Madrid, Spain — July 18, 2016

Today is my next-to-last full day in Europe until I visit Portugal in November. The day after tomorrow I fly back to Phoenix.

I’m still feeling a bit ill, but I did get out and walk through part of the center of Madrid this morning. I have been in Madrid many times, but to the best of my recollection, today was the first time I entered the Cathedral of the Almudena, which is located right next to the Royal Palace and used to serve Spain’s royalty.

Before we get to the cathedral, here is a photo of one of the main streets in Madrid’s downtown area. This photo was taken right around the corner from the hotel where I am staying. This section of the city is very old, so naturally the streets are quite narrow. Some are so narrow that they have been closed off to motor traffic and have become pedestrian malls. Others are single lane in one direction only.

The street shown in the picture is the Calle de St. Jerónimo (yes, they spell Geronimo with a J instead of a G in Spain these days). The red bus you see approaching is one of the double-decker tourist buses that infest the streets of the downtown area.

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If you continue down the Calle de St. Jerónimo in the direction the camera is pointing, you pass through the Puerta del Sol and then enter the Calle Mayor or Main Street, which isn’t much wider. At the end of the Calle Mayor you arrive at the Cathedral of the Almudena, which is shown in the following picture.

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Unlike many of the other cathedrals in Spain, this one doesn’t charge tourists for admission, but there is a collection box at the entrance with a sign suggesting a donation of one euro.

Below is the view of the altar looking from the back of the church. I am not used to seeing altars with steps leading up to a higher level. I suppose that the inferior priests conducted mass from the lower level and only the bishop himself could hold mass on the upper level. Don’t quote me on that. I am allowing my imagination to run wild.

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Below is a closer view of the altar. I suppose it is no secret that the Catholic Church in Spain had immense wealth at its disposal during the time that the Church and the Spanish government were working hand in glove to pillage Spain’s colonies in America. The Church used much of that wealth in elaborate constructions and decorations.

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Below is the view looking toward the pipes of the pipe organ. They are not as impressive as those that I have seen in other Spanish cathedrals. I did not hear the organ play. During the time I was inside, recorded choir music was playing through an audio system.

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If you are Catholic, you may remember the custom of lighting a candle in a Catholic church in memory of a departed loved one or as a symbol of a special prayer to God. I suppose the expense of replacing those candles got too great, or perhaps they were a fire hazard. In any case, you no longer light a candle in many Spanish churches. Instead you put your money into a slot, and an LED at the tip of a fake candle lights up and stays illuminated for a programmed period of time.

I suppose God takes just as much notice of LED lights as he used to take of candles, but it occurred to me that I could spare the donation by holding up my cell phone so that God could see the red LED that indicates that it is turned on. Are not all LEDs equal in God’s eyes?

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From an enclosed balcony at the rear of the cathedral, one can look across to the Royal Palace. It was once the digs of the royal family, but now the king and queen live in a more modest pad on the outskirts of Madrid, and the Royal Palace is a museum. It does resume its duties as a palace to receive the occasional foreign dignitary. If Barack Obama were to show up, I imagine that the government would kick out the tourists and have the king receive him in the Palace. If Donald Trump were to show up? My guess is that he would have to stand in line and pay admission like anyone else.

I toured the Royal Palace last summer, and believe me, you need a good set of legs to survive tourist route through it. You could easily spend a day touring it if you stopped to contemplate everything of interest. I made it through about three-fourths of the route taking note of everything with occasional rests on a convenient chair or bench. Then my legs could take no more, and I rushed through the final part of the tour without reading a single sign.

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Not far from the cathedral and the palace there is a glass-covered area looking down on some sort of ruins. I searched for a sign to tell me what the ruins were, but I found none. There was this interesting bronze statue of a man contemplating the ruins. Judging from the statutes shiny parts, many people must take selfies while hanging onto his right shoulder or with an arm across his back. However, why are his buttocks so shiny? I don’t even want to speculate about that.

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Now you’ll have to excuse me. Today’s Tour de France stage is on TV live.