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Today is Pilar, A national holiday, which is the same day they celebrate Columbus day (unlike in the states, Columbus day is always celebrated on the 12th, the day he supposedly arrived in the Americas. This day is also a day to celebrate the armed forces. Military people turn out in their formal uniforms and in Madrid there is a big military parade; Unfortunately I slept until 1, missing the festivities in Segovia.

Daniel and I met Sara at the bus station and went to La Granja, which is a small town about 20 minutes outside of Segovia, we wandered around hoping to find the tourist office to get a map. The tourist office was closed for siesta, so we continued without a map, passing the museum, factory and school for glass making.

Finally we made it to the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, where I realized I didn’t bring my paper stating that I am a teacher, which gets you free entrance to the palace and gardens. As we are reading the other terms for free entrance a guy asks us if we speak English and says today its free entrance for everyone!

Palace at San Ildefonso de La Granja

The first part of the Palace has been converted to a Flemish tapestry museum; room after room of walls lined in tapestries about 12 ft tall by 24 ft long, with elaborate,
mythological and biblical scenes. We noticed some had iridescent fibers woven into them which turns out was real gold and real silver. I couldn’t believe how proportionally accurate the figures were, I can’t imagine the patience needed to make an image out of fibers sewn. Although they allow cameras I was quickly approached by a guard after snapping a picture.

Gold chains… the Flemmish had Gold Blankets! [tapestries]

In the next part of the palace was the living spaces of the kings and queens, the bedroom was the size of our house and not only did the queen have a wardrobe room but a separate DRESSING ROOM which was three rooms away. Every room had some elaborate, multi-color, geometrically patterned, marble floor and ornate chandelier. Many rooms had domed ceilings with intricate murals covering them entirely. The most interesting ones were painted to look as if there was a second floor above the room.

The walkthrough of the palace leads you around to the back, where you can see the gardens and water features including some bronze sculptures and fountains, which we walked past on our way towards the back of the property, up the mountain, to try to get a better view of the palace.

We found a reservoir that supplies the fountains with water, along the shore of the reservoir we came across a cave of a sort. We explored it further, talking about how cool it must look when there is snow on the ground. We hopped over the little rock wall and went out onto the mud flat, the bottom of the somewhat dry reservoir and quickly discovered that you sink into the mud easily so we hurried back trying not to get sucked in.

We headed towards the palace and found a nice angle for some photos then decided to try and find our way through the Labyrinth. We had about 30 minutes until closing time; just enough time to get thoroughly lost. Luckily Sara shared a piece of her father’s wisdom; if you keep your right hand on the right wall you can’t get lost because you will eventually make it to the end.

The labyrinth’s gate was closed and a sign read “keep the gate closed to prevent problems with “CORZOS” (buck/deer). We opened the gate and put our hand on the wall and began walking, walking, walking… haven’t we already been here… yep I think we are lost. Found the beginning and our problem; we took a turn at some little gate not meant to be used. We started over and made our way around and around getting pretty far when we heard a whistle, but we keep walking. Then the whistle blew three times, quickly, so we ran, afraid they would lock the gate on us.

Later, back in Segovia, Daniel and I were watching TV when we realized we hadn’t seen Ben since the day before, so we knocked on his door to see if he was home. When he opened the door his nose had a cut and was swollen black and blue. At some house party, that I fortunately didn’t attend, he drank someone else’s alcohol. A girl walked up to him and hawks a luggie in his cup. Then she walks to a friend of his, liz, and tries to take her cup but he warned her. Liz, Ben and the girl are fighting over the cup spilling it on one another; eventually Ben got Liz’s cup with what was left of the drink. As Ben was standing in the kitchen pouring out his drink some guy just walks up, no questions asked and head-butts Ben in the nose!