Getaway: Segovia, Spain
Castles and Cathedrals. Roast pig and flowing wine. Yes, Segovia has got plenty to keep you entertained for the day.
If you’re looking for an escape or day trip from Madrid you’ve got to check out Segovia, the city famous for inspiring the emblematic image of Walt Disney‘s castle. Set an hour to the northwest of Madrid, here you’ll find a historic city that has played an important role during periods of Roman, Arab, and Celtic occupation. The enduring Roman heritage is abundantly clear as you arrive at the central Plaza del Azoguejo. In full view you see the Aqueduct – a masterful exhibit of Roman civil engineering, it was used to transport water from a river located more than 11 miles away, and today the arching stone structure hovers above the main plaza, marking the starting point to explore the city.
All the guidebooks give Segovia high marks – noting the impressive golden colored walls and stone buildings, the romantic winding roads, breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains, and of course the castles and cathedrals. And so, on a recent sunny Saturday, I was set on visiting Segovia and exploring the city for the day. After a couple quick calls I had organized my exploratory team: a group of 3 english teachers and 1 spaniard to serve as driver and guide.
We took off by car at 10:45am and enjoyed the scenic route up into the hilltops, where green slops and white mounds of snow offered a pleasant change of scenery compared to Madrid’s bustling city streets. The drive took a little more than an hour, as we arrived at high noon, ready to take on Segovia.
Standing at the main plaza – smack-dab underneath the Aqueduct – you can’t help but join everyone else and stand crane-necked, admiring the daunting structure and pondering questions like, who built this? And how? As you do, be sure to snap a few pictures then duck into the adjacent information office for a free map.
We arrived without any planned activity or guide and in Segovia, that’s ok. The city is laid out almost in a loop so that you can walk along the main street connected to the plaza and pass each famous icon as you go. First up on your stroll is the Plaza Mayor where you’ll find upscale terrace restaurants and bars, a kid’s playground, and up ahead, the Cathedral.
After viewing the Cathedral, we tip-toed our way into the pack of tourists and listened to the guide recalling history. As he carried on about a king we strode past to the Alcázar, his words echoing through the cramped cobblestone streets. Taking photos and admiring the castle, it was all royally impressive. The castle clearly has served as inspiration for Disney’s iconic castle image and almost makes the trip worth it by itself. How nice is this castle? Well it’s striking to the point you can spend 30 minutes gazing from every angle, imagining an epic battle or swanky royal party taking place. Hey, it’s so nice I bet if Taylor Swift saw it, she’d faint.
Afterwards, wander and admire the old city walls and the steep drop down below. Also look back up at the segovian skyline – on a sunny day with whispy clouds – this view is tough to beat.
After seeing item #1 on the list, our growling stomachs made us aware lunch time was coming up. Walking back towards the Aqueduct you will pass four or five restaurants famous for the cochinillo or roast suckling pig. Many offer special lunch menus which range from 18-30€ per person. It may sound a bit expensive but these set menus are a feast: including soup or white beans to start, the roast pig and fries, then a slice of ponche or white cake. The meal also usually will come with a pitcher of young red wine. The Mesón de José María, seems to be a fine place to try this meal or at least have drinks and tapas. We ate at the restaurant on the corner nearby – white curtains blocking the windows and a simple decor inside set the tone for a great meal.Another great option is the popular Restaurante Duque…
Stuffed on pig and soaking in a fine, wine-induced stupor, we strolled the winding streets, stopping in tourist shops, pausing to stare at several churches and then admire the views out across Segovia. Back at the main plaza, we strolled up the steps and traced the Aqueduct up into the distance. The sights, the freshness of an unexplored city, the castles and cathedrals, and the lunch all made this quite a Saturday. Standing at the top of a vista point, almost leaning on the Aqueduct, we admired the sprawl of Segovia beneath us and the questions continued in our minds: who built this? Seriously how? And what must have this city been like, centuries ago? Then, “what time is it?” someone asked. The sun retired and a chilly dusk setting in, these were signs clear enough it was time to head back to Madrid.
How to Get There: Coaches with entrances to the Convent, Museum of Teresa de Jesús, Plaza Mayor, Basilica of San Vicente, the Cathedral in Segovia and Alcázar.
Nightlife: While of course, this is no Madrid, Segovia is rumored to have a fairly lively evening scene with small tapas and a continuing succession of drinks. For starters try the Plaza Mayor area then continue down side streets, enjoying the “clamorous nightly soundtrack of noisy bars and great restaurants”. (Lonely Planet)
If You Visit: 1.) Visit the Alcázar 2.) Try the Roast Suckling Pig 3.) Visit La Granja if time permits.
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