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Published: October 19th 2013
Both my sister and colleague had suggested that for a day trip, Toledo was the best choice. But I still didn't know why it was so great (Man of La Mancha, El Greco - these are some of the things I think). So, after we discussed, we decided on Segovia. I'm huge into old history and Segovia has the Roman Aqueduct and a castle - yeah, that is more me. Jamie and Addi didn't really care and came along for the ride.
We had discussed the route the night before, but when I check the map in the morning, I realized we'd erred in our plans. So, if you decide to go to Segovia from Madrid, here is what I suggest:
There is a fast train (less than 30 minutes) from Madrid Chamartin station. If you are near the Prado area, take the regional train
from Atocha station to Chamartin (not the metro). It seriously took 8 minutes and was like 1.50 euros each. Do not try to buy tickets at Atocha - that place is a mad house. It was easy at Chamartin. Trains to and from Segovia are about every two hours and 10 euros each way.
gotta love high speed rail - hear that US??
Another thing to note: the purple kiosks for long distance only
work for Spanish issued credit cards.
As mentioned yesterday, our timing was perfect. We originally planned to get our tickets from the Atocha train station, but people told us they'd been waiting 40 minutes to purchase tickets (see purple kiosk problem above). So, we decided to purchase the tickets from the red machine to Chamartin and since it was leaving in 4 minutes, we just went straight to the train. Once at Chamartin, I was able to get right to the front of the line designated for Segovia passengers. There were only two stops on this train going to Villagardes (?) and Segovia was the first. Seriously: less than half an hour! It was a nice train and there were obviously lots of tourists also on a day trip.
Once we left the station, situated in the middle of nowhere, there were two buses. Bus 11 takes you to the old town, where the aqueduct is located. 1 euro and we were on the way. It's about a 10 minute bus ride and I think it leaves every half hour or something. Almost everyone hopped off at
Segovia - Alcazar Castle
from top of King John II Tower
the aqueduct and went their separate ways. We stopped first at the tourist center; our lady was very friendly, though Jamie was frustrated because she had wanted to go to this winery, which turned out to be falsely advertised as in Segovia, when in actuality it was about 50 km to the north. Oh well.
We walked up the stairs behind the aqueduct, which leads to the old town. We were just ahead of yet another tour group of kids. We just let them pass and tried to avoid them all day. Aside from the kids groups, there were very little major tour groups, so the tourists were not too bad. We made our way through town to the plaza, which we scouted out a bit. Then went to tour the Cathedral. It was 3 euros to enter, but it obviously went towards renovations within. It was very impressive. We had a discussion about the role of the Catholic church in today's world. Jamie feels it should be modernized visually, like utilizing modern technology during sermons and keeping their beliefs, while one of the things I really love about the church is the architecture, the choruses and history behind
the church atmosphere, though I think the mentality of the church should change (and lose the grotesque images of people suffering trying to frighten you into submission). Will the Catholic church every figure out a way to move forward? Or will they lose their grasp on the younger generation? Who knows.
After the cathedral, we found a nice little outdoor restaurant where we got a bottle of wine and decent, though not great, food. The dessert was actually delicious though. Afterwards, we walked along the inside of the city wall toward the castle. It is a beautiful city, quiet, peaceful... can't be too terrible to live here!
Alcazar Castle is located at the end of the mesa and protected by the wall as well as a moat cut off from the old town. It is supposedly built upon an old Arab fort, which was built on old Roman fortifications; an ideal location at the confluence of two rivers. It is also the inspiration of Disney's Cinderella Castle. It became a favorite residence during the Middle Ages, as home of Alphonso VIII and his wife Eleanor Plantagenet (daughter of one of my favorite historical figures: Eleanor of
Acquitaine). Much of the current building was constructed by King John II (who the main tower is named after) and Philip II (who was the leader of the Spanish Armada). It was under Philip II that the steep slate roofs that give the castle its distinctive and fanciful appearance were carried out.
Inside is very interesting. It has been restored after two big fires, but built to look as it did. Apparently there was a painter who was actually commissioned previously to paint the ceilings, so the restoration was able to reconstruct the ceilings as they were. The throne room is grand, the views are spectacular, the ceilings are intricate.... just beautiful. And what I liked most about it is that you could almost feel like this was the atmosphere of the castle in the middle ages - very little modernization.
After the castle, we headed back to catch the bus where we'd been dropped off and return to Madrid. Again, great timing all around. I went home once we reached Madrid, ordered room service (cheaper than breakfast), and fell sound asleep....
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