The colder weather has started to move in and so we find ourselves huddling in warm fuzzy blankets and laughing at the people back home in Florida who say it is cold while still wearing shorts. Lately, the cold has been accompanied by gray days with drizzly rain. The magic of a warm beverage is becoming clearer and clearer as we find ourselves more often wandering into a nice café for a cup of coffee or Cola-Cao (hot chocolate).
It was on such a cloudy day that we went on a school excursion to two monuments of Spain: El Escorial and the Valle de los Caidos. El Escorial is an all-in-one church, monastery, library, school, and cemetery. It is shaped like a grill to honor Saint Lorenzo and placed in a legendary opening to hell, in the hopes that they could close it off by placing a massive church in front. The pantheon, containing the coffins of many of the past kings and queens, was elaborate, luxurious, and more than just a little creepy. Many people awed at the hundreds of years of history contained within one room. It is pretty unique, especially with the fog making it extra spooky.
El Escorial also served as inspiration for many other buildings of the time period, creating a signature style known as Herreriano, named after the architect. In fact, many of the buildings in Alcala were modeled after El Escorial featuring similar entrances with 3 arches and pinnacles topped with round spheres.
Then, we drove to the other side of the mountain to the Valley of the Fallen. This is a giant monument to Franco and contains his tomb. Since he couldn’t be buried with the kings at El Escorial, he ordered his prisoners to build a massive structure within the rock of the mountain. The building is also the burial site of the people who died fighting for “God and Country”, so that only included people who supported Franco. It’s a controversial place, and very chilling, with giant statues of angels wielding massive swords commanding respect from all around. It was a very interesting site.
To finish on a lighter note, we have also made an amazing discovery during one of our snack raids at the local supermarket: frozen fruit filled with ice cream! Granted, it would be slightly more fitting in the summer, but it is delicious nonetheless. For only one euro, you can pick between pineapple, lemon, coconut, and orange, and then dig in to a sweet and scrumptious desert. Yummm!!