We headed out today with Tio y Tia (uncle and aunt) to the beautiful city of Segovia, Spain. We arrived at about 10:00 and quickly made our way to la Criolla restaurant. It is right beside the aqueduct. We sat there and enjoyed a mixture of full breakfasts and pan con tomate (bread with a tomato sauce).
It was apparent that the day would be something special. In the central plaza by the aqueduct, there was a merry go round. That is not normal.
With our appetites sated, we decided it was time to explore the town. We decided to climb the stairs in between the tourist information office and the aqueduct to get to the top of the old city wall. After several breaks, we made it to the top with no problems. From that point, we continued toward Plaza Mayor. When we arrived at the plaza, we saw several triangular banners throughout the square. On the banner, there was a large block of a capital “T.” Imposed on the T was a hand that appeared to have strings reaching down toward a small “t.” It reminded us of marionettes. Sure enough, as we walked through the plaza, we saw people setting up for the puppet shows that would follow shortly. The festival is known as Titirimundi. That explains the letter “T.”
Climbing the stairs near the aqueduct.
Along the way, we came across a traffic jam at a parking garage entry. The reason for the jam was that the entrance to the garage is by an elevator only. With the cars backed up, heaven help a driver who needed to exit at that time — an odd scene.
We continued beyond the cathedral about a block or so and then began to double back. From the south side of the plaza, we took the main commercial street, Calle Isabel la Católica. It became increasingly crowded with people. About halfway between the Plaza Mayor and the aqueduct, we came across one of the puppet shows. The puppeteers sang and danced to well known American songs while moving their puppets. We stood and watched them for several minutes.
From the puppet show, we resumed our journey toward the aqueduct. When we arrived at that plaza, Plaza del Azequeo, it bustled with people. Many booths and vendors filled the streets. Also, people were doing various forms of live entertainment. Directly under the aqueduct, there was a small four-piece band and several groups of women. The women wore some traditional costumes. We asked one group whether they had made their costumes or purchased them. Of course, they said they made them all by hand. They seemed to appreciate the fact that we showed genuine interest in their handiwork. They invited me to take a photograph of Leslie with the group.
Each of the groups of women had a sign that had various slogans and depictions of the Virgin Mary. They were preparing for a procession of some sort. We did not hang around to see.
The aqueduct as seen from Calle Cervantes.
Back at the car, we set the GPS for San Ildefonso. We thought it would be an excellent idea to stop by the palace at la Granja and stroll through the gardens. I was very disappointed there were no flowers in the garden. That made our walk a little anti-climactic.
As soon as we finished our walk, we got back in the car and headed back home.
Some flowers (virtually the only ones we saw) near La Granja.
Today I was able to visit Segovia with our favorite Monsignor. He is here visiting for several days. We could not have asked for a more perfect day. It was not too hot and the sky was an amazing azure blue all day.
Going back to some of the same cities my family and I have visited allows me the opportunity to focus on different aspects of the city. On this particular visit to Segovia, I focused on the interior of the cathedral, different views of the Alcázar, and a new site, the Church of the True Cross (Iglesia de la Vera Cruz).
The Monsignor and I took the M-601 highway to Segovia. The city is only about 66 kilometers (41 miles) from our home. As we got into the mountains, we stopped a couple of times so the Monsignor could take some photos. At one of our stops, near a small stream, we were passed by several vintage Jaguars, Aston Martins, and Mercedes. There was obviously some sort of rally going the opposite direction.
When we arrived in Segovia, I parked in an underground lot. It is the most unique parking garage in that there are lights above each parking space. If the space is empty the light is green. If there is a vehicle in the space the light is red. There are blue lights for handicap spots. The lights make it so easy to find a space. Rather ingenious!
After walking through the city and taking numerous photos, we found ourselves at the cathedral. The full name of the cathedral is Santa Iglesia Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción y de San Frutos (Holy Cathedral Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and of St. Frutos). The entrance fee to the cathedral is 3€ (US$3.66). The Monsignor paid the fees. We did not realize the ticket said photos are prohibited inside. We had taken photos like there was no tomorrow! Oops!
Next, we made our way to the Alcázar. The Monsignor bought a ticket for himself that included the castle and the tower. Referring to my previous entry about Segovia, one knows for sure that my ticket was just for the castle! I went inside the castle and sat on a bench to wait for the Monsignor to enter.
After leaving the Alcázar, we made our way back to the Plaza Mayor. We found a little café on the plaza, in the southeast corner. We both had a “sanwich mixto” which is a grilled ham and cheese. We left there and made our way back to the car. On the way, I was able to take a photo of the Casa de los Picas, the best one I have ever taken.
Back in the car, I drove us to the Vera Cruz Church. It was built by the Knights Templar in the early 13th century. It is a unique, twelve-sided structure. The church was not open so we were not able to go inside. After taking several photos at Vera Cruz, I drove to the south side of the Alcázar. This was a view I had not seen before. The combination of the sun and the sky made for some striking photos.
From there we made our way to San Ildefonso. Once there, we toured the palace and the gardens. The day remained just as beautiful there as it had been earlier.
Leslie, my mom, dad, and I drove to Segovia earlier today. We did encounter a little bit of snow in the area of Puerto de Navacerrada (possibly translated as Never-Closed Pass). It lies at 1,860 meters (6,102 feet). The bit of snow made for a beautiful scene.
After parking in a garage in Segovia, we began walking directly to the Alcázar de Segovia (fortified castle of Segovia) to tour the castle. On the way, I paid particular attention to the façades of the buildings we passed. For some reason, many of the buildings in the old town area of Segovia have decorative plaster façades. With one possible exception, no pattern appeared to repeat. So, on this trip, I took photographs of many of them.
One of the most famous façades in Segovia is the Casa de los Picos (House of the Peaks). The Picos are diamond-shaped blocks of stone that protrude from the facade of the building. It was constructed in the 15th century by the Count of Fuensalida.
Once at the Alcázar, since Leslie and I had not previously been in the tower, I made sure our tickets included admittance to both the tower and the palace. At the time, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The tower is a large rectangular structure situated in the center of the main façade of the Alcázar. When we entered the tower, there was a fairly large and wide staircase that led one up about one floor. Then we went through a small door that led to a stone, spiral staircase. We found out later there are 152-stairs in that staircase. On the way up we passed a couple of people coming down. We had to suck up very close to the wall to let them pass. Shortly after that encounter, we heard some young people coming down. It sounded as though they were speaking French. Regardless, it seemed like they would never stop coming down. My dad counted 58 kids! We thought we would never get to the top.
When we did get to the top, we were all tired. We vowed we would never do that again! We were all wishing there was an elevator in this 1120 structure. So, even though the tower is quite large, all we saw was a staircase and a view from the top of the tower. I am not sure what else may be in the tower.
There are several suits of armor on display in the castle. I can imagine they were heavy and quite uncomfortable to wear. Although, being speared or being shot with an arrow would also be quite uncomfortable; so, I guess it was a good trade. As small as the eye slits are, it is amazing the one wearing the suit could see. Like anything, over time, one must have become used to the restraints and learned how to fight.
During this tour of the Alcázar, much like I did on our walk to the castle, I concentrated on wall decoration and patterns. Inside the Alcázar, there are numerous patterns. Some are done in plaster and then painted, while others are done with tiles from the local area. Much like the façades, they are very intricate and interesting.
Today was a national holiday in Spain, so we all had the day off. We took advantage of that fact and drove to Segovia for the day. It is only about 83 kilometers (52 miles) from our home. When we left our home, it was a cloudy, cold day. When we turned off the main road to go north on M-601, we found ourselves climbing into the mountains. We started at about 1,000 meters (3,609 feet). We ended up climbing to 1,880 meters (6,168 feet).
At the summit is a small ski area, Puerto de Navacerrada. The town sort of had a Bavarian feel to it. There was a little bit of snow; however, it was nowhere near enough on which to ski.
The forest on both sides of the pass looked an awful lot like the forests in Colorado. The Segovia side of the pass was loaded with switchback turns. When we got to the bottom of the pass we were only about 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from Segovia.
We drove on into Segovia and found a parking space. The garage was very interesting. Above each parking space was an LED light. If the space was vacant the light was green. If a car was in the space the light was red.
We walked up the stairs, out of the garage, and walked around the corner. As soon as we came around the corner we saw the ancient Roman aqueduct for which Segovia is famous. It is an impressive and imposing sight. At nearly 29 meters (95 feet) at its tallest, it is equivalent to a five or six-story building. This Roman aqueduct dates from the latter part of the first century! It is considered the most important Roman artifact in Spain. The remains of the aqueduct are approximately one-half mile in length. Up until 1884, the aqueduct carried water from the nearby Sierra de Riofrio.
We walked into the main square beneath the aqueduct, the Plaza del Azoguejo. That is where the main tourist information shop is located. There were very few people. As has become our tradition, we found a little place to have some coffee and a pastry. When we finished, we walked over to the tourist office which was now open. From there we began our hike through the old city.
We climbed up many stairs to get near the top of the aqueduct. From there we walked down one of the main streets inside the walls of the city. As we walked along, we noticed one of the things for which Segovia is renown, its unique building façades. There seems to be an unending number of patterns used on the fronts of each building. In the tourist information shop, they even sell books documenting the various patterns. During our walk, I continued my study of Spanish doors, photographing many along the way. They are so different from anything we have seen in the U.S.
As we continued our walk, we came across the Torreón de los Arias Dávila (Arias Dávila Tower). This is located at the Plaza los Huertas. In the 15th century, the Arias Dávila family built a palace. The tower is all that is left of that structure. A unique façade pattern is visible in the tower as well.
From the tower, we made our way to the Plaza Mayor and our first view of the Cathedral of Segovia. We went inside the Cathedral. It was huge. The ceiling was 15 or 20 meters (49 or 66 feet) tall, maybe even higher. The construction of this wonderful cathedral began in 1136. Completion did not occur until the late 16th century. Four to five hundred years of construction is just unheard of in our world today. Regardless, like so many of the churches and cathedrals in Europe, it is worth a visit just to see the works of art and the intricate decorations.
Departing the cathedral, we continued down one of the main shopping streets, Calle Marqués del Arco. We chose that direction because it ultimately led to the Alcázar, one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Segovia. Calle Marqués del Arco has numerous gift shops. In addition, there are quite a few artisan shops.
Soon we found ourselves at the Alcázar. It is a fortified castle that is rumored to have inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. I was not able to confirm that. This is the first castle in Europe that we have toured as a family. This castle is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is easy to see why. The castle was really spectacular. One of the first sights we encountered was the moat and drawbridge. The moat was really just a deep, deep pit. The castle itself is built on a point of cliffs. After walking around it was easy to see just how impossible it would have been to attack and capture the castle.
In the first room of the tour (self-guided), there are several suits of armor on display. Included in the display are a few of the suits of armor worn by the horses. From there, one makes their way to the Throne Room. This is a reproduction of the throne room used by the Catholic Monarchs. It was used for royal audiences. Immediately after the Throne Room is the Kings’ Room. The ceiling and the paintings in this room are incredible.
The armory has several suits of armor, cannon, swords and other weapons on display. It opens up onto the Patio del Reloj, the Watch Patio. That is so named because of the sundial on the side of the castle.
Moving from there to the Patio de Armas, one can easily see the Juan II tower. We did not tour the tower.
Leaving the Alcázar, we wound our way back through town, to the car and home.
Segovia is rich in heritage and well worth the visit.