I had a disturbed nights sleep full of wild dreams because I was still feeling a bit unusual and I hadn’t slept well now since the delightful room in Belmonte but we woke to another beautiful clear morning and a sunny Plaza Mayor that had been scrupilously swept and washed in the early hours of the morning.
After two cups of tea it was time to go to breakfast and as I selected clothes I realised that I had left my favourite blue linen holiday shirt in the hotel wardrobe in Ávila and as it wasn’t practical to go back for it this was a bad start to the day. But it improved almost immediately with a good breakfast that was served in the hotel bar and had an excellent selection of food including fresh tortilla and a delicious pear flan.
I was feeling much better now and after breakfast we walked out into the sociable main square and followed a street adjacent to the Cathedral and walked in the direction of the Alcázar, which is the most visited castle in Spain.
The route took us through narrow streets, past craft shops and churches and eventually brought us out at the north of the city on the top of a rocky outcrop that was the location of the fortress that was begun in the twelfth century and was subsequently occupied by a succession of Castilian monarchs from Alfonso X to Phillip II and Charles III. In the nineteenth century it was destroyed by fire but was restored to its present magnificent status soon after.
Segovia and the Spanish tourist board would have us believe that the Alcázar was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland and Disneyworld but there is no real evidence for this. In fact it is more likely that the famous icon of the Disney empire was inspired principally by Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and several picturesque French palaces, most notably Louis XIV’s Versailles although it is also quite possible that the Alcázar in Segovia may also have been an important influence as well.
In front of the castle there were manicured gardens and in each of the tops of the forty metre high pine trees there was a nest and a pair of Storks going about their own business and at the same time entertaining the visitors who were all risking neck and back injuries as everyone strained to get the perfect in flight photograph. As the birds took to the skies and disappointed the amateur photographers they caught the thermals and gained height quickly as they went off in search of food, or perhaps it was to deliver a new born baby?
We purchased tickets to visit the Alcázar and paid a little extra to climb to the top of the Torre de Juan II (total price €6 each). The castle was busy with a coach full of Japanese tourists and several school visits so we had to try and arrange our journey through the rooms and exhibits to try and avoid the busy sections and the crowds. After visiting the state rooms and the armouries we ended our visit with a climb of three hundred and twenty steps up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower where we were rewarded for our efforts with fabulous views over the city and the surrounding countryside.
It had taken most of the morning to visit the Alcázar and after we were finished we walked back to the Plaza Mayor for a drink and a tapas and selected a bar with tables in the sun and sat and enjoyed watching the residents of Segovia as they went about their business of the day in probably the same way that they have for a thousand years. A walk around the square, a sit down, a chat, a walk around the square, a sit down, a chat and so on and so on.
While we sat there I began to think about all the reasons that I like Spain and one is that for someone like me on the shorter side most of the people are what I regard as normal size. According to Eurostat the Spanish are the shortest people in Europe and the average height for a man is five foot seven inches and I feel that that is just about the perfect size and it makes me feel comfortable. Officially Dutch men are the tallest at an average of five foot ten inches and although not included in the Eurostat figures the Croatians claim to be an average six foot one inch. We went there last year and I can confirm that they are indeed big lads.
It was hot now and we were enjoying the sun so when the bar owner pulled down the canopy for shade we moved on back into the side streets to find a photo opportunity of a medieval door that had inspired us from a description in a guide book that we had purchased at the castle. With mission accomplished and pictures in the can we returned to the square and stopped at a different bar for more drink and more tapas and then left and walked in the opposite direction towards the Roman Aqueduct.