Valle de Los Caídos and San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Written by Elle Lambert ’19 to recount Wednesday, March 14, 2018:
Today we traveled to two fascinating sites that are important in Spain’s history. First, we took a bus from CEM to Valle de Los Caídos. Valle de Los Caídos is an enormous church, but it is more well known as the burial site of the former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The site also honors the nuns and priests who were killed in the Spanish Civil War before Franco’s rule. When we arrived, we were immediately struck by the massive size of the church and the cross on the mountain above it. The whole area looked a little eerie because of the dreary, rainy weather, but it made for some cool pictures. The inside of the church was equally impressive- it was filled with intricate sculptures, elaborate architecture, and some impressive paintings. We spent some time just walking around to take in all the art and see the entire church. After everyone had finished their tour of the church, a few students made a quick pit stop in the gift shop before getting back on the bus to head to El Monasterio de el Escorial.
When the bus arrived in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Mrs. Winn and Mr. Craig gave us about an hour and a half of free time before our tour of the monastery. We had the chance to walk around the town and also enjoy lunch at a cafe. Even in Spain, the American burger remained the cuisine of choice. After our lunch and free time, we all met in the monastery to start our tour. The tour guide, who spoke to us only in Spanish, explained the various aspects of the monastery. We saw an elaborately-decorated room in which all of the past monarchs of Spain are buried. Next, we walked through the bedroom of King Phillip II, who lived in the monastery. In the Hall of Battles, which depicts major battles of Spanish history, our tour guide showed us an interesting trick, or “trampantojo” about the wall painting. Much like the Mona Lisa, the eyes of one soldier appear to follow you across the room. Finally, we walked through the two most impressive parts of the monastery- the basilica and the Royal Library. The basilica is another church, but this one was even more intricately decorated than the Valle de Los Caídos. The Royal Library contains a multiple of ancient manuscripts and its walls are decorated with paintings of famous thinkers like Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.
After we finished the tour, we got back on the bus and headed back to CEM, where we had an hour of free time to rest, work, or even play basketball, before going home with our hosts. 
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