Day trip to Segovia, Spain: the Aqueduct, the Cathedral, and the Castle
Posted on November 22, 2010 at 6:49pm Madrid / 12:49pm Cincinnati by Kelly Larbes
Segovia is a historic town located 56 miles north of Madrid. Last weekend, Jay and I took a last-minute day trip there with our new friends, Gaelle and Thibaut, who are in my Spanish class. Segovia is only a 30-minute high-speed train ride from Madrid (though it really took us an hour and a half because it took us 30 minutes on the subway to get to the train station from our apartment and another 30 minutes on a bus to get to town from the Segovia train station).
The bus dropped us off right near Segovia’s most famous symbol, its ancient Roman Aqueduct. It is made of over 25,000 granite blocks that were constructed without any mortar around the turn of the 2nd century. The aqueduct is a powerful sight — it is 94 feet tall at its tallest point. In front of the aqueduct was a big pedestrian-only square, which was the sight of a dog show when we arrived. I loved seeing so many dogs together. They had such distinct personalities: the dignified greyhound, the lazy beagle, the spastic french bulldog, etc.
We walked through town and stopped at the Segovia Cathedral, the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain. The magnificent exterior reminded me some of Toledo’s cathedral. For some reason, I always pictured Spain as lacking the glorious cathedrals that dot the rest of Europe, but I was completely wrong. I am repeatedly pleasantly surprised in many of the cities we’ve visited.
We continued on to the Alcazar of Segovia, a palace on the edge of the old city walls. It immediately made me wish we had time to take my parents here because my mom would’ve really liked it. Alcazar is a fairy tale castle, built for the King of Castile in the 12th century. We climbed the castle’s tower to the highest point and we could see out far over the valleys and to the cathedral shortly off in the distance. Up to this point, the sky had been full of gloomy, grey clouds, but as soon as we stepped out of the tower’s spiral staircase and onto the castle rooftop, the clouds in the sky began to break up and the sun peeked out. Not long later, it looked like a completely new day full of sunshine.
We took a break for a late Spanish-time lunch and a pleasant conversation with Gaelle and Thibaut. They told us stories about their time studying at Georgia Tech and traveling all around the United States. It is always fun to hear what surprises people about the States, from the large food portions and free refills to tipping etiquette to the abundance of fast food restaurants to dating misunderstandings to the lack of public transportation and the urban sprawl to giant houses. I think the urban sprawl of Atlanta would be a culture shock for anyone from Europe. At least now Gaelle and Thibaut are conditioned to long drives, and a three hour road trip for sightseeing is no big deal. After eight months in Georgia, their English is perfect, and luckily they still have French accents and not Southern ones.
After lunch we took a walk, downhill, outside the city walls, along a small river and through a wooded path that offered peeks of spectacular views of the castle and the cathedral. It was hard to believe the morning had been dreary and cloudy. We eventually climbed many flights of steps back to the center of town and leisurely walked through the uncrowded streets. Segovia had such a calm and tranquil feel, probably because there aren’t too many tourists in November and most head to Toledo anyways. I loved the traditional architecture of the old town: tiled roofs and walls decorated with sgraffito, contrasting patterned designs made of plaster.
As the sun set so did the temperature and we stopped for hot chocolate and tea. Before we knew it we were almost late for the bus back to the train. As we left the coffee shop we could see the cathedral brilliantly lit up, but there was no time to stop and enjoy it. We made it to the bus just in time – we were the last ones on the standing-room-only-filled bus. The day wore us all out; Jay and Thibaut both napped on the ride back to Madrid.