. This will be just a overview.
    It is worth it to take a train from Madrid to Barcelona and it will take about 3 hours.


    Catalonia is the area of Spain that celebrates beautiful Barcelona and was first settled during the Middle Paleolithic era 300,000 years ago. Like most Mediterranean areas, it was later controlled by Phoenicians and then Carthaginians. It is a land that has seen extensive conflict and changes in political status. In 1st century BC Romans took control, then in 415 AD they were defeated by the Visigoths who renamed the city of Barcino as Barcinona. The Visigoth kingdom came to an end in 711 with the Moorish invasion from Africa until they were by the Franks in 732. Charlemagne's knights pushed in after them and installed themselves at the head of the border counties to guard the southern flank of his empire.

    After Louis V refused to help repulse Moorish raiders in 988, the counts of Barcelona declared their independence from the Franks. This period also saw the beginnings of democratic institutions. In 1640 a revolt against the five year old war with France started in Barcelona and saw Catalonia first declared as a republic allied to France. Forced to surrender under the 1652 siege of Barcelona, the Catalan territories north of the Pyrenees were given to France. The following years saw the city rebuilt, only to see it destroyed again in the wars against France of 1680 and 1690.

    In 1705, following years of interference from Madrid, Catalonia signed a treaty with England and Genoa and went to war. This ended with the 13 month siege of Barcelona, which ended on 11th September 1714, celebrated today as Catalonia's national day.

    In the early 1900's, Catalonia enjoyed and lost several times varying degrees of autonomy, but like the rest of Spain, Catalonia autonomy and culture were crushed to an unprecedented degree in 1939 after General Francisco Franco came to power. Public use of the Catalonia language was banned; however, some continued to speak the language privately.

    Finally, in 1975, after Franco's death Spain moved to democracy and, Catalonia recovered its cultural and political autonomy.


    Facing the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is located on the Iberian Peninsula’s northeast coast. The Collserola mountain range falls at the backdrop of the city giving it a spectacular location.


    Manufacturing has played a major role in Barcelona’s economy since the early ages of industrialization in Europe. Textile is one of the major industries with a thriving cotton trade. Tourism and other service industries have boomed recently.



    Society & Cultural Life

    Barcelona has a very rich culture. Catalan and Spanish are widely spoken in Barcelona making it a bilingual city. Art and architecture are celebrated in Barcelona with amazing work all around you. Barcelona has many impressive buildings with styles going from the Gothic to the modernism. Also the city has many archaeological sites that are well worth a visit. Architects from around the world flock to the city to visit much of its more modern architecture.

    Bold, colorful, distinctive, harmonious, varied and unique are just a few adjectives that come to mind when describing Barcelona architecture. Barcelona has successfully blended the old and the new in a way that makes this city simply breathtakingly beautiful. There is nothing more enjoyable than strolling around the streets of Barcelona and taking in the atmosphere that radiates out from the architecture. Traditional Catalan Gothic architecture such as the Iglesia de Pi church is reserved and stoic in its design, but just a 5 minute walk away we have the Barcelona Cathedral with is beautiful arches and facade. A short metro ride we have the famous Sagrada familia Basilica which towers into the sky and has different architectural styles on all four sides of the building.

    Best time to visit

    Anytime is a good time to visit Barcelona, the weather is pretty good all year round, not too hot in the summer and with few genuinely cold days in winter .

    Do not forget to take comfortable shoes, there is a lot of walking to do.

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    Please read Little Secrets, just posted about "Salt and it's Magic". A little history about salt and 10 little magical secrets. Enjoy!

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Where to stay in Madrid, Spain

    Hotel Ritz in Madrid ( 5 stars)

    A baroque palace in the heart of Madrid’s ‘Golden Triangle’, Hotel Ritz is a exquisite hotel within walking distance of the city’s major cultural, business, shopping and dining venues.

    Built in 1910 according to the wishes of King Alfonso XIII, this iconic Orient-Express landmark established Madrid as one of the truly great European cities. Ever since, it has welcomed visiting aristocracy and dignitaries with inimitable style and luxury.

    A lively gathering place for Spanish high society, the hotel’s restaurants and bars are a constant buzz of activity. Its leafy outdoor terrace is especially popular for a traditional summer Sunday brunch following a stroll in the adjacent Retiro Park.

    Price: starts at lowest price $326 dollars per night

    Address: Plaza de la Lealtad 5, Madrid, 28014 Spain

    Phone: ‎866-539-8430‎

    Westin Palace Hotel (5 stars)

    Topped by an enormous stained glass dome, the regal Westin Palace Hotel has been a center of Spanish society for almost 100 years. It boasts meeting rooms, restaurants, bars, shops, a beauty parlour and a WestinWORKOUT® fitness center overlooking the city. It rises a majestic seven stories in the center of Madrid, in the cultural heart of the city. Located in the exclusive Triangle of Art, including El Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia museums, The Westin Palace is the ideal hotel to explore Madrid.

    With over 437 rooms, 3 top tier restaurants, and ample meeting facilities, the Westin is an excellent venue for meetings as well as luxurious accomodations. Rooms are furnised in marble, silks, and immaculately restored antiques.

    Price: starts at 153 euros per night ( do not have the price in dollars)

    Address: Plaza de las Cortes, 7 • Madrid 28014 · Spain

    Phone:(34) (91) 3608000

    Hotel Atlantico (4 stars)

    The Hotel Atlántico, housed in a building that is almost 100 years old and constructed by the Marquis of Falces who commissioned the famous architect of the era Don Joaquín Saldaña to build a residence for housing, is one of the architectural landmarks of outstanding beauty on the Gran Vía itself, with an eclectic French style, a wide variety of friezes, jambs, tympanums, balustrades and finishes, all decorated with an allegorical, fantastic approach. The Hotel Atlantico Madrid, designed in 1921, is located in one of the main city's arteries, between the old Madrid and the modern North district.

    The ideal location of the venue makes it a perfect place for tourists and business people alike, being only a few minutes from the underground and bus stops.

    Price: starts at $114 dollars

    Address: Gran Via 38, Madrid, 28013 Spain.

    Phone: 866-539-8430‎

    Melia Castilla Hotel (4 stars)

    This is one of the largest hotels in Madrid and one of the biggest in Spain. The exterior and interior are both very modern and of a very high standard. The hotel is reputed to be one of the most modern in Madrid.

    The lobby is American style, with a cafeteria, reception desk and comfortable seating areas. The public areas are all decorated in a modern style.

    Strategically located in the center of Madrid, a few meters from the Paseo de la Castellana and 15 minutes from the airport, the M-40 motorway takes you to the IFEMA Exhibition Centre and the Municipal Conference center. A pleasant 10-minute walk will get you to the Exhibition and Conference centre or Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu stadium. You will find large, well-known shopping centers nearby.

    Price: starts at $124 dollars up.

    Address: Capitan Haya 43, Madrid, 28020 Spain

    Phone: ‎866-539-8430‎

    Espahotel Gran Via (3stars)

    To enjoy excellent facilities in welcoming ambience, the Espahotel Gran Via Madrid is an ideal place to stay for business guests and for those who want to spend a enjoyable as well as a relaxing vacation.

    Located in the heart of the shopping and leisure district, the Espahotel Gran Via Madrid is an ideal departure for exploring business centre, health centre, railway station, soccer stadium and most of the surrounding attractions.

    Price: starts at $99 dollars

    Address: Gran Vía, 65, Centro, 28013 Madrid

    Phone: 877-662-6988

    Suites Vienna (3 starts)

    Suites Vienna is a 3 star hotel in the historical center of Madrid. This hip accommodation offers guests comfortable accommodation with additional facilities so that they can get the utmost of their stay.

    Among services, guests are offered a parking area, internet access, and car rental services.

    In the surrounding area, guests will find the main city sights, all of them easily reachable thanks to the efficient public transportation network.

    Price starts at $ 92.00

    Address: Juan Alvarez Mendizabal 17 - Madrid

    Phone: 877-662-6988

    Reasonable accommodations

    Eurostars Zarzuela Park - Madrid

    Madrid is alive, noisy, restless, fleeting, dense... but you are not obliged to suffer all that because the great secret we have for you is that Madrid is also serene, spacious, green and clean. This is the environment you will find at the Eurostars Zarzuela Park hotel in Aravaca, a hotel comprising three buildings in English style, placed around a large garden with a swimming pool and paddle-tennis courts, where you can enjoy the silence and tranquility of the large expanses of green that surround us.

    Price: starts at $51 dollars per night

    Address: Dario Aparicio, 32, Madrid, 28023 Spa

    Phone: ‎866-539-8430‎


    Hope this will help, there are too many hotels and I tryed to choose the best ones for the price.


    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Places to go in Madrid, Spain

    There are great places to go in Madrid. I will give you the most famous ones. Have a great time!

    The Prado Museum

    Thanks to Charles III of Spain, 1759-88, Madrid has museums, parks, government buildings on par with Rome, Paris, and London. Hew spared nothing to make this Castilian town equal to those other Western capitals. The Prado Museum was one of those attractions.

    This highly-acclaimed art museum is one of the most-visited attractions in Madrid, summoning the attention of lovers of great art from around the world with its expansive collection of a variety of works.

    The Villanueva Building

    Originally planned as a Natural History Museum, Charles III knew exactly what he wanted. An expansive grand rotunda, a central gallery full of natural light, and a cube-shaped space on either end formed the architectural elements. The facade was designed in the Neo-Classical style.

    During the Spanish War of Independence construction stop and the building was used by the Calvary. During the way, a fire destroyed part of the building and much of the original construction supplies were stolen.

    After the war, King Ferdinand VII restarted construction on The Prado and 10 years later, the attraction opened its doors as The Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture.

    By the early 1900s, the art collections had outgrown the building and additions were planned. The first addition was made in 1918 and more rooms were added again in the 1950s and 60s. Two additional buildings were added to the Prado Complex, Casón del Buen Retiro and the Palacio de Villahermosa,  finally providing ample room to display the amazing collection.

    Retiro Park

    Originally built for the Spanish King Phillip IV, the Retiro Park was opened to the general public in the 1800's. Its regal patronage provided for many beautiful buildings. With a facade of glass, the Crystal Palace is one of the most beautiful.

    Designed for leisure, the park provides boating, bicycling, picnicking, quiet strolls and just passing the time. Automobiles are not allowed. Street entertainers perform throughout the park and you will find numerous 'terrazas' (open air bars) where you can drink something or enjoy an 'horchata' (made from tiger nuts or almonds). The city provides many special events such as a huge book fair held annually. A little secret - you will find a statue of the 'Angel Caido' - The fallen angel. While you will find statues of Lucifer or the fallen angel in other places such as the Brooklyn Art Museum, this one is said to be the first statue in the world dedicated to a fallen angel.

    Royal Palace

    With so much talent in Barcelona, it is strange that the royal family turned to 18th century Italian school of architecture, for their palace. In a short 17 years the builders created a masterpiece with over 2000 rooms. The tourist get to see an amazing array of priceless furniture, clocks, tapestries, carpets, porcelains, as well as royal collections of paintings, sculptures and frescoes. Another little secret - housed in the palace you will find a small Armory Museum with a unique display of arms and armor used in Europe during the time of three of its Kings.

    Cybele Fountain

    A fitting rallying point for Real Madrid soccer fans, the fountain of the goddess Cybele in a carriage pulled by lions is stunning.  Designed by Ventura Rodriguez in the 18th century on orders of Carlos III. Located in an urban area with high value building around it, it is a favorite walking spot in Madrid. Ranked as a must see by US News.
    And if you are lucky enough to visit after a victory by Real Madrid, have a ball. It is a favorite hangout for local fans.

    Plaza Mayor

    The Plaza Mayor, was originally a market place but with the help of King Phillip II and Phillip III, it was turned into a grand square with a street level arcade. Designed by Juan de Herrera, it took over 50 years to get started and was finally finished by Juan Gomes de la Mora, a successor to Herrera. The plaza was completed in just 2 years.


    Puerta del Sol

    The Puerta del Sol is the most central square in the Spanish capital and it has been called the Kilometer Zero Spanish radial road since 1950.

    It is a popular site for locals, especially the last night of the year. At New Year's Eve, crowds gather at this square to welcome the New Year and eat twelve grapes at the rhythm of the strokes of the clock tower of the Casa de Correos impressive building seen in the background. This clock is mythical in Spain and was donated by José Rodríguez de Losada in the nineteenth century. The Puerta del Sol is a meeting place, a place of transit between different parts of Madrid.

    Puerta de Alcala

    Like most large cities, the old walls of the city were joined together with large imposing gates. These cities have long grown past these gates and now stand as reminders of the glorious past. Puerta de Alcala is a prime example of that tradition. Built in the 1100's, Puerta de Alcala was built by the supreme order of Carlos III, designed and supervised by  Sabatini. Puerta de Alcala marks a transition in Spanis confidence and is one of the monuments in Madrid you should visit and explore. Located in the square of Plaza de la Independencia, Puerta de Alcala is built in a strategic place since the monument is very near to the city not to mention it’s close to another nice Madrid attraction to visit, the Parque del Buen Retiro.

    Royal Palace of Aranjuez

    If you have a car or can take a tour bus you should not miss the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. It was built in 1561 by King Philip II as a royal summer residence. The Palace is situated in with beautiful gardens between the rivers Tagus and Jarama, near the town of Aranjuez, an our of Madrid.. Selected for the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 2001, the construction we see today boasts a long history, during which it was expanded and renovated several times. The east side of the palace is complemented by a beautiful garden known as, Parterre Garden, and the north side has a small island which was built and called, Garden Island.

    The palace's important art and historical collections include the Museo de la Vida en Palacio, describing the daily lives of Spain's monarchs. The huge gardens, built to relieve its royal residents from the dust and drought of the Spanish high central plateau, uses the waters of the two adjacent rivers for aeration. The Jardín de la Isla is on a man-made island bounded by the River Tagus and the Ria Canal. The Jardín del Principe contains a miniature palace and the Museo de las Falúas Reales, housing the collection of Spain's royal pleasure barges.

    Basilica de San Francisco el Grande

    The Basilica of St. Francis has a round floor plan and boasts the largest dome in Spain, at 108 feet in diameter, even larger than that of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. It was built in 1760 by King Carlos III on the site of a Franciscan Convent that claims to have been founded by St Francis in 1217.

    The church has three chapels, including the Chapel of San Bernardino de Siena with a magnificent painting of the saint by Goya. Little secret - notice the figure on the right in the painting that is not looking up. It is a self-portrait of Goya himself.

    Casa Juan Guas carved the seven main doors from American walnut and the 16th-century Gothic choir stalls are from La Cartuja del Paular, in Segovia province.

    Almudena Cathedral

    The history of Almudena Cathedral could have been written in Hollywood. 
    First, the site on which Almudena Cathedral now stands was originally occupied by Madrid's first mosque, as Catholicism re-established itself, a new church dedicated to one of Madrid's patron saints, Santa María de la Almudena took the site. As befitting the new capital of Spain, plans for a grand new church began in the 16th century; but, construction was constantly postponed due to church opposition from the powerful archdiocese in Toledo who didn't want to lose his power base to Madrid.

    After hundreds of years of haggling, in 1868, Madrid received permission from Toledo to construct a new church dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena. Construction began in 1883 based on a Neo-Gothic design. The first part to be completed was the crypt, which contains a 16th-century image of Madrid's patroness the Virgin de la Almudena.
    A year later, in 1884, Pope Leo XIII created the Diocese of Madrid, giving Madrid a bishop and raising the status of the new Almudena church to a cathedral. The building plans were updated to reflect the elevated status of the building.

    Construction on the cathedral progressed slowly and came to a complete halt during the civil war of the 1930s. The process began again in 1944, when the new architect changed the style to a Neoclassical style that would match the Royal Palace next door.

    Almudena Cathedral was completed in 1993 and consecrated in person by Pope John Paul II that same year. A statue of the pope in front of the cathedral commemorates the momentous occasion. The cathedral was given another publicity boost with the sumptuous wedding of Prince Felipe and Doña Letizia in May 2004, the first such royal event in nearly a century.

    Hope this will help you. Madrid is a beautiful place to go. I have such good memories of the time I was there.