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spain for children

This is one of the most special places in all of Madrid,” our tour guide says.  He points to the biggest fountain that I have ever seen.  In the middle of the fountain is a large rock—so large, in fact, that sitting atop the rock are two stone lions and a chariot.  A beautiful crowned lady is sitting in the chariot, gently guiding her lions forward.  “It’s called the Fuente de Cibeles,” he continues.

Spain for children

“The lady’s name is Cibeles,” he explains.  “Her fountain is very important, because many years ago it provided clean drinking water to the people of Madrid.”

I’m captivated by the lions.  They look so real—like they could almost jump down from the rock and into the busy street! I want to spend more time with them, but our tour guide is already moving on.  As our group continues down the street, my dad hands me a Euro and, with a wink, tells me to make a wish.  Moving as close as I can toward the fountain’s edge, I toss the coin in.  I wish this fountain could come to life.  I close my eyes tightly, but when I reopen them, the fountain remains a cold, stone structure. 

Spain for children

Spain for children
Photo credit: Javier Martinez on Unsplash

My dad calls to me and I turn to follow him. Suddenly, I hear a great roar!  Whirling around, I am spellbound. On the rock now sit two majestic (very real) lions and a regal chariot, glittering gold in the sun.  The lady sitting inside waves for me to join her, so I climb up the fountain and into the chariot beside her.  On cue, the lions leap off the rock and into the street.  The lady in the fountain smiles at me and says “¡Hola! Are you ready for your real tour of Madrid?”

“¡Si, vamos!” I say.  The lions trot down the street, passing beautifully stone-carved buildings, shops, and restaurants on both sides.  All around, the people of Madrid are chatting with their companions en Español. We wave hello as we pass by. Our chariot pulls up to a large white building.

“Welcome to the Royal Palace of Madrid!” the lady exclaims. The palace is enormous, with rows of white columns and a lovely garden—truly fit for a queen or king. As if reading my mind, the lady tells me this was once home to the royal family of Spain.  I notice the lions seem particularly excited about the palace.  “That’s because the lion is a symbol of Spain,” she explains,  “and the inside of the palace is decorated with statues of their many ancestors.”

Spain for children
Photo credit: Wojciech Portnicki on Unsplash

Spain for children

We begin to move away from the palace, winding our way through the city until we dead-end at a quiet park.  Carpeted in soft, green grass and a rainbow of flowers, the park is littered with happy families enjoying the warm sunshine. The chariot rolls to a stop at a nearby lake.  “This is the Parque del Retiro,” says the lady.  “Everyone in Madrid comes here to relax and enjoy time with friends.” 

I peer across the lake and see several kids rowing small boats alongside a family of quacking ducks.  I jump out of the chariot and into my own boat.  As I row, I can hear the doves and peacocks (another creature special to Spain) singing. I can smell the roses.  My eyes rest on a family sharing a picnic of bocadillos de tortilla, a delicious egg sandwich. My stomach growls. I’m suddenly reminded of how hungry I am. I hurry back to the chariot to ask if we might stop for a bite to eat.  “No worries,” she smiles.  “At our last stop, you’ll get to try the most delicious food in all of Spain!”

Spain for children

We roll up next to a small café, tucked away on a small side street.  I’m pretty sure I can smell chocolate.  Sure enough, walking through the doors I can see that we are in a churro shop!  “Shall we feast on churros y chocolate?” the lady asks. 

Spain for children
Photo credit: Oscar-Nord on Unsplash

We head to a small table and place our order.  When a plate of steaming hot churros arrives, I take a bite. ¡Delicioso!  “Try dipping the churro in the chocolate,” the lady suggests.  Warm, sweet, and gooey— it really is the best food in Spain!  As we finish up, I grab a few extra churros for the lions.  After all their hard work today, they deserve a treat!  I hand it to them and they purr back at me with delight. 

Full and happy, the lions walk slowly back to the fountain.  I begin to feel sleepy. Good thing it’s almost time for a siesta!  When we reach the fountain, the lions hop back onto their perch, lapping up water—they must be parched after such an adventure.  The lady smiles at me and gives me a big hug.  I tell her I had the most wonderful time and I can’t wait to return to Madrid.  Then I climb down to the sidewalk where my dad is still waiting, patiently.  He winks at me and asks, “So, did your wish come true?” 

Without hesitation, I smile. “¡Sí señor, Madrid truly is a magical place!”

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