Back to Segovia (updates soon)
11 Aug 2012
|Today was another hot day in Madrid - it is predicted to be above 40, so I decided to try be like a local and get out of town for the day. Of course, by now, most of the locals have left Madrid and gone to the coast for Summer vacation, so the town itself is comparitively empty anyway.
I decided I wanted to go back and see some of Segovia, as it was quick to get to (30 minutes by high speed train) and cooler than Madrid. So, I jumped on a train, and headed out to explore. The train itself doesn´t reach the heights of Barcelona, only doing about 225km\h. It also spends most of the trip in one of the two tunnels, so there isn´t much to see out the window. When the train arrived, we were well outside the city limits, and needed to catch a bus to get into the city, which cost 95 (euro) cents.
It dropped everyone off right near the aqueduct. I started off deciding that I wanted to go via some of the back streets, and out of the city gates around the city walls to see what the Alcazar looks like from outside the city. The pictures I´ve seen in travel guides looked amazing.
I hiked up the hill next to the aqueduct, and went to the "mirador panoramico" (panoramic lookout) to see what the aqueduct looked like from up above. There was also a board with a picture of the view, and names for each of the mountains around the area. They weren´t hugely imaginative "seven peaks mountain", which had seven peaks, and the sleeping lady, which looked like a lady sleeping on her back.
I ducked around some narrow streets from the aqueduct, and found myself in the Knight´s quarters of the city. Some of the buildings had this really weird texture to them on the facade. It was nice walking through here as the streets were empty, I passed one or two locals who had shopping etc, and it pretty much stayed that way until I got to one of the big squares in the city, called Plaza de San Esteban. There was a really old looking church (surprise surprise!) which looked kinda cool from the outside. Inside it was very, very dark and very dusty. It made me cough a bit as the air was thick with it.
I went back outside, and headed to the street of Dr Velasco. He was a surgeon who also became an expert Anthropologist, and was born near the town of Segovia. At the end of the street bearing his name, was a city gate, which was just wide enough for a normal sedan car to pass through. It was a two way street, so a mirror had been installed, so traffic could see what was coming on the other side of the wall. I went out this gate, and followed the sign which pointed to the "ruta panoramico".
The street outside quickly went down the hill, and it made the walls of the town look quite foreboding and intimidating. It´s no wonder this was such a good fortress city. When the street levelled out, I followed it back towards the direction of the alcazar. The street was lined with trees on both sides, which at times even made it hard to see Segovia´s walls at all. On the opposite side, a small river (more like a creek) meandered along. Some people were using the water from it to grow some fruit and vegetables by the looks of things.
I proceeded further until I got to a stairway which went up towards the city walls, and I thought I´d climb it to see the city gates for the road above me. I knew that there was some that were meant to be quite pretty to look at, however I think these weren´t the same gates. Maybe the nice bit was on the other side, although come to think of it, I think I may have walked through it inadvertently the last time I was here. Either way, I´d see the top of one of the towers of the alcazar, and it was calling me to come closer.
I walked towards the alcazar, following the road which went over a steel bridge that was quite narrow for pedestrians, and started to see it in its splendour. I had to look over a wall, but it was so high up above the flatland around the hill, that it was quite easy to see. The road sweeps round in a big semi circle, so you get to see the alcazar from every angle. At one point, I could see the windows from where I´d taken the pictures from inside the castle.
I had been walking for well over an hour by this point, and was starting to get very thirsty, so I took a small detour to a park which was advertising refreshments. Although it wasn´t as hot as Madrid, it was still 30+ degrees in Segovia and very dry. When I got to the refreshment cabin, I found it closed, but there was a nearby church and a carmelite monestery. I walked into both of these, and whilst they had nice alter pieces, there was no water nor a giftshop.
So, disappointed I trudged back off, and kept walking around the Alcazar. There was a hiking path that I branched off too for a while, climbing up some rocks and onto a flat hill. This was a perfect place to look at the castle from a front on angle, looking directly at the "bow" of the ship. I took some photos from up here, and realised I had quite a long way to walk yet, all of it was up a reasonably steep hill too.
I kept walking and taking pictures as I went, praying that I´d see a taxi go past that I could hail down. God hates me! (or wanted me to really exercise my calf muscles). I even saw the tourist bus drive past me at a very slow pace.
As I got a bit further up the hill, maybe half way, I stopped to look back at the last view of the castle, and saw three eagles flying high above its main towers. I tried to take some pictures of them, but they were too far away to get a good focus on all three. To confuse matters more, a person in an ultra light aircraft flew over the castle as well.
A bit further around, and the castle had disappeared, and all I could see was the fortied walls around the jewish quarter of the city, and the huge cathedral standing above all the buildings around it. I took some pictures of the cathedral, and kept pushing on, now getting very desperate for some water.
Another 20mins or so later, and I´d reached the top where I could enter the town. This was basically where we caught the bus to go back to Madrid on the tour, so I knew how to get back to the main street of Segovia. I stopped in at a small milk bar (alimentacion!) and got myself a 1.5l of water, which was gone before I got back to the aqueduct.
There were two things left that I really wanted to do. The first was see if I could get into the famous Meson de Candido restaurant and have another suckling pig, and the other was to do some souvenir shopping.
I noticed that the main street of the city looked almost entirely shut. I guess when Madrid closes for summer vacation and heads to the beach (only slightly sarcastic there), Segovia suffers and does the same. Almost all of the shops were closed, and only a few restaurants were opened. Meson de Candido wasn´t one of those that had closed.
It was one of the first hotels\restaurants in Segovia in modern times, and it was built right next to the aqueduct, so it´s very easy to find. They waiters were busily seating people to tables, so I wasn´t sure if I´d get a seat. Particularly as I was just one person, and they take reservations which obviously get preference. The maitre d directed me to a table underneath the huge umbrellas, which had been put side by side and overlapping each other, to completely block out the sun from above. Unlike other restaurants, they didn´t have water spraying down either.
In the square opposite, there was a small area set up for kids to be taught how to play tennis. They had some advertising hoardings like those around the cricket fields in Australia (only larger), which kept blowing all over the square because of the strong breeze. I asked for some traditional dishes to be served, and thought after my 3hr walk, I deserved a bit of a treat.
First up they brought me a chorizo, which wasn´t very spicy, but served in a clay dish with quite a bit of olive oil. It tasted nice, but the oil was a bit of a surprise. Next I got the suckling pig. They are cooked long and slow at this restaurant, and the chef shows off just how tender to eat they are, by breaking the little piggy up with a plate. You basically get a quarter of the pig per serve. I got one of the hind legs, a bit of the rump, and it´s long curly tail. That seemed a bit odd, but at least I didn´t get the head.
The pig was super soft, like the last one. It´s skin was a lot crispier than the previous restaurant. I washed it all down with some more water, and a glass or two of tinto de verano (summer wine). The waiter asked me if I´d like a postre, and I said "si". I tried the traditional Segovian punch cake, which was a house speciality. It is some very light sponge cake, with a thin marzipan cream and icing over the top. It tasted like it had some things like cinnamon and apple in there too. Very, very nice.
After watching the people go by for an hour or so, and watching the restaurant slowly fill up, I decided I´d go grab some souvenirs then head back to the railway station and Madrid. It wasn´t a long day - I was back in Madrid by 4.30pm.
So when I did get back, I caught the train to the opera station, and went to visit the main cathedral of Madrid - Almudena Cathedral....... more to come...