Plaza de Colón (which is Spanish for Columbus – you can see him there, on top of his pillar) is an important junction in the centre of Madrid. Although the celebration of Cristóbal Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas is now recognised as politically incorrect, the memo didn’t reach Spain, so for now you can still visit this anachronistic festival of Hispanidad. This monument dates from 1892.
Julia, the serene, towering snowy-white head by Spanish sculptor Juame Plensa, at 12m tall dwarfing Columbus, is for some equally divisive. Personally I adore it – I’ve taken photos of her flattened profile from all angles, and she is equally beautiful no matter where you view her from. She won’t be there forever so catch her while you can.
In front of Colón are the Jardines de Descubrimiento, or Gardens of Discovery. Take time to explore them and you will discover a few surprises, including a statue of Admiral Blas de Lezo, scourge of the British Navy. He was known as the “half-man” as his wounds resulted in him losing an eye, an arm and a leg. I was delighted to find a one-legged sculpture! It may seem strange to be commemorating an 18th century hero in 2014, which is when the statue was unveiled, but his efforts could be seen as the reason why Spanish and not English is spoken in South America.
Check out the Museo Arqueológico Nacional next door on Calle Serrano and the nearby Fundación Mapfre while you’re there.