Hola from España! After arriving in Madrid on Wednesday and sleeping through my jet lag, we toured el Monasterio San Lorenzo del Escorial, which was where historically the Spanish king lived and worshiped. The beautiful architecture, the ornate church, and the detailed crypts below of past Spanish royalty were truly captivating to wander through. The site had a few massive courtyards and a very pretty royal library, where the book’s pages were covered with golden leaf paper and incredible Michelangelo frescos covered the ceilings. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the library, but I got some great photos of the rest of the royal palace!
My favorite part of el Monastrio San Lorenzo del Escorial was the stunning hedge garden overlooked by the beautiful mountain landscape. My friends and I explored this area after the tour was over, and it was just breathtaking. Below, there was a giant pool of water with a swan gracefully swimming around. The hedges seemed to go on forever, surrounding a corner of the royal palace.
The next day, we did a walking tour of Madrid followed by a visit to Spain’s most famous museum, the Prado Museum. This museum had incredible collections of art, and it was really interesting to see and experience Spain’s history through this art. After the tour, we had free time, where my friends and I further explored Madrid by shopping down an avenue of fun boutiques, eating a delicious Mediterranean lunch, and finally settling down for our siesta.
The following day, we took a bus to Toledo, a beautiful city surrounded by a river. The first view of the city we had was incredible; we overlooked the whole city and part of the river around it. Toledo is known as the city of three cultures, referring to its large Christian, Jewish, and Muslim populations. This city is so diverse and reflects a unique mix of cultures into one distinct Toledo way of life.
We toured a church, a synagogue, and el Catedral, a massive high gothic cathedral in Toledo. Inside el Catedral is a golden monstrance, which was over ten feet tall and The center piece is made from the first gold Christopher Columbus brought back to Spain from America, and the larger outside part is silver. It also has many precious gems and 260 biblical figurines around it!
Now it is Sunday and we have just come to Valencia and met our host families. I can already tell that my time here is going to be great! My host parents are actually grandparents, but they are so cute and very friendly. They made us an amazing home-cooked lunch of chicken paella, a small salad, and strawberries for dessert. Today, the husband, José, took us around the district of arts and sciences, the modern and beautiful area that our apartment is located, and showed us the ways of Valencian life. I’m so excited to start classes tomorrow at the University of Valencia and explore the city more, so stay tuned for my next post!