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Published: August 11th 2019
Issy again asks me to steal some buttered toast for her from the breakfast buffet in direct contravention of the hotel’s strict rules about not removing buffet food from the dining room. The elderly guest who seemed to be awake to my scam yesterday is here again so I need a new tactic; I decide to go with sneaking the toast out hidden under my shirt. I don‘t think anyone noticed, but my shirt is now covered in butter. Issy says I’m being ridiculous. That’s easy for her to say; she’s not the one who's going to get locked up, although I suppose they could still get her as an accessory after the fact.
Issy is happy to stay in our room munching on her contraband toast so I go out in search of more churches. First stop is the Iglesia de San Martin. The man at the entrance tells me that I need to buy the “Sacred Segovia Package", which gets me entry to five churches for the price of two. He even gives me a wrist band to put on, and tells me that I need to show this at the entrances to all the other churches. I
feel like I’m off to a rock concert, only perhaps with a little less noise.
As I go into the Iglesia de San Martin I see a Chinese bride sitting in the entrance with her entourage, getting her wedding photos taken. This would seem to be a rather obscure place to come halfway round the world to to get married. I wonder if they have many Asian weddings here. I read that the church was founded in the 12th century, and it certainly looks very old. The cloisters are beautiful, but look really ancient and a bit decrepit, and the entrance to them is locked. I think this might be because someone’s worried that they might be about to collapse and kill a few unsuspecting tourists. The other thing that is really noticeable about this church is that all the floorboards squeak really loudly whenever you walk on them. I don’t think you’d have too much luck if you wanted to sneak out of here in the middle of a service without anyone noticing.
Next on the list in the five church package is the Iglesia de San Millan. There doesn’t seem to be anyone on the door
to scan my wristband, and I soon discover that this is because there’s a service in progress and I’m not supposed to be here. I hide my camera behind my back so no one realises that I’m a tourist, and then try to sneak out a side entrance without anyone noticing. Fortunately the floor in this church is stone, so I don’t need to worry about squeaky floorboards.
The next two churches on the ticket are the Iglesia de San Salvador near the aqueduct, and the Iglesia de San Miguel next to Plaza Mayor. These churches are all ancient and nice, but they’re all starting to look a bit the same, and I think I might be starting to get a bit churched-out.
I collect Issy and we head off towards the Segovia Botanical Gardens. These are very structured and formal, and more like a botanical museum than somewhere you’d go to stretch out and have a picnic. There’s an “Insect Hotel“ here which is a wired-off collection of wood with holes drilled in it, piles of stones, pine cones, and paper stuffed into tubes, and the idea seems to be that insects can fly in here and
safely crawl around without being disturbed. There’s also a large goldfish pond. As we stand on the edge staring at the fish a mother and her young son turn up with a fishing net and start trying to catch some of the fish. I’m not sure this was quite what the people who built the gardens had in mind when they installed the pond.
We stroll along the river that runs down the valley below the town. It’s very green, quiet and peaceful down here.
We go to visit the La Vera Cruz Church, which looks like it might be of interest to Maltese Issy; the flag of the Knights of the Order of Malta and another flag with a white Maltese Cross on a red background are flying next to it. Unfortunately it’s closed for siesta. We read that it was built in 1208 by one of the ancient Catholic military orders and it’s now owned by the Knights of the Order of Malta who hold their religious ceremonies here. Apparently it housed a relic of the cross for many centuries, until it had to be moved to another nearby church because people kept trying to steal
it. It seems that it’s particularly notable for its unusual twelve-sided shape, and it’s certainly a very striking structure from the outside.
We wander further along the river and find a deserted spot to sit down on some rocks next to a small waterfall. We feel at one with nature in this pristine romantic spot. This feeling lasts until shortly after we discover that we’re sitting next to the end of a drain and the pretty white leaves on the ground all around us are actually used toilet paper. That’s put a bit of a dent in the romance of the moment. We make a beeline for the hotel bathroom where we both spend a lot of time getting intimate with the soap.
I leave Issy to complete her disinfection while I set off on the fifth and final leg of my “Sacred Segovia” tour. Churched-out me decides that he can probably cope with this because it isn’t a church but rather the 16th century Segovia Episcopal Palace. It’s part museum and part palace, and not particularly inspiring. Issy asks me whether I got an elephant stamp for visiting all five sites in the tour package. I think
she’s just trying to rub in the fact that I couldn’t get my wristband scanned at the second church because I wasn’t supposed to be there. This is very cruel and unfeeling of her.
It’s Saturday night, and there seem to be even more people than usual following what seems to be the standard Spanish routine of standing in the street around small high tables drinking and munching on tapas. This generates a great atmosphere.
Issy compliments our waiter on his excellent English. He tells us that he learnt it mostly just by watching TV, which probably explains his slight American twang. I‘m still struggling to understand even small snippets of Spanish conversation. Maybe I should start watching Spanish TV.
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