Archive for June 9, 2008

Segovia – Day Two (June 4, 2008)

Before I begin day 2 I should say a bit more about the hotel we stayed in. A group of entrepreneurs purchased the entire building with the objective of opening a hotel. The building, as purchased, was divided into may independent sections such as shops, restaurants and apartments. Workmen began to tear out the divisions and discovered a trove of art treasures hidden behind false ceilings and walls. The ceilings in particular had been protected so well that little restorative work was needed. Apart from the fantastic Mudéjar moulded ceilings from the XV century, (see photos here) the hotel also has the most important Roman remains found in Segovia, apart from the Acueduct, and that is the “Aljibe” which was the biggest cistern in the city and now has been turned into a meeting lounge in the hotel. Excavations are still ongoing in the basement as more discoveries are being made. The hotel is right across the street from the chapel where princess Isabella of Castile/Leon was crowned queen in 1474.

We got up at 7:00 and headed down to breakfast with other delegates in the conference (I forgot to mention that we were here because Alex was presenting a paper at a conference being held here). I have to say I enjoyed breakfast more than I thought I would. Having breakfast with learned historians leaves one VERY INFORMED of the area. I really enjoyed the small talk and left with a plan of touring the city on my own as Alex was working all day.

The first place I wanted to see was the Alcazar……………….

This place has a history that goes back to the early days of the 12th century. Over the centuries it served as the Royal court, state prison and a military school. I was the third one in and the place was empty, I had it all to myself. The first room I entered the Old Castle Hall containing articles of war.

The mounted knights were full sized…………

The details were amazing and I kind of got carried away with the sense of who had come before me, especially when standing in the throne room…..

The next room was as impressive, called the Galley Chamber because the shape of the ceiling resembled an inverted hull. Queen Catherine of Lancaster had this room built in 1412.

The other rooms including the centre court were filled with artifacts collected from the artillery school

They warn visitors that the climb to the top of Torre de Juan II is an arduous climb of 152 steps. I figured that wasn’t bad so I climbed up. Yes, it was 152 steps but they failed to mention that each step is much higher than normal. I climbed to the taop and was rewarded with spectacular views.

It’s funny to note that when I was leaving I had to use the washroom which was down a flight of stairs. There was a small sign leading down further to some roman ruins which aren’t mentioned anywhere.

I left Alcazar and went way down to where the rio Eresma flowed. We found a footpath yesterday and someone mentioned at breakfast that this went around the city so I wanted to walk it. I started at the bridge.

The path followed the river but there were a few branches so I kind of kept to the foot of the cliff to make sure I ended up going around the city.

Looking back on the path as I climbed back towards the walled city

The building at the end of the wall is an old slaughter house that has been turned into a museum, Museos de Castilla y Leon.

I had to hurry at this point because I need to meet Alex for lunch at 2:00. We met at Plaza san Martin and here she is waiting for me………

When lunch was over I returned to the place I had entered the city after the walk. I stood on one of the towers and walked along the wall where I came across the museum. I decided to go in and I was the only one there. It was all about the history of Segovia, describing the origins of its geology, the inhabitants and architecture. There were artifacts from the bronze age, visigoths, romans and medieval. There was even a skelton of a roman centurion with pieces of his armour still attached. I had an almost personal tour guide as each guard was more than eager to tell me about their part of the museum. I saw this water driven machine consisting of two massive wooden hammers. Someone mentioned it might have been the device that so terrified Don Quixote in the night. Once again I had to hurry because I was going to meet Alex for a visit to a chapel that was once a synagogue.

We visited and she went back to the conference. I went to our room for a nap……. Ask me if I love naps.

We met around 9:30 had dinner and off to sleep.

June 9, 2008 at 2:54 pm 1 comment

Arrival in Segovia

We arrived in Segovia around noon and headed up to our hotel by taxi (around 4 Euros), checked in and headed out right away. I have to tell you more about our hotel later.

We walked down to the aqueducts, walked around them in awe and then went for lunch.

We HAD to eat “colchinio” or baby pig as Segovia is known for this and THE place to go is Candido’s. This establishment has been in business since the 16th century (1786 to be exact). Like all guests we were greeted by the owner and presented with a signed pamphlet explaining the inn’s history. Our table overlooked the square through thick, old glass windows.

Alex was in heaven and we both kept staring out the window while enjoying a unique gastronomical experience.

After eating, we decided to walk to Iglesia de la Vera Cruz which is an 11th century Templar church outside the city walls. On the way we found a short cut that led down through the forest.

We were rewarded for our efforts…….

Parts of the original frescoes were still visible on the walls and we really had a sense of antiquity. The church was erected in 1208 by the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

From there we went back to the hotel for a nap, probably the bottle of wine we had at lunch and the mountain climbing we had to do to get to the church. The day ended on a quiet note.

June 9, 2008 at 10:20 am 1 comment

Off to Segovia

Up at 4 PM, showered, shaved and out the door at 5:00. We walked to las Ramblas to catch the metro at Liceu. We arrived at Sans in about 20 minutes and checked in for the train. High speed trains run much like flights. Security and check in and a waiting room until boarding is announced.

The first train for Madrid leaves at 6:00 PM, then one at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:30 and on. There are about 15 trains daily. I noticed lots of business people using the trains so I would guess the airlines are suffering on this route. The distance between Barcelona and Madrid is almost the same  as Montreal and Toronto.  I wonder why  no one is investing in rail travel in Canada given the inevitable rise in fuel costs. The interior or the trains are very comfrotable, and we weren’t in first class.

The Spanish landscape is really varied. From prairie like plains to badland like mesas. I found out later that the plains are from the same origins as the African savanahs. The views kept me awake for the whole trip. We reached speeds of over 300 kph but had no sensation of it. The trip takes approx 2 hrs and we actually arrived in Madrid’s Atocha station a bit early. We were taking cercanias (regional) train up to Segovia and had to find out where they were. The train station is huge and busier than Toronto airport at peak. One thing we noticed about dealing with Spanish tarin emplyees. Our experience’s made us beleive they do not offer any advice beyond the question you ask. For example, we went to a ticket counter for RENFE, asked for a ticket to Segovia and the agent told us the trains left from another staion. Alex informed him of the cercanias that left at 10:00. OH, the regional he says, buy that ticket over there. It’s like when we went to França station in Barcelona to buy an AVE ticket to Segovia. The agent told us the train left from the other station in Madrid but couldn’t tell us how long the connection took. Turns out it’s really simple and probable takes 15 minutes or so.

Anyhow, the trip up to Segovia was great. Once again the countryside kept me glued to the window. It seems like we were climbing up into higher regions because the towns took on distinctly alpine characteristics.

June 9, 2008 at 9:51 am 1 comment

June 2008

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