Whenever I’m asked, “what is the most interesting place you’ve ever visited” I don’t hesitate for a moment with my answer. An hour drive outside of Madrid lies a quaint Spanish town called Rascafria. I had just spent several days in Madrid filming the reconstruction of the Palace Hotel, Madrid’s finest hotel. Our crew had to catch a flight to Paris around 3pm, so our host suggested we go to Rascafria to see the monastery. I really wanted to just rest after some long gruelling days of shooting, but Jane twisted my arm…for which I’m eternally in debt to her! Fortunately, I was able to sleep a little in the van on the way there.
The drive was not the most scenic, until we were 10 minutes from our destination. The highway wound around a small river, past an old stone train trestle, and then into the village of Rascafria The town was built centuries ago, which isn’t unusual for Europe, but it is not the typical American small town!
Even while the van rattled it’s way down cobblestone streets there was still a feeling of peace and tranquility..and no feeling of “big city rush” to go anywhere.
It took less than two minutes to drive through the whole town, then another minute down the road we arrived at the entrance to the HOTEL SANTA MARIA DE EL PAULAR. Upon exiting the van, the only sound I heard was the ancient fountain splashing, birds singing, and a light breeze rustling through the trees. The entrance to the hotel had two wooden doors large enough for a large truck to drive through!
After passing through the gates we entered the courtyard of the hotel, which was originally built in the 17th Century, and restored recently to maintain the same atmosphere created by the monastery hundreds of years earlier.
Once inside the chapel we were awestruck by the artwork that is seen by so few people in the world. My mouth dropped as I said “wow!”…but our guide said, “oh no…not wow yet!” We then passed through a door just to the left of the wall that you see below, through a small room, then through another door that took us behind that wall, which was just a facade for the real “wow”…the hidden treasure of Rascafria.
The City of Madrid was completely restoring this hidden treasure when I visited in 1997. But it will never be open to the public…you just have to know the right people in order to get a view of something that very few people in the world have seen since being built in the 14th Century.