“The finest sight in Castile, is how Segovians sweepingly define the first appearance of their city and I agree with them: there are few urban compositions on earth to equal the impact of Segovia….” – Jan Morris – ‘Spain’
We left the Alcázar gardens and followed the old city wall along its northern side where there were good views over the river valley below and a barren plain stretching away in infinity towards mountains in the north.
The city walls were not so accessible and therefore less impressive than those in Ávila however and eventually we left the old city through the Puerta de San Cebrián and followed a small road past the Santa Cruz monastery and the City’s bullring to the nearby village of San Lorenzo. Here there was a splendid church in a main square lined on every side with medieval houses and little shops. I imagine that this pretty little place becomes quite congested in the summer but today it was unhurried and charming and the local people paid no attention to us as they went about their business in a languid unhurried sort of way.
Leaving the village we returned to Segovia through a modern residential development and entered the City at the Plaza de la Artilleria, the bus station underneath the Aqueduct and from where we roamed leisurely through the streets past Romanesque churches and Renaissance palace residencies and older medieval buildings and eventually back to the Plaza Mayor where it was by now time for a beer and a tapas.
According to legend, the tapas tradition began when the King of Castille Alfonso the Wise visited a tavern in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and ordered a glass of sherry. There was a gusty wind, so the innkeeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty. The King liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or ‘cover’ just like the first. This evolved into the practice of using slices of bread or meat as a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst and because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales.
We sat in the gloriously sunny Plaza and watched the residents of Segovia as they met and socialised in the square, sitting on the chairs under what would soon be shady trees as the leaf buds were straining to burst and just chatting away and enjoying each others company. A group of old ladies walked several times around the central bandstand and groups of children on school visits began to arrive and congregate noisily as they waited expectantly for their walking tour of the city to begin.
We ordered a second drink that arrived with a second plate of tapas and we watched the children leave the square towards the fortress and having established which way they were going we finished our drink and walked in an alternative direction.
Kim was fascinated by the old door in the narrow side street running off the Plaza so we returned there for more arty photographs and then simply wasted the afternoon away as we walked through some familiar streets and then some different ones and then some familiar ones again as we continuously interrogated the map for places to visit and things to do that we hadn’t done already.
When we were through we returned again to the bar in the sunny part of the Plaza and reflected on the day. It had been disappointing not to make the journey to Madrid because that was on the top of this week’s to do list but on reflection we had had a second good day in Segovia and the guidebook did seem to suggest that Madrid in a day was being a little bit optimistic so we agreed with the plan to return later in the year and we began to make outline plans for the trip because the search for real Spain will obviously have to include the capital city.
After we had rested and packed in anticipation of an early departure in the morning we waited until it went dark and then went to take some evening pictures of the Cathedral and then a day that had started with a disaster ended with one as well when the bargain €10 camera memory card that Kim had bought twenty-four hours earlier suddenly refused to work and simply displayed a card error message that meant that a whole days pictures of tiled walls and medieval door furniture had disappeared into a photographic black hole. This seemed to affect the full memory card as well and the camera refused to work at all that made us fear for the rest of the photographs from the previous six days.
We began to worry that the camera was jinxed following the battery disaster in Portugal, which meant no photographs there and now this. We still had mine of course but nothing is quite the same as having your own picture memories for posterity. It was a good job it wasn’t mine because I would have been inconsolable and even though this put a dampener on the final evening Kim was able to overcome her disappointment and we had a second good meal at the same restaurant as the previous evening before we returned and finished the packing ready for tomorrow.
post script: Disaster averted as I was able to recover the contents of the full camera card using the PC when we arrived back home – Phew!