Alicia and I had been taking some big and costly trips lately with Barcelona, Morocco, and The Netherlands on our backs. I also came to realization recently that I hadn't done enough exploring in the country I was living in because of my want to journey outward. But living in my Madrid there are so many easy day trips one can make to many cool towns in Spain from Madrid that aren't really expensive. So while planning our next big adventure we had decided to take some cheaper mini adventures.
Our first stop:
This three and half hour bus ride was my first journey exploring Spain since I went to Barcelona in October. There was something really exciting for me about exploring more of the country I'm living in. The United States is such a harder task when doing that. It is so much bigger and transportation any where is expensive and far. So to pay about 40 euros round trip is such a steal.
This trip in particular taught Alicia and I a very valuable lesson (one that is extremely obvious) do not party the night before a major trip. To be fair, I believe it was a friends birthday the night before but we definitely pushed the limit on how long we stayed out and how much we drank. There was moments of second guessing when we got up in the morning, especially since we had to leave 7am to start this journey. But the thought of: "Fuck it, lets do it" popped into our head and we just left.
One of the things that attracted me to Zaragoza was Monasterio de Piedra about an hour away from the center of Zaragoza. This park is unbelievably gorgeous and very huge too. Including a large waterfall which has a cave behind it that you can go in and explore. Everything about that sounds like an amazing time for me. Here are some pictures I found on google image so you can get an understanding what I mean about this park.
Looks amazing right? So why, might you ask, am I showing you pictures from google images instead of mine own. Unfortunately, I found out that there are only two buses that take you out to the park and they both leave pretty early in the morning which meant by the time we got to Zaragoza we missed both our chances. This was pretty disappointing for me, it wasn't the only reason I wanted to go to Zaragoza but it was definitely one of the main reasons. I do hope at some point to come back so I can experience this place in its fullest.
Luckily we had other things planned and I wasn't about to let the amount of money we use to get here go to waste. So we moved forward in exploring the town. The town is located in a higher elevated/higher altitude location making both Alicia and my ears pop on the way. I could imagine during dead of winter this would be a place to go skiing with the gondola's right by the bus station.
The Aljafería Palace
The first place we walked to was a gigantic castle with a moat around it. This was a Moorish castle build around the second half the 11th century. According to Wikipedia, it is the only conserved testimony of a large building of Spanish Islamic architecture of the era of the Taifas.
The moat was huge and really deep into the ground. Since I have pretty awful vertigo I was getting pretty anxious when I was by the walls edge.
These are some pictures I took of the inside.
In a lot of ways this palace was a culmination of different architecture we had seen through our trip in Morocco. It was really interesting to see the different art styles of the muslim people combined into one building.
This is the cool looking building is the Caixaforum which is essentially a cultural center.
Here are some shots I took traveling around the city:
This was one of my favorite things I stumbled upon. It reads: 'Because I dream, I'm not crazy'
Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar
I think while traveling around the world I've grown to really appreciate the beautiful designs that religion puts in their beliefs. After all, some of the most magnificent creations on the planet were created due to religion. Whether I believe in religion or not, there is no denying some of the beauty that was made because of it. I think this church is a great example of that.
"According to ancient local tradition, soon after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Saint James was preachign the Gospel in Spain, but was disheartened because of the failure of his mission." According to tradition, while deep in prayer Mary appeared to him and gave him a wooden stature and told him to build a church in her honor. Believe me, that is exactly what someone ended up doing.
The church was huge and just visually stunning. Definitely the most beautiful church I've been in so far. We took sometime to sit down and just appreciate everything that was around us.
Scattered around the city are what is left of these old Roman ruins.
We stumbled upon this random but large and beautiful trippy street artwork while roaming around the city as well.
Overall, Zaragoza was kind of underwhelming for me a little bit. The town was nice, small, and comforting but there was not a lot of things to do and we definitely didn't need to spend a whole day there. A lot of factors at play could have also effected how this trip turned out which was not being able to go to the park and being pretty hungover throughout the whole trip.
This second trip to venture out to different parts of Spain ended up being a whole lot better. We took this a couple weeks after the Zaragoza trip and this was around the time that spring weather has started to settle in a little. Some days being warmer than others we happen to take a trip on one of the warmer days.
The goal of this trip was to visit Silla de Felipe II or in English Chair of Felipe II. I'll go into later the significance. What was great about it to is that you had to hike into El Escorial a bit to get to it, a type of situation that could lead to getting lost in a town you've never been before made the journey of this trip interesting and different for us. From the train station to the chair and back we walked about 15 miles total on a very beautiful exploration.
The first part of the journey was to leave the town and enter the long tree path that looked like archways. Later on you'll see even more what I mean by that.
Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
The other big attraction the small town of El Escorial has to offer is a gigantic Monastery. We didn't have time to do the hike before we lost light and to go inside the Monastery and explore before it closed so we opted to just hike this time around and come back. So for now here is what it looks like on the outside.
To the side of it had this beautiful royal type garden with a wonderful view of everything around it.
This girl was standing on the ledge walking back and forth like a crazy person. That drop is very long!
After the Monastery we continue into the woods for what would be a 6 mile walk to the chair. The scenery was simply beautiful and sometimes breath taking.
Distancing ourselves from the Monastery.
Silla de Felipe II
Carved of granite, according to tradition, King Felipe II would go to this point and observe the construction of the Monastery being built.
The chair in all its glory.
The view. Worth it.
Alicia and I spent a lot of time sitting and staring in the distance. There was this nice peaceful feeling that came across. Staring at all of El Escorial like the King use to without a care or worry in a world. I could have spent hours there if we stayed in El Escorial over night.
My favorite picture I took of this trip. Pretty much sums up the beauty of it all.
The tree archway I was talking about.
El Escorial was a beautiful hidden gem in Spain. It was nice to go out and explore into the woods instead of parts of the town. I definitely plan on returning to check out the gigantic Monastery.