Friday, 25 September 2015
La Granja Palace
After a pleasant afternoon in Segovia we set off for the final destination of the day: La Granja Palace, in the small town of San Ildefonso.
When we arrived it was only about five in the afternoon but the sun had vanished and there was an air of greyness everywhere. As we walked through the town we noticed that most of the trees were orange, though it was mid-August. It was like San Ildefonso existed in a bubble of autumn, with Spanish summer trapped outside. It was very odd.
We arrived at the Palace and I was impressed by the masses of beautiful flowers in front of it.
There was also a strangely-shaped tree.
I'll give a potted history of the Palace. Carlos II, the last of the Habsburg dynasty and a very interesting man, died in 1700, heir-less. It was decided that Philippe d'Angou, his grand-nephew and the grandson of Louis XIV, would become Felipe V of Spain.
In doing so he began the Spanish branch of the Bourbon dynasty - the Borbón line. It has lasted all these years - albeit with interruptions from Joseph Bonaparte, The Duke of Aosta, the First and Second Republics and Franco - up to the current King, Felipe VI and his nine-year-old daughter Leonor de Borbón who will most probably be Queen one day.
Back to Felipe V, who ordered the building of a huge Baroque palace. And so La Granja ("The Farm/Country Estate") was created - designed, in effect, to be the Spanish Versailles. It is scarily big and grand and the Baroque style is not one I am particularly attached to. However, I was keen to see the scene of so much history.
We entered and had to go through security and put our bags in lockers. Photographs were forbidden and it would have been difficult to take a good one anyway, on account of the whole place being very dark. I found it rather cold - in the emotional sense, not physically - and just didn't feel at ease there.
With long, narrow rooms all communicating with each other in a line so you could see all the way down, it reminded me of Hampton Court Palace - or a Tube train. The thing is, I love Hampton Court and find it very welcoming. Maybe it's because of all the activities they run and the historical re-enactments - there was none of that at La Granja, at least not while we were there.
There was art from all over the world and all kinds of riches. Of course, it was amazing to walk where so many kings and queens and princes and princesses had walked. But at the end of the day I just didn't like its vibe and I was glad to get back out again.
The sun had come out a little bit and the town was very pretty. There's something very French about it; maybe it's the species of tree there are. Philippe did a good job of creating his little bit of home away from home.
A booted eagle! (I think!)
I hope you enjoyed my photos of La Granja from the outside; it's a shame I couldn't get any of the interior. The outside is a lot prettier, though, and more chilled - you'll have to take my word for it.
Thanks for reading,