Tag Archives: Segovia

Northern Spain – The Plaza Mayor and an Updated Top Ten

Cities of Castilla y Leon

Tomorrow we would be returning to the coast in Cantabria and so now we had come to end of our drive through Castilla y León and our visit to the main cities although, and I apologise for this, we had missed out Soria.

It would have been just too much of a detour as we came to the end of our travels but I have promised to go back one day and apologise for this rudeness because Soria has one of the most bizarre festivals in Spain where once a year local men demonstrate their faith and fearlessness (stupidity) by walking over red hot coals!

We had visited a lot of new cities and it was time now to reassess our top ten list of favourite Plaza Mayors.  The more places we visit the more difficult this becomes so I have now extended this list from five to ten and introduced two categories – cities and towns.

Salamanca Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor is arguably the most important part of a Spanish town or city and I really cannot think of an equivalent in the United Kingdom where we have public squares but use them in an entirely different way – all day drinking, littering and anti-social behaviour.

In Spain the Plaza Mayor is the place where people meet, relax and enjoy themselves; it is generally flanked with shops and restaurants and usually has the town hall and the main church somewhere close by.  This is the beating heart of a Spanish community and when we arrive somewhere new it is usually the first place we make for because sitting with a glass of wine and complimentary tapas it is the best place to be to get a feeling for the town and its people.

Plaza Mayor Siguenza Castilla-La Mancha

In the search for real Spain (not the coasts and the Costas), in the past five years, we have visited and enjoyed dozens of Plaza Mayors; Madrid, the largest, Salamanca, the second largest, Toledo, next to its towering cathedral and the tiled Plaza de España in Seville.  We liked them all and we began now to compile a list with a view to choosing our favourites.

We considered Ávila,  Mérida and ValladolidCáceres and Santiago de CompostellaOviedo and León  but after a lively debate weighing up the pros and cons and putting forward the case for each one in turn we finally agreed on the top five in each category but could not reach consensus on the actual order.

Valladolid Spain

First the cities:  Segovia in Castilla y Leon because of the Cathedral and the architecture and the little streets running away from it like spokes from a wheel, Trujillo in Extremadura, because of its unspoilt medieval charm, its grand palaces and dusty, sunburnt aura and then Salamanca with its grand baroque architecture and after that Alcala de Henara and the Plaza de Cervantes with its statues and gardens and grandly colonnaded perimeter.  These were all from previous visits to Spain but we both agreed that after this journey then we would simply have to add Palencia  because of its unspoilt charm and the timeless quality of the buildings and architecture – a real gem!

And so to the towns: the unpretentious and functional Ciudad Rodrigo and reeking of the Spanish Peninsula War in every crack and crevice, Chinchón with its open balconies and bullfights and Siguenza with its stone simplicity, cobbled alleys, sharp stairways, deep arches, shady courtyards and stone buttresses leaning across the street and leaving barely a single shaft of sunlight and which was the probably the closest yet that I have been looking for in Spain.  Almagro with its stone colonnaded arches and Tuscan columns supporting overhead galleries all painted a uniform shade of green and fully glazed in a central European style which makes this place unique in all of Spain.  Finally Tembleque which we visited on a dreary overcast day but despite that there was no ignoring the quality of its fine Plaza.

That was a difficult debate and lasted as long as a couple of San Miguels and two dishes of olives but once we had finished we drained our glasses and returned to the Meson del Cid to prepare for a second night in the town.

Chinchon Madrid Spain

 

Spain, The Plaza Mayor and Flamenco

Almagro Spain Plaza Mayor

“We are in the Spanish south.  The castanets click from coast to coast, the cicada hum through the night, the air is heavy with jasmine and orange blossom… the girls have black eyes and undulating carriages.”  –  Jan Morris,  ‘Spain’

We were staying at the Hotel Retiro del Maestre, a renovated old Spanish nobleman’s house on a street leading to the main square and we found it easily and left the car in the underground car park.  It was a friendly family run hotel with spacious and comfortable public rooms, a large outside terrace basking in the pleasant sun and was a nice room for us with a view over the garden.

It was late afternoon by this time and with the sun beginning to dip we didn’t linger long but made our way quickly to the Plaza Mayor to find a bar.  On the way we passed by the equestrian statue of the Conquistador Diego de Almagro and then entered the rectangular Plaza.

Almagro Plaza Mayor Spain

At a hundred metres long and forty metres wide it is flanked on both sides by arcades of weathered Tuscan columns supporting overhead galleries all painted a uniform shade of green and fully glazed in a central European style this place is truly unique in Spain.  These galleries were originally open and used as grandstands for public events, religious festivals and even bullfights that were held here until 1785, when they were finally banned by King Carlos III.

We choose a table on the sunny side of the Plaza, ordered beer and wine and just sat and watched the activity while we nibbled the inevitable olives.  The bar owner shooed away some small boys playing football, telling them to play elsewhere and families began to arrive and the bar quickly filled up with chattering customers.  Walking around the square was a proud grandmother pushing a young baby in an immaculate pram which matched her pristine outfit and she completed at least a dozen circuits, stopping frequently to chat and to show off the small child to anyone who showed the slightest interest.

Plaza Mayor Siguenza Castilla-La Mancha

The Plaza Mayor is the most important part of a Spanish town or city and I really cannot think of an equivalent in the United Kingdom where we have public squares but use them in an entirely different way.  This is the place where people meet, relax and enjoy themselves; it is generally flanked with shops and restaurants and usually has the town hall and the main church somewhere close by.

When we arrive somewhere new it is usually the first place we make for because sitting with a glass of wine and a complimentary tapas it is the best place to be to get a feeling for the town and its people.

In the search for real Spain  in the past three years we have visited and enjoyed dozens of Plaza Mayors; Madrid, the largest, Salamanca, the second largest, Toledo, next to its towering cathedral and the tiled Plaza de España in Seville.  We liked them all and we began now to compile a list with a view to choosing our top five favourites.

We considered ÁvilaMérida and ValladolidCáceres and Santiago de Compostella in Galicia but after a lively debate weighing up the pros and cons and putting forward the case for each one in turn we finally agreed on the top five but could not reach absolute consensus on the actual order.

So this is our list: Segovia in Castilla y Leon because of the Cathedral and the architecture and the little streets running away from it like spokes from a wheel, Trujillo, where we had been only today, because of its unspoilt medieval charm, the unpretentious and functional Ciudad Rodrigo,  Chinchón with its open balconies and bullfights and although we had only just arrived we liked this place so much that we both agreed to include Almagro in the list.

  

After a second leisurely drink we paid up and left the square and strolled back to our hotel where we asked for some dining recommendations and the receptionist convinced us to go to her favourite just a couple of streets away so after we had rested and changed we took her advice and found the restaurant in a side street off the main square.

Although it wasn’t especially late when we finished the meal, we were tired after a long day that had started three hundred kilometres away in Mérida, taken us to Trujillo and then a three hour drive to Almagro and we were ready for bed.  We walked back through the Plaza Mayor that was lively in a subdued sort of way (if that makes sense) and then to the street to the hotel.

Spain Flamenco Dancer

About half way along we heard the lyrical sound of Spanish guitars, clacking castanets, the rhythmic stamping of Cuban heels and chattering stilettos like the sound of an approaching steam train and we wondered where it was coming from and then through the pavement level window of a cellar we could see a dancing class in full swing.

Some local people suggested that we should go inside and watch so we did just that and before the lesson ended we enjoyed fifteen minutes of genuine Spanish music played by a sort of skiffle group and a group of young people dancing the flamenco, stamping, posturing, and pouting in a rapid, aggressive, staccato style like the sound of a tommy gun firing

It was a wonderful way to end the evening!

Almagro Spain Plaza Mayor

Sorrento, Pompeii

Pompeii Italy

Pompeii, along with nearby Herculaneum, was completely buried and destroyed, during a catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius over two days beginning on 24th  August 79.

The volcano buried the City under a layer of ash and pumice many metres deep and it was lost for nearly one thousand seven hundred years before its accidental rediscovery in 1748.  Since then, its excavation has provided a detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire and which at the time of the eruption is estimated to have had approximately twenty thousand inhabitants and was located in an area in which many wealthy Romans had their holiday villas.

At around one o’clock in the afternoon on August 24th, Vesuvius, which had been dormant for eight hundred years, began spewing ash and volcanic stone thousands of meters into the sky.  When it reached the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere, the top of the cloud flattened leading the Roman historian Pliny the Younger, who was observing from a safe distance across the Bay of Naples, to describe it as resembling a stone pine tree.

For people in Pompeii, who had no idea what was about to happen, the bad news was that the prevailing winds were blowing towards the southeast which caused the volcanic material to fall primarily on the city and the area surrounding it and the residents were covered in up to twelve different layers of soil.

According to Pliny the volcano burst open with an ear splitting crack and then smoke, mud, flames and burning stones spewed from the summit of the mountain, sending a rain of ash and rock through the surrounding countryside.  The mud flowed down the sides of Vesuvius, swallowing nearby farms, orchards and villas and basically anything else unfortunate enough to be in the way.  Adding to the destruction were poisonous vapours that accompanied the falling debris and it was these fumes that first caused deliriousness in their victims, and then suffocated them.

Pompeii Italy

We really enjoyed Pompeii and were glad that we didn’t miss the trip with many marvelous houses and buildings to visit but it proved a bit too big to see everything in one afternoon.  We saw the Roman Forum and the administrative buildings, the public baths, the brothels, the shopping centres and the outdoor theatres.

Most of the priceless exhibits have been removed of course to the museum in Naples but there were some copies of the most famous and there are still wall frescoes and paintings to admire.  It was amazing to be walking through the streets of a two thousand year old city and to try and imagine what life must have been like here.  Pompeii is a wonderful place to visit and along with nearby Herculaneum, the Colosseum in Rome, the Amphitheatre in Pula in Croatia and the Aquaduct in Segovia in Spain has to be one of the best places to visit to see the remains of Ancient Rome.

After nearly four hours we were getting tired and conscious of Jonathan’s earlier poorly condition we called an end to the visit and made for the exit.  There was a little while to wait for the return train but outside the station there were little bars all selling gallons of fresh lemonade so we stopped for a while and had a couple of refreshing glasses while we waited.

This was the first time that I had used a train in Italy so I was a bit nervous because the railways are prone to wildcat strikes that can bring chaos without notice but I needn’t have been concerned because the graffiti scarred train arrived on time and thirty minutes later we were back in Sant’ Agnello.

After two disappointing meals we agreed not to risk a third so later we walked out and found a trattoria because we felt compelled to have a traditional pizza.

Authentic Neapolitan pizzas are made with local produce and have been given the status of a ‘guaranteed traditional specialty’ in Italy.  This allows only three official variants: pizza marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita extra made with tomato, buffalo mozzarella from Campania, basil and extra virgin olive oil.  We had our pizza and a couple of beers and then finished the evening at the bar opposite the Hotel Mediterraneo and watched the reflection of Vesuvius in the sea changing colours under the moonlight.

Fortunately Jonathan was completely recovered from the mysterious twenty-four hour bug and we were glad of that because tomorrow we were going to visit Herculaneum.

Pompeii____________________________________

Related Articles:

Spartacus the Gladiator

Rome

The Roman City of Herculaneum

The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

The Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman Buildings at Mérida

The Roman Ruins at Segóbriga

Diocletian’s Palace at Split

The Roman Buildings at Arles

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Spain, The Alcázar of Segovia

“Segovia was a city in a valley of stones – a compact half-forgotten heap of architectural splendours built for the glory of some other time. Here were churches, castles and medieval walls standing sharp in the evening light but all dwarfed by that extraordinary phenomenon of masonry, the Roman Aqueduct…”  –  Laurie Lee – ‘As I walked out one Sunny Morning’

From the square we walked towards the centre of the old city into the sociable main square, the Plaza Mayor, and followed a street adjacent to the cathedral and walked in the direction of the Alcázar, which by all accounts is the most visited castle in all of Spain (and Spain has a lot of castles).

The route took us through narrow streets past craft shops, cafés and churches and eventually brought us out at the north of the city on the top of an exposed rocky outcrop which is 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.  From the outside it has a rather modern appearance and this is because 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 in California and Disneyworld in Florida but there is no real evidence to support this and in fact it is more likely that the famous icon of the Disney empire was inspired principally by Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and several French palaces, most notably Louis XIV’s Versailles.  Having visited the Magic Kingdom I am inclined to agree with this although, being generous, it is always possible that the Alcázar in Segovia may also have been an important influence as well.

The last time we visited Segovia in March 2009 there were brilliant blue skies and excellent weather (the picture is from the previous visit) but this morning it was rather cold and miserable and this matched exactly how Christine was feeling so on this occasion we didn’t go inside but instead made do with an external viewing and then walked back to the Plaza Mayor by a different route that took us close to the northern walls of the old walled city with some glorious views stretching out over the moody plains of Castilla y Leon drenched today in a low hanging mist.

In the main square we looked for somewhere to sit and have a drink but it was really too unpleasant to sit outside so we went to the bar in the Sercotel Infanta Isabel where we were glad to sit down in the warm.  Micky, Sue and Kim had a coffee and I had a beer which meant the inevitable tapas but Christine was feeling even worse than before as the effect of the alcohol stubbornly refuse to wear off and it was clear that she was unlikely to make a quick recovery and so the best thing to do was to return to Ávila where she could suffer quietly in the comfort of her room.

While we sat there local people came and went and 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.  I have visited Croatia and I can confirm that they are indeed big lads.

After the drink stop we returned to the aqueduct where the dancing had stopped now and we collected the car and drove back to Ávila.  It was overcast but dry but as we approached the city we could see a towering wall of black cloud building up directly in front of us like a rapidly advancing army and just a few kilometres out of the city the rain started to fall and it was the sort of rain that we all knew that it was set in for the rest of the day.

Yesterday when we walked through the Puerta de Santa Teresa we had the afternoon sun on our backs but today there was just a steady pitter-patter of rain on our umbrellas so we walked quickly through the sodden streets back to the hotel where Christine went immediately to her room and that was the last that we saw of her all day.

Spain, The Aqueduct of Segovia

“Here were churches, castles, and medieval walls standing sharp in the evening light, but all dwarfed by that extraordinary phenomenon of masonry, the Roman aqueduct, which overshadowed the whole…’The Aqueduct’, said the farmer, pointing with his whip, in case by chance I had failed to notice it.” – Laurie Lee

When we had retired to bed the previous night there had been a clear sky so it was disappointing to wake up to the sound of falling rain and on opening the shutters a full examination of the weather revealed overcast skies and a rather soggy, looking sorry for itself, Ávila.  But it was still early so we closed the shutters and slept on for an hour and hoped that it would improve.  Sadly this was not to be and when we went down for breakfast it looked certain that this was going to be an umbrella sort of day.

Earlier in the year in Krakow Sue had overdone the alcohol one night and gone to bed feeling unwell but she was at least sufficiently recovered the next day to make it for breakfast but this morning Christine had had so much wine the previous night that she couldn’t face even a cup of tea let alone the fried eggs, tortilla and bacon and she excused herself from the breakfast room as soon as the plates were loaded up and started arriving at the table. The rest of us carried on and had another excellent meal and chatted like Methodist abolitionists about the evils of drink.

Even after we had finished breakfast an hour later she hadn’t begun to improve but although she was clearly unwell she decided that she would still accompany us on the planned drive to Segovia about sixty kilometers away and we all assured her that the fresh air would do her good and she was certain to start feeling better sometime soon.

Segovia Spain

It was still raining when we left the hotel and walked through the damp streets to the underground car park where we picked up the car and squeezed ourselves into the inadequate seats of the BMW but as we drove out of the city it started to brighten up a little and the rain thankfully eased off.  To avoid the toll we took the national highway rather than the motorway option and this being a Sunday morning the road was almost completely empty and it was an easy journey.

To the south of the highway was the Sierra de Guadarrama and on the highest mountain in the whole range, the Peñalara, we could see snow covering the top of its two thousand, one hundred metre peak.  The approach to Segovia was spectacular and still some way out of the city we could see it rising from the plain on a convenient outcrop of rock with a spectacular mountain backdrop and the Cathedral and the Alcázar reaching dramatically into the grey sky.  The road dropped into the city and we found a convenient underground car park close to the Roman aqueduct.

The aqueduct is the most recognised and famous historical symbol of Segovia. It is the largest Roman structure still standing in Spain and was built at the end of first to the early second century AD by the Romans during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula to bring water from the Río Frío about eighteen kilometres away and requiring an elevated section in its final kilometer from the Sierra de Guadarrama to the walls of the old town. This elevated section is supported by an engineering achievement of one hundred and sixty-six arches and one hundred and twenty pillars constructed on two levels. It is twenty eight metres high and constructed with over twenty thousand large, rough-hewn granite blocks, which are joined without mortar or clamps and have remained in place for two thousand years.

In the Plaza de Azeguego directly below the final, highest and most impressive section of the aqueduct there was a lot of activity as a band played and men in flamenco sombreros and black capes danced with local women and some of the locals and the tourist joined in.  We weren’t sure what it was all about but it looked good fun and everyone was enjoying themselves despite the gloomy weather.   We liked the Aqueduct and looked all round it from every possible angle.  It is one of those structures that make you appreciate just how brilliant the Romans were.  The fifteenth century professor at the University of Salamanca, Marineus, made the claim that ‘we should have no doubt that whatever memorable thing we come across in Spain is due to the Romans’ and although, six hundred years later, this can no longer possibly be true at the time it was probably a very fair assessment.

Spain, The Search Continues

‘Spain is Spain…and in being Spanish consists its originality, its raciness, its novelty, its idiosyncracy’.                                                                                                 Richard Ford

Since early 2009, as part of our own Grand Tour of Europe, we have been drawn time and again  to the Iberian Peninsula in search of the real Spain and in November we returned once more, flying to Madrid and planning a short three night stay in the city of Ávila about one hundred kilometres north west of the capital city.

Spain was not, generally, part of the traditional European Grand Tour and until the twentieth century only caught the attention of the braver or more rugged of travellers and writers.  For many it was too primitive, too mountainous and just too dangerous, prone to violent upheavals, inhospitable weather and without acceptable restaurants or decent amenities. ‘To travel in Spain you need three francs a day and a gun’ said one Frenchman who accompanied Alexander Dumas on a mid nineteenth century trip to the peninsular.  For the sons and daughters of the English Aristocracy Spain did not have the sophisticated allure of France, the Renaissance treasures of Italy or even the ancient charm of Greece and very few people ever considered crossing the Pyrenees into a land perceived to be full of fanatical Jesuit priests and lurid tales of bandits and cut-throats.

What a pity because, as I have now discovered over the past two years, they were passing up on the opportunities of marvelling at Baroque Seville, the Hanging Houses of Cuenca, the walled fortresses of Ávila and Ciudad Rodrigo, the historic cities of Toledo and Salamanca, the numerous Royal Palaces that surround Madrid and the rich heritage of Roman and Moorish Spain with the largest remaining Roman aqueduct at Segovia and what was once the second largest Mosque in the World at Cordoba.

  

Right up until the 1950s Spain was considered to be a place for the courageous because it was different and mysterious with a hostile geography, haughty aristocratic grandees and destitute peasants, Romany gypsies and blood thirsty customs.  In his account of living in Andalusia in the 1930, Gerald Brenan talks often about highway robbers (South of Granada).  Travellers and visitors were often inclined not to regard it as part of Europe at all and it was often considered, on account of its Moorish heritage, dark skinned people and unfamiliar customs, as part of Africa or of the east.  The Spanish themselves understood this perception of their peninsular and in the 1960s Spain is different used to be the slogan of Spain’s international tourism campaign.

Sadly, even today, for many, Spain means only a fortnight’s karaoke holiday spread out on the golden sands of the Costas with a bottle of sun cream and a jug of sangria without any real attempt to understand the geography, the history or the culture of the country.  But for those with imagination and an appetite for an experience of real Spain then the airports of Valladolid, Seville, Santander and Madrid are the places to begin a quest to find the Spain of the shrines, the Spain of the Knights-errant, the Spain of the Mosques, castles and mighty cathedrals as well as the Spain of the real castanet clicking flamenco dancers, Spanish guitars and matadors and bull fights as opposed to the ersatz versions of the holiday resorts.

The Easyjet plane flew over the Spanish coast at Santander and we could see the snow capped Picos de Europa Mountains soaring majestically through the low cloud which then immediately closed in and smothered northern Spain and Castilla y Leon completely.  The land was completely obscured from view breaking only over the peaks of the Sierra Guadarrama and briefly revealing mountain towns and villages, rivers and shimmering blue reservoirs.  A few minutes later around mid morning we landed in a misty Madrid where the temperature was struggling to reach double figures and after the formalities of border control went straight to the Sixt car rental desk.

Since my complaint about Sixt and winter tyre charges in Germany earlier in the year I have been in regular correspondence with the Company Customer Services Manager for the UK and this led to the issue of a Sixt platinum account which gives me certain privileges such as discounted prices, speedy pick up service and on this occasion an upgrade from a Volkswagen to a BMW and we were delighted when we took possession of a shiny white 1 series, left the airport and pointed it in the direction of the mountains and the sunshine.

Segovia, an Unexpected Second Day

P3240774

“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!