El Escorial is a royal palace, monastery, museum, and school. This is a desolate place on top of a mountain, where the cold wind whips around its structures. It looks and feels like a medieval prison with its barren walls and stark decor. The only beauty one sees is the royal burial place, the Pantheon, in the deep recesses of the earth. Each casket of Spanish royalty is bedecked in marble surrounded by gold-plated bronze in ornamental style.
The Valley of the Fallen is a basilica and monument to those who fought and died in the Spanish Civil War. It has been a controversial site since Franco is also buried there, even though he did not die in this war. Thus it has become a battleground between the two parties of government, and thus was closed when I visited it both times. Even so, we were able to go into the basilica and see Franco's tomb. It is another desolate and barren building, with giant statues that overlook the tombs and threaten to topple over you. The cross is on top of the mountain and a funicular takes you up there. Of course we couldn't since it was "closed."