Visiting Valley of the Fallen and Our Last Day in Madrid

After an amazing and memorable week in Madrid, our trip has almost come to an end. Today will be the last full day we have and we’re determined to make the most out of it. Our morning started with getting breakfast at the hotel Regina as usual. The planned trip for Saturday was to go to the Valley of the Fallen and a bus was already waiting for us to take us to the monumental memorial we have learned so much about. Everyone got on the bus by 11:00 AM and our ride to the Valley of the Fallen started. It was a 40 minutes drive from the center of Madrid and most of us tried to take a nap and recharge to prepare ourselves for the productive day we have planned ahead. Trying to enjoy the view of Spain, I didn’t succeed much at sleeping through the ride.

Making our way to the mountains, the cross from the valley of the fallen was visible even from far away. At around 12, we arrived at the Valley of the Fallen. The cross was more enormous than we expected when we got close. The architecture of it was beautiful and the view of the mountains was amazing. We stopped to take pictures and look at the views. Soon, we met with our tour guide and began our tour of the Valley of the Fallen. Our tour guide explained and described the structure and history of the monument.

Valley of the Fallen

The Valley of the Fallen was built on the orders of General Franco to commemorate those who died in the Spanish Civil War which took place in Spain from 1936 to 1939. It includes one of the world’s largest basilicas and the largest Christian cross in the world. Construction started in the 1940s and was completed in 1958. It was built by Republican prisoners many of whom died in the process. It is believed that more than 30,000 soldiers from both sides are buried here. Franco’s body used to also be buried here until it was exhumed in 2019. On the basilica, there is a large statue of Mary holding the crucified Jesus, and underneath is a large door to enter the basilica. Inside, there are large statues of angels, Mary, soldiers, and also large medieval-style paintings. I was very surprised to see people praying inside and to see that flowers are still brought here given what the site stands for.

The entrance door to the basilica

After the end of our tour, we started heading back to Madrid at around 2:00 PM. The bus dropped us off at the hotel and we decided to go straight to a market to get lunch. A group of us went to Mercado San Anton, located in the Chueca neighborhood. This market has 3 levels of food stations and groceries. They had a lot of options to choose from and after walking around to see our options, I decided on getting food from one of the food stalls called Espiedo San Anton. I ordered the empanada de tinga de pollo and the wok de arroz con pollo. Both foods were good. After enjoying our meal, we decided to take the metro to La Latina which is actually one of my favorite neighborhoods in Madrid.

A Snapshot of Mercado San Antón

At La Latina, we went to a wine shop to buy some to take back home. The wine place consisted of all types of different wines and chocolates. My friends bought the wines and we started heading to the nun cookies place we have heard so much about. We asked for that day’s menu which was lemon and tea and when we were about to order, we realized all of us only had our cards with us, and the nuns only accepted cash. They close at 6:15 PM and it was already 6. Regardless, we ran around to take out cash and exchange money but unfortunately by the time we got the money, the nun’s already closed.

The beautiful La Latina neighborhood

Although we were disappointed for not getting to try the nun’s cookies, we decided to go to Chocolat Madrid to get the famous churros with chocolate. The chocolate here was surprisingly thick and very good. Afterward, we went to Sol and went to some shops to buy some souvenirs for our family and friends. We had the farewell dinner planned for Saturday at 8 so we went back to our hotel to pack and get ready for dinner.

The farewell dinner was held at La Taberna de Penalver. It was an outdoor, nice, and cozy restaurant. We first had starters and got the patatas bravas and chicken wings. The restaurant is known for its best paellas so we ordered different types of paellas per table for the main dish. My table ordered the chicken and vegetable paellas and I tried it for the first time which tasted really good. For dessert, we got the cheesecake and this was one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever tasted. The dinner continued with fun conversations and laughter until it was time to say goodbye to Maria and Francisco who have been great resident directors during our stay in Madrid. After saying Goodbye, we took the metro for the last time to Gran Via. The metro and the streets of Madrid were very crowded with people as is expected on weekends. We got to our hotel to grab a few things and a group of us headed out to a bar for our last night in Madrid. The night ended at 3 in the morning leaving the lively city of Madrid. Overall, coming to Madrid has been the best decision of my life and I’m grateful for the experience that I’ve had here. I will forever cherish the memories that we made in the beautiful city of Madrid.