The mountain village of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, just north of Madrid, Spain, was perhaps the place where I have most ignorantly traveled to — even as a self-professed Ignorant Traveler.
Working for a company that was taken over by a much larger company (IBM), I found myself thrust into a conference of technical architects and tech sellers in Madrid, Spain. My job, to present our solution to the architects so that they could eventually become experts at it.
I had just unknowingly herniated my C5-C6 and was trying to figure out why I felt so horrible all over, but especially in my head and throat, and with numbness down my arms and in outer fingers. And just like that I was in Spain, after a red-eye from NYC. Because of the way I felt at the time (which got better over time) I didn’t venture into Madrid the city proper — but stayed in the mountain village during down time.
1. The Monastery
The Monastery — aka El Escorial — aka The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial — was built between 1563 and 1584 by order of King Philip II (who reigned 1556–1598). It was a historical residence of the King of Spain, and is the largest Renaissance building in the world. You can read more about it on Wikipedia amongst other places.
Here is a short video of me walking around The Monastery:
The Monastery is built on the southern slopes of Mount Abantos. The elevation of The Monastery and the town around it averages 3,386 ft. You can see the mountains around you and below you. You are in the mountains north of Madrid, Spain.
I was not able to get a chance to go into The Monastery, but a quick internet search shows it is quite incredible inside, with a Basilica, Hall of Battles, and so forth. Looks like it is worth a trip just to go inside The Monastery.
The mountain vegetation and smells jump out at you. According to Wikipedia, the vegetation at this part of the mountain includes maritime and stone pines, as well as holm oaks, prickly junipers, and labdanum
Here is a video of a short walk by the Monastery, showing the vegetation.
2. The Mountains of Spain
The Monastery is magnificent — but what was even more interesting to me was how people lived on the mountain — the mountain village that has formed next to the monastery where people park their cars in their slanted driveways and walk the slanted streets down to center of town.
And of course one would expect the mountain village of San Lorenzo de El Escorial does is dry much of the time because the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
It is an hour’s drive to Madrid so one supposes this is essentially a suburb.
3. The Town of El Escorial
A quick walk down from The Monastery lies the center of town of the small mountain village of El Escorial. There are restaurants and shops there.
I grabbed a coffee and sat down in Town Center on more than one occasion during the few days there.
4. Where to Stay
I stayed at a hotel with conference center — for the life of me I am not sure on lookback what hotel it was. All I remember is that it was wonderfully, enchantingly nice. My hotel room was super small, and the ceiling sloped up from the wall over my bed — so that if I sat up in bed my head would hit the ceiling — yet it was wonderful. Except I felt like crap with the herniated disk.
But a quick search shows there are some Wonderful hotels in San Lorenzo de El Escorial. I would go back and stay in one of these hotels in an instant.