El Escorial

[This is my second visit to this magnificent place,

my first visit and its accompanying small hike can be found at this page]

1.    THE CITY OF SAN LORENZO DE EL ESCORIAL

I was very pleased to find out that a European Commission meeting I was to attend was taking place here in this mountainous place with a wonderful historical monument, the royal monastery at San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

It is only a bit over an hour's train ride from Madrid, but that ride passes through grassland, then oak forest, and finally comes into pine forest as the Guaddarrama range's foothills are entered.  It is a fantastic place in terms of scenery, history and even climate.

As I leave my hotel and walk uphill into town, this is my view of the monastery:

A block to the east lies the main street of the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, note the mountain ridge in the background, that ridge is the objective for the second day (the rest of the time there was all meetings, no more hikes).

During my meeting days I stayed here at this large building, the EuroForum which is a meeting place and small convention center with living and dining quarters, a very efficient way to run a meeting: no one needs to go out.  The elevation reading (in feet) was taken to allow me to see my elevation gain on the larger hike of the second day.

The day before and after my meetings I stayed at a very nice 3-star hotel just a block away called the Los Lanceros.

So my first day I walked uphill to the north edge of town to a second building in the EuroForum series, called the Felipe II, behind which sits an old dam:

Naturally I just had to climb that dam, regardless of the fences,

and so the next thing I know I am on top looking back into the town at the Felipe II building close by and the monastery:

The monastery is worth several looks by itself:

And when we turn around and face the mountains we see the destination of tomorrow's hike, the ridge just to the right of the small peak to the left:

But this is as high as we get today, and from here the air was clear enough that I could see the tallest buildings of Madrid, about 45 miles away, in the light haze on the horizon, amazing!

Before leaving the dam let's take another look at the Felipe II building and walk down towards it to explore its grounds:

On the way we down to the Felipe II building we pass this nice backyard enjoying some low-angle light through its pine trees:

Speaking of low-angle light, this tree next to the Felipe II building was brightened up considerably:

Behind the building was a nice walkway with some Fall foliage illuminated nicley by the setting sun:

Of course the monastery was an ever present sight from this location,

But that was enough for the first day, a day of walking just to keep from going to sleep, to prevent the prolonging of jet lag.

Start the second day's hike on the next page.

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