Monthly Archives: October 2016

Outside Madrid: Fascinating Day Trip to Manzanares El Real, Spain

There is a small town situated in the northern part of the Community of Madrid known as the Manzanares el Real.

As a shoestring traveler, I am always delighted whenever I discover an amazing Spanish pueblo nearby.

In the case of Manzanares, it proved to be budget-friendly since it is near the capital. The price of a bus ticket to this day trip destination is 4.20 euros, similar to that of other nearby towns like Chincon and El Escorial, to name a few. Its proximity is definitely a boon since you don’t need to stay overnight. The short travel time means a fast bus ride home, with your hot meal and warm and cozy bed waiting for you to enjoy.

You can go to Manzanares in the morning, head to the Nuevo Castillo de Manzanares el Real, the town’s main attraction, explore other sites and attractions up until late afternoon, squeeze in some hearty lunch break at a local restaurant, and then catch the 7pm bus to Madrid. In other words, Manzanares el Real is one easy, exciting and affordable day trip — whether you’re going solo or with friends.
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How near is Manzanares el Real?

The town is approximately 50 kilometers away from Madrid, which translate to a travel time of around 55 minutes from the bus station at Plaza de Castilla to the stop at the pueblo, right in front of the tourism office. In a little under an hour, you will be transported to this beautiful town. From the bus stop, walk a few minutes until you reach the Plaza del Pueblo, a town square of average size. The Ayuntamiento building stands out, being the tallest edifice in the area.

It is apparent Manzanares is low-key compared to the much popular Spanish attractions such as Toledo and Segovia. Still, it is a tourist’s delight, especially if you love castles and fortresses (preserved and in ruins), beautiful, jagged mountains, and hiking.

Especially for the city dweller, Manzanares is a chance to reconnect with nature. Enjoy an exhilarating hiking adventure starting at the Plaza Mayor up to the spot close enough to the fascinating pedriza mountain — the Ermita de pena sacra.

New Castle of Manzanares el Real

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Also called the Castillo de los Mendoza, the castle is built way back in the 1400´s. It is recognized as the best preserved castle-fortress within the community of Madrid.

Castillo Viejo

Old castle manzanares el realThe Castillo Viejo, or the Old Castle, was built by Hurtado de Mendoza, the Admiral of Castile. Eventually, as the Mendoza clan achieved greater opulence, a larger castle was built, leading to the negligence of the old one. The original, once stately royal edifice is now in ruins.

Ermita de Peña Sacra

Pena sacra ermitaErmita de Nuestra Señora de Peña Sacra, perched on an elevated land, is one reason why you would want to walk near the Pedriza Mountain.

Iglesia de Ntra Señora de las Nieves

Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Nieves
The town is blessed with a beautiful church, the Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, located along Calle de Nuria. It is near the Castillo Viejo and the Old Bridge. Its portico feature was added during the 16th Century, enhancing its Romanesque appearance with a Renaissance style.

Canada Real Segoviana Bridge

imageAlso caĺled the Puente Viejo or the Old Bridge, the Puente de la Canada Real Segoviana reeks in rich town history, being a part of the pueblo´s birth and development. Note, however, that it has taken a modern appearance, oweing to the fact that it has undergone renovations.

More Manzanares, Madrid attractions

imageAyuntamiento building in front of the Manzanares el Real town square

imageCourtyard in the interior of the Nuevo Castillo surrounded by porticoes

imagePeering through a castle window, I couldn’t help but marvel at the picturesque town

imageThe Manzanares reservoir (Embalse de Santillana) imageA breathtaking view of Mount Pedriza and the town from atop the castle
imageLush greenery with grazing bovine creatures. I chanced on this impressive scene as I walked all the way to the Ermita de Ntra Sra de Peña Sacra

imageI love long walks, and so it thrilled me to have tread seemingly endless dirt roads. Along the way were gargantuan boulders and rock formations, some of which were riddled with graffiti. As  more boulders and stones appeared along the way, I knew I nearing Pena Sacra Church.

imagePanoramic view of the the Ermita de Pena Sacra and the Pedriza Mountain

How to go to Manzanares El Real, Spain

Regular bus ride service is available from Madrid. The line that maintains a daily trip schedule to Manzanares el Real is auto bus 724.

At the Plaza de Castilla bus station, proceed to Darsena 24 where the auto buses to your destination are assigned to wait for passengers. Tickets are bought on the bus at 4.20 euros.

Castillo Nuevo Entrance ticket price: 5 euros

Map:

 

Chinchon: An Under-an-hour Travel Getaway from Madrid

Time and again, I try to be far from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, and all the stress and craziness that go with this big city. And enjoy a breather of sorts, even if only for a day.

This makes living in Madrid an advantage because of the nearby towns I can run to in a heartbeat whenever I have the urge to get away from it all. Just waiting to be explored are the beautiful towns of Toledo, Segovia, and San Lorenzo de El Escorial — amazing World heritage sites as declared by UNESCO.

Of course, small pueblos also abound. These are lesser-known towns within the periphery of Madrid. Found under the radar, you’d be surprised that they are just as enthralling, and boast too of fascinating tourist sites.

imageThe town of Chinchon, Community of Madrid, as viewed from the clock tower

One is Chinchon, Spain, which I’ve always wanted to visit ever since I learned it’s a mere 45 kilometers away from the capital. The town is known for its strong religious traditions, like commemorating Christian holidays thru passion plays, processions, and even concerts. What piqued my interest is its square, which doubles as a bullring, and so you know bullfighting is alive in this part of Spain. I looked forward to seeing the castle ruins and the clock tower as well.

Raring to explore the town, I decided to hit to road and go on a solo trip as a way of celebrating my birthday (this meant scrapping the usual birthday dinner at home).

And so, I was off to Chinchon.

The early morning of last Tuesday, I headed to Conde Casal Metro station, and then proceeded to Avenida de Mediterraneo where buses 337 await. Within an hour, I reached my destination. The trip didn’t tire a bit.  Instead I got invigorated, excited on what I was about to discover.

I found myself in the middle of the pueblo, which is noticeably tiny, quiet and rustic, like you’re in the countryside.

Immediately, I headed to the square and approached the much-fussed-about pasteleria located on one of its corners. I must have a taste of its famous sweet rounded pastry, which is described online as a soft bread that’s pretty much like a doughnut sans the filling. I bought two and gobbled one after the other, finishing both within minutes. Delicious and sweet little bread balls, just like what they say!

As I ate, my gaze wandered around, and saw a group of tourists roaming the Plaza Mayor. The square itself got my attention because of its appearance — “dressed up” as a bullring. I wondered if this is a permanent thing or it just looked that way because of a forthcoming bullfight event.

Later on, I ventured outside the square. Next stop is the clock tower, which could be reached by walking up a steep road of some one hundred meters. The tower is on an elevated land high enough to afford anyone a magnificent view of the town below, including the faraway castle ruins.

Like other Spanish towns, the streets are narrow and winding, and are hardly level, but run uphill and down. Still, I have to say that strolling around this town, from one site to another, was generally fun and relaxing.

One thing you’ll love about Chinchon is that most sites of interest are conveniently near one another and not spread out; well, except of course for the Old Castle. I had an easy time hopping from one place to the next.

I almost skipped the tourism office deeming I didn’t need an area map; but I did go anyway, because I wanted to ask if walking to the castle is doable. The people at the info counter assured me I’d reach the site within 10 minutes. They even gave instructions on which streets to take in order to get there the fastest. Some enthusiastic Chinchonites, indeed.

My final word about the town? Make it your next day trip destination. Tiny and unhurried it may be, but it packs with places of great allure. The town folks are friendly and helpful, especially those manning the square’s pastelerias, the alimentacion, and the tourism office.

Here are some of the Chinchon, Madrid attractions that you mustn’t miss.

The Counts’ Castle

imageSpread in a land found on the highest point of the town is the Counts’ Castle, or Castillo de los Condes. Also called the Chinchon’s Castle, it was the residence of the royals at the time when Cabreja was allowed to own a land in the area. Now in ruins, it is still under the ownership of the counts.

The Clock Tower

imageTorre del Reloj in Spanish, it was the only structure left standing and unscathed after the 15th-century Our Lady of Grace Church was destroyed during the War of Independence (Guerra de la Independencia).

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption

imageIglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asunsion, with its bright-hued and solemn facade, is a sight to behold as you walk up the steep, winding calle known as Las Columnas de Los Franceses. Inside is the Blessed Virgin painting by Goya, Spain’s illustrious painter who lived in the town for some time. Nearby is the Clock Tower.

Hermitage of San Roque

imageThe Ermita de San Roque is dedicated to the town patron, the feast of which is on the 16th of August. You will encounter this monastery upon entering the square thru Calle de los Huertos.

Teatro Lope de Vega

imageTeatro Lope de Vega stands on the land where Palace of the Counts once stood. De Vega was a great Spanish artist, writer, and Chinchon admirer.

More Beautiful Chinchon Scenes

imageTourists inspect the display window of an artisan shop as they go about the town square

imageThe wooden gate above is one of the five entrances that open to the Plaza Mayor

imageBright-red wooden fence encircles the middle of the town square

imageThe Casa Ayuntamiento or the town hall building

imageOne of the pillared walkways that surround the plaza mayor-bull ring

imageI captured a spectacular view of the pueblo as I walked back from the castle
imagePelotas de Fraile are sweet, soft balls of bread resembling a doughnut, but with no filling inside

imageTeta de Novicia, another local delicacy, is a sugar-coated bread. So-called because it is shaped like a bosom
image Anis liquor and garlic are two of Chinchon’s prized products

ajos, chinchon, madrid, spainAjos de Chinchon hang on the wall of a lottery shop. Touching it is supposed to bring bettors good luck.

How to reach the castle

The Castillo de los Condes, lying on a low hill next to the town, might appear distant and unreachable when viewed from the Clock Tower, but it’s actually an easy walk from the Plaza Mayor. This 16th century Renaissance castle still stands mightily. It’s a pity, however, that some portions are already crumbling.

No one is allowed inside — they say nothing is found in the interior. Still, I couldn’t help but admire the impressive facade and the bridge of this otherwise haunting fortress.

From the square, you walk the length of Calle del Convento (which starts at the Plaza del Convento), until you turn right to Calle del Castillo. Walk time: Around 10 to 15 minutes

How I traveled to Chinchon, Madrid:

I highly recommend traveling to (and from) Chinchon by bus because it is convenient and easy on the pocket as well.

1. Take the Metro Linea 6 and get off at Conde de Casal Station.

2. From the station, proceed to Ave de Mediterraneo, where found are the “paradas” of green buses en route to various locations.

3. Look for the La Veloz-owned buses, and take number 337 — it will bring you to the town in less than an hour.

A bus is scheduled to go to the town every 30 minutes to an hour (during weekends) with trips starting at 7am. Tickets sell at 4.20 euros.

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Arch Monuments: Magnificent Madrid Attractions

Madrid, Spain, like most other European cities, is rich in history, culture and arts. This is evident in the numerous significant monuments and and structures in various parts of the city, many are intended to commemorate a significant event or an individual in the distrito or barrio where they are found.  Others serve to represent or honor the place or the whole city itself. A popular type of monument is the arch, and the two most common reasons for being is to serve as a gateway to the city or celebrate a major victory in a battle.

The following are some of the popular arch monuments within the Spanish capital:

Puerta de Toledo

imageOne of the most visited Madrid attractions is the Puerta de Toledo, an impressive monument located in the heart of the city. It is near Gloriette de Embajadores and Lavapies. It took 15 long years for builders to finish this grand structure. Done in the early 19th century, it is actually considered as a new monument, since many others like it date as far back as the 1500’s. Still the Toledo Gate is special since it bears the official emblem of Madrid.

And like other important statues, a number sits on top of the monument – all of which represents the powerful reign of the kings of Spain during the medieval period. A fitting honor has been bestowed upon the well-loved structure – it was labelled in 1996 as a Bien de Interes Cultural.

How to go: The easiest way is via Madrid Metro. Like linea 5 and get off at Puerta de Toledo station. C2, C1 are two of the many auto-buses that passes through the monument.

Puerta de Alcala

imagePuerta de Alcala will surely pop up into one’s mind when asked which monument is most associated with the city of Madrid. Indeed, it strongly represents the city as far as Spanish history and culture are concerned. Finished in 1778 by Senor Francisco Sabatini, the architect who was also responsible for the Sabatini Gardens.

Where can the monument be found? It is right in the middle of the Independence square (Plaza de la Independencia), standing at the starting point of Calle de Alcala. It is also near the Retiro Park (Parque del Buen Retiro), and so this Madrid attraction is good enough reason to drop by Alcala.

How to go:

Metro: Take linea 2 and alight at Retiro atation. From here, proceed to the park gate fronting the Puerta de Alcala.

Bus: Autobus No. 51 stops at the parade in Plaza de la Independencia, in front of the monument.

Arco de la Victoria

imageStanding proudly within the vicinity of Moncloa is the Arco de la Victoria – one of the majestic arch monuments of Madrid. Francisco Franco ordered the building of the structure in 1950, as a way of remembering the strongman´s victory in one of his battles during the Civil War of Spain, the Battle of Ciudad Universitaria, in 1936.

Also called the Puerta de la Moncloa, the Victory Arch of Madrid was not built to serve as a gateway to the city; but instead, it is triumphal in nature. It has a resemblance to the Puerta de Alcala, and was constructed by prolific Spanish architects Bravo Sanfeliu and Lopez Otero. Conspicuous among the sculptures on top is that of Minerva.

How to go:

Metro: Opt for line 3 or 6, and get off at Moncloa Station. You will find it standing in the middle of Avenida de Arco de la Victoria.

Puerta de San Vicente

IMG_0003Another brilliant work by Francesco Sabatini, acting as a significant gateway to Madrid is the Puerte de San Vicente. It is in the middle of the Glorietta de San Vicente, while the most popular landmark nearby is the Principe Pio Metro train station and shopping center. This 3-arched monument, which is also called Puerta de Florida and Puerta del Angel, displays the statue of San Vicente, hence the name. Pedro Ribera was commissioned by then mayor of 1726 Marquis de Badillo to build the structure as a replacement to a old gateway.

How to go:

The glorietta is just a stone´s throw away from the Principe Pio station and mall. It is also near the Jardines de Campo del Moro at Paseo Virgen del Puerto.

Go on a Day Trip Adventure to Segovia Spain [And Explore Its Alcazar and Roman Aqueduct]

Do you feel you’ve seen enough of Madrid, Spain and wish you could visit places outside the city? Raring to go to other beautiful Spanish regions but wary about the long hours of travel that your chosen destination demands? Fret not as there are many towns near the capital that you can go to, such as Toledo, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and Alcala de Henares. In other words, there are tons of amazing day trip options from Madrid.

Day trip means you travel to your destination, explore it to the fullest, and return to Madrid — all within a day.

Still another destination, and a highly recommended one at that, is Segovia, Spain.

imageThe spot I climbed at the aqueduct wasn”t even the highest point one can possibly reach, yet I was already afforded spectacular views of the town

Found south of the capital, lying atop an elevated land a mere 30 minutes away by train from Madrid is Segovia, small compared to other towns, but unique nonetheless.

Its tiny size is compensated by the many fascinating attractions. A quaint town overflowing in valuable history and enthralling beauty, it isn’t surprising that Segovia is a World Heritage site (as declared by the UNESCO).

What makes Segovia an ideal tour destination?

imageFor one thing, the Roman Aqueduct alone is enough to make your journey worthwhile. There’s also the Alcazar, that Castilian edifice with a fairy tale-book like facade. Enthralling is how one would describe the sprawling Cathedral of Segovia. You’d be in awe gazing upon the church from the town’s Plaza Mayor. And before going back to Madrid, remember to dine at a Segovia restaurant that offers conchinillo (which wouldn’t be a problem since most establishments include this dish in their menu).

I love traveling alone. But I need to go to exceptional destinations to keep me, as a traveler by his lonesome, excited and filled with energy all throughout. I assure you Segovia is one of them.

What to see in Segovia Spain

1. The Roman Aqueduct

The aqueduct is one of the most important structures in this town and perhaps the whole of Spain. Composed of perhaps thousands upon thousands of granite blocks, it is the most important symbol of the town. The today, the Romano Acueducto is determined to be well-preserved and still capable of transporting water from the Rio Frio river to the city.

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2. The Aqueduct, from Fernandez Ladreda Avenue

From the bus stop, I walked thru the Avenida Ladreda, a main Segovian street filled with touristy restaurants and cafes. Iglesia de San Millan is right along  the avenue. Ultimately it brought me to the magnificent site of the Roman Aqueduct.

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3. Catedral de Santa Maria

The Santa Madrid Cathedral is the last Gothic-inspired church to be built in Spain. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is such a magnificent site from afar.
Catedral de Santa Maria, Segovia, Spain

4. Plaza Mayor

The square may be small in size but is the town’s designated area for important local activities and events. One of the most frequented spots by tourists, the square boasts of old-town, rustic restaurants and souvenir shops.

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5. Teatro Juan Bravo

One of the attractions at the Plaza Mayor of Segovia, the town’s principal theater was built in honor of Juan Bravo, a  beloved local hero.
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6. Puerta de San Andres

On my way to the Alcazar Castle, I passed through this gate that dates back to the early 12th century — Puerta de San Andres. Its vicinity offers great views of Las Murallas (City Walls) surrounding the important sites of the town. The ancient gate itself leads to the Jewish Quarters.

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7. Centro Didactico de la Juderia

The Didactic Center of the Jewish Quarter located at Calle de la Juderia Nueva, is a reminder of the once active Jewish community in the city. Once thriving area for the Jews was at Plaza de la Merced. Another popular Jewish street is the Juderia Viejo.
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8. La Casa de los Picos

La Casa de los Picos is a 15th century mansion by Pedro Lopez de Ayala, and considered by many  as unique because of its granite-built facade that features more than 600 pointy peaks. It boasts of a classic Renaissance courtyard within its interior. Once, an opulent residence, it now houses an art school and acts as a venue for regular exhibits.
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9. Puerta de la Claustra

Puerta de la Claustra is a 2-arch entrance, the only existing one leading to quarter of the cloister. Note the depiction of the Pieta on top of  the arch. The other similar entrances were taken down to give way to wedding of Philip II at the Alcazar de Segovia.

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10. Iglesia de San Andres

Iglesia de San Andres, a charming Roman Catholic Church, is located at the Plaza de la Merced, which you will pass by on your way to the more popular Santa Maria Cathedral.

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11. La Iglesia de San Martin

A Roman-styled early 12th-century church, La Iglesia de San Martin continues to attract tourists everyday mainly because of its strategic location, between the Segovian Aqueduct and the Sta Maria Cathedral. Standing near this small church of Moor origin is a local hero, Juan Bravo.

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12. Monumento a Juan Bravo

The striking monument at the Plaza de San Martin, beside the Iglesia de San Martin, is dedicated toJuan Bravo. Bravo is a Castilian nobleman who played an important role in the war within the autonomous Castille region.
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13. Las Murallas

The town’s Murallas is the thick wall that surrounds the perimeter of the elevated land that cradles the town. The tallest structure in the photo is the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Asuncion y de San Frutos. Facing the Murallas and the town itself (not shown in photo) is an low-lying expanse of land where the Jewish cemetery is situated.image

14. Alcazar

The flag of Spain flies high atop the 12th century-built Alcazar or fortress. A former official residence of the Castilian kings of earlier times, the Alcazar is said to be the inspiration for the design and creation of Disney’s own castle. It has Romanesque and Gothic styles in its facade while the interior evokes a strong Moorish design.
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Time for Some Segovian Food

Going to Segovia give you the chance to taste its famous cochinillo. While Madrid has its share of asador restaurantes, nothing beats Segovia as far as the roasted suckling pig is concerned. It is a gastronomic haven where most restaurants are known to serve only the tastiest cochinillos asados.

Restaurante Meson Don Jimeno

I chanced upon this tiny yet quite cozy meson restaurant on my way to the Alcazar. I must have found the perfect spot to have lunch (and to taste suckling pig), since they boast of heavenly succulent cochinillo. But, what’s more important, they serve portions.

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Judiones de la Granja

Judiones is a bean-based dish with added chorizo slices. What I love about it is its thick consistency and rich flavor. De la Granja means from the Granja, which is a town near Segovia. I’m not sure if the beans ingredient is from the Granja, or if the dish itself originated from the place. What I’m sure is that judiones is delicious!

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Cochinillo Asado!

The sight of that golden-brown color of the roasted piglet’s skin makes one’s mouth water. You know that the dish was roasted just right by its perfectly crisp skin and tender yet moist meat underneath
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Natillas

I was stuffed yet I couldn’t allow a morsel of this homemade Natillas (custard) to be left uneaten. A Spanish dessert of milk and egg, the popular Segovian postre is perfect to cap off a deliciously filling lunch.
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How to go to Segovia Spain

imageThis is the Guiomar Train station, where your Renfe train from Madrid stops and your tour of Segovia begins. From here, auto bus no. 11 will take you to the city proper (and near the aqueduct). Fare is 2 euros.

By Train

You can buy Renfe train tickets online at their website. Or you can buy them at Chamartin station, which you can reach via auto bus no 5, among others.  While train rides are expensive, they’re the fastest and most efficient way of traveling around. I left Chamartin at 12PM and arrived at Segovia Guiomar station at 12.25PM.

By bus

Perhaps, you’re not pressed for time, and more importantly, wanted to save a few bucks in travel fare, I suggest that you take the bus instead. You will be able to enjoy nice scenery and views during your travel to your destination. Tickets can be had at La Sepulvedana office at Moncloa Station. Price for  ida y vuelta is around 17 euros.

Map

Monasterio de El Escorial: Renaissance Monastery of Spain

imageMust be that everyone I know gushes about how the Monasterio de El Escorial is no ordinary monastery, and friends who’d been there were egging me to no end to make that day trip and see it myself.

Indeed, not a bit about it is ordinary, but instead, everything is simply fascinating when last week I finally visited the place.

It took 21 long years to complete this 16th-century edifice, sprawling on a vast expanse of land within the San Lorenzo de Escorial Town. I’m guessing it covers an area equivalent to a few city blocks.

Without a doubt, El Escorial is such a magnificent monument, both inside and out. Not only is it a monastery, but a palace as well, and one fit for the King of Spain no less.

El Escorial is a prime example of how grand the Spanish Renaissance era was. Pomp and lavishness are apparent in its interior, which is expected since it was a royal residence. It is complete with the friars’ garden, museum, hundreds of regal rooms, a spacious courtyard, reliquaries, and even a school. I thought its biblioteca real (library) is really impressive – the interior seems to glow because of its golden ceiling.

Suffice it to say, San Lorenzo de El Escorial is the perfect day trip destination, not only because of its incredible monastery but also because the town is just 45 kilometers from the capital city of Madrid. If only for its proximity, you must consider it for your next exciting Spanish adventure.

1. Mount Abantos, the town, and the Monastery

The location of the monastery is calming, like the town itself, and the whole setting is like a quiet and rustic countryside. The mountains are towering heaps of nature, particularly Abantos of the Sierra de Guadarrama. Abantos seems to look beyond the town and into the monastery. The town, the mountains nearby, and the many places of interest, including the monastery itself, make San Lorenzo de El Escorial an ideal place of retreat.
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2. Monastery, West Portion

The western facade of the monastery of El Escorial. Going through this side will immediately bring you to the Courtyard of the Judah Kings and the Basilica Real.
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3. Royal Basilica and the Courtyard of the Kings

I peer through the arch column to marvel at the basilica and the Patio de los Reyes, must-see sections of the monastery. The church is decorated with a number of sculptures of saints, biblical figures, and kings, and other valuable religious items, all of which are creations of Spanish and European Renaissance artists.
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4. Old Testament Kings

Looking down the patio are the six sculptures representing the Kings of Judah or Old Testament Rulers, standing on the upper middle portion of the basilica’s facade.
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5. Royal Basilica, Interior

Many of the church’s sculptures, paintings, and other works of art are created by renowned artists from Spain and other European countries.
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6. The Pantheon

This part of the palace houses the sepulchers that contain the remains of the Spanish Royalties, such as the kings from the Bourbon dynasties.
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7. The Magnificent Palace Gardens

Philip II instructed the creation of a vast garden, which served as a place to soothe the mind. Not only did he care for the gardens, but everything inside the monastery as well.  He was a patron of the Renaissance and so he commissioned the palace decorator to fill the place with thousands of impressive works of art.
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8. The Monastery’s Garden Pond

Beside the Palace Garden is the pond, the sight of which is breathtaking. Needless to say, all the features of the monastery contributed to making it as the most important monument in the San Lorenzo de El Escorial Town. A major creation of the Renaissance era, it was declared by UNESCO in 1984 as a World Heritage Site.

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9. Casas de Oficios

Near the grounds of the monastery are a series of buildings, called the Casas de Officios or the House of Trades, with narrow streest in between., The town’s tourism office is housed in one of the casas, along Calle Grimaldi, and is across the main entrance of the monastery.
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10. Royal Coliseum of Charles III

El Real Coliseo de Carlos III, at Calle Floridablanca 20, is one of the town’s major centers of arts and performances. Currently, it is a venue for theater acts and concerts. Named after the former Spanish ruler Charles III, it used to be called the Lope de Vega Cinema.
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11. Ayuntamiento de El Escorial

San Lorenzo de El Escorial’s town hall might be small, but it is nonetheless charming. It is located at the Plaza de la Constitucion, where also found are a number of touristy cafes and restaurantes.
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12. Casa de Cultura

The primero Casa de Officio houses the Casa de Cultura of El Escorial. The latter is popular with town residents and tourists who love to participate in an afternoon of cultural activity. Crafts, arts, and cultural events are regularly held here.
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13. Casita del Infante

The Infant´s Little House, also known as the Casita de Arriba, was originally intended as the infant child Gabriel de Bourbon, Carlos III´s brother. It also acted as a music building and was built with a concert room designed in a way that any performance bould be heard both within and outside the building.

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14. Casita del Principe

The facade of La Casita del Principe. Of neoclassical design, it was a recreational building of then Asturias Prince Carlos IV. It later on served as a residence of the king and his royal family in El Escorial during the 19th Century.
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15. Santuario Parroquial de Nuestra Senora de Gracia

The doors of Santuario Parroquial de Nuestra Senora de Gracia were wide open when I got there, which allowed me to have a glimpse of its interior and say my prayers. Resembling a chapel due to its small size, Santuario Parroquial de Nuestra Sra de Gracia is one of the few town churches of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

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How to Go

Go to Moncloa where you can buy tickets on the bus. Take 661 if you want to reach the town via Galapagar; and 664 if you want to pass via Guadarrama. Both 661 and 664 bus tickets to El Escorial costs 4.20 euros. [I intend to take the 664 bus next time since it stops by the gates of The Valley of the Fallen. However, from the gates, be ready to walk some 3 miles to the site, which is more or less an hour].

Entrance

Basic Fee: 10 euros

Visiting days: Everyday except Mondays

Monastery opens at 10AM

Advice: Keep your ticket on hand. Staff at every section of the monastery may require visitors to present their tickets before they are let in. Don’t bring large bags or backpacks if possible; otherwise you will have to keep them in a locker at the cloakroom while touring.

Taking photos is not allowed in El Escorial´s interior areas. Attempting to shoot is a frustrating exercise as staff members are relentless in preventing any stolen shots. As for the above pictures of the cathedral altar and the Pantheon, I borrowed them from my gutsier tour mate.

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Map:

Palacio de Velazquez – Parque de El Retiro, Madrid

imageGrand  facade of the pavilion, also called the Palacio de Exposiciones, with its arches and columns, marbled steps. On both sides of the entrance to the building stand statues of winged lion-like creatures (right-side sculpture not shown on picture)

If you want to see some exciting galleries and exhibits, this is the place to go inside the Retiro Park, Madrid Spain – Palacio de Velasquez. One of the park’s grandest edifices, its design is largely neoclassical, with the facade made striking with its red bricks and tile combination.

It is named a palace, just like the nearby Palacio de Cristal. While both buildings are not really, they do boast of a regale design and impressive appearance overall. Another thing common between these these two edifices is that they were designed by the same Spanish architect, Senor Ricardo Velazquez.

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A closer look at the winged creature, with a face representation of a man in its front. The column is ionic in nature

Indeed, the edifice was not built to serve as a residence of the royal rulers of Spain; but instead, it was intended as a pavilion for the National Mining Exhibition of 1883 in Madrid, which is why its original name is Palacio de Mineria. While many other pavilions were erected for the exposition, Velazquez is the only surviving one and is still used as a venue for modern exhibitions.

Location inside Parque de Retiro

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The facade of the tower at the end of the building is decorated with tiles on which are drawn creatures that resemble a dragon and a few other perhaps mythical animals

The exhibition hall/pavilion is found in the middle of Retiro Park, at Paseo Venezuela 2, just beside the Crystal Palace and near the Estanque or the man-made lake of the park.

Stately palace

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The palace is a favorite venue of exhibition for modern art creations by famous artists. Vital information about these exhibits, most of which are temporary, can be found posted on the building exterior (on large info board standing outside the palacio)

Inspiration for its design

The Palacio de Cristal, also a creation of Ricardo Velazquez, is smaller in size, yet it served as the major inspiration for the design of Palacio de Velazquez. Apart from tiles and bricks, materials like glass and iron were utilized in the latter’s construction so that the maximum amount of natural light can seep in and sufficiently illuminate the building’s interiors.

Address:

Along Paseo Venezuela 2, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Time open:

10:00AM to 10:00PM

How Much: Entrance is Free

How to reach:

Auto Bus: Take number 51, and get off at the parada (bus stop) by the Retiro, in front of Plaza de la Independencia

Metro Station: Take Line 2, this will bring you to Retiro Station itself. Both Atocha and Atocha Renfe Stations are also near the park (although service for this lines will only become available starting November due to current renovation work).

Bus: Number 51 (stops near the entrance of Retiro, at La Independencia, Alcala).

Map:

Los Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez in Retiro Park, Madrid

imageIf you’re looking to visit a nice garden in Madrid, Spain and don’t want to pay any admission fee (actually, there are many in the city that are free, while some ask for a minimal amount for you to enter), one of the best is the picturesque garden inside Retiro Park that was a creation of the city’s official park gardener (or the Jadinero Mayor de Retiro) – Cecilio Rodriguez. He designed a garden I thought is very much pleasing to the eyes – one that bears his name. Rodriguez was the director of Madrid’s parks and gardens, and also responsible for created the rose garden or Rosaleda, another beautiful and well-maintained garden within the Retiro Park.

imageThe entrance gates to the garden doesn’t open until 10 in the morning
imageThe garden is not only filled with carefully trimmed hedges but brightly-colored and blooming flowers as well
imageI stay beside this fountain all day. With its clear water, this garden feature does have a calming effect on anyone who sets his sight on it
imageRows of low plants of green and red dominate much of this area of the garden, while lining both sides of the pond. Water spouts from a number of fountains installed thru the length of the pond, making for an attractive view

imageBrick and stone edifice located on the side area of the garden. It is said to be a venue where gardening courses are held, and where garden tools and equipment are kept.

imageThe clean walkways of checkered tiles makes you want to stay and spend more time exploring the Los Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez

imageThe pavilion building inside the garden, made of bricks and glass. I chanced on a film-showing (that’s how I observed the goings-on from the outside) the last time I visited the garden

imageThe garden has a handsome feature to boast about – its pergola, or some parallel colonnades supporting an open roof of long wooden rafters. It offers light shade for you to stay in and cool down while visiting the gardens on a hot sunny afternoon

image The garden features a pond filled with striving, floating lilies. In the middle of the greenish water are a number of rocks from which sculptures of birds appear to be taking flight.

Horarios:

Summer time: 10:00AM to 8PM
Winter season: 10:00AM to 6PM

Entrance:

Free everyday

How to go:

imageThe Cecilio Rodriguez Gardens is found right within the Retiro Park area of Madrid, along Paseo de Uruguay. It is near the Palacio de Cibeles and the Plaza de la Independencia.

Metro: Line 2 to Retiro station. Line 1 to Atocha and Atocha Renfe Metro stations (Currently, however, line 1 is under renovation, and will be available on November).

Bus: Number 51 (stops near the entrance of Retiro, at La Independencia, Alcala).

Map: