Day 23 – El Escorial and La Granja

Today was an adventure! I mentioned earlier that we decided to cut out a visit to Avila with the purpose of seeing other geometrically rich sites, including El Escorial and La Granja.  To make it to both locations we rented a car and I tried my hand at driving in Spain.  It was a manual, which I last practiced as my parents’ chauffer in Ireland 7 years ago.  My mom said it’s just like riding a bike, yet after stalling at the first roundabout I wasn’t so sure.  A few unfriendly cars behind tried to shake my confidence to no avail. I was quickly revving the engine, back in the groove and on our way.  Google maps failed to inform us that our route to El Escorial was up one side of a mountain then down the other.  It was a little daunting, but provided a gorgeous view of the area.  We hadn’t ventured outside of a city yet, so this was a welcomed change of pace.  One of my hopes has been to spend some time in rural Spain to explore the small towns, build relationships with the locals, and distance myself from the standard tourist activities. This drive is the closest I’ve gotten this dream (yet) and I enjoyed every second of it.

We ended up in El Escorial, a magnificent palace with art and architecture museums.  The only disappointment was that we couldn’t take any photos.  On the basement level there was an exquisite display of the plans, blueprints and models used to build this extraordinary building, a geometry teacher’s dream come true. I tried to soak in as much as I could in room after room of this architectural museum.  Without a photo to take with me, my heart broke as I left.  It still makes me sad.  Attached to this room were the tools used by the builders when constructing this space.  My dad was an excellent resource in explaining how these tools would have been used and what tools are still used today.  He should have been the tour guide through this area, because his insight was invaluable!  The building was vast with so much to see – a wonderful art collection, a gorgeous cathedral, tombs of Spanish royalty, the living quarters of the kings and queens, a plaza…wow!  I had to go back out to the car twice to refill the meter and I bet we could have stayed longer if we didn’t have one more stop for the day.  (In case you’re wondering, they did not have any book, pamphlet or photos of the architectural museum…so disappointing.)

Back in the car, up the mountain and down again to our next stop, La Granja, also known as ‘Little Versailles’.  We were too late to enter the palace but the gardens were still open.  This was an excellent formal garden area to document for the 3D unit.  We worked our way around the gardens and thought were almost finished, then we found a map.  And we were wrong.  Very, very wrong.  We may have walked a quarter of the gardens and that is being generous.  Unfortunately we had to return our rental car, so I left with a frown.  It’s odd to spend the day seeing amazing things and then to leave with a heavy heart because it had to come to an end.

It was a race to make it to the car rental agency before closing time.  We beat the buzzer, barely.  We walked back down to the Roman Aqueduct to watch the sun set and enjoy our last meal in Segovia.  It was over too soon.

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