This morning we were given an orientation tour of Madrid. We started in the north of the city seeing the stadium where Real Madrid plays and the four skyscrapers Madrilenos seem to be so proud of. We also saw the building dedicated to Picasso, Torre Picasso which was designed by the same architect who designed the New York City Twin Towers, Minoru Yamasaki. The building is a smaller scale replica of one of the towers.
The bus took us past el Parque del Retiro, El Prado, the park dedicated to Christopher Columbus, the Achoa Train Station and stopped at the Royal Palace for pictures. We also stopped at the park dedicated to Cervantes who wrote Don Quijote. At the park stood statutes of Don Quijote. Eventually we headed to Neptune’s circle to visit El Prado. Our guide provided in-depth explanations of El Greco’s, Diego Velazquez’ and Goya’s work in the museum. We took the opportunity after the official tour to go back through the museum to see the contemporary copy of Leonardo Divinci’s Mona Lisa, a Rembrandt and the temporary Rafael exhibition before leaving the museum to grab lunch.
This afternoon we headed out of the city to El Escorial. It was a little over an hour drive. The Escorial was built in 21 years by order of King Philip II. He wanted to build a temple to honor God and also wanted a place to escape the summers of Madrid. He asked his apartments to be clean and comfortable, but not ornate. He wanted it to be God’s temple, not his. When you visit, you will notice the King’s bedroom’s interior window is besides the alter. In this way, he could pray anytime he wished. His daughter’s apartments also had alters. Original furnishings can still be experienced including the chair used to bring the King from Madrid to the Escorial in his final days and the bed he passed away in almost a month later.
We were also able to visit the Parthenon where the Kings of Spain and their Queens who bore the future King of Spain were interred. Today the Escorial is still a monastery and it also serves as a school.
Our bus driver dropped off on La Gran Via near La Puerta del Sol when we returned from El Escorial. I finally had Paella and it was outstanding. The restaurant, El Valdemesa, was just on the side of El Corte Ingles.