Real Sitio de San Ildefonso, Spain – August 6, 2011
Ahh…Saturday in Spain…
I made a lengthy, touristy trip today. I first drove to Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), only to be told it was still closed. That was disappointing. That was at about 09:30, so I decided I would drive to San Rafael. Leslie and I have been through that town before. I thought it would be worthwhile to stop there and explore. When I arrived, for whatever reason, I decided not to stop.
I continued north toward Segovia. On the way, I saw a sign for the Palacio Riofrío. As part of my “detour,” I ended up in the small village of Navas de Riofrío. Besides the towns of Patones de Arriba and el Atazar, this must be the smallest village I have explored. I stopped there around 11:00 and had a cup of coffee. There was a large group of people at a table when I sat down. As I was sitting, one of the men asked me in Spanish to take their photo and to post it on Facebook, so I did. They thought that was great.
As I drove north out of Navas de Riofrío, I saw one of the funniest signs I have seen in quite some time. It was a regular highway sign noting to be aware of game crossing. However, someone had drawn in a motorbike or bicycle below the deer. Of course, I had to stop and take a picture.
As I continued toward Segovia, I did stumble across another sign for the Palacio Riofrio. I took a left turn and headed to the palace.
Following the signs from Navas de Riofrío, I finally made it to the gate of the grounds of the Palacio y Bosque de Riofrío (Palace and Forest of Riofrío). Riofrío was a hunting palace, built between 1752 and 1759 specifically for Queen Elisabeth Farnese. This palace was on my list of things to see in the Madrid area. The tour was about an hour-long, in Spanish. That made my head hurt. My Spanish ability is just ok. If I must concentrate for that long to decipher the narrative, I end up hitting the eject button. Regardless, I did enjoy the tour.
Like the other palaces in Spain, one cannot take photos of the interior spaces. Once the tour was over, I went outside and took some pictures of the grounds. The ticket I bought to enter the palace also could be used to enter the Palacio Real de la Granja in San Ildefonso about 10 or 15 kilometers (6.2 or 9.3 miles) away. I have visited that palace two or three times, so I did not want to see it again. Instead, I wanted to tour the gardens, something I had not done very extensively in the past.
When I left the Palacio Riofrío parking lot, I set sail for San Ildefonso. Upon arrival, I ended up parking in the same place I did last year when Lorraine and Aunt Arlene visited us.
After parking, I walked toward the palace and the gardens. As I walked, I could hear a small band playing at Bar Castilla. It consisted of a clarinet player and two drum players. I sat at a table outside and listened. While there, I had a vino tinto and a grilled ham and cheese (sanwich mixto). That was about 14:00.
When I finished, I walked to the Palace gardens. They are utterly amazing. There are dozens of fountains on the grounds. Of all the times I have been to la Granja, the fountains have never been operational. I can only imagine what it is like when the fountains are working. When they do operate, it is all by gravity. There are no pumps on the property. A fantastic feat of engineering for a palace begun in 1720!
Approaching the palace, one could not help but notice all of the beautiful flowers on this August day. They were stunning in their variety and color.
The gardens at the palace began in the early to the mid-18th century. At 1,500 acres, they are huge. That size equates to 6 square kilometers (2.3 square miles), which is roughly the area of Gibraltar. Yes, Gibraltar! Until I researched the scale, I had no idea. In addition to beautifully manicured gardens, there are untouched areas of forest, numerous vases, and statuary, as well as 26 water fountains. The fountain sculptures are cast in lead and painted to look like bronze. Due to the size of the gardens, sit back and get comfortable, there are many photographs to follow.
When I left San Ildefonso, I drove toward Puerto de Navacerrada. That is my preferred route between home and Segovia. As I have noted before, that is because I like the mountains. It reminds me of Colorado.
When I arrived at Puerto de Navacerrada, I took a left, to the northeast, toward the town of Rascafría. Puerto de Navacerrada is a ski village, so there is a vast parking lot. I stopped there for a few moments to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain down to the valley floor. Somewhere out there in the distance lay Segovia.
When I got back in the car, I continued northeast. The road wound through a magnificent forest. At one point, I stopped and walked around a little. I was surprised to find ferns growing. I do not picture the Madrid area as being the perfect climate for ferns. Regardless, they were beautiful.
The road wound through the forest, gradually descending to the town of Rascafría. By this point in my long day, I was too tired to stop. However, I made a mental note to return to this very picturesque town with Leslie and Tyler.
After nearly a 350-kilometer (190-mile) loop, I made it back home!
Of all the sights I saw today, my favorite may be the flowers at the entry to the palace in San Ildefonso.