This past Friday, January 27th, I visited "El Real Monasterio del Escorial" in the small pueblo, El Escorial, outside of Madrid in the mountains. We couldn't have picked a more frigid cloudy day to visit. Fortunately, our purpose for visiting was indoors rather than out.
Coming from Madrid, we were able to pick up the Madrid bus from Moncloa directly to El Escorial for a cheap price. The bus takes almost an hour, but like usual you can enjoy the scenery, take a nap, read your travel book as Saki did, or whatever you please. The last stop for the bus is within walking distance to the Monastery and not hard to miss.
The building itself is beyond large. We walked through several hallways just to begin our tour starting with several small museums of art, tapestry, construction tools (that freaked Saki out), models of the monastery (commonly found throughout Spain), and more artwork. Next we proceeded through a dinning room/grand hall of some sort that was adorned with doors of numerous types of woods. So far the parts we had seen had been very typical Spanish-European sights that were not too outrageously exciting.
But at this next moment....
We found the hallway leading to the chamber that housed the Royal Mausoleum. At the time of our arrival, the chamber was temporarily off limits and we had been asked to make a detour and return in 20 minutes. Saki and I continued our Monastery adventure through several casket chambers that seemed eerie enough to make Saki walk a little faster than usual.
Next we found a staircase leading up to an area with a beautifully painted ceiling that proceed to get me yelled at in Spanish that I did not enjoy very much. All that matters is I have a nice picture of Saki posing with a look alike Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Walking past the basilica into the vast courtyard we then found our way into the next incredible part of the building; an ancient library. This library housed books dating back to at least the 12th century. The room smelled wonderfully of books, but of course we were prohibited from opening one up and cuddling in a corner to enjoy the essence. Instead, we were able to peer through the glass window onto the beautifully painted pages with elaborate hand writting.
After finishing in the library, we peeked inside the basilica, which looked like any common high-vaulted ceiling stone structure in the shape of the crucifix to worship our Lord.
Now the best for last...
I then followed the instructions given to us by the lady who explained the temporary closure of the Mausoleum. We were specially escorted through the large sanctuary doors, through the red velvet curtains, and back to the beginning of the hallway where we were then escorted down into the Mausoleum chamber of the Spanish Royals! This Baroque style Mausoleum was specifically built as a tomb for the Spanish Kings. Unfortunately, King Ferdinand and King Philip V are not buried at this location.
Our favorite part of the entire tour, despite the bitterly cold weather, was the outdoor gardens over looking the countryside, mountains, and the incredible view of the monastery/palace itself. We found the gardens to be peaceful and quiet, which were most likely the intentions of the designer itself.
This is one of the 20+ UNESCO sites found within Spain. The architecture, artifacts, and history of this building support the reasoning why this place should be included on the preservation list.