Friday, January 4, 2008

The Palace of El Escorial (Optional Side Trip #3)

El Escorial, The Valley of the Fallen, and Segovia -- $95

I highly recommend this trip if you are interested in romantic castles, dramatic structures and soul searching history. This is the stuff fairy tales were made of. It is simply mind boggling to see that people did live in fantastic palaces in dreamy valleys, or in cold scary soviet style regimes. This is a must see!

We will spend the day with our local tour guide in the sunny Castilian countryside. Our first stop is the enormous and lavish palace of El Escorial (click on title link above to get a small glimpse), built by a thankful Philip II after defeating the French in 1557. Here we will take a look at the tombs of 23 of Spain's monarchs, as well as the final resting place of the pimp of all mac-daddy pimps, Don Juan.

We will then journey to the Valley of the Fallen, a spectacular monument to those who died in the Spanish Civil War (I really recommend you watch the film Pan's Labyrinth . Although the film is a fairy tale, it will give you an idea of the condition of Spain during this time period). Here, with the dramatic Guadarrama Mountains serving as a backdrop, Franco lies buried (the Spanish fascist dictator mentioned in Pan's Labyrinth). It is very "Soviet" in its architecture and you will have a clear understanding of how architecture plays an impressive role in subduing perfectly intelligent people, like yourself, in a terrible dictatorship.

It's then on to the beautiful medieval city of Segovia, where Isabella was declared queen in 1474. Tour the 14th-century Alcázar fortress (a real Medieval castle...forget the Renaissances Fair in Michigan), where Christopher Columbus made out his will....holy dang!!

Walt Disney took architectural elements of this fortress and that of Neueschwanstein castle in Austria to create the Cinderella castle.

We will also see the town's golden cathedral and the 2000 year old..yes 2000 year old Roman aqueduct; dating from the first century, it was used until 1983.

This is a lithograph of the Medieval fortress of Segovia...yes, it looks just like this!

Included in the price is transportation from Madrid to the 3 different towns where each tour will take place, entrance tickets to all structures mentioned above, a guided walking tour of each city and lunch. You can sign up for any or all the optional tours online or email me. ($95 advance purchace and $105 if purchased during tour)

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