Using Madrid as a base I spent a couple of days travelling out of the city to a number of UNESCO sites nearby. The first of them was El Escoril located to the north-west.
I caught the suburban train from Atocha, which is one of the major stations in the city. Journey time on the Renfe network was a little under an hour to reach El Escorial station, which is at the end of that particular line. London has a bad overcrowded network so it's easy to say that any foreign network is pleasant by comparison; the same is true here.
The station sits at the foot of the town and it's a lengthy walk up the hill to the Escoril building. This is the path up through the grounds which you can take but on account of the wet weather I chose to walk the roads instead.
It's a great morning workout if you're a masochist. There are buses, but where's the challenge and fun in riding that?
After the walk is complete (about 2km) El Escorial soon comes into view. It's a majestic structure on the top of one of the hills.
It's a historical residence, monastery, museum and there's even a school in the complex.
El Escorial is home to a beautifully restored piece of art by Rogier Van Der Weyden called Calvario' . Whilst I don't care match for the religious element, the art is stunning and there are a number of supporting pieces explaining the restoration process. They've done an amazing job.
(not my pic, they wouldn't let me take any)
There is a tour within the building but you have to leave your bags in a locker and photography isn't allowed of the interiors. I did sneak a few photos on my way around in rooms where there were no guards. For a little bit of the tour I felt like a spy.
We couldn't get into the grounds but I could take photos of the view. Beautiful!
This is the stairway down to the Pantheon of the Kings in which reside the remains of 26 previous monarchs. Admittedly a little bit dark, but the room was well lit and was my favourite room in the entire complex. Stunning dark marble and gold decorations are abundant in this small room. There's also a guard telling you keep quiet and preventing you taking photos :(
This is the Pantheon of the Princes which was easier to photograph on account of the guards not walking around the circular structure in the middle of the room.
A quick walk around the exterior before heading back. The tour is worthwhile and whilst there are tour guides leading groups you do have the freedom to walk around at your own pace which I liked. With the cloudy wet weather, the number of people here were few and far between and those that had made the journey up were hiding under cover, so getting empty shots was pretty easy as long as you didn't mind walking out in the rain.
I decided to walk back to the station through the grounds, discovering at the end of the path that I was unable to get out. A quick double back to the entrance I'd passed earlier and I was soon back at the station.
El Escorial is stunning. It's just a shame photos are frowned upon. Still the memories of what you see are great as long as you've still got them.