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Tuesday
Oct 21st

Barcelona: An absolutely magnificent costal city

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My group travelled to the north of Spain this time. We were based in Madrid, but went to other places such as Toledo, Segovia, and Salamanca. We saw most of the grand monuments including El Escorial, Valle De Los Caidos, Palacio Real, and the Alcazar of Segovia.
My group travelled to the north of Spain this time. We were based in Madrid, but went to other places such as Toledo, Segovia, and Salamanca. We saw most of the grand monuments including El Escorial, Valle De Los Caidos, Palacio Real, and the Alcazar of Segovia.

On Day 1, we drove north of Madrid to El Escorial, a grandiose monument constructed in a rapid 21 years (1563-1584). Built by one of Spain´s most religious kings, Felipe II, to celebrate a victory over the French on August 10, 1557, its cold and unpleasant appearance reflects Felipe´s harsh outlook on life. He dedicated the building to San Lorenzo, whose feast day is also on August 10. San Lorenzo was martyred by being roasted alive on a red-hot grill (thus the monastery´s shape). Legend has it that during the battle with the French, a church dedicated to the saint was accidentally destroyed and El Escorial was away for Felipe to make amends.

We walked approximately nine acres throughout the tour. One of the most interesting parts we visited was the library, or “biblioteca”. The biblioteca had art on all of the walls and the ceiling. Books were even organized under class of art. For example, religious books would be under religious art. The next place we were guided through was the monastery, which was the highest point at approximately 300 ft.

After our departure from El Escorial, we went to the Valle De Los Caidos (valley of the fallen). This is a basilica that was carved out of a solid granite mountain. On the top of the basilica is a 500 ft. high cross. This memorial has a controversial history. You may hear that it was built for “all” those who died in the Spanish Civil War, meaning both sides Republican and Nationalists. However, it was constructed after the war with the forced labor of many Republican prisoners. Also, it was originally supposed to honor those who died “serving Dios (God) and España (Spain)” i.e. the Facist-Nationalists. Behind the chapel walls lie nine levels of dead soldiers.

Day 2 we went to Palacio Real De Madrid (the royal palace). This was the state home of the Bourbon dynasty from the 18th to the 20th Centuries. Also known as the Palacio de Oriente, it has a neo-classica style and holds 2800 rooms (we were only allowed to see 60). To begin with, there was a marble double staircase, a painted ceiling, Goya portraits of Queen Martha Luisa and Charles II, the salon de Gasparini that had an oriental-style stucco ceiling, a porcelain lounge, state dining room, and an overly-dramatized throne room with a ceiling designed by Tiepolo. It was gigantic and much of it was unnecessary in my opinion.

Salamanca, is a medieval city located 205 km (125 m) NW of Madrid, on the northern banks of the wide, dark River Tormes. The city is a reflection of the Spanish Renaissance era; almost all of the buildings were constructed out of golden sand stone. There was not much about this city that stood out to me, so we can end it there.

After Madrid (and the surrounding areas), a couple of friends and I flew to Barcelona, a beautiful city on the eastern coast of Spain. The people are Catalunyan and the language seems to be a mixture of Spanish and French. The city is absolutely magnificent. We took the metro to the Sagrada Familia which was constructed by Gaudi who is now a famous, deceased, architect. Gaudi never completed the temple because (from what I know) he was killed in some type of accident involving a vehicle, so now the city is attempting to carry out his vision which in my opinion, does not appear to be going well. The work Gaudi constructed is way more intricate and beautiful, whereas the newly constructed section has a totally different type of stone, no character, and its sculptures are rather plain and pointless (with the exception of the sculpture of a priest). My friends and I were somewhat disappointed at how fast the ne
 

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