Visiting Sleeping Beauty's castle

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May 2nd 2008
Published: June 3rd 2008
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The first weekend in May we had Thursday and Friday off, and thus a four day weekend. It was the celebrations of the 2nd of May, when the Spanish kicked Napoleon and the French out of Madrid. As it was only our second holiday since we started work in January, we considered visiting another Spanish city- Barcelona or Valencia perhaps. However, there are many places around Madrid that we haven't visited, so instead we decided to stay at home and do a couple of day trips.

The first one was to Segovia, a town in nearby Castilla y Leon, about 2 hours from Madrid.....


Kate and Kris's adventure on public transport #2

You will recall from previous blogs that we have some adventures on public transport in Spain. Now, don't get me wrong, public transport here is great. The Madrid metro system is extensive, convenient and most of all, cheap. It's one price for a journey, no matter how far you want to go - either 1 stop up the line or an hour to the other side of the city. There isn't any of this zoning thing you get on the London Underground. You can buy a 10 journey ticket for 6 Euros, that's about £4. You can also use exactly the same ticket on the city buses. The national buses between cities are also cheap and comfortable. And since buses and trains are notoriously late in the U.K, so we can't be overly surprised that they are in another country....

....Because the bus to Segovia took over 3 hours. Which is quite a long time for a day trip. We arrived at the bus station just before 11.30, but we couldn't get a seat on a bus until 1pm. I guess it wasn't so surprising, it was a public holiday after all. Then the traffic was bad and the bus took a detour, and we think the driver got a bit lost. Resulting in us not arriving in Segovia until nearly 3.30pm....

Notes on cultural differences

The most notable thing about this was not really the delay, or the late arrival in the town. Places in Spain stay open until 10pm ish anyway so we still had plenty of time to look around. No, it was more interesting observations about the differences between the British and the Spanish. Our students are regularly telling us of the British reputation for being overly polite. Very quiet and reserved, tiptoeing around not saying anything insulting to others and being quite stand-offish... until they get drunk, beat each other up and turn into football hooligans anyway. There seems to be a big contrast in their opinions of us, between being uptight and quiet, never complaining, with our bowler hats and canes, to being drunken rowdy folk in football shirts singing loudly, throwing up everywhere and breaking bottles over people's heads. The Spanish, however, are louder and more unreserved, are noisy and like to speak their minds. To us Brits, this can sometimes be seen as rude, as they tend to think it's fine to push into queues, and slag off everything about Britain without considering that you might find that offensive. However, on the very plus side, it also makes them friendly and open and happy to talk to you, even when you don't really understand. Take the people in our building. Whenever we see any of them they say 'Hola' and 'Que Tal' and 'Hasta Luego' when they leave. If we get the lift with them
Plaza MayorPlaza MayorPlaza Mayor

main square, with the cathedral in the distance
they will chat on to us in Spanish, asking us about ourselves and our lives, even when we don't really understand. It just wouldn't happen in a city back home, especially London. People wouldn't talk to their neighbours, particularly if they were clearly immigrants who didn't speak the language very well.

Angry people shouting.....

Ok, back to the bus journey. On the way to Segovia, the driver appeared to go the wrong way. We realised this when the Spanish people on the bus started yelling at him and telling him the right way, and then going to the front and telling him about it. This happened several times on the way. It was brilliant! They were slagging him off to each other and shouting....and including us in the whole thing even though we didn't really understand...When we finally arrived in Segovia the whole bus started clapping and cheering!!

If this had been a bus journey in Britain and that had happened, everyone would have sat quietly, and then perhaps whispered to each other in concerned voices, asking whether the driver was going the right way. Noone would have shouted, and it would be very unlikely that anyone would have gone to ask him. We just would have all sat there hoping things would become clear. Obviously, on arrival we would have written stern letters to the bus company, outlining our dissatisfaction and disappointment with the company.

Finally, Segovia...

Anyway, Segovia was very pretty. The most impressive part of the town is the aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is remarkable because it was built by the Romans in the 1st century A.D. It's 728m of granite block bridges with 163 arches that stands up to 28m high. It was built to carry water from the nearby mountains to the city and has been standing for over 1,900 years. And get this, it hasn't got any mortar holding the bricks together. It's all just balanced. It's pretty amazing.

From the aqueduct you wander up into the old town. There is a Plaza Mayor of course, as it just means 'main square' in Spanish. It's surrounded with pretty buildings and the town hall, with the cathedral flanking one side. The cathedral is built in the Gothic style, and was a replacement for the original Romanesque building that was burned to the
The traditional dish from SergoviaThe traditional dish from SergoviaThe traditional dish from Sergovia

roast piglet.....They are displayed like this in the restaurants. It's just a baby! Could you eat it? We couldn't.
ground in the 16th century. This new one took nearly 200 years to complete.

Walking past the cathedral, we went towards the Alcazar. This castle's turrets and spires apparently inspired Walt Disney's design for Sleeping Beauty's castle. There has been a castle on that site since Roman times, but this one is allegedly just a replacement for the one destroyed in the 19th century. It is a rather odd looking building. We wanted to go inside but the queue for tickets was huge, and by this time it was pretty late in the day so we gave it a miss. Instead we wandered around the town some more, before sitting town on a terrace for a drink and some food. The typical food of Segovia is roast piglet. All the restaurants proudly advertise it in their windows, a full baby pig on a pig plate, with it's head still on and its little eyes looking at you pleadingly. We didn't partake. Instead we settled for another of the Spanish institutions of egg and chips, and a baguette!.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


really creepy merry-go-roundreally creepy merry-go-round
really creepy merry-go-round

with a weird collection of rides... This one is a giant fish....
Or a flying horseOr a flying horse
Or a flying horse

as bizarre as this was, the kids were loving it.

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