El Escorial

One of my favorite parts of living in Madrid so far is that the local commuter trains (cerncanias) are so useful for little day trips! We previously went to Alcalá de Henares and later took a trip to El Escorial. The trip is fairly short on the train, and thanks to a friend traveling with us, we knew the way to head to get to the famous site once we arrived in town. It is a famous monastery and basilica, as well has having been one of the royal residences. It’s so awesome (in the most literal sense of the word) that by being here, I have the opportunity to visit castles, palaces and other sites where members of only the royal family were allowed to roam.

We had a little trek through a really adorable park to get to the building, and we saw the grand site pull into view little by little. Thankfully, we managed to save a little on the admission price, though the usual price of 10 euros isn’t too bad when you think about getting to enter a royal building. As usual, photography was not encouraged inside, though we managed to get some great photos of the beautiful, manicured gardens and in a few rooms inside. One room in which photography wasn’t allowed was the library, full of priceless old books and manuscripts. A few were on display, and it was fascinating to see the illuminated pages I’d learned about in school, with the bright colors and distinctive penmanship. The library’s ceiling also had paintings of the Seven Liberal Arts personified, as well as frescoed portraits of the famous Greek philosophers. There also were beautiful works of art covering the walls and ceilings inside, and an exhibition of work by El Bosco was being featured, including his famous “The Haywain Triptych.”

The building was full of stairs– each new corner had a new staircase to lead you to another unexplored room or wing. We saw the crypts, the king and queen’s quarters, the aforementioned library, the church and a variety of other impressive, unphotographable rooms.

We finished up and found some late lunch in town at 100 Montaditos, a Spanish chain of super-cheap restaurants that feature essentially 100 different types of tiny Spanish sandwiches that each cost 1- 1.50 euros. On Wednesdays and Sundays, they’re all 1 euro! We were going to get some pastries but couldn’t get the waitress to notice us in the crowded bakery. After waiting around a while, we power-walked back to the train so as to not be stuck there for the next hour!

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