This past weekend, after three weeks of classes, it was about time Spain had another holiday! Having previously spent the last day off (marked by Complutense closing for the day to celebrate opening for the year) simply enjoying some time in Madrid, there was only one option for the next glorious extra day of rest…
Here, the common consensus for daytrip recommendations are well-known touristic spots, such as Segovia or Toledo. But one hidden gem is often forgotten; El Escorial.
Somewhat hidden away by the dramatic, mountainous horizon surrounding Madrid, El Escorial is just a short one hour bus ride away from the West of the city. As we drove out, slightly unnerved by the bus driver’s murmuring and the handful of tourists permitted to stand in the Emergency Exit for the entire journey due to a lack of seats, there was no knowing what to expect. Trusty Google had told us the basics; that El Escorial is a historical residence of the King of Spain that has, at one time or another functioned as both a royal palace, monastery, museum and school.
After arriving at the local bus station, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a parade of what seemed to be medieval reenactors, all carrying a large wooden pole, conveniently guided us to the place itself. The purpose of the sticks or the parade I cannot completely fathom, but we guessed it could have been as a way of celebrating the National Holiday the day before in Spain:
The arrival at our destination prompted us to leave our new medieval friends and join a queue meandering across a cobbled square. Standing under a bright blue sky, in twenty-something degree heat, this was at no disadvantage to us despite the other tourists surrounding us being wrapped up in coats and jackets. The wait prompted a bit of a much-needed biscuit stop and to get a feel of the place:
Finally, we made our triumphant entrance and the next challenge presented itself in the form of negotiating our way through what can only be described as airport security. Museums here all feature a team of security guards at the entrance to any major museum or tourist attraction with an x-ray bag scanner machine and those white archways you walk under to check for any harmful devices on your possession. This took a while, as the family in front had stocked up on what seemed to be a year’s supply of crisps which jammed the bag scanner machine for a while. Once past this, it was time to finally see what lay within the walls of this vast architectural creation.
So was it worth the wait? Yes. I’ll let some photos do the talking for me, as I feel that words can’t do the beauty of the place sufficient justice. The tour takes you through a a series of rather dark rooms full of paintings, tapestries, architectural blueprints and the place where former members of the Spanish Royal Family can be found:
So, I hope that small selection of photographs (some of which I had to rapidly take in order to escape the watch of eagle eyed security guards) give you an idea of what El Escorial is like. For some reason the blog has stopped letting me add photos which is annoying as there were some beautiful gardens outside too that I wanted to show you. But nae bother as I think that’s all for now folks. In conclusion:
Bus ride: €8 (return)
Entrance to monastery: €5
Being knocked by the stomach of a rather large man and reassuringly squeezed on the elbow afterwards: Mentally scarring for life.
The entire trip: Priceless.