MADRID, SPAIN, 26 January 2012—Although Madrid is the most populated city in Spain, it is also the largest with a wide range of expansive parks and vistas. Madrid’s landscapes provide the perfect escapes, so head out on the metro or train, find one of these beautiful views, and, well, park it.
Parque del Buen Retiro
If you find that Madrid is your new home, you will be happy to accept “El Retiro” as your new backyard. An afternoon post-lunch walk or paseo in the park will help escape the congestion while aiding digestion. Stone fountains, impeccably groomed shrubbery, and marble monuments make this park the best Madrid has to offer in both human and natural elements. Relax on the grass or take a boat ride on the immense man-made lake. Retiro, Spanish for “retreat” that certainly lives up to its name.
Once a symbol of Spain’s power, El Escorial is located 28 miles northwest of Madrid in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Built with a meticulous attention to detail, King Philip II wanted the construction of the palace to be so perfect that only God could have created it. While the building is not quite perfect and the King rushed some of the fresco artists for time purposes, the palace still remains in fine shape, functioning as a monastery, a museum and a school. Most windows have stunning views of both the royal gardens and distant mountains.
The inside is just as impressive with one of the best art collections in the country, especially for El Greco fans, and some of the best tapestries. The Pantheon of The Kings consists of 26 sepulchers containing the bones of Kings and Queens of both the Hapsburg and Bourbon dynasties.
The Valley of The Fallen
El Valle de Los Caidos or The Valley of The Fallen, located 8 miles north of El Escorial, is well worth the bus ride. Commemorating those who died in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), numbering about 40,000, the monument is essentially the world’s largest tombstone. There is no need to feel depressed during your vacation because The Holy Cross, the largest in the world at 492 feet, doubles as a symbol of Christianity’s fortitude and endurance. In the basilica, one can see the burial place of Francisco Franco. A lift will take you to the top, but a short hike up the rocky and un-groomed hill is much more rewarding.
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