May 1 rolled around and with it another long weekend here in Spain. After some deliberation, we’ve decided to head back to Segovia. Although this wasn’t our first time there (arguably one of the most popular daytrip destinations for Madrilenos and thousands of tourists visiting the city), the town’s charm and proximity to Madrid makes it a perfect place for a quick escape.
This time, we entered the old town from the south and slowly made our way down the main boulevard towards the landmark which never – despite the number of visits – fails to amaze. Segovia’s aqueduct, one of Europe’s oldest and best preserved ones, is a true historical and architectural gem. At its tallest, the aqueduct reaches a height of 28.5 meters and totals some 167 arches in all. Climbing the stairs right next to it, we were able to take in the breathtaking views of not only the aqueduct, but the entire Plaza Azoguejo, bustling with life and various activities, as is usually the case all weekends in Segovia.
After slowly making our way through the maze of narrow cobblestone streets and alleys of the medieval old town towards Cathedral and then the emblematic Alcazar, we were able to take advantage of an artisanal festival that seemed to be taking place in various corners of the old town, some of them quite hidden (such as in small internal courtyards of medieval mansions) and easily missed if one wasn’t paying attention. There we were able to witness, among other things, the old art of glass-making and the process of design of some other decorative products (if only I had a larger apartment and more space where to display such items… perhaps one day in not too distant future!)
After reaching the Alcazar, we realized that we had enough of the thousands of tourists that seemed to fill every corner of the old town and decided to make our way towards the Monasterio de Santa Maria de Parral, descending down a narrow set of stairs hidden in the lush greenery that covers hill sides on top of which the Alcazar is located. As soon as we started the descent down the staircase, it was as if we were entering another world, seemingly still undiscovered by international tourists and known mostly to the locals and the more experienced Spanish hikers. We found ourselves surrounded by nature and tranquility that, only a few minutes earlier, was only a dream.
Before reaching our destination we passed through the Real Casa de Moneda housing some very interesting Roman artifacts (once again reminding us of the town’s Roman roots) and charming water mill with a café serving what seemed to be a pretty decent lunch (too bad we already ate in the old town). Right behind it was the quick flowing Rio Eresma which we crossed via medieval-looking stone bridge. On the other side of the Rio, lush green grass invited the passers-by to sit down for a few moments (or perhaps longer, next time we’ll be better prepared for a mini-picnic) and take in the unfolding fairy-tale views of the river, the medieval stone bridge, and beyond it the green hill crowned by the Alcazar. It was truly a sight that one could only find on the Old Continent. It also made me think of the importance of being open to explore places off the beaten path rather than following the tried and tested routes.
After a brief break by the river side we continued our way towards the Monastery. At arrival we realized that we were in luck. While normally closed at that hour, one of the Monks was opening part of the premises to a small group of Spanish visitors. We followed them inside and felt ourselves immediately enveloped by the cool air, the silence and the darkness that filled the main part of the Monastery. Not wanting to disturb the brief guided tour that was being offered to the Spanish visitors, we headed out again and followed a narrow lane that winded along tall cypress trees and terracotta and pastel-coloured fenced residences to eventually find ourselves back by the riverside.
Once back by the river, we started a slow stroll alongside one of its banks, eventually crossing to the other side via a wooden bridge. There another set of stairs awaited us, leading, according to the nearby sign, to a lookout point from where a full view of the Alcazar could be had. We climbed the stairs, took a narrow path through a field and then another set of narrower stone-laden stairs until we reached the top.
Yet again, we were met by postcard views that are not easily forgotten. The entire Alcazar was before us (appearing much larger than one could imagine when approaching it through the main entrance via old town) and, beyond it, the Cathedral and a good part of the walled medieval old town. While the only thing separating us from the town was a narrow valley with the river and a road, the difference couldn’t be starker. We were completely alone, while on the other side, the city was bustling with life. After spending some good 10 minutes taking in the views and the tranquility of the place, we slowly started our descent down the hill, passing through a pine forest and admiring the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Guadarrama beyond it.
We finished the day crossing back to the other side of the valley and entering the old town through one of its walled gates which lead us back to the Plaza Mayor, first passing by, however, through the town’s old Jewish quarter (and a Museum dedicated to its long and rich Jewish history).
On the bus heading back to Madrid it again occurred to me how very different my life in Spain is (and has been from the very beginning) from my previous life as a lawyer in Toronto. I also thought about how difficult it has been to explain to some of my North American friends and colleagues why I have decided to change my life and professional direction so drastically. However, with experiences like this one (and many other, similar ones that I’ve had over the last few years while criss-crossing this country from East to West and North to South) and, surely, many more still awaiting me, I knew that my decision was the right one (for me). It also occurred to me that, perhaps, some things are better left unexplained. Or perhaps, one day, should some of my North American friends and colleagues decide to join me on one of my Spanish journeys, some of their questions will answer themselves.
Until the next one!
Segovia's principal landmark
the aqueduct up-close
views of the Cathedral from a nearby hill
Views of the Alcazar from a nearby hill
Strolling through the Outskirts
Artisan Crafts market
I'd love to buy one...
Around the Cathedral
Around the Cathedral
Cathedral & Plaza Mayor