, Spain – September 15, 2010
The Monsignor and I went to El Escorial today. We left the house a little late today because Leslie made us a killer breakfast.
The full name of our destination is Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Royal Monastery of St. Lawrence of El Escorial). Originally built as a residence for the King of Spain, construction began in the mid-16th century.
We arrived at El Escorial at about 10:00. I parked in the same parking garage I used when I came here the first time. However, the parking space I fit into was very, very tight. As I backed in there were just millimeters to spare.
We walked down the main street a little way and took some photos. On September 12, the Monsignor and I drove through El Escorial. When we did we saw hundreds of cars parked along both sides of the road. Also, police were directing hundreds of people across the highway. We could not figure out what was happening. Today, when we stopped by the tourist information office we found out why. Every year on the second Sunday of September there is a pilgrimage to a local church. If I understood correctly, the church is Our Lady of Grace.
We walked over to the entrance of El Escorial to buy our tickets. When we did, the lady asked where the Monsignor was from. He said Texas. Then he pointed to me and told her I was from Madrid. I added in Spanish that I actually live in Pozuelo. She said OK, and said my entry was free. That was a nice surprise. So we began our tour.
Partway through the tour, when we were supposed to walk down to the Royal Pantheon, the Royal Tombs, we were directed down to the Pantheon of the Infants instead. I was disappointed because I really wanted the Monsignor to see the Royal Pantheon. However, shortly after that, we were directed out into the garden. That was a bit of a surprise because I did not get to see that the last time I was here.
The detour into the garden ultimately took us out of the compound. We went back in at the entrance to the basilica. Entering here, one is in the courtyard of the kings; so-called because of the six Jewish king sculptures above the entrance. They include David and Solomon in the center. On either side are Jehosaphat, Manasseh, Josia, and Hezekiah. The sculptures are made of granite, marble, and gilt bronze. They date from the late 1500s.
After touring the Basilica we toured the library. That was a bonus too because I had not seen that before either. The library was very amazing. Even though there had been two fires there were still over 40,000 volumes in the library. It was very neat for me to see all of those books. After that, we went back to the front to retrieve the Monsignor’s pocket knife.
We left and went to lunch at a street-side cafe. During lunch, we decided to go to the Valley of the Fallen, a cemetery of many who died during the Spanish Civil War. When we got there we were turned away because it was closed. The guard at the gate said it had been closed since this past April.
So from there, we headed home. On the way over we had driven by a castle off in the distance. So on the way back, when we got to the exit, I pulled off. We made it near the castle but we could not get to the castle. It was on private property. I do not understand why the castle was on the highway sign but it did not appear to be open to the public. Anyway, from there we did drive home.