Exploring Spain: The outskirts of Madrid and San Lorenzo del Escorial
Many a travel narrative have begun in Spain. Traveling this country is best described in story form. Authors like Paolo Coelho have gone into trance-like states resulting in several novels, and arguably a career, all based on Spanish travel.
Instead of bringing you the top ten attractions or eateries in each Spanish town, I will show you. This year, we cherry-picked non-touristy spots. These are the locations you read about in novels and wonder where you go to experience a trip like that.
Every story starts with a hero. A hero leaves on an adventure or a stranger arrives into town…
Our first night was reminiscent to the night before a journey begins.
We took a late flight out of Miami putting us in Spain mid afternoon. This is the smoothest antidote for jet lag. Most people want to arrive as early as possible to take advantage of the day, but then become burnt out in a few hours when their internal clocks cannot keep up. Chill out: let that first day of itinerary go. Float into your vacation like the sacred journey it's meant to be.
In our case, this was lounging in a typical Spanish house by the pool (which includes el escudo del Real Madrid, the Real Madrid soccer team shield, for good measure). We BBQ’d at night, I wrote my thoughts, and the day finished later as all Spanish summer days do, with deliberate peace. The next morning we woke up on local time and ready.
SAN LORENZO DEL ESCORIAL
Once you get to San Lorenzo del Escorial you will be in one of Spain's oldest neighborhoods. Here, you can hear children with their parents, teenagers drinking with their friends and, of course, elderly people taking leisurely strolls. There are little tourists here.
If you only go for half a day, as we did, I suggest the following itinerary. First, grab food and coffee at one of the oldest restaurants in town, and then, embark on a gorgeous- but doable- hike.
THE SPANISH HIPSTER CAFE YOU MUST VISIT
Crochet Cafetín is the place your grandmother went to, a throwback in the most authentic sense of the word. I’ve written before that some cities in Spain make me feel like i’m in a Woody Allen film, this is such a place. The lighting is dim and the color scheme muted; it's an ambiance set for contemplative cocktails or espresso. Every wall has photos from real people who lived in a time when people would dine in this fashion. It’s a time capsule worth investigating.
A GORGEOUS– YET DOABLE– MOUNTAIN HIKE
Valle de los Caídos, or Vally of the Fallen, is one of the most heart-stirring views you’ll ever see. The Catholic basilica is a monumental memorial erected by Spanish General Franco to bury and honor those who died during the Spanish Civil War–– those on his side. Franco’s name elicits intense reactions throughout Spain, the nature of which depends on which side you were on.
We drove up Monte Abantos, a mountain of the Sierra de Guadarrama in Central System. This chain of mountains is located mainly in the municipality of San Lorenzo del Escorial in Madrid and part of the West in the province of Avila, Community of Castilla, Spain.
We crossed over to the West that borders Castilla and took a small trail, which led us to a peak. Here, we could see San Lorenzo del Escorial below us and Franco’s mammoth gravestone.
We use words like “awe-inspiring” far too often, and it isn’t until moments like this that I realize it.
There was a study recently citing a positive correlation with having a fulfilling life and feeling an immense hope and positivity, or being “inspired by awe in nature." What is awe? Anything that makes you feel like you could be moved to tears experiencing it. Since then, a slew of studies have followed and scientists are finding it also makes us more generous and even lowers our blood pressure.
All stories begin on the same note: A hero leaves in search of meaning, or a stranger comes into town. I felt like both in that moment, completely at home in this country yet a stranger in search of something deeper.
YOU MAKE ALSO ENJOY...