Wednesday, September 2nd.
It was a very short drive to Avila. Except where they were irrigating the land looked very dry. Still there were cattle in the fields munching on whatever. The highway wound its way through the rolling hills, which were interspersed with farmland or grazing land.
About 5 km out you could see the castle poking up into the side. We stopped at a roadside viewpoint Los Cuatro Postes to get a good look at this walled city.
The old city is surrounded by imposing city walls comprising of eight monumental gates, 88 watchtowers and more than 2500 turrets; one of the best preserved medieval bastions in all Spain. (Probably due to their restoration programme.). They were quite impressive!
We carried on into town with Bill wondering where to park. Miraculously a huge convention centre appeared before us at the bottom (Where else) of the hill where the old city sat.
There were about 20 tour buses in the lot and about 5 RVs so we thought we were pretty safe. (and we were) Now if only there was a bus to take us to the top and THERE was one sitting beside the convention center bus stop.
For E1 we were taken first for a tour through the city then up to a gate in the wall. Now these walls have stood since the 1100’s and rank among the world’s best-preserved medieval defensive perimeters. They were raised to a height of 12 m. and stretch for 2.5 km atop the remains of earlier Roman and Muslim battlements.
Avila’s 12th. C cathedral is a house of worship and also an ingenious fortress; its stout granite apse forms the central bulwark in the heavily fortified eastern wall of the old city.
The altar piece painting showing the life of Jesus in 24 scenes is a knockout!
The cathedral is unique with its ochre-stained limestone columns and cantilevered ceilings. I love the ceilings!!
Another beautiful piece of work is the carved walnut choir stalls under the organs. Quite majestic!
St. Vincente’s Basilica is just outside the walls standing alone. It is a very graceful church in its simplicity. Work was started in the 11th C supposedly on the site where three martyrs – San Vicente and his sisters-were slaughtered by the Romans in the early 4th C. Their canopied cenotaph is of Romanesque style with nods to the Gothic; it stands almost in the center of the church before the high altar
After a lovely meal in the shadow of the walls we decided it might be fun to take a stroll along the top of the walls. After following the instructions to an entrance to do just that, we discovered that the entrance was closed. Rather than walk all the way back uphill to catch the bus back to our RV we chose a different gate through the wall and cut across to the parking lot.
Next stop; Segovia. The high plateau or meseta with its endless horizons, we had been driving on continued all the way to Segovia.
The first clue you get that you are approaching any town is the castle/fortress spires reaching tall above the city. It is quite a whimsical feeling with expectations of, I don’t know what.
Segovia was no different. The first site we saw on entering the city was the Roman Aqueduct. An 894m long engineering wonder that looks like a giant comb dropped into Segovia. First raised here in the 1st C by the Romans it was built with not a drop of mortar to hold more than 20,000 uneven granite bocks together. It consists of 163 arches and rises to 28m. It was part of a complex of aqueducts and underground canals that brought water from the mountains 15 km. away. WOW! There it was just stretching through the city.
There didn’t seem to be any parking available except on the street and we knew we couldn’t fit there. When I saw a Hop On Tour Bus ahead of us we decided to follow it knowing that if he could go so could we. He led us up away from the city for a great view of the castle then down under it for some more picture taking. From all angles the castle-Alcazar-was impressive with its Rapunzel towers, turrets topped with slate witches’ hats and a deep moat at its base.
FYI Alcazar is from the Arabic “al-qasr” meaning fortress.
Local lore says that its design inspired Walt Disney’s vision of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. What do you think?
Although I was disappointed I couldn’t explore Alcazar, we had seen the two most important sights of Segovia so decided to head to Aranjuez before darkness settled.
The drive around Madrid was uneventful, the traffic fairly light and the signage to Aranjuez was excellent.
As we approached the campground we couldn’t help but notice the trees uprooted and huge branches lying across the road. Then we saw a large work crew trying to clear the tree limbs from the roads ahead with traffic down to one lane. We later learned that a huge wind storm blew through on the previous Sunday uprooting and tearing into 300 year old trees in the area. There was a lot of debris everywhere.
The campground was very attractive with hedges separating the pitches. The family of (it sounded like about 110) 6 beside us started preparing dinner at 11:30pm for everyone. The children had the loudest voices they talked through until about 1:30am. Then music on a loudspeaker started up around midnight. Obviously sleep isn’t a priority here.
Finally, all was quiet and we slept.