Sierra de Guadarrama, Ávila to Segovia


After we had finished our drink it was reluctantly time to leave.  We had liked it here but it was time to go and drive to our final destination, Segovia, about fifty kilometres away to the east.  This involved a drive along the line of the Sierra de Guadarrama, a spectacular mountain chain that rises to nearly two thousand five-hundred metres and spans half of the Sistema Central, the central mountain range of the Iberian Peninsula, which runs in a southwest to northeast direction and effectively splits Spain in two.  It is located between the Sierra de Gredos in the province of Ávila, and Sierra de Ayllón in the province of Guadalajara so our drive took us all the way along its northern edge as it runs between the two neighbouring Provinces of Ávila and Segovia.

The approach to Segovia was truly wonderful and still some way out we could see a golden city, a thousand metres above sea level, on a convenient rocky outcrop between the Eresma and the Clamores rivers rising majestically from the plain with a spectacular mountain backdrop and the Cathedral and the Alcázar reaching dramatically into the blue sky.  I was determined not to repeat the parking difficulties of Ávila but this plan went spectacularly wrong after I drove through the city gates into the old city and tried to guess a way to the Plaza Mayor where our hotel was waiting for us.  We made a couple of circuits stopping here and there to consult an inadequate map and then by chance arrived at the main square where our path was blocked by one of those steel retractable bollards and my dramatic entrance raised the eyebrows of some nearby pedestrians.

Some men in a bar directed me to another entrance and this had a bollard in the down position and an intercom to request permission to enter.  There was no answer and I was nervous about driving across it in case it raised up without warning and the CCTV cameras would catch the moment and I would forever be shown on television repeats of the Spanish equivalent of ‘Beadle’s About’.  I could sense that a bus driver behind was getting impatient so I had to go and I revved the engine and popped the clutch, spun the wheels and dashed across as quickly as I could.  Nothing happened – the bollard stayed down of course.

We were staying at the Sercotel Infanta Isabel and we had one of the best rooms on the second floor with a perfect view of the Plaza Mayor lined with cafés and bars and with the Cathedral directly opposite.  I think I had had too much sun and was feeling a bit unwell so while Kim went for the essential alcohol I had a rest and watched the Sunday night Bullfighting on the television. I have never been to a bullfight but think that I might like to experience it.

There was a full house at the event and the crowd were very excited and animated.  There were six events and the fights involved three matadors with their band of attendants, the picador horsemen who lance the bulls and the banderillos who stab them with barbed spikes.  The final act of the three-part corrida always involves a series of intricate moves and daredevil passes by the matador before he makes his final lethal thrust between the bull’s shoulder blades.  When the spectators approved of the matador’s performance they waved white handkerchiefs to signal to the President of the fight that he should reward him with a trophy, one or both of the bull’s ears and/or its tail.  It is not a very fair fight and I couldn’t help rooting for the bulls but each one came to its inevitable conclusion.

As it went dark it was nice to sit and watch the square melting from afternoon into evening with plenty of sociable activity.  There were lots of Segovians walking out in families and we joined them in the busy streets and looked for somewhere to eat.  We walked further than planned and ended up at the Aqueduct, which we were really saving until tomorrow so finding ourselves at the bottom of the town we walked back and by my choice found a little restaurant that turned out to be quite disappointing.  After that I had the restaurant selection responsibility removed but as I had failed quite badly tonight I didn’t argue about that at all.

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