Regardless how you view bullfighting, the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas - Madrids famous bullring in the eastern suburb of Guindalera - is a sight to behold. It has capacity for 25.000 visitors and was opened in 1931. If you intend to buy tickets, keep in mind that there are two classes of tickets, "shade" and "sun" tickets, the latter being cheaper as you are more exposed to sunshine.
A "Corrida de Toros" follows a pattern: In the first stage off the fight, the bull is released into the arena, being "tested" and observed by the matador and banderilleros. In the next stage, the picador, a mounted lancer, tries to stick the lance in a muscle bundle of the bull`s hump, thus causing him to hold his head lower. Then, the banderilleros try to plant short barbed sticks into the bulls shoulders to further weaken him. Finally, the matador re-enters the arena, tries to attract the bull with his red cape and then step aside for the attack, this wearing the animal out and demonstrating his domination of the bull. After a series of passes, the matador tries to maneuver the bull into a position where he can stab the bull with his sword through the shoulder blades into the heart.
Again, this is another tip that I am not quite sure where to put. This establishment could easily fit into restaurant, things to do or nightlife sections but as I did not eat there (other than the proferred pincho) and visited in the afternoon I have decided to make it a "things to do".
I was wandering fairly aimlessly around Madrid having just visited the wonderful Buen Retiro Park (see various seperate tips on this page) with no real idea of where I was going other than vaguely back towards the centre. Well, I say my walk was aimless but this is not strictly speaking correct. My aim was simple and it is a thing I am happy to do wherever I travel. Certainly it is lovely to see the major tourist sights anywhere and I would not have missed them for the world but I have a great love of just walking about and seeing what I can find. The concept of the "see city X in a four hours bus tour" is absolute anathema to me. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do and life on that particular glorious autumnal day in a city I had so long wanted to visit was indeed good..
OK, sorry if this is a bit of a lengthy preamble to what is effectively a tip on a slightly over-priced bar but I just wanted to explain. Having walked along Calle de Alcala from the Independence Monument, I had become a little thirsty which regular readers of my tips will not be surprised by! Realistically, the first "proper" bar I came across was going to be patronised by planxty. I did walk past a couple of terribly pretentious looking cocktail bars / coffee shops that sold alcohol or whatever they were but then I saw the El Toledo and in I went.
The place was quiet and there were only two women siting at the bar with whom I managed a very basic conversation with my almost non-existent Spanish and their very broken English but they were certainly friendly enough. I found Madrillenos to be like that.
Looking round the place I noted the usual items of food around and the chef / barman was evidently cooking up something very lovely for the evening in a huge pot in the semi-open kitchen. However, what caught my eye, almost inevitably, was that this was a bar / restaurant dedicated to bullfighting and hence the title of this tip. The images may give you something of an idea. There are a number of stuffed bulls heads around the bar with the rosette of the matador that had dispatched them, there were photos (some signed) of the said matadors, everything was dedicated to bullfighting. It appears that the bullfighters themselves even patronise this place.
I was not ready to eat although I did peruse the menu and found it extensive but even by the standards of central Madrid, it did seem a bit pricy. I had a couple of beers, accompanied by the "pincho" (free bar nibble) provided by the barman and moved on.
El Tablon has a large dining area to the rear and I suspect it is not really a daytime haunt although it is friendly enough. There are cheaper places about off the main Calle de alcalo but it is worth having a quick drink in here just for the interest value. Looking at the price of the "special offers" for food and also the menu, you would need a fairly large wallet to dine here.
A decent place to relax from your explorations.
It was not bullfighting season and to be honest I would not want to see a bullfight even if it was, but we did go to look at the bullfighting ring as I had heard there were some interesting statues there. There were three bull fighter statues and a wall sculpture of bulls being led to the ring. The bull fighting arena was a beautiful building with lovely tiles. It was possible to go inside the arena on a tour but we did not do this. There was also a bullfighting museum up the back. Metro: Ventas. Interesting even if you are not into bull fighting.
Personally I am not a fan of bullfighting and to be honest I am completely against it. This, however is a Spanish Tradition and for those who wish to see it, it is also available in Madrid. Check with your hotel receptionist and you will get endless leaflets with information and details on how to see one of these shows.
Most tourists will never see a Corrida de Rejones. This is a horse mounted bullfight by a Rejoneador.
What is very special is the schooling or dressage of the horses, often from Andalusia, to approach in a gallop the attacking bull and avoid his horns. The rider has to demonstrate all his skill in controlling his horse and the bull. It’s a dangerous vaulting and pirouetting imposing a perfect coordination between rider and horse. These horses wear no caparison. All the art of rider and horse is in sidestepping.
The Rejoneo has like classic bullfighting three stages. First a stab of a long lance, then harpoon pointed sticks and finally killing with a sword shaped into a lance.
The Rejoneador uses at least 4 horses, perfectly schooled, one for each stage.
This makes Rejones much more expensive than bullfighting on foot. The number of Rejoneadors is small in comparison with the number of Matadors so that there are few Corridas de Rejones to be seen at Las Ventas or elsewhere.
During the period of the Feria di San Isidro, a religious feast on May 15th, there is a most important bullfighting festival. This year from 10/05 - 02/06/2011. Each day there are corridas but there are only 3 "rejon" on 21/05 with the very famous Hermoso de Mendoza, on 28/05 and 5/06. Las Ventas is full booked.
For a good bullfight you need a good matador and a "good" bull. The Spaniards say Toro Bravo, i.e. a brave bull. This year there were a number of critics in the Spanish press about the physical fitness and bravery of the bulls. Many were considered as "invalidos" and there were protests from the public. It seems there are problems in the ganaderias with breeding good fighting bulls. They are often very heavy, 550 kg and more, but on weak legs.
This year the number of corridas in Spain seems to be reduced by 20%, not because of the "antitaurinas" movements, but because the economical crisis has reduced the budgets of all the smaller towns who use to organize corridas at the occasion of the patron saint festivities. For towns with less than 10.000 inhabitants budgets of about 50.000 € became too heavy. (info from "El Pais").
WARNING: Bullfighting is an old tradition of Spain. Other countries have other traditions, sometimes not less cruel than bullfighting.
Tourists, who love animals, should, in my opinion, not go to a corrida. The bull is always killed after 20 minutes of fight and suffering; there is blood everywhere.
During the period of the Feria di San Isidro, a religious feast on May 15th, there is a most important bullfighting festival. This year from 10/05 - 02/06/2011. Eah day there are corridas.
The two major Plazas de Toros in Spain are Las Ventas in Madrid and La Maestranza in Sevilla. Even if you don't like bullfighting Las Ventas is an architectural monument to be visited.
That's what I did on a sunny morning of May. This is the period of the Feria di San Isidro, a mix of a religious feast on May 15th and a most important bullfighting festival.
This year from 10/05 - 02/06/2011. Eah day there are corridas.
Las Ventas is full booked during these 3 weeks but I could follow some corridas on the Spanish television. I observed that King Juan Carlos I assisted to some of them.
The budget for a corrida afternoon (two hours with 3 toreros and their teams, 6 bulls) approaches 180.000 € from what I read in the Spanish press.
The Spanish Television International (TVE Internacional) has a program about bullfighting called "Tendido Cero". Only for aficionados!
I wrote my mother that Saturday, July 18, 1964 was a National Holiday -- of Spain's independence and nothing "marches". So. We went on a city tour and to the Prado and then went to the hotel and had a nap. My letter continued...
At 5:30 we aroused and packed up again and went to a bullfight. Although I had said I wasn't interested in doing that, it was a holiday and nothing else was open. My sister fed niece dinner there. My niece really liked the bullfight, although she somewhat mistook the bull - pointing and saying "See kitty". She was a great attraction at the bullfight (admiring attention) and has been very good.
My sister had previously been to a bullfight in Mexico with her husband. My mother's comment was that she didn't think I was going to go to a bullfight but actually I went to two of them in Spain - this one in Madrid, and one in Valencia with my husband. I thought it was interesting. I had read about it beforehand so I know what to expect and blood doesn't particularly squick me out.
I don't know what we paid for our tickets, but today (2009) the cheapest tickets in the sun would be 8.00-18.00 €
A "toreador" does not exist in Spain.
The term was used for the famous opera "Carmen" from Bizet.
"Toreador, en garde, Toreador, Toreador!
Et songe bien, oui, songe en combattant
Qu'un oeil noir te regarde,
Et que l'amour t'attend,
Toreador, L'amour t'attend!"
The correct word is Torero or Matador or Espada.
When visiting Las Ventas from the outside I could enter a courtyard where Picadores were training with their heavy horses.
With their lances they stab the muscles of the bull's neck. The public does not like a Picador who is lancing too much because the bull will loose its strength. Picadores are often whistled at.
Till 1928 the horses were not protected as now with a caparison. But even now horse and picador are sometimes lift up and turned over by the charge of the half ton bull!
There are broken ribs or legs when the picador falls under his horse.
(Continued from previous)
“One of the matadors waved his cape at the bull and the bull kind of trotted over to him. It would be several minutes before the tone changed. I was busy looking around and taking pictures when I looked at the bull and suddenly realized that he had blood by his shoulder blades – not a lot but some. A man on a horse (which was covered in some type of armor) had pierced the bull with a knife/sword. The matadors stuck knives that were hidden in their capes into the bull. And then matadors took 2 large knives and plunged them into the bull. I think they did this 2 or 3 times. It seemed to go on forever. By now I was crying and ready to throw up. The bull was making some awful noises and his tongue was hanging out of his mouth. It was the most horrible and cruel thing I have ever witnessed. This was no sport – they taunted and tormented a helpless animal. I was just devastated as the poor bull was down on 2 legs and a cart was brought in – presumably to take away the dead bull. I didn’t stay to see what happened next. The season for bullfighting is several months long and 6-8 bulls are killed each weekly bullfight. I just can’t see how this is allowed to go on."
I wished I had listened to the traveler who warned me against going to to a bullfight. I had never been to one before (or even seen one) so I had no idea what to expect. (I am also an avid animal lover.) It was an absolutely awful experience. I am not going to get into anything political. I only hope that my story will persuade someone not to support this brutal "sport". I am incuding the actual entry from my journal (in 2 parts since it's a little long).
“We sat outside in the sun enjoying a coffee before getting on the Metro to Las Ventas bullring for the bullfight. The Metro, which was really dirty, was packed. Obviously a lot of people were going to the bullfight. We arrived at Las Ventas not quite sure what to expect. We found our seats which were front row in the shade. The seats in a bullring are divided into 2 sections – in the shade and in the sun. The seats in the sun are less expensive – but for a 6 p.m. bullfight the sun really goes down within the first 30 minutes anyway. Also the lower you are in the ring, the more expensive the seats. We didn’t really know where our seats were other then in the shade when we ordered them but apparently were given these “great” seats because the bulls were young. I did notice that most of the people in the front row seats were foreigners and in fact, the groups of people on both sides of us were American. I’m sure that says something about this whole experience. With great ceremony, a band started to play, men on horses and the matadors all entered the ring. Everyone bowed at the upper area reserved for the king (or other VIPs). The matadors picked up their capes (which by the way were pink, not red). A couple of matadors stayed in the ring and the first bull entered. He looked as though he really wasn’t sure what to do – he actually just stood in place for a few seconds.” (Continued)