One of the best excursions from Madrid was the royal palace La Granja de san Il defonso also called ‘Little Versailles’. At one time a farm stood on the site of this palace which explains its name- ‘La Granja’ meaning farm in Spanish.
This slate roofed summer palace was built by King Felipe V, the first Bourbon king of Spain who came from France (he was the grandson of Louis IV)... He was probably homesick for France and he modelled this on Versailles, where he spent a large part of his childhood. The La Granja palace has hints of Moorish design and some Italian touches as well.
I loved my morning spent here walking around the extensive grounds, with trees from different parts of the world including giant sequoias, the spectacular setting at the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains and visiting the rooms inside, with one hall devoted to extravagant Flemish tapestries.
Felipe V got sculptors and designers from Paris who laid out elaborate gardens and 26 ornate sculptures which act as fountains.
The fountains are all cast from lead so that do not rust, then they are painted bronze or bleached to look like marble- all of them depict allegories and mythological characters ranging from Diana to Apollo.
The King first built this as a retreat but later it became a focal point of the court.
Photography was not allowed inside the palace, but I was amazed at the opulence: Carrara marble, frescoes, huge chandeliers, antique French clocks and 16th century Flemish tapestries that were woven form gold, silver and silk that they say took one year of work for just one square meter. The piece de resistance of the collection is the Honours and Virtues series, based on cartoons by Goya.
The fountains have pools, jets, spouts and basins and amazingly the original fitting and pipes are still in working condition- they are turned on certain special days and holiday.