Tuesday, December 22, 2015

San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Monastery of El Escorial
It's been ages since my first visit to the monastery of El Escorial. What impressed me most then were the long corridors and one particular door with a low clearing so you would have to stoop so low to pass through. Or else.....

I was delighted to discover that I could go to San Lorenzo de El Escorial by taking one of the suburban trains from Chamartin. And the trip took less than an hour and costs 8.10€ roundtrip. So I took off one sunny afternoon to rediscover this old town. What struck me as we approached El Escorial were the spectacular mountains which dominated the landscape. Little did I realize that when I opted to walk to the monastery that I would be climbing up a thousand meters to the foot of Mount Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama. So I panted uphill all the while thinking, will I ever get there? I found out later on that I took the roundabout way along Avenida de Los Reyes Catolicos but what the heck. It was a good exercise which I badly needed after the overindulgence of the last couple of weeks.

The plaza in front of El Escorial was buzzing with children who were just released from school when I finally arrived. Soon they were joined by the older students whose classrooms occupy a wing of the massive and austere monastery. How lucky these kids are to learn history where it unfolded! It was in 1563 when Philip II initiated the construction of El Escorial which would serve as the pantheon of his father, Charles V, as well as a monastery and a royal palace. By the time construction was finished in 1584, the monastery also included a church and a college. The Royal Library was completed in 1592.

Royal Basilica
From the Patio de Los Reyes, you can view the façade of the Basilica which is adorned with the statues of the Kings of Judah. David and Solomon are at the center of the frontispiece. I didn't bother to go inside the monastery because it was late and I was eager to see the gardens. Formal gardens surround the palace and extend downhill to the Casita del Principe. As it turns out, the Prince's Paseo is the shortcut to the train station. What a pleasurable walk I had under the canopy of autumn tinted trees!

Paseo del Principe
There are several trails within the gardens of the Casita del Principe. The casita or house was built for the future king of Spain, Charles IV. It was meant as a retreat for the Prince where he could get away from the rigors of palace life. Trees line these paseos (14 in all, according to a map on site) and it's a breathe of fresh air to be in these surroundings. 

The Casita del Principe is a Patrimonio Nacional (National Heritage) and the Monastery and Site of El Escorial is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie


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