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Escorial

Following lunch we boarded the bus and drove about 45 minutes to see El Escorial, a 16th century palace - the most important palace in Europe from that era.



It is enormous - and was built in just 21 years.  Today it serves as a school, monastery, offices, etc.  Originally it also served as a major scientific research center.  The hand drawn maps of all areas of the globe were most impressive.  Seeing the rendering of what they created as a map of the Americas (just 60-70 years after Columbus sailed) was incredible -so much accurate detail!

The style here is in stark contrast to the Royal Palace of this morning - but equally impressive.  Some features include:  16 courtyards, the traveling chair room (and yes, the chair is still there!), the room showcasing the rice paper maps, tombs of Spanish royalty and then areas where their families are entombed, and a spectacular basilica.  The church here is at the highest level of the grounds, except the king's room which is 11 steps higher (and has a view of the main altar) - showing his importance in relation to God --- God being the highest, then the king, then the church, then everything else......  very self-important kings here. :)

We then boarded our bus and returned to downtown Madrid for a sightseeing tour by bus.  Our local guide Jose (who returns with us tomorrow) was great - very knowledgeable and a fun sense of humor.

Don't worry -- even with all this touring many found time for shopping. :)

Tonight we head out on our own for dinner in Madrid.  Thanks to the research of Esther and Cindy - several of us plan to watch the Patriots game tonight (perhaps not all of it - the start time is 10:30pm here).

We then have an early start tomorrow as we depart Madrid for Cordoba, with a stop in Toledo.

PS - Last night we were joined by Madrid native Fatima Velez '90.  She was wonderful!!!!!  She shared so many insights and fun stories over dinner.  She even typed up a list of tips for us in Madrid!  Several of us then headed out for a walk with her after dinner.  As the night went on some of us called it a night and others stayed out late.  We wondered into an outdoor wine tasting event - and Fatima got us in for free!  Then she took us to the area she termed 'the jungle' where the young people hang out.  What a great way to spend out first night in Spain!  Thanks Fatima - we thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and look forward to catching up when you are on the Cape this summer!!!!

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