Today, I re-visited El Escorial. In the past, it sheltered the royal family of Spain and served as a monastery. And, today, it’s a museum complete with a library and a garden.
Back in 2006, my grandma, my family-friend, and I visited this place at a pretty early hour during the weekday. So, we had our own private tour.
The only places I remember visiting were the royal tombs and the bedrooms and the library. We also met a visiting nun/sister from India, who was delightful. And then my family-friend and I climbed up a stairwell to la Biblioteca AKA the Library. One of the guards asked us: “Are you Filipinos?” And it brought me some pride because that’s where my family comes from.
Several years later, or more like in 2019, after hopping off the afternoon bus, I hardy recognized the town. Back in 2006, the Nativity scene and the Three Wise Men and Baby Jesus Christ showcased themselves throughout the town.
Yet this year, I see flocks of school children dressed in their uniforms running around through the cobbled streets. I see a large bus dropping off a wave of tourists and I find myself running in the opposite direction. (I think I have developed a phobia of crowds, haha – I don’t particularly enjoy being shoved.)
Inside, one must place personal belongings through the X-Ray Machine and all that fun security protocol.
After purchasing the Basic tickets without the audio (Free Days are on Monday and Thursday), I enter the enclosed courtyard with horseshoe arcs all around me and a clock tower looms ahead.
All of this is a magical experience that’s non-existent in my homeland. Well, we do have the Cloisters, but still this is authentic material right within our footsteps.
I wander through the stony hallways where paintings and murals dating back from the Medieval and even Renaissance periods hang on the walls.
I visit the small bedroom chambers of the past royal family members. Their beds are smaller than a modern-day twin-sized bed. They lived in opulence with tapestries of every-day life and game-hunts cover their walls. And they woke to the amazing view of their well-trimmed gardens and forest and mountains from afar.
Climbing through the narrow-stoned staircases, I’m alone in a den of tombs. Royal family members lay here in slumber inside their white marbled caskets. I walk swiftly through feeling like I’m being chased and feeling the eeriness and the dread. And I do a silent prayer for them. Yet, I keep looking behind me, fearing the statues and the unknown watching my every step. I’m only at ease once I find another stairways.
Soon after asking a couple of guards in Spanish where the gardens stand (I feel like they eye me like an exotic animal or a criminal yet when I mention a simple “hola” or hello, they smile and relax a bit), I’m greeted by a hallway of towering columns and horseshoe arcs and well-trimmed bushes and walk on pebbles. The mountains and forest settle in the distance past the stoned fence.
While I’ll always treasure my 2006 El Escorial experience, 2019 brought in a new adventure.
As I sit down on a stoney bench, the breeze and the few people here has brought me peace.