Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Segovia: Spain's 'Stone Ship'

The Great Roman Aqueduct of Segovia

A visit to Segovia was highly recomended by our son, and despite the rain (and not bringing along our parapluies) this ancient city, 60 miles north of Madrid, surpassed expectations.

An intriguing sculpture in Segovia, Spain

No one knows for sure how old Segovia is. The city's origins date back to Celtiberian tribes, who, according to the Tourism Segovia website, lived among the craggy limestone cliffs.

Segovia's most notable attraction is the Roman aqueduct, Some say that Hercules himself built this massive structure. The majestic aqueduct includes 167 arches made of granite ashlars. Below ground, an intricate network of channels once supplied water throughout the city. Tourists can follow the subterranean path marked with bronze plaques to its end point: Alcázar of Segovia.

One of Segovia aqueduct's 167 arches

Roman aqueduct, Segovia, Spain

Originally a fortress, the Alcázar has served as a royal palace, a prison and a military academy. Today, the castle is a museum and a military archives. Its placement, perched on the rocks at the edge of the old hilltop city, is reminicent of a ship's prow, giving Segovia its nickname "The Stone Ship."

Alcázar of Segovia is one of Spain's most notable castles.

Alcázar of Segovia

Cabellero at Alcázar of Segovia

Much of Alcázar was destroyed in a fire in 1862, but the castle has been restored. We opt for the basic tour, foregoing a trip to the tower, which we think would be too slippery today. We wander through the various halls. Our favorite is Sala de Reyes (Monarch Room), which is decorated with a frieze depicting the monarchs of Asturias, Castile and León.

Ceiling and frieze in the Sala de Reyes at Alcázar of Segovia
The rain has let up enough for us to enjoy the gorgeous views from the castle before we head back inside to visit the Sala de Armas (Armoury), which houses the Royal Artillery School Museum.

View looking down from atop Alcázar of Segovia

Alcázar's moat
Halls of the Royal Artillery School Museum at Alcázar of Segovia
After our palace tour, we stroll the Segovia's neighborhoods, and end up at the incredibly bustling Plaza de Azoguejo where we enjoy a light tapas dinner in what could be the noisiest restaurant I've eaten at in years. The place is packed with young people talking, texting, laughing and enjoying the budget menu. (I must be getting old: I can't believe some of these kids are old enough to drink.)

A quiet (for now) corner of Segovia. Around 9 p.m., the town will be hopping
with young people.
Statue of  musicologist and folklorist Agapito Marazuela,
in Segovia's Jewish Quarter.
Pretty cathedral topper

Despite some raindrops, Segovia is a highlight of our trip to Spain. With its close proximity to Madrid, where we now have new friends to visit, we look forward to our next visit to this beautiful city.

We stayed in a hostel in Segovia: clean, convenient and cheap.
I forgot to bring towels so I didn't end up having to figure out
how the heck to work this faucett.

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