Postcard of the Week: La Granja de San Ildefonso, Spain
Day trips are the perfect way to discover somewhere new, without too much organisation needed and without forking out for pricey accommodation. Luckily for me Madrid offered plenty! After a quick tour of Roman and Medieval Segovia in June (here’s my Postcard of the Week from Segovia), we headed to the nearby royal palace, La Granja de San Ildefonso. To get there, there’s a rather infrequent bus from Segovia’s Bus Station (look up the timetable in advance) or a taxi costs €15. I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of looking around Baroque palaces – I can’t get enough of them.
San Ildefonso is a small town that, on the weekend we visited, happened to have a Medieval market in full swing, with lots of the residents duly playing their part dressed up in full costume! Ducks and geese roamed freely through the market stalls, a traditional band marched around in procession, there was food and arts and crafts of all descriptions, even a woman properly working away at a yarn spinning wheel. With the sun shining and colourful bunting in every direction is was a fantastically jolly sight, and reminded me of the sort of thing my grandmother would have taken us to when my sister and I were small, with our heads wrapped up in stories and fairytales.
If the market isn’t on when you visit then never fear, the palace is well worth the trip on its own. It’s known as the ‘Spanish Versailles’ as it looks incredibly French. It’s like stepping into France for the day, while remaining bang in the middle of Spain. For €9 per adult you can explore the royal chambers inside the palace and experience the water fountains which turn on from 17:30-18:15 on Saturdays and from 13:00-13:45 on Sundays. Unlike the real Versailles which I managed to visit last year with my mother (take a look at my Postcard of the Week from Versailles), it’s not accompanied by music, but apart from that it’s very similar. There are four separate fountains that burst into life one after the other, and beware of where you stand at the fourth one. ‘La Fama’ fountain reaches a vertiginous height of 40 metres which everyone gazes up at mesmerised for the first 30 seconds before the water then begins to fall, at which point the wind then dictates which group of spectators will get a soaking! The manic dash from the impending slow-motion downpour was absolutely hilarious although we narrowly managed to escape the brunt of it!
The gardens of the Granja would be perfect for a relaxing stroll and a picnic on a sunny day. I’m sure that when the full brunt of the heat wave that invades Madrid during the months of July and August hit, it must have been an absolute haven! Here are my favourite photos from the granja: