For my second day in Madrid I had grand plans of rising at 7am to be out to San Lorenzo de El Escorial for its opening at 10am, however when that time came I opted to sleep off the jet lag and hit the snooze button a few times. I was very lucky that I had a respectful group of roommates who kept noise levels down in the hostel. I began my day with a breakfast provided by The Hat, consisting mostly of fruit, Nutella toast and coffee. I couldn’t finish my lemon yogourt as it had a thin consistency I wasn’t accustomed to.
Following breakfast I consulted the hostel receptionist, regarding directions, who was amazing and gave me bus schedules and prices. On my walk to the subway I was caught in a torrential downpour. The streets of Madrid looked like intersecting rivers. I made attempts to stay dry, though I didn’t want to spend all day trapped under an awning in Madrid, so I eventually made a run for the metro, getting completely soaked in the process. My new Sperry’s had red stains on them from the red leather laces and my dark dyed denim shorts left a blue hue on my legs for the remainder of the day. In the metro I had a man ask me if I would come with him on the subway…I was uninterested and not listening completely, but he mentioned something about the rain, whatever he was asking seemed sketchy, but I just said, “No” and I was left alone.
I had a fairly easy time making it out to El Escorial, the bus takes approximately 55 minutes and costs 4.20 EUR one way. An entrance ticket to the monastery is 10 EUR and entirely worth it if you find yourself with an extra day in Madrid. Unfortunately no photographs are allowed inside the beautiful monastery. What initially drew me out to the historic building is the stunning library, which I encourage you to conduct an image search on. The ceiling is beautifully painted and boasts the names of famous scientists and philosophers. The walls are lined with ancient gold leafed texts, with the pages facing out rather than the bindings. Select books have been left open to view the beautifully detailed colourful paintings and calligraphy inside. Along the centre of the room stand globes depicting the believed geography of different eras. An ancillary globe sits at the far end of the library. This exquisite scientific instrument depicts the motion of the stars as they circle around the earth, based on Ptolemy’s theory that the stars and universe revolved around the Earth.
My second favourite room in the monastery lies in the basement, which houses urns (marble coffins) containing the ashes of deceased kings. It is a rather surreal feeling standing in the room. I caught a view of the garden from a gate in the stone wall. I don’t believe tours of the garden are permitted, at least I saw no entrance to them. The manicured hedges remind me of Versailles. I took about two hours to tour the entire building. Other than the walk from the bus station I didn’t see much of El Escorial, though the little cobbled streets built on hills look like Provence. It’s always nice to get out of big cities when travelling to see what else a country has to offer. Bus and train rides provide a great opportunity to see the countryside.
Following El Escorial I made my way back into Madrid to see a bit more of the city which I had missed the night prior. I walked up Gran Vía, a major street in Madrid, where I witnessed protestors blocking the street off, who were calmly ushered off the street by Madrid’s Polícia. Further up is the Palacio Real de Madrid. Unfortunately I arrived there on a day with a special event in session and thus the palace wasn’t open to the public, though it looked quite beautiful and magnifique from the outside, particularly the gilded gates.
I really love the painted apartments in Madrid. I wish more Canadian cities would adopt a more colourful theme. I may have a subconscious goal of snapping a photo of a pink building in every city around the world. This was about all I had time for in Madrid. I walked around until dark and saw a good deal of the architecture in the city, which is one of my favourite aspects of travelling. The next day I had to be up early to catch my bus out to Salamanca for the Diverbo program, which I’ll have posts on in the coming weeks!