Madrid Day Trips: Five Reasons to Visit El Escorial

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love Madrid, but sometimes I just need a break from the city. Ya know? Fortunately, there are lots of easy day trips from Madrid. Like visiting El Escorial!

Visiting Madrid? Don't forget about the many marvelous day trips, including El Escorial!

As part of my recent four-day weekend, I knew I wanted to do a day trip from Madrid but wasn’t sure to where. I’ve already visited Toledo (twice), Segovia and Alcalá de Henares. This year I have a list of the cities and villages near Madrid I want to visit.

I decided to visit San Lorenzo de El Escorial, just El Escorial for short. El Escorial is one of several historical residences of the King of Spain. Located 28 miles northwest of Madrid in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, the royal complex includes a monastery, basilica, palace, pantheon and library.

Drawn by both the history and incredible natural setting, more than 500,000 visitors make the day trip to El Escorial every year. Be one of them! Here’s five reasons I think visiting El Escorial is the perfect day trip from Madrid:

1. It’s close.

From Madrid’s Intercambiador de Moncloa bus station, it took just one hour to reach the San Lorenzo de El Escorial bus station. The buses to and from Madrid run frequently. Going both directions, I simply showed up at the bus station and didn’t wait more than five minutes for the bus to depart.

How to get there: Take bus 661 or 664 from Madrid’s Intercambiador de Moncloa bus station. You’ll arrive at the San Lorenzo de El Escorial bus station one hour later.

2. It’s affordable.

Visiting El Escorial was affordable, and by affordable, I mean cheap. If you have an abono joven (Madrid’s monthly metro card for 26 and unders), the trip is covered. El Escorial is located in the C1 zone. If you don’t have an abono, the trip costs 4.20 euros each way. Still not too bad.

Bonus savings: Students with a valid id can purchase a discounted ticket to visit El Escorial for just 5 euros. A full price ticket costs 10 euros.  

Don't forget to squeeze in a day trip when you're visiting Madrid! Check out El Escorial!
The monastery was impressive, to say the least.

3. It’s gorgeous.

If you derive an inordinate amount of please from autumnal colors (and who doesn’t?!), I highly recommend visiting El Escorial in the fall. The vibrant oranges and yellows of the changing leaves left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Yay for October! I can’t attest to the beauty of El Escorial during other seasons, but based on what I’ve seen, I’m sure it’s something special to behold year round.

4. It’s relaxing.

Initially, I had some reservations about visiting El Escorial on a Saturday. The last thing I was in the mood to do was fight my way through crowds. Slow walkers, strollers and school groups can really kill my vibe. Everything turned out just fine though. More than fine! El Escorial is super spacious, which means it can accommodate a lot of visitors without compromising its chill country feel. Explore at your own pace without the fear of being violently pushed aside by someone trying to snap a selfie.  

Don't forget a day trip when you're visiting Madrid! Check out El Escorial!
Next time I visit El Escorial, I plan on doing some hiking. Can you see the mountains behind me?

5. It’s got options.

Not into hunting tapestries or religious paintings? Seen enough Spanish churches to last a lifetime? You can still visit El Escorial! El Escorial isn’t a one trick pony. If you’re not feeling the monastery, you can wander in the gardens, hike in the mountains or explore the quaint town just down the road. I imagine this won’t be my last trip to El Escorial this year. I’m hoping to get back before winter to do some hiking!  

Have you ever visited El Escorial? What’s your favorite day trip from Madrid?

BB Monthly Recap: October 2016

Between getting back to work and starting an internship, October in Madrid has been busy busy BUSY. Talk about hitting the ground running.

I’ve also been writing a lot, and like being back in Madrid, it feels freaking amazing! One of my fave bloggers, Adventurous Kate, inspired this monthly recap. I always enjoy reading what she’s been up to, so here’s my attempt at informing and entertaining you in a similar fashion!

bb-monthly-recap

Destinations Visited

La Coruña, Spain

Madrid, Spain

El Escorial, Spain

Highlights

Starting a book club. Since last year, I’ve been searching for an English book club in Madrid. I’ve looked on Meetup and inquired at bookstores but haven’t been able to find exactly what I wanted. I was about to give up hope when I thought: why don’t I just start my own book club? Thus, Not Your Mother’s Book Club was born. I wasn’t sure anyone would be interested, but the response has been overwhelming. The group already has 50 members on Meetup, and our first meeting is in November. Ten women have already rsvp’d to meet and discuss The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Reading is cool!

Even Harley Quinn knows reading is the absolute coolest.
Seeee even total badasses like Harley Quinn read books! PC: IBT

 

Meeting new people. Last year was filled with lots and lots of traveling. This year, I still have a lot of places I want to visit, but I also want to put down some roots in Madrid. Specifically, I want to meet new people and, hopefully, make some friends. Buuuuut, making friends is hard. You’ve really gotta like put yourself out there. I’m trying, and it’s paying off. I met some fun people this month and had a couple wild nights out. Definitely looking forward to more of this as the year goes on.

Finding a language exchange. Another of my goals for this year is to improve my Spanish. I’d like to take the B2 (perhaps C1, shoot for the moon!) proficiency exam at the end of the year. If I’m going to pass, I need to practice practice PRACTICE. I found an awesome language exchange group that meets in bars near my apartment three times a week. I’ve been twice so far, and both times it has been a lot of fun. I haven’t had positive experiences at language exchanges in the past, but this one is super welcoming. Participants make an effort to have balanced exchanges. Even though there is no official timer, each time I’ve felt like I spoke half the time in English and half the time in Spanish. If you’re interested, the meetup is hosted by Multilinkual.

Celebrating Halloween. This was my third year celebrating Halloween in Spain, and I think it was my favorite time yet. October in Madrid wouldn’t be the same without it! At school, I told scary stories to the students as part of the festivities. Do you remember The Hairy Toe? Weird and not too scary, I always liked that story when I was a kid. My students got a kick out of it too. Their reactions to hairy toe soup were priceless. I could go on and on about Halloween, but I think I’ll wait and do a full post on it.

Children in Spain prefer to dress up as zombies, ghosts and vampires for Halloween.
This is from Halloween last year. Can you spot the ghost in chains?

Challenges

Recovering from El Camino. El Camino really took a lot out of me. Believe it or not, but 125 miles in eight days wasn’t easy. Initially, I thought I’d give myself just a week of rest. No gym. No running. No nothing. Well, one week turned into two then three. When October finally ended, I hadn’t exercised once. For me, that’s positively unprecedented! My body needed it though. In November, I’ll get back into the swing of things and start training for a 15-mile trail race I’m planning on running in January.

The Cathedral of Santiago Compostela marks the end of many pilgrims' jounrey.
La Catedral de Santiago de Compostela was a welcomed site…sort of. I still had four more days of walking to go! PC: Jose Antonio Gil Martinez

What I Read, Watched and Heard

I’m always looking for recommendations for books, blogs, movies, tv series, music and podcasts. As part of this monthly recap, I’ll share one thing I read, one thing I watched and one thing I heard. If you have any suggestions for me, leave them in the comments!

Read: I’m trying to read one book a week, and this month, I fell a little short and only managed to finish three. My favorite book was Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. Beautifully written, it’s a story about a woman searching for her place in the world. Travelers know going home isn’t always easy and will be able to relate to the main character’s struggles.  

Watched: My life has purpose again aka The Walking Dead is back! Despite counting down the weeks for months, I almost didn’t want to watch the season premiere. Too much anxiety! I did though (a day late because #expatprobs), and it was intense. Nothing says October in Madrid like me screaming at my tv on a Monday. No spoilers, but I was like woah, did TWD get too f*cked up? I know it’s the zombie apocalypse, but like, this is cable! Normally, I watch each episode two or three times the week it premieres, but I can’t bring myself to watch the season premiere again.

Negan is the super terrifying new villain on AMC's The Walking Dead.
Really terrifying but also super hawt? TAH TAH PC: Popsugar

 

Heard: Starting work again means hours of commuting. I try to make the most of my time in transit and am able to do so with the help of podcasts. My latest obsession is Popoganda. The weekly hour-long podcast from Bitch Media offers feminist takes on pop culture. A few of my favorite episodes were about cults, magic and nostalgia tv.  

Coming Up in November 2016

I’ll be attending the THRIVE conference in Madrid. Hosted by Las Morenas de España, THRIVE is a one-day conference with speakers and panels discussing finding your passion abroad. I’m looking forward to hearing Cat Gaa and Haley Salvo speak. Former language assistants, the duo founded Como Consulting, a blog with a wealth of information geared toward ex-pats going to and already in Spain. After I was accepted into the Auxiliares de Conversación program, I bought their e-book on moving to Spain. Def recommend it. Conferences are fun, and I’m excited to connect with other creative people in Madrid!

What destinations will you be traveling to in November? Any recommendations for places I need to check out in Madrid? I’m always looking for new spots!

Featured Image Credit: Manuel, Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette (aka yours trulyyyy) 

Hogar Dulce Hogar: Back in Madrid but Camino bound

It’s good to be back in España! I’m pumped for another year of exploring this amazing country, starting with THE CAMINO. More on that in a bit.

First, allow me to gush about how supremely happy I am to NOT be looking for an apartment right now.

Since we signed for a second year on our place before we left in June, Taylor and I had our cozy little home waiting for us when we landed in Madrid last Wednesday. Ugh, I can’t tell you how grateful I am not to be dealing with the insane piso hunt this year. Several people on the Auxiliares’ Facebook page said they’ve been looking since the beginning of September without any luck.

Yep, paying two months rent during the summer was definitely worth it. I’ve just barely recovered from apartment hunting last fall.

You probably think I’m crazy to keep going back tho this, but it was for real the worst. The awfulness of piso hunting in Madrid cannot be overstated, in my humble opinion.

Can you see La Almudena in the distance? The Cathedral is our next door neighbor.
Can you see La Almudena in the distance? The Cathedral is our next door neighbor.

Speaking of things that are the actual worst, let’s talk about jet lag and how much it sucks.

Those two months in another time zone really did a number on me. The past couple of nights, I haven’t fallen asleep until 3 a.m. Today, I didn’t wake up until just after noon.

Stranger Things hasn’t helped. We’ve been watching a few episodes before bed, and although it’s totally amazing, it doesn’t really put me in the relaxing mindset necessary for a restful night’s sleep.

Whatever.

Celebrating being back in Madrid with drinks at the Dry Bar. My Gin Fizz is on the right. Taylor got an Old Fashioned.
Celebrating being back in Madrid with drinks at the Dry Bar. My Gin Fizz is on the right. Taylor got an Old Fashioned.

 

Even though it seems like we just got here, tomorrow is our last day in Madrid before Taylor and I fly north for a 10-day vacation!

Okay maybe *vacation* isn’t the right word…

We’re going to be hiking for eight days on the Camino de Santiago!

What is the Camino de Santiago?

The Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James, is a network of pilgrimage routes running across Europe. All the routes lead to the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where it is believed the remains of the saint are buried.

During the Middle Ages, the Camino was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages in the world. Christians came from all across Europe to see the final resting place of the Apostle Saint James, who was beheaded in Jerusalem in 42 AD.

The Camino is still pretty darn popular today. In 2015, over 262,000 pilgrims (that’s the name for individuals undertaking the Camino) made the journey and not all of them for religious reasons.

For many, the Camino is a personal journey. I’m looking forward to testing myself both physically and mentally. It’s said the Camino has life-changing power. To be honest, I just want to see if I can hike 125 miles in eight days.

Discovery of deeper meaning in life? Possible.

Sore feet? Highly freaking likely.