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Published: August 10th 2019
As I leave to go down to breakfast Issy asks me if I can get her a piece of toast with some butter on it. She’s done this a bit over the journey, and I’ve always complied with her requests despite the danger that this has sometimes put me in. This morning is no exception. There’s a large sign on the toaster saying that removal of buffet food from the restaurant is strictly prohibited. I can’t find a paper serviette to conceal the toast in, so I take a bite out of the corner and run out of the restaurant, on the pretence that I’m in too much of a hurry to sit down and finish eating it. I get a withering look from one of the other guests; I think she’s awake to my scam. Hopefully I ran out quickly enough so she won’t be able to identify me when the police arrive and ask her to pick me out from a lineup. I hope none of the other guests have got anything better to do today than stand in a police lineup.
We catch a taxi to the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso (“La Granja”)
which is in the small nearby village of La Granja. We read that the Palace and its gardens were commissioned by Spain’s King Philip V, and were built in the early 18th century. The Palace was designed in the French and Spanish Baroque styles and both it and its gardens were intended to be modelled on the Palace of Versailles, which was built by Philip‘s grandfather, France’s King Louis XIV. It is often referred to as the “Versailles of Spain”, and was the Spanish Royal Family’s main summer residence from when it was built until the establishment of the Spanish Republic in 1931.
The Palace is massive, and certainly looks to have a French tinge to it. The interior is adorned with paintings, sculptures, tapestries and antique furniture. The ceilings in most of the rooms are vaulted, and have been entirely painted with priceless masterpieces. The borders of these masterpieces have been painted to resemble sculptures, and are so realistic that we’re still not sure after we leave whether they were all painted or whether some of them really were sculptures. I’m not sure electric powered chandeliers and smoke alarms were part of the original design, so somebody at
some stage must have been lumbered with the massive responsibility of having to decide where to drill holes in the priceless masterpieces so that these appliances could be installed. I wonder who had to decide where to drill holes in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to put the smoke alarms in there.
Issy notices that the appendages on a lot of the male sculptures here seem to have been snapped off. We’d heard that complete nudity became a bit of a no-no at some stage in history and someone then had to go around and glue fig leaves to all the statues. We wonder if maybe a batch of the glue they used might have been a bit strong, and when nudity became acceptable again and someone had to go around and take all the fig leaves off again, some of the appendages got snapped off with them.
We move out into the massive Palace gardens, which look to be about a kilometre and a half square of formal beds and forest. There appear to be literally hundred of spectacular fountains here. It maybe a slight exaggeration to say that this place makes the gardens at Versailles
look like someone’s backyard veggie patch, but only a slight one. Unfortunately they can’t operate the fountains in summer here because they use too much water, and we suspect that if they did turn them all on at once they’d suck the system dry and all the people in the towns and villages anywhere nearby would go thirsty. The pipes leading to some of the fountains look like they’d be big enough to supply drinking water to entire towns. The whole place is stunning, and we wonder why we’ve never heard of it before.
We go into the Palace church. There seem to be security guards manning virtually all the rooms here, and the church is no exception. We decide that being a security guard at a place like this must be a mind-numbingly boring job. The level of seriousness with which the guards take their responsibilities seems to vary widely from guard to guard. Issy put one finger on the surface of a table in one of the dining rooms for a millisecond when we were in the Palace and was immediately descended on by a voraciously zealous young guardess who looked like she was ready to chop
my beloved's hand off. The guard in the church by contrast seems to be far more interested in the messages on her phone than anything else, and I suspect we could have walked out past her with armfuls of priceless religious relics and she wouldn’t have noticed.
We decide to try to catch the bus back to Segovia. The receptionist at the hotel told us that this was a good option, as did one of the reviews we read last night about La Granja. The Google machine however seems to be unaware of the existence of this bus. I thought the Google machine knew about everything, particularly things as big as buses. Issy says that the Google machine says that there is a bus, but it goes via Madrid and will take two hours and 46 minutes. I hope that’s a different bus; the Google machine says it will only take us two hours and 21 minutes to walk back to Segovia.
The bus takes us past the La Granja football stadium, which appears to be called “Le Hospital”. We wonder what the story behind this is; whatever it is we suspect that it mightn’t be a particularly
popular venue with visiting teams.
It’s raining as we head out for dinner, so outdoor dining looks like being off the agenda tonight. We tried to get food at about this time near the Cathedral on the first night we were here, but none of the restaurants were serving it, which led us to being a bit mystified about the eating habits of the average Segovian. Food seemed to a lot more available last night down near the aqueduct so we head there again, and food is again in plentiful supply there. Issy has a theory that the restaurants near the Cathedral have got their calendars a bit confused and they all still think that everyone’s fasting for Lent. I can’t think of a better theory, particularly after a large beer and half of Issy’s giant jug of sangria.
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