Today was an exciting day for me. I have company now. Emily got here around 3:30. It is great to have a familiar face with me to talk to about the scenery and drive with. We had dinner here at the pub in the hotel and took a short walk. I think we are in the outskirts of Dublin. We walked in a small park and saw a creek. There were several teenagers who were swimming; it looked a little cold to do that. Then we walked by an old cemetery, that dates from at least the 1840’s. Our street is a main thoroughfare, lots of traffic. Tomorrow we are headed to the zoo, then on to Waterford for the night. The plan is to drive around hitting Waterford, Cork and the Blarney Stone, the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and back to Dublin. The plan is to play things by ear and stop when we see something we like and to be as spontaneous as possible. Not sure how the internet situation will play out but I will keep you updated when I can.
I made it to Dublin. I went and picked up my car and ran into my first major snag of the trip. I can’t take it out of Ireland. So I am not sure how yet I will be getting to Scotland but that will be an adventure. When I finally got to my car, I just sat there for several minutes sort of frozen and afraid. But I told myself I was being silly and I pulled out. For a moment when I pulled on to the road I wasn’t sure I was in the right lane (they mark the different lanes with a solid white line; they use yellow lines on the outside of the road). Luckily my hotel was only about 10 minutes from the airport. When I arrived at the hotel, I hit my second major snag. They don’t have my booking. Back in March when I booked the hotel, they tried to run my debit card and it was declined (international transactions look suspicious so they bank denied it). I had this happen with a couple of my hotels but I always received notice and was able to fix the situation, just not this one. So they can put me up tonight and tomorrow but after that we are on our own. Oh well adds to the fun I guess.
Today covered two ends of Spain’s history, the mid 1500’s of Felipe II and the 1930’s of the Spanish civil war. I started my morning the small town of San Lorenzo. This is where Felipe II built a monastery in memory of his father Carlos V (he was the one who was both Austrian Emperor and King of Spain). Inside the monastery there is a small palace, where from the bedrooms the king and queen could listen to mass, as they adjoined the main altar. Originally, this monastery was home to an order of monks of St. Jerome. Now the monks are of from the order of St. Augustine. The monastery is also the burial place of all but 2 of the kings since Felipe II. Even the father of Juan Carlos (the current king) is buried there even though he was never king. Alfonso XIII, the grandfather of Juan Carlos was king when Spain converted to a republic. The republic lasted 5 years, but many said the Spanish weren’t ready to be a republic and in 1936 Franco rallied his troops, known as Nationalists, and started the civil war, on July 18 to be precise. In the beginning the Republican were winning the war. But as time progressed the Nationalists gained ground and in 1939, Franco took Madrid. Within a year Franco started to leave his mark on the country, his goal being to emulate Felipe II. He built a victory arch on the north west side of Madrid, to celebrate, and a short 3 miles from the Escorial, he started a monastery and basilica known as the Valley of the Fallen. His goal was to memorialize the lives of the Nationalist soldiers who perished during the war; he did later allow Republican soldiers to be buried here. The basilica is a large tunnel excavated into the rock of the Guadarrama mountain range. On top of the basilica, directly above the main altar, he built the largest cross known to Christianity. It stands over 450 feet tall. When Franco died in 1975, he was also buried here behind the main altar. In recent times, this has caused some controversy and there has been discussion about moving his body. So while on opposite ends of Spanish history there are some interesting connections between these two places, one being they are incredibly beautiful.
El Escorial Valley of the Fallen
I have felt it before, but having been here for almost three weeks, living in an apartment; Madrid is my home in Spain. With only really 4 days left, it makes me a little sad but I am devoting this post to mostly pictures to show all of the beautiful things Madrid has to offer and the reasons I love it.
Puerta del Sol, Casa del Campo, Ministry of Agriculture, Fountain of Neptune
Cathedral of Saint Mary Almudena, main altar, stained glass, Saint Mary Almudena
Temple of Debod, civil war monument, Plaza de España (monument to Cervantes), my street
Plaza Mayor, statue of Felipe III
I had a great weekend. I spent some time by the pool and got a little bit of a tan. Of course, I reapplied sunscreen every half hour so as not to burn my fair Midwest skin. One evening, I walked down to the beach and put my feet in the water and took some pictures. I decided not to spend the day on the beach because it was topless, but found that, that was normal practice at the pool as well. Oh well, I am too American for that I guess. 🙂
Yesterday I just relaxed after taking the train back into Madrid and today I was back to sightseeing. I took a tour of the stadium where Real Madrid plays soccer. They are considered the elite of Spain and have won many championships; league,national, and international. But they are also like the Yankees, in that, if you don’t like them, you hate them. I did get my picture taken with Cristiano Ronaldo. I can’t wait to show it off when I get home. Tomorrow the plan is to visit the Escorial and Valley of the Fallen.
Hey I am headed for some sun and sand for the weekend. I will be out of touch for a few days. On Monday expect pictures from Real Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium and the Med!
I want to warn you this will be kind of a long post. I visited two cities today that sit about an hour north of Madrid. The first was Avila. And as I stood staring at this walled city, whose walls are intact and original from the 11th century, I came to the realization that wherever I happen to be in Spain, that is my favorite place. The walls average around 36 feet high, but some of the gates are 60 feet high. It has 88 towers and is 1 and a half miles around the old part of the city. Avila is known as the city of the knights, as many came from France and settled here to help with the reconquest from the Muslims. Avila is also know as the land of saints, as many came originally from here. The most famous is Santa Teresa of Avila. She is known for reforming the Carmelite order of nuns. Then she traveled around opening 17 convents of the very same order. There is a church now, that carries her name, in the location of the home where she was born inside the city.
Then after Avila we went to Segovia. Segovia was very important in the lives of Isabel and Ferdinand, the Catholic rulers. Isabel was from a small town near Segovia and was married to Ferdinand in secret. With the marraige, two large kingdoms united beginning the unification that would become Spain. Ferdinand was king of Castilla and Isabel, Queen of Aragon. After being named rulers the two went about conquering other kingdoms around them, at the same time expelling the Muslims and Jews from Spain. The 5 children of Isabel and Ferdinand furthered their aims. Two daughters married princes from Portugal, creating strong allies. The youngest daughter was the famed Catherine of Aragon, who was the first wife of Henry VIII of England. She did not lose her head, but this marriage and subsequent divorce lead to the enmity between France and Spain for centuries to come. The oldest daughter, Juana la Loca (Juana the Mad), married Felipe I introducing the Habsburg lineage of rulers who lasted until 1700. Interestingly enough during this time it was ok for Juana to become head ruler of the country. However, with the Bourbon (French ruling family) take over, a law was instituted that stated a woman could not rule. That law is in place today, but the Spanish congress is in process of overturning it. The current prince Felipe, who is being groomed to take over, only has two daughters. If the monarchy in Spain is to survive, things will have to change.