The guide told us that the Palace has 2,800 rooms, but she would show us only 20. The other day, I had wondered whether King Juan Carlos lived here. No, he doesn't. The Palace, said to be the largest in Europe, is used for official purposes and state functions. The King receives foreign Ambassadors here, and, according to our guide, comes to the Palace about three times a month. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia otherwise live at the Zarzuela Palace just outside Madrid.
We were shown various rooms in the Palace. Several had wallpaper made of silk. The guide spoke lovingly of the frescoes on the ceiling, the tapestries that adorned the walls, the many centuries-old paintings by Velazquez and Goya, the embroidery on the materials covering beds and chairs, the marble on the floor, the silverware, the musical instruments such as cellos and flamenco guitars, and, in some rooms like the one which witnessed, at the stroke of a pen, Spain's entry into the European Union, huge carpets on the floor.
The guide had a strong Spanish accent, and instead of saying 'Charles the third', she said 'Charles the thirth'. It took me a while to work out who she was talking about. I think it might have been Charles the thirth who took breakfast in one room, lunch in another, and dinner in a third room, all rooms in a row. Nowadays, on state occasions, the current King brings guests for coffee in Charles the thirth's breakfast room.
Among the rooms we were shown was the Throne Room. The Throne Room is situated directly behind the balcony in the middle of the main wing of the Palace. The balcony overlooks the square, which is bounded at the other end by the Palace gates, which serve as the main royal entrance. In front of the Palace gates is a short space, on the other side of which is the Almudena Cathedral. In the Throne Room, the respective thrones of the King and Queen face the direction of the Cathedral. Long before the Cathedral was built, in the years after 1561, this was the site of a mosque built during the Islamic period.
Before I came to Madrid, I'd been aware of the word 'Real', mainly from the Spanish football team 'Real Madrid'. Since we've been here, we've learned that 'real' means 'royal'. So there we are, Real Madrid means Royal Madrid.
The Royal Palace