Hello again my friends!
I return once again with an update on life and travel here in Spain over the last week. School is starting to feel a little more normal now… but it still hasn’t sunk in yet that I am taking classes! My school group traveled to El Escorial yesterday to see one of the palaces occupied by past Kings and Queens of Spain.
The day began pretty early, we left Toledo around 8:30 AM and drove for about an hour and half to El Escorial which is a suburb of Madrid. Upon arrival we unloaded from the bus and started the short walk through the city toward the palace of El Escorial.
It was a cold (compared to Toledo) and rainy day in Escorial but that didn’t prevent us from spending a lot of time wandering around outside. Standing outside of the palace really put into perspective how much work and effort it took for people to create such a massive structure. The palace was a seasonal home for the royal family. Our tour guide noted that it only took 21 years for the building to be built and that is without modern technology such as cars. Incredible.
We began our exploration with a guided tour of the palace which is not only a palace but also contains a basilica and library. Our guide explained the importance of having a church connected to the palace. The catholic church has a very strong connection to the history of Spain and its presence is still felt in present day.
Our first stop on the tour was visiting the library, which may have been my favorite part of the tour. There was a large mural painted on the ceiling that was mesmerizing to look at. Our guide explained that a majority of the books in the library had been painted with gold and each page by hand. There were two major paintings on both sides of the room- one represented religion and the other philosophy. At the time these two entities were seen as very separate things- one faith and the other reason but they were placed together to represent how the King needed both to rule.
After the library we were lead to a room revealing the most beautiful ceiling painting I have ever seen. Our guide told us that the artist painted with both his hands simultaneously when working on this piece. The amount of detail and use of color was unbelievable- a friend of mine described it as feel like she was going to heaven just looking at it.
Afterward, one of my program heads turned to me and said “Vamos a ver muertos”, meaning we are going to see dead people! There is an area underneath the palace that is filled with tombs of past Spanish rulers and their family. One interesting thing to note is the image below- my guide told us the structure is suppose to resemble a birthday cake and this is the location where they placed dead royal children.
Next we were lead into a beautiful room filled with larger caskets. This room was the room of deceased Kings and Queens of Spain. The most interesting aspect for me was that the left side of the room contained caskets of the Kings and the right side the Queens. However, there was one casket on the left side that contained the body of Queen Isabella I because she essentially took over the role as a King and therefore her body was placed with the kings. Another interesting fact is that they have run out of space for bodies and our guide was unsure of where the next Kings and Queens will be placed.
Our grand time hanging out with deceased royalty came to a close and we found ourselves in the church of the palace. I wish I could have taken pictures but I will insert one below to give you an idea of how beautiful and grand it was.
Following the tour we were all very hungry and cold (the palace did not have heating) and we made our way to a close by restaurant for lunch. We enjoyed pasta, veal and a crepe for dessert!
Afterwards, my friends and I explored the royal garden a little before heading back onto the bus to head to Toledo.
The day was a little cold and gloomy but we had a great time exploring El Escorial and I slept very soundly on the bus ride back home. A day here in Spain never disappoints and I love learning everything there is to know every time we visit a new site.
Worry less and smile more.