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Chapter 10:

  • Madrid.
  • -- the Prado. -- theatres. -- Spanish people. -- the Court. -- society in Madrid. -- the diplomatic corps. -- excursion to the Escorial. -- St. Ildefonso. -- Segovia.


to me, the Prado is an inexhaustible source of amusement. In the first place, it is in itself the finest public walk I have ever seen within the walls of any city, not excepting either the Tuileries or the Chiaja. It begins at the gate of Atocha, and, passing the superb entrance of Alcala, extends round to the convent and gate of the Recoletos. Anciently it was an uneven meadow of little beauty, but famous for being the scene of the plots, murders, duels, and intrigues of the city and court, as may easily be gathered from the familiar use made of it in the novels of Cervantes and Le Sage, the plays of Lope, and indeed the old comedies and romances generally. It was not, however, until the middle of the last century, when the neighboring palace of Buen Retiro rose into favor, that Charles III. levelled it, planted it with trees, and made it the beautiful walk it now is. As you enter it from the gate of Alcala, or rather from the street next to it, you find yourself in a superb, wide opening called the Saloon; on your right hand a double walk, and on your left, first the place where the carriages parade, and afterwards another double walk, the whole ornamented with three fine fountains, and eight rows of trees, statues, marble seats, etc. During the forenoon, and nearly all the afternoon, no part of the city in summer is so silent and deserted as this; and yet, when the heats will permit, it is a spot which of all others here most solicits you by its freshness, its solitude, and its shade. At five o'clock the whole Prado is watered, to prevent the dust which would otherwise be intolerable. Just before sundown the carriages and crowd begin to appear; and about half an hour after the exhibition is in its greatest splendor. On your left hand are two rows of carriages, forming a complete line, slowly moving up and down on each side, while the king and the infantas dash up and down in the middle

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