Segovia! A quaint walled city thirty minutes from Madrid by the high-speed AVE train, Segovia is famous for the Roman aqueduct that marks the entrance to the city. It’s made without mortar—entirely a feat of engineering. So impressive.
The city itself is charming as well, and what started out as a cloudy day got even better once the sun came out. Segovia is near the mountains, which made it a fair handful of degrees colder than Madrid, and the sun provided precious warmth.
With a few stops along the way for lunch, postres and browsing shops with mudéjar style crafts, tiles and plates, we walked to the opposite side of the city to see the Alcázar. The word derives from al-qasr, the Arabic word for castle. On the way to Segovia, I learned from a podcast that back in the days of Moorish rule and the subsequent reconquista, you could tell whether a castle was Moorish or Christian just by looking at it: the Moorish ones had square turrets, and the Christian ones had round turrets. This one had round turrets atop a square tower, so I’m not sure what that means. Christian seems a safe bet, given how many churches there are per square foot in Segovia.
The best view of the Alcazar is from the front (the West, outside the city), but we were within the city walls so we didn’t get the picturesque view that is said to have inspired Walt Disney. However, from the castle there are great views of the valley and mountains, including the Iglesia de la Vera Cruz (bottom left), which supposedly once housed a fragment of the real cross on which Christ was crucified.
From the Alcazar, there is a footpath leading down and around the city wall back to the center of the city, Plaza Mayor. J and I took that path, and it was one of my favorite things we did in Segovia—it felt so open and free after being in a walled city, the narrow streets packed with tourists.
Come to think of it, it’s strange that no one else was on that path. I actually saw a few times when people in a group would hang back atop the city wall while the more adventurous friend would tried to encourage the others to come along. I suppose it appears like it could be wasted effort, because the path wraps around the southern edge of the wall, and it looks as though the path might end there, forcing you to come all the way back to reenter the city.
I was glad J was up for trying it; it was actually a really quick walk (Segovia is a very small city!), and we got great views of the surrounding areas.
A few examples of the textures of the mudejar style buildings. Mudéjar is the Spanish word for Moorish, and refers to the architectural style that incorporates Islamic elements and geometric motifs. I especially loved all the beautiful detailing that decorated many of the buildings in Segovia. The Cathedral spires (above) were a bit much, but the bottom left design was one of my favorites. Above right, the walls of the Alcazar.
J and I met up with A and two of her friends for calimochos, a mix of red wine and Coke. It was surprisingly good, even though it didn’t sound like the best combination. It probably depends on the type of wine used.
I headed out early because I wanted to buy a pretty mudejar style ceramic I had seen on the way in, and I also wanted to snap a few more shots of the aqueduct now that the sun was out. Gorgeous.
We came back to the city for a night of flamenco at Villa Rosa. This was AMAZING. Probably my favorite experience in Madrid. The speed, passion, energy and flair are all impressive, but what makes it so enjoyable is that you can see the dancers enjoying the thrill of the moment they themselves are creating. Their rhythmic repartee with each other, the guitarist, the singer… add to that the dinner in front of you, and it’s a feast for all the senses. I’d never seen flamenco in person before, but I’m a believer.
I jokingly called flamenco “very very very vigorous Irish dancing.” I don’t know how their joints take all the impact, but I’m glad they endure it for our sake. I’ve been trying to find a clip on YouTube that captures the essence of the experience, but all the stuff I’ve seen so far are cheesy Riverdance versions, literally. They do not compare. If you go to Madrid, you must see this for yourself! (I’d recommend making a reservation a night or two in advance.)
A and J kept the night going with “la marcha,” and I made one more stop with them after flamenco. We went to an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day, which was a predictably bad decision. Lots of drunk American college kids. I headed back after that; I didn’t want to stay out too late because the buses run infrequently on the weekends and the commute can take up to an hour and a half. The worst part is waiting in the cold for twenty minutes while the bus drivers have a smoke… you’d think they would at least let you on the bus!