The 17th September 2014 was a momentous day for Mr Gran Canaria Local. For it marked the second time he had followed in the footsteps of notorious dictator, Franco. The first had been in a Jerez de la Frontera sherry bodega. Where the guide explained that the cask signed by the world’s most famous fascist had to be covered with glass, as the spit hurled at it from the predominately left-wing Andalucians was rotting the wood.
And the second? We’ll come to that. Although, we’ll give you a clue. It occurred after he entered one of his favourite Las Palmas de Gran Canaria establishments, Hotel Madrid.
After last week’s coffee date with a German expat, this time Mr GCL met up with a Scottish couple. They’d arranged to get together at 11:00am. Of course, they were there waiting for him. However, to their mutual surprise, all three had to put their planned beverage on hold as Hotel Madrid didn’t open for another half an hour.
Yet, it was still possible to sit on the terrace. This delightful spot on Plaza Cairasco, one of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s most charming squares, dates back to July 1900. Meaning that people have been able to wile away time this way in the Gran Canaria capital for over a century. Here are three fun facts you need to know about Hotel Madrid.
- Gregory Peck used to prop up the bar
- Hotel Madrid gave birth to the Spanish Civil War
- They go out of their way to accommodate guests
1. Gregory Peck used to prop up the bar
Interestingly, the Hotel Madrid opened as a bar/terrace first before assuming its current neo-colonial, four-floor appearance in 1937. It was the bar which interested non-guest Gregory Peck when filming Moby Dick back in the 1950s. Not many people know that Gran Canaria has been host to stars from the world of film down the years.
Peck was actually staying at the glitizier Hotel Santa Catalina. However, he was partial to dropping by and soaking up, so to speak, the atmosphere at Hotel Madrid. Mingling with future cast members as this establishment was used to source extras from.
2. Hotel Madrid gave birth to the Spanish Civil War
Back to black (shirts). Franco (in)famously stayed at the hotel with his family on the night of the 17th July 1936. Francisco Franco (Spain’s Neville Neville) had travelled over from Tenerife to attend the funeral of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s military governor Amado Balmes. The latter died in suspicious circumstances whilst handling his own gun.
Many have speculated that Franco ordered Balmes’ death because the latter did not support his planned military uprising. Franco had been exiled to the Canary Islands by the Republican Government as they felt he could do little damage there. How wrong they were as he spent his time in Hotel Madrid planning his next step i.e travelling to Morocco to take charge of the Spanish army there who would support his coup.
3. It goes out of its way to accommodate guests
Mr Gran Canaria Local and new friends found the staff at the Hotel Madrid charming. They quickly worked out that the trio’s shared language was English and spoke with an easy fluency in their non-native tongue. Although, Mr GCL and co weren’t as demanding as other guests. Especially those who choose to stay in one of its 18 rooms.
Another celluloid hero to spend some time at Hotel Madrid was Italian diva Silvana Pampanini. Starring in Tirma which was filmed on the island in 1954, she, unlike Peck, actually stayed in the hotel. Except she requested her suite to have a piano.
The problem was that this instrument needed to be imported from Tenerife. It then was brought up from the docks accompanied by a crowd of bemused onlookers. Who were further astonished to see a crane deliver the piano to Pampanini. Now that’s what we call a rider.