Segovia is another of Spain’s World Heritage Sites, located 1800m above sea level in the beautiful mountains northwest of Madrid. I’d read that there are those who would argue that Segovia was founded by Hercules or while others speak of the myth that it was a son of Noah. I wasn’t too concerned about who takes the credit, because it was the stunning aqueduct, a testament to Roman engineering, that I was looking forward to seeing.
The aqueduct is considered the best in all of Spain. It is 894m in length, with 163 arches and apparently, not a drop of mortar was used to hold the massive stones in place. It was reconstructed in the 1990s after falling into disrepair over the centuries. As if the aqueduct wasn’t enough of a wonder for visitors to enjoy, the castle at the opposite end of the old city is a true delight. It is said that Walt Disney modeled his Sleeping Beauty’s castle after seeing the Alcazar at Segovia.
It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries, with a deep moat separating it from the high rocky outcrop above the river. The turrets were roofed in black slate and are often likened to witches’ hats, giving the castle a look of fairytale beauty. The castle burned down in 1862 but was later rebuilt to its former glory.
We left the main highway after about an hour of driving and took the secondary roads up and through the mountains to reach Segovia. The skies were clear and the air crisp and fresh. We were delighted to find little traffic along the way so we didn’t expect to see a crush of cars when we reached the town, but we did manage to find someone pulling out on a side street and we quickly grabbed the parking space.
It wasn’t a long walk to the aqueduct, but it was uphill and it did give us a chance to admire the incredible structure as we walked. We were coming to the end of our ‘Circle the Mediterranean’ year and we had grown rather tired of seeing Roman ruin after Roman ruin. However, nothing prepared us for the beauty of the double arches on the aqueduct and for me, it is probably one of my favorite structures left behind from the Roman Empire.
We walked under the imposing stone arches and I noticed two delightful carousels, which had what I would call a Jules Verne theme. I couldn’t take my eyes off them and ended up snapping more than a dozen photos. You might say it was a distraction from the beauty of the aqueduct high above us, but I would argue that it made for even better, and more interesting pictures.
We walked through the busy streets of Segovia looking for a place to have lunch, and choosing one that had been recommended by the Lonely Planet.
When we stepped inside we were asked if we had a reservation, and only then learned that it was ‘Mother’s Day’ here in Spain. We were surprised to learn that the day is celebrated earlier than in Canada, that helped to explain why there were so many people in the city that day, most of whom were dressed in their Sunday best. We weren’t able to find another restaurant in which to have a leisurely lunch, so we opted for a coffee and a sandwich in a simple café along the main street.
We toured the Alcazar and enjoyed the view from the high towers and I noticed a small church standing on the other side of the river below. I thought it would be a great place to get photos looking back at the cathedral and the Alcazar, so before leaving Segovia, we drove over the small stone bridge and parked near the church. I got out my guidebook and read that it was indeed an unusual heritage building. The 12-sided Iglesia de la Vera Cruz, built by the Knights Templar in the 13th century, was based on the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It is said to that a piece of the True Cross is housed within its walls.
It was after 7:00pm by the time we managed to pull ourselves away from Segovia’s charms. We decided to take the main highway back so that it wouldn’t be too dark when we got to Madrid, but despite the fact that it wasn’t pitch black, we missed Exit 9 yet again and had to follow the signs to the airport, circle through Terminal One and then follow the now-familiar route to our hotel just off Avenida Alcala.
We are due to return the rental car in the morning so it appears that we will have to come to Spain again next year in order to master Madrid’s many highways and ring roads. There are some who would suggest that we purchase a GPS, but I’m not defeated yet and with map and compass in hand, I’ll continue to get around the old-fashioned way.