Saturday, February 11, 2012

El Escorial, an LNFA Game and Pig's Ears

The plan for today was simple, use Spain's excellent light rail system to journey first to the city of El Escorial, about 30 miles northwest of Madrid, to see their famed Monasterio de San Lorenzo. From there, board another train and travel another hour farther northwest to visit the walled city of Avila to see that great relic, St. Teresa's finger!

I was up early and boarded the Metro to start the day at about 7:00 a.m. On my walk to the Puerta del Sol Metro stop, I passed several eating/drinking establishments that were still going strong from Friday night's revelry.

Apparently, there is nothing like a caña (beer) to start your morning.

Financial Saver

I am a big believer in European public transportation systems and Madrid's is one of the best.

So far I have spent about $25 on all of my Metro/Train rides. When you consider that gasoline in Madrid costs about $10/gallon, it is easy to see how cost effective it is to go this route.

Neat, clean Metro stop

Miss your train, no problem, the next one will come in about three minutes.

The ride to El Escorial was smooth and pleasant. Once there, it was another 20 minute walk uphill to the Monasterio. It was an hour until this site opened so I opted to shun the 1 Euro bus ride and get some much needed exercise.

I should have paid the Euro.

Interesting Ivy Leaves

See, I would have missed these on the bus ride!

I should have paid the Euro.

Monasterio de San Lorenzo
de El Escorial

Viewed from the outside, it is a huge and foreboding structure giving no real hint of the treasures within.

Cafe Con Leche

I had about half an hour to kill before the Monasterio opened so I parked myself in a café and had my first CCL of the day, it would not be my last. Couple this with a grilled croissant and a zumo de naranja and I was king of the world!

Monasterio Gardens

My early start made me the day's first visitor to the Monasterio, thus I was able to breeze through it at a good pace without tour groups getting in the way.

My plan is working.

This was my third straight visit to a Spanish site that does not allow pictures inside and I continue to follow the rules.

"Why" you ask?

Do you remember that it was the Spanish Inquisition by any chance?

Enough said.

Now, as for the Monasterio (more commonly referred to as simply El Escorial), it was GLORIOUS!

Building took place from 1562-1584 during the reign of the very Catholic King Phillip II. Construction completely dominated the Spanish economy during this time. It was built as a sign of Caholic power during the time of the Counter-Reformation's struggle against the new wave of Protestant "heretics."

There were several highlights for me with the first being the Hall of Battles that measured 55 meters long and seven meters high. I loved the entire hall long wall painting of the Spanish victory over the French at the Battle of San Quentin in 1557 on the feast day of San Lorenzo thus El Escorial's dedication to him.

The Royal Pantheon houses the remains of 26 Spanish Kings and Queens stretching back over 400 years. An interesting side note is that El Escorial has a "rotting room" where a Royal corpse was kept to fully decompose for about ten years berfore their bones were placed in this room.

No, we did not get to visit the rotting room.

Finally the Basilica and the Biblioteca were the last two, and probably the best, stops on the two hour tour.


My perfectly executed plan then hit a snag.

I walked downhill easily back to the train station. It was about 12:45 and I was thrown for a loss when I found out that the next train to Avila did not depart until 4:45.

I needed a Plan B.

Osos Rivas Helmet

I decided to be adventuresome and returned to Madrid. I knew that the Osos had a home game at 4:00 but I had a problem.

About a week ago via, I sent messages to three people listed on the Osos' web page as their Head Coach, Atletic Director and Recruitor respectively. The message was simple, I introduced myself, said that I would be in Madrid this weekend and only wanted directions on how to get to their stadium.

Three requests for help, no answers.

I dropped the subject because of my planned Avila trip and the lack of response from the team's dignitaries. My Plan B meant that I would have to improvise since I had no clear intel on the stadium's exact location.

Rivas is a large suburb to the southwest of Madrid. It is actually one stop outside of my inner Madrid City Metro pass's power and has three Metro stops in the city.

What to do? Ask for help from fellow Metro riders of course.

I started with the couple standing next to me on the Metro, they were both getting off way before Rivas but gave me all sorts of good advice. The lady then starting asking other passengers if they could help me. Another generous woman gave me counsel. Then a young man stepped in, so passionate to help me that he forgot to get off at his stop.

Eventually, all of their aid got me to get off at the first Rivas stop where more Good Samaritans guided me to the last ten minute walk to the stadium, a full 30 minutes before kickoff.

Plan B worked like a charm! Thank goodness that I had written the name of the stadium down in my Rick Steves' Travel Book a few weeks ago.

Let's set up the game . . .

Sueca Ricers (0-2)
Osos Rivas (2-0)
Estadio Atletismo
Cerro del Telegrafo

LNFA stands for Liga Nacional de Futbol Americano. The Elite division is composed of Spain's top six teams.

Sueca is a suburb of Valencia that is big on growing rice hence the nickname. Ever heard of Paella Valenciana? Thanks to Daniel Castañon and Mike Contreras for these two insights.

The Ricers had been outscored 89-26 in their two losses while the Osos were rolling to a perfect start by a margin of 34-12.

The game looked like a mismatch on paper and it would be on the field as well.

Rivas suited up 33 players while only 20 Ricers made the long trip from the coastal city of Valencia. By game's end only 16 Sueca players were left standing.

Besides this numerical advantage, the Osos were just simply overpowering in both lines.

This was my first chance to finally take pictures at a site/event so away I went!

Good thing: The game was free.

Bad things: No concessions, no programs and a wind chill factor not in my favor.

How cold is Thun again?

Osos Rivas warming up

Sueca Ricers Reach Blocking Drill

Snazzy Osos Uniforms

Pass Blocking Footwork Drills

Artificial Turf for Soccer

Chalk lines were needed for the other type of futbol field.

Waming up the Shotgun Snap

"Oh, you mean you wanted a straight line?"

Pre-Game Document Check

Often the referees before the start of action will check the players vs. the roster to make sure no unlicensed athletes are trying to pull a fast one.

Here the refs are also checking the type of cleats that #62 is wearing.

Osos Kick Off the game

Bomb by Sueca


This happened a lot.

The Trenches

As noted earlier, most of these battles were won by the red team.

After one quarter, the Osos led easily 16-0 thanks to a passing TD, a running TD, two extra points and a QB Sack for a Safety.

Ricer QB forced to scramble again

Lefty was harassed all day long.

The QB was also the Punter

The second period was scoreless, so the Osos maintained a 16-0 lead at intermission.

Nice throw

Good Catch

Rivas shifty RB

He would score two TDs on the day.

Open in the flat

Rivas Cheerleaders

TD Grab

After the third period, Rivas now led 22-0 thanks to another rushing TD by #6, the PAT was wide left.

Kick Off Return after a Safety

The Osos defense scored a second Safety in the fourth quarter and returned an interception for a Pick 6 in the final stanza as well.

He's loose again!

Watch Out Cameraman!!!

Sueca having a little success on the ground

Another Osos QB Sack

Too many of these to be competitive.

Osos Mauling

What Rivas lacked in technique, note the O-Line's pad level, they made uop in sheer bulk and power.

Sueca Interception

A Ricer positive.


Rivas DB driving through his man

Osos Swarm

Ricers' 50 yard completion

Easily their best play of the day but they lost a fumble on the next play deep in the Osos' Red Zone.

Football Ballet

Rivas QB scrambling

Dying Cockroach Block

The Osos linemen did this quite often to the Ricers D-Line.

The final was Osos 31- Ricers 0.

I did get to see an oddity at the end of the game that I should mention. On second down the Ricer's QB was almost sacked for a third safety by the Osos but forward progress was marked at the half yard line. On third down the Ricers quick kicked . . . good strategy!

At 3-0, the Osos are alone at the top of the Elite LNFA XVIII while the Ricers are the only winless team in the league.

Back on the Metro, it was time to eat.

Tasca La Oreja de Jaime

Good looking litle place off of Puerta del Sol with lots of people in it, so I gave it a try

Patatas Bravas

Fried potatoes with a delicious spicy sauce.

Sautéed Pigs Ears

Oreja means ear, it was the House Specialty, so in the spirit of all of those cooking shows that I watch I had to give it a try.

They were delicious thanks to the sauce and crunchy, ears are cartilage afterall.

The bread helped.

On my off-beat food tasting in Europe adventures, I rate the delicacies that I have tried as follows:
1A. Spaghetti al Nero - Sicily
1B. Horsemeat - Sicily
3. Pigs Ears - Spain
4. Haggis - Scotland
5. Octopus Heads - Sicily
6. Spleen Sandwich - Sicily

Swedish food was just good and, thankfully, not made on a dare.

It was now about 10:00 p.m., the cold streets of Madrid were teeming with people including several young girls in mini-skirts and one walking barefoot.

While the streets were alive, I was not. It was time to call it a day.

I ate pig's ears.


Laurie said...

Pigs ears -- Just like litz and Dooley!

Laurie said...

(Should have been BLITZ.)

George said...

You're right!