Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Trip #5- Toledo and El Escorial

Two weekends ago our group ventured to Toledo on Friday, and El Escorial on Saturday. Both cities are within an hour or so from Madrid, so instead of staying in a hotel overnight, we took two separate day trips that eased us into traveling again after a week of long hours and bus-riding madness to the south!

All of us (Erin, Ashley, Becca, ME!, Katy, and Michelle) with the Toledo skyline in the background.

These are the sweet escalators that are carved into the side of the mountain that you can ride to get to the top of the plaza. You better believe that I rode every one of them. As Jim Gaffigan says, "This is one of the good parts of life".

The Empire State Building of Toledo? No, just one of the pillars of Toledo's basilica.

Prior to going to Toledo, we were told that it had the best souvenir shopping, and I must say, I couldn't agree more! Let's see what Toledo has to offer:

Beautiful ceramic Lladro figurines,

varying war helmets,

and Hello Kitty leather sandals? Sure, why not! (Natalie, this pic is for you).

My friends are the best, especially when I tell them to move out of my artistic shot, and instead they pop a pose.

We all have our odd picture poses. Don't deny that your picture pose isn't like one of these.

And here it is from the front angle; however, you still can't see Michelle's. Let's see if we can get a better look...

...and there it is. Just like a pointer dog sniffing out the hunt.


Prior to touring El Escorial, we stopped at the Castillo de los Mendoza in the tiny town of Manzanares el Real. The castle is apparenly one of the best preserved castles in the Madrid area, and has been used in many movies, most notably El Cid.

This is a painting of the Last Supper from inside the castle--please take note that Judas is a redhead. This is the third redheaded Judas that I've seen, and I'm beginning to think that Catholics hate gingers. Just a suspicion.

Gingers will never be able to catch a break.

Do you like my future bed?

Unfortunately I don't have pics of El Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen) because I was feeling lazy and didn't want to bring my camera out of the bus, although I knew I would regret it, and I did, once I saw the beautiful basilica and area surrounding the chapel. I'm kicking myself now, but I did kife Michelle's camera and snapped a couple pics, but we still haven't had a picture exchange yet, so they'll come later.
Below are pics of El Escorial. I'm sorry there are only 2, but the guard staff at the palace make you check your camera at the door so there was no way I could sneak some pictures. AND it was horribly overcast, so even if I took some more pictures of the outside courtyards, they would have turned out horribly. However, here's some history of the palace:
  • El Escorial was the summer palace for Phillip II, built as an escape from the political pressures he felt while in Madrid
  • most of the Spanish monarchs and royals are buried here, including the Bourbons and Habsburgs
  • there are three open tombs for the current king of Spain, his mother, and his son
  • the designs for the palace were based on Solomon's temple
  • the library contains more than 40,000 original volumes of work and is considered to be the second greatest Catholic library after the Vatican
An outside courtyard in El Escorial

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