Madrid , Prado , El Escorial, Valley of the Fallen

Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
Trip End Nov 24, 2013

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Where I stayed
Catalonia Atocha Madrid
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We got our wake up call at 7:00. I got up and had my shower while Larry and Derek slept in a little.  We went down to a great breakfast of individually made omelets, bacon, sausage, a potato pie of some kind.  In addition there were all kinds of bread and rolls, jellies etc, juices and coffee.   There was also a continental breakfast or European breakfast of meats and cheeses etc.  We got on the bus at 8:45 for our bus tour of the highlights of Madrid.  We drove through the streets of the old city and then onto a bigger street where we drove down to the river where we could see the Royal Palace and the Cathedral up on the bluff above.  Then we went back across the river to Plaza de Espana where we saw statues of Cervantes, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.  Then we drove back into the old city down Calle Major through the Puerto del Sol, the government district with the Spanish Parliament, several residential districts with beautiful old buildings, and the commercial and financial district.  Our guide, Maria Teresa, told us much information about what we were seeing.  We stopped at the Prado Museum where Maria gave us an almost two hour guided tour of the Spanish painters.  I especially enjoyed all of the paintings by El Greco, the Greek.  On the way back to the bus we stopped in the Church of St. Jeronimo, Jerome.

Our morning tour finished we went by the hotel and dropped off 6 people who opted not to take the afternoon tour.  The rest of us proceeded through the old city again and we left Madrid by the St. Vincent Gate, part of the wall of the old city.  We drove north for about 50 minutes to San Lorenzo de Escorial. We parked at the bus station where we had sandwiches, drinks and ice cream for lunch.  I had a focaccia sandwich with mozzarella, tomato and basil, toasted.  Delicious!  Then we walked from the bus station to El Escorial.  Le Escorial is a monastery, school and basilica.  It was built by Phillip II and is the place where all of the kings of Spain are buried.  Again Maria Teresa explained everything.  The Cathedral was built in the shape of a Greek cross which has equal cross members.  The ceiling frescos were magnificent, done in the classical Italian style.  After we toured the Cathedral we saw the apartments of the royal family which surrounded the main altar.  You could see the altar through windows in the rooms.  Next we went into the crypt for the kings and queen mothers (the queens who mothered kings.  It was directly under the main altar and was very ornate.  There was another crypt for other royals.  One feature that caught my eye was the wedding cake shaped crypt for all the royal children who died.  There were a lot of them.  We couldn't take pictures inside but one time when I looked out the window I could see the knot gardens and the four towers of Madrid in the distance.  Without thinking I whipped out my camera and got busted.  On the way out Ozzie and I found a place where we could see the gardens and took pictures of each other. 

We walked back to the bus and drove to the Valley of the Fallen which is a crypt and basilica dedicated to those who died in the Civil War from both sides.  Francisco Franco the leader of the fascists is buried behind the altar.  This basilica is a tunnel in a mountain that is about 300 meters by 300 meters by 300 meters which is bigger than St. Peters.  But  the Vatican only blessed 262 to keep it smaller than St. Peters.  On top of the main altar is a cross 450 meters high with sculptures of the four evangelists who are each 18 meters tall.  With the mountain and the cross together the top of the cross is 900 meters above the surrounding landscape.  Again we couldn’t take pictures inside.  The dome was massive and had a mosaic of Jesus seated on this throne, similar to the one at the Chapel at St. Charles where I taught.  The view from the front of the basilica was spectacular.  We got back to the hotel an hour late and only had an hour to rest up and change clothes for supper.

We went to Restaurante Las Cuevas del Duque which is in a 500 year old wine cellar of the Duchess of Alba.  The restaurant has been there for 200 years.  We placed our orders last night. On the way to the restaurant we went past several illuminated buildings including the Cathedral and the Royal Palace.   As we sat down the waiter brought pitchers of Sangria for each table and by the end of the night the three of us had downed two pitchers as well as glasses of red and white wine.  The meal began with two tapas or starters (appetizers).  The first was an assortment of thinly sliced ham, sausage and cheese.  The second was a Spanish omelet which was like the potato dish we had for breakfast only much better.  Next came salad for Larry, vegetable soup for Derek and cream of asparagus soup for me.  Then they brought out the main course.  Derek had ordered the roast lamb and Larry and I had the specialty of Madrid, suckling pig.  The main course came with scalloped potatoes which were very lightly sauced and sprinkled with parsley.  Everything was top notch.  For dessert we each got two slices of ice cream striped vanilla and chocolate.  After coffee was served the entertainment came in.  There were two men, one on guitar and the other on accordian.  The third man had been in a motorcycle wreck which doesn't surprise me in the least.  The motorbikes weave in and out of traffic all the time.  They sang lots of Spanish songs and  had very good voices.  In between each song they asked if we wanted to hear more and of course we did.  So they said they needed more beer and proposed toasts.  Salud!  At the end they sold CDs of their music and Derek got one.  We had a tour of illuminated buildings and the theatre district on the way back to the hotel.  We got in shortly before 10:30.  It was a really long day and we are ready to sleep.
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