Friday, October 11, 2013

Strawberry Trains Forever

On Fridays I like to get out of town. A weekend away isn't always possible, so I've got a list of day trips at the ready so we can escape the city and be home by supper.

a walk along the river
42 km south of Madrid, Aranjuez is an easy drive or a short train ride away. Fall is a nice time to visit - there are lots of trees, and the leaves actually turn, instead of just shrivelling up and dying thanks to the smog, which is what happens in Madrid.

the canal
The summer palace is a hodgepodge of styles, but I especially like the Rococo staircase. The palace was designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera, the same two men who worked on El Escorial (that's a day trip in itself though, so no more until another day!). The gardens were designed to provide respite to the Royal Family from hot, dry, dusty Madrid. The Tagus and Jarama rivers run close by, and a canal was built on the grounds as well. There's a neat museum exhibit of pleasure barges in the palace (The Barge Museum - it doesn't sound fascinating, but it is. The barges are extremely ornate, and some are decorated with so much gold you kind of wonder how they managed to float...).
If you don't want to go in the palace, the 300 hectares of gardens offer a nice stroll (flowers blooming even in October). They're so nice they inspired composer Joaquin Rodrigo to write the Concierto de Aranjuez for Spanish classical guitar and orchestra.

If food is more your thing, the restaurants in town are well-known for their fabulous produce. Asparagus and strawberries are the most famous crops from this area and are sure to be on your menu del dia. There's even a steam train, originally for transporting the Royals and also produce to the capital, that operates in summer on which passengers can do a "strawberry tasting".   
It's called.... The Strawberry Train.

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