I was ready to leave Fuentes Blancas by 9 am and being Sunday, the roads were quiet. Very soon I’d reached the start of the A1 which is a toll-free, two-lane motorway which goes all the way to Madrid. You won’t find service areas on the road but there are many filling stations, some with large parking areas alongside them. However, most are entered from a service road, and some of them are long. One of my favourite stops is at KM150. And another, just before the Madrid ring roads at KM27. At both, service roads are short; pumps are caravan-friendly and there’s a large carpark for meal breaks behind the shop.
A few weeks ago, when I was researching my present route with the aid of Google Maps, it gave me three choices for the journey from Burgos to El Escorial. One was via Segovia using the toll motorway, the second, a longer route via Madrid and a third – the shortest, using a 30-mile section of local road from KM50 on the A1, across to the A6. Looking at Street View, the road seemed fine for towing.
So when I reached the foot of Puerto de Somosierra, I disregarded Tomtom’s instruction to head for Segovia, and instead, continued on to the top of the pass. After several attempts to have me turn round, the device reset its self for a new route. But from the new ETA details, I realized it had chosen the long route via Madrid. It didn’t seem to want to consider the local road. Was I about to make a mistake? The exit came up…………... and I decided to take it. The road was as I had seen on Street View. An undulating road through the mountains, with some beautiful scenery. Yes – there were a couple of small towns to go through with a few speed bumps, and one of them where the whole population seemed to have turned out to attend a Sunday street market. Eventually, I met up with the AP6, but the short distance I had to travel meant that I left it before reaching the toll-booth. Ten minutes later, I was checking in at Camping El Escorial.
It was just around lunch-time when I arrived on a lovely Sunday afternoon. The place was heaving with Spanish weekenders. I drove around the lanes of pitches with not a vacant pitch visible anywhere. Eventually, I realized I had got into the area for semi-permanent caravans. A few minutes later, I found the ‘parcelas’ where there were lots of spaces. I pitched close to a water tap and within a reasonable distance of the toilet block. With water and electric connected, I took a walk around. The activity and noise, mainly from young teenagers were horrendous. It was back to the caravan to put the kettle on.
As if by magic, two hours later the place was as quiet as a tomb. Some caravans had towed off, but many had just been locked up and left. Now, as I look around, this part of the site looks busy, but nearly all of the vans are deserted. And as the crowds departed, so the rain began. It continued throughout the night.
Monday morning - and the rain was still hammering on the van roof. According to Meteo, it would continue all day. And they were right! But with the Royal Palace and the Valley of the Fallen being closed on Mondays, it was no great hardship. So the high point of the day was a visit to the local Mercadona.
Tuesday started as a dull, dismal day and so it continued throughout except for just a few periods of broken cloud. If I were to visit the Valley of the Fallen, it would have to be today because more rain is forecast for tomorrow. The complex is situated within a huge pine forest only five or six miles away from the site, but high up in the Guadarrama mountains.
It was built between 1940 and 1958 and is a monument intended to commemorate all those who died of both sides during the Spanish Civil War. About 40,000 soldiers are buried here. However, because Franco was the one who ordered its construction, and because he has his tomb close to the high altar in the Basilica, the complex is inevitably associated with the Dictator’s regime. Then there is controversy regarding the labour used in its building. Some say it was built by the forced labour of prisoners of war. Others say the work was carried by criminals on parole who were working to reduce their sentence. Suffice to say that it became such a political hot-potato that in the late 2000’s, the place was closed to the public. Even now, security is tight with outer-clothing and pocket contents having to go through an X-ray scanner.
From several miles away the huge cross is visible. It stands on top of a cliff, approximately 4500 feet above sea level. The cross itself is nearly 500 feet high and the arms have a span of 154 feet. Around its base are four colossal sculptures of the four evangelists.
Down below on the Esplanade is the entrance to the Basilica which has been cut deep into the mountain – and it’s huge.
Unfortunately, the authorities have chosen to ban photography – although I did manage to sneak one shot.
There is a funicular which carries visitors up to the cliff top alongside the cross but today, it was closed. The view from the top must be superb.
My next stop was at the Royal Palace of San Lorenzo. It was King Philip II who ordered the palace to be built in 1557 to commemorate the Spanish victory over the French at the Battle of St. Quentin.
His idea was that the complex would serve as a burial place for his parents and himself. In fact, many of the Spanish monarchs are buried here.
I was here some years ago so for today I settled for a view from the outside and a walk through the gardens.
By late evening, the rain was back again, and the weather forecasts make a depressing view. Talavera and Merida, my next planned stops look awful for the next three or four days. Maybe it’s time for some replanning.
To be continued.
To see this blog with several more pictures go to https://jondogoescaravanning. com/spain-nov-2018-feb-2019/