|January 4 -
Madrid is an excellent base for day trips to nearby historic cities such as Toledo, Avila, Cuenca and Segovia. These towns have as much to offer as Madrid without a lot of the big city atmosphere. We have allowed 2 days for such day trips. Today we headed north by train (2 hours by train, quicker by bus) to Segovia. We arrived and took the bus into the center of the old town located on a large hill. Our first stop was the city's cathedral, gothic in nature and completed in the late 1500's. Probably more fetching from the outside but still a remarkable work of architecture. We also forgot to mention how much colder it is here as we are up in the hills. We lost Madrid's sun as well.
From here we walked to the edge of the old town to the Alcazar perched strategically on the edge of a high bluff. The Alcazar is an old castle, which later became a famous artillery school. This place was untouchable during its day. The inside was filled with all sorts of body armor from the conquistadors along with some gruesome hand weapons, which were used during the old days. We climbed the castle tower for beautiful views of the city, the valley below, and the undulating hills in the distance. We then found a steep path leading down to the new town and walked around the castle in a park like setting filled with raging rivers and fortress ruins.
Our last stop before heading back to the train is probably the most remarkable and definitely the most famous landmark in the city, the Roman Aqueduct. Almost a kilometer long and nearly 100 feet tall at its highest point, it is an incredibly impressive engineering marvel. Add in the fact that it was built in the first century AD and was built of some 20,000 granite blocks without mortar or any other binding agent and you will be blown away.
We then caught the train back. Our incredibly quiet trip back was interrupted about halfway back with tons of kids who rushed in like yellow jackets after someone stepped on their nest. Apparently, they were all headed to Madrid (as we later figured) to partake in the Day of the Kings parade. Starving for fresh air, we piled out of the train and relaxed the rest of the night.
Again, as we get closer to heading home, our minds are once again filled with all the things we need to do when we get back. As a result, we tossed and turned all night.