Segovia in 2017

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I’ve been to Segovia a few times over the years, and every time I’ve been, the provincial capital city of 56,000 residents impresses me as much as the first time. He visitado a Segovia varias veces a lo largo de los años, y cada vez que he estado, la capital de provincia (tiene 56.000 habitantes) me impresiona tanto como la primera vez.

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One of my favourite professors from university was leading a study abroad program in Segovia this semester, and I went to visit him while I was passing through the area on my way to Lisboa. Uno de mis profesores preferidos de la universidad estaba en cargo de un programa de estudiar en extranjero en Segovia esta semestre, y fui a visitarle mientras estaba de paso en la zona por el camino a Lisboa. 

The original name of the city was “Segobriga” in the Celtiberian language. “Sego” means “victory” and “briga” means “city”, so now I wonder what the original people won at to get the city named “City of Victory”. El nombre original de la ciudad era “Segobriga” en el idioma celtibérico. “Sego” significa “victoria” y “briga” significa “ciudad”, entonces, ahora quiero saber que ganaba los colonizadores habían ganado para recibir el nombre “Ciudad de la Victoria”. 

 

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The city is attractive to tourists due to its proximity to Madrid (it’s an hour bus ride) and due to its amazingly well-preserved Roman aqueduct and fortress Alcázar de Segovia, which supposedly inspired Walt Disney. The Alcázar was where Queen Isabella was crowned in 1474. Even the 1967 film Camelot used it as a stand-in for the French home of  Sir Lancelot du Lac, Joyous Gard. La ciudad se atrae turistas dado a su proximidad a Madrid (tarda una hora por autobús) y dado a su bien conversado acueducto romano y su alcázar bonito que se dice inspiró a Walt Disney. La Reina Católica Isabel fue coronada allí en 1474. Incluso la película de 1967 Camelot usó el alcázar como la casa francesa de Don Lancelot du Lac, Joyous Gard.

The city also has a spectacular cathedral and old city walls, giving the town a bit of everything. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage since 1985. La ciudad también tiene una catedral espectacular y murallas antiguas. La ciudad tiene un poco de todo. Ha sido Patrimonio de la Humanidad (UNESCO) DESDE 1985. 

This time around, I arrived around 10:30 and met up with my professor. He showed me where the students had classes and where they had called home for the past three months, and I reminisced on my own study abroad experience in Toledo in 2003. En este viaje, llegué sobre las 10.30 y quedé con mi profesor. Me enseñó donde los alumnos tenían clases y el sitio que sirvió como su casa durante los últimos tres meses. Me acordé de mi propia experiencia de estudiar en extranjero en Toledo en 2003. 

The first stop on the stroll through town was the aqueduct, which dates back to the first century AD. We walked through town, seeing the cathedral, alcázar and views of the surrounding countryside. It’s always better to see a place through the eyes of someone who has spent a lot of time there, and it gave me a better experience this time around. La primera parada en el paseo por la ciudad era el acueducto, que fue construido en Siglo I d.C. Paseamos por la ciudad, parando en la catedral, el alcázar y para ver vistas del paisaje próximo de la capital. Siempre es mejor ver un sitio por los ojos de alguien que ha vivido allí, y me daba una mejor experiencia esta vez. 

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I don’t know when my next visit to Segovia will be, as I hadn’t been since 2013. It is a place worth visiting more than once as each visit has shown me something new. No sé cuando será la próxima visita a Segovia, como no he estado desde 2013. Es un sitio que merece la pena visitar más que una vez como cada visita me ha mostrado algo nuevo. 

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Semana Santa 2017

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It’s been a great week on the road, and I’m happy to report I am back from Portugal after a fantastic few days. Now it means I have to get busy writing about my adventures, which will appear in more detail over the next few weeks. This week, I have a tribute to the anniversary of the bombings in Gernika (Guernica) set to publish, but starting next Monday, the Semana Santa adventure of 2017 will be published with further detail! Lo he pasado bien viajando, y me alegro poder decir que he llegado bien a València después de unos días fantásticos en Portugal. Ahora me toca escribir sobre las aventuras con más detalle durante las semanas que viene. Este semana, tengo planificado un homenaje a Gernika como es el aniversario del bombardero trágico el 26. El lunes que viene ya empeceré publicar las aventuras de Semana Santa 2017 con más detalle.

This week, though, an overview. Esta semana, un resumén. 

The trip started out on Thursday the 13th, which is neither a bad omen in Spain or the US (martes 13/Friday the 13th). I caught a BlaBlaCar to Madrid and stayed with a friend. Empecé el viaje jueves el 13, que no es un día maldito ni en España o los EEUU (es martes 13 o viernes 13). Cogí un BlaBlaCar a Madrid y me alojé con un amigo. 

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Friday I went back to Segovia to visit one of my two favourite professors who was in charge of a study abroad program there this semester. It was a great visit to the historic city, even if there were tourists everywhere (being Semana Santa, I knew what I was getting myself into though). Viernes, fui a Segovia para visitar uno de mis profesores preferidos de la universidad. Está en cargo de un programa de estudiar en extranjero este semestre. Era una gran visita a la ciudad histórica, aunque estaba llena de turistas. Como era Semana Santa, estaba anticipándolo. 

Saturday I caught the bus from Madrid (Estación Sur) to Lisboa (Oriente). I have now arrived to Lisbon by plane, train and coach, and I’ve also travelled across two of the cities bridges over the Río Tajo (Tejo in Portuguese, translated to Tagus in Portugal but left as Tajo in Spain. My Spanish soul says Tajo.) Sábado, cogí el autobús de Madrid (Estación Sur) a Lisboa (Oriente). Ahora he llegado a Lisboa por avión, tren y autobús, y he cruzado dos de los puentes de la ciudad por el Río Tajo (Tejo en portugués). 

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Lisbon was fantastic as always, and I was left wanting more as always. However, Sunday afternoon, after my BlaBlaCar cancelled on me, I went to the Sete Rios bus station to head to Coímbra. I saw Fátima from the bus, and I am glad I didn’t go there in the end as it appeared to be a huge tourist trap. Lisboa era fantástico como siempre, y me dejaba con ganas de más, como siempre. Sin embargo, después de una cancelación de BlaBlaCar, fui a la estación de Sete Rios para coger un autobús a Coímbra. Vi Fátima desde el autobus, y me alegré no lo haber visitado como parecía un gancho para turistas. 

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I stayed two nights in Coímbra, which is a university city filled with history and gorgeous views. On Monday, I went for a hike in the Serra de Lousã through the Aldeias do Xisto (villages made of slate) before discovering more of Coímbra’s magic. Me quedé dos noches en Coímbra, que es una ciudad universitaria llena de historia y vistas preciosas. Lunes, hice una ruta por la Serra de Lousã por los Aldeias do Xisto (Aldeas de Pizarra) antes de descubrir mejor la magia de Coímbra. 

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Tuesday was a return to Porto, where I had been in 2009 and is one of the most amazing cities the Greatest Peninsula in the World has to offer. It was my second visit, so I thought I’d be okay with only a night there. Turns out, I wanted more time for this beautiful river city. Martes era una vuelta a Oporto, donde fui en 2009 y es una de las ciudades más impresionantes de la Mejor Península del Mundo. Era mi segunda visita, y pensaba que estaría contento con solo una noche allí. Bueno…quería más tiempo por disfrutar de la ciudad por el río Douro. (el Duero en España). 

I obviously survived another on-time flight with Ryan Air, the one company grateful to United Airlines for making them look better! (Everyone in Europe has a love-hate relationship with the airline. OMG 20€ FLIGHTS oh wait Ryan Air how much can we fit in this hand luggage?) Sobreviví otro vuelo que llegó a tiempo con Ryan Air, la única compañía agradecido a United Airlines porque ahora Ryan Air parece mejor que alguien. Todos tenemos una relación de amor-odio con Ryan Air en Europa. Oooh, ¡Un vuelo por solo 20 Euros! Espera…es Ryan Air. Bueno, ¿cuánto cabe en este equipaje de mano? 

A great trip, and I look forward to reliving it here. Stay tuned! Un viaje genial, y me da ilusión vivirlo otra vez aquí. A continuación. 

My Spanish Road Trip

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While I am working at a summer camp for most of the summer before my final move from Bilbao to Valencia, I’ll be taking some time to write about past holidays or experiences that haven’t been written about here. Mientras estoy trabajando en un campus de inglés durante el verano antes de la mudanza final de Bilbao a Valencia, voy a escribir sobre vacaciones y experiencias de que no he escrito antes aquí.  

In 2013, when I moved from Madrid to Bilbao, I did something I hadn’t done before. I rented a car and drove from Madrid to Bilbao (as I will be driving from Bilbao to Valencia soon.) En 2013, cuando me trasladé desde Madrid a Bilbao, hice algo que nunca había hecho antes. Aquilé un coche y conducí desde Madrid a Bilbao (como voy a conducir desde Bilbao a Valencia pronto.)

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After fighting with the rental car agency all morning, I finally was given the car I reserved and packed it up, leaving three hours later than I had intended. I nearly died merging on the Madrid motorways, which is thankfully one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had. Después de discutir con la compañía de coches toda la mañana, por fin me dieron el coche que tenía reservado y puse todas mis cosas dentro de ello. Me marché tres horas después que tenía pensando. Casí me morí intentando entrar la autovía de Madrid, una de las experiencias de más miedo que he tenido en la vida.

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The advantage to driving was I could make my own itinerary, which I did. My first stop was the lovely but small Pedraza in the province of Segovia. I was looking for a place to eat, but there was nothing open in my budget. I walked through the small town and had a relaxing café con leche in their plaza mayor. It was a great visit with great views, but it was short. Lo mejor de conducir es poder parar donde quisiera, que lo hice. Mi primera parada era el pueblo encantador pero pequeño Pedraza en la provincia de Segovia. Estaba buscando un sitio para comer, pero no había nada abierta en el presupuesto. Pasé por el pueblo al pie y me tomé un relaxing café con leche en su Plaza Mayor. Era una buena visita con buenas vistas, pero era una visita corta. 

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I got back in my car and continued driving to Sepúlveda, an even more beautiful village (to me at least). I had lunch here and walked through the quaint streets for a while. It was a late lunch but a good one, and the town was closed up for siesta. I saw what I could. Volví al coche y seguí conduciendo hasta Sepúlveda, un pueblo aún más bonito (para mi, al menos). Comí en el pueblo y pasé por las calles pintorescas. Comí tarde pero comí bien, y todo el pueblo estaba cerrado durante la siesta. Vi lo que pude. 

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My final stop along the way was the Burgos city of Aranda de Duero. It was a typical small city of Castilla y León, but it had the Duero. I didn’t stay here long as it was already around 17:30 and I wanted to get to Bilbao before dark. I was originally going to visit Haro in La Rioja too, but I postponed that for another trip that I did by bus. La última parada durante el camino era la ciudad de Burgos Aranda de Duero. Es una ciudad pequeña típica de Castilla y León, pero al menos tenía el Duero. No quedé durante mucho tiempo como ya era las 17.30 y quería llegar a Bilbao antes de anochecer. 

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After Burgos, wanting to avoid the toll roads between Burgos capital and Bilbao, capital of the world, I took the scenic back roads. And the scenic route was definitely that. It took forever, it seemed, and I stopped for another coffee around 19:30 in the north of Burgos. The waiter said I still had about 45 minutes to Bilbao. Después de Burgos, quería evitar pagar los peajes entre Burgos capital y Bilbao, capital del mundo, fui por las carreteras escénicas. La ruta escénica era bonito. Parecía durar mucho tiempo, y tenía que parar para otro café con leche sobre las 19.30 en el norte de Burgos. El camarero me informó que me quedaban 45 minutos hasta Bilbao. 

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I crossed the border between Burgos and Vizcaya, and everything seemed to change. Everything seemed greener. It wasn’t raining, and it was a rare 40º day for the north coast. Crucé la frontera entre Burgos y Vizcaya y todo cambió. Todo estaba más verde. No estaba lloviendo, y hizo 40º grados, algo super raro en el norte. 

There is something I love about a road trip, being behind the wheel and the open road ahead of me. I cannot wait to my next road trip from Bilbao to València! Coming soon! I’m hoping to hit up Nacimiento del Nervión, Frías, Laguardia and Tudela on this route, and maybe Sos del Rey Católico and Albarracín. Hay algo especial sobre un viaje de coches, conduciendo y la carretera abierta enfrente de mi. Tengo ganas para el próximo road trip, desde Bilbao hasta València! Próximamente. Espero poder visitar el Nacimiento del Nervión, Frías, Laguardia y Tudela…y si tengo suerte, Sos del Rey Católico y Albarracín.

Village facts:

Pedraza: Located 37 kilometres from Segovia, the village has 467 inhabitants according to 2011 figures. It has a walled city centre and has been a Conjunto Histórico since 1951. Está ubicado unos 37 kilometros de Segovia y cuenta con 467 habitantes, según las cifras de 2011. El centro es amurallado y fue declardo Cojunto Histórico desde 1951.

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Sepúlveda: 54 kilometres from Segovia, Sepúlveda is a bit bigger with 1193 residents as of 2014. It’s known for its gastronomy and mountain views. A 54 kilometros de Segovia, Sepúlveda es un poco más grande con 1193 habitantes (2014). Es conocido por su gastronomia y vistas del monte. 

Aranda de Duero. With its 33,000 residents, Aranda de Duero is the capital of the Ribera del Duero wine region. It’s located at the crossroads of a few important mortorways. Con sus 33.000 residentes, Arando de Duero es la capital del región de vino Ribera del Duero. Está situado en la cruce de unos autovías importantes. 

Segovia…a Medieval Journey

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Located an hour north of Madrid, Segovia is an incredible medieval city that would have to be even more incredible covered in snow. I’ve visited the city three times and have also managed to visit a few of their coolest pueblos. The capital city and province are famous for their cochinillo (suckling pig. Babe fans might not want to try this delicacy), which is the food everyone recommends trying there. For not being a foodie, I did try this and I have to agree. It is delicious.

Segovia capital is a typical Castillian-Leonese capital city, small, medieval, quaint, and amazing. Its population tops out at 57,000 people and is in located in the Guadarrama mountains. Its Roman architecture, including that famous aqueduct, made it a UNESCO World Heritage City in 1985. It also has an old Jewish quarter

My first trip to Segovia was way back in 2009, when I was still trying to meet my goal of travelling to every Spanish comunidad autonoma and wanted to pick up Castilla y León before headed back to the States for the summer. I fell in love with the typical stuff, the aqueduct, the Cathedral, the Alcázar that supposedly is the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella castle, the medieval streets…I had a chance to study here instead of Toledo in 2003, and I found myself playing a lot of What-Ifs. However, both city have their merits, and Toledo is/was an amazing experience in its own right. I returned to Madrid happy with my first visit, dying for my second.

The second wouldn’t come until 2012. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There are just way too many places in Spain to see and experience to be able to do in one lifetime. Life always gets in the way. As the 15th of May is a holiday in the city of Madrid and many of the villages close by, I took advantage of having the day off to go to Segovia for a second time, and I was just as enchanted as I was the first time. It’s small enough and close enough to Madrid for a daytrip, although the bus seemed to be a bit expensive for an hour-twenty minute journey.

The third trip was a May Sunday morning in 2013. La Granja de San Ildefonso is a small village 13 kilometres/7.8 miles from Segovia Capital, and I took the bus from Madrid to spend my Sunday at this beautiful palace and gardens. I remember stopping at a bar with a Route 66 theme, and the bartender was so excited to meet someone who had been on Route 66 and was from the States. My freaking accent always gives me away. It was one of my favourite daytrips from Madrid ever.

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I was in Segovia again in 2013 when I went on an excursion with the Madrid gay Christian group. On the way back from visiting the Pueblos Negros de Guadalajara , we stopped in a lovely village called Ayllón. I got a free poster from the Oficina de Turismo that is still hanging in my room in Bilbao.

Many of the places in Segovia province that I want to see have horrible times for buses. For example, Pedraza only has one bus a day from Segovia at 17:00, so you have to stay the night. This is not to avoid tourists, but it’s for the people of the village who catch the bus in the morning to spend the day in Segovia shopping and whatnot, then return on the bus at 17:00. But for those without a car, it makes things more complicated. I remedied this situation on my move from Madrid to Bilbao on 30 July 2013. I rented a car and drove through the province, picking up villages like Pedraza and Sepúlvedra off my list. Pedraza didn’t have a good place to eat, I remember, so I found a great restaurant and had a late lunch (even for the Spanish) in Sepúlvedra. A great way to close out my time in Madrid.

Set Meravelles

1. La acueducto 

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The aqueduct of Segovia is the most famous place in the city and province. It is believed to have been built in the first century AD and is believed to have been commissioned by the Roman emperor Domitian. It transported water from the Fuente Fría (Cold Fountain. Things sound better in Spanish.) some 17 km/11 miles away to Segovia and was an impressive feat for the Romans. It operated until the mid 19th century. Today it’s easily the most photographed aqueduct in Spain and is currently a part of the World Monuments Watch to ensure its protection well into the future.

2. Alcázar de Segovia

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Originally built as a fortress, the Alcázar (fortress) of Segovia has also been a palace, a prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military school. It is currently a museum and a military archived storage facility. In 1474 the Catholic Queen Isabel took refuge here after the death of Enrique IV  and was crowned the next day Queen with the support of Segovia’s council. It is one of the inspirations for Cinderella’s Castle, perhaps giving credence to the myth that Walt Disney was born in Almería.

3. Catedral de Segovia

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The Cathedral of Segovia is one of the last Gothic cathedrals in Europe built before the Renaissance style took over. It’s located in Plaza Mayor in the centre of Segovia capital and was built in the 16th century after the previous one had been destroyed in a rebel attempt that lasted months. Crescentius of Rome is still buried here.

4. Ayllón

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Ayllón is a small village of 1400 people that was a random place that I visited and fell in love with. It’s 94 km from the capital (or 56,4 miles) and the Aguisejo and Riaza rivers pass through the village. The treaty that ended the wars of the Interregnum between Portugal and Castilla was signed here.  It is listed as a place of cultural interest (Bien de Interés Cultural) by Spain.

5. Pedraza

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Pedraza is a very small village of 500 people located 37 km/22,2 miles from Segovia capital. It is a medieval village complete with walls and has a castle. It’s one of those villages built on a hill that offer spectacular views, and it’s well worth the drive or staying a night if you must rely on that crazy bus schedule to get here.

6. Sepúlveda

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Located partially in the Parque Natural de las Hoces de Río Duratón, Sepúlveda is a village of 1200 citizens and is another place of Bien de Interés Cultural. It has been important in several of Spain’s many wars throughout history and offers several churches and a castle in ruins.

7. Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonoso

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Sometimes known as the Spanish Versailles, La Granja de San Ildefonoso is an 18th century palace with incredible gardens and incredible views of the surrounding mountain countryside. Despite not having any elephants, it has been a popular hunting site for Spanish kings through history. Today it is open to the public and if you’re there for the festivals of San Fernando and San Luis, you can see the fountains on full display. The palace began construction by Felipe V and modeled on Versailles in France. It was the summer home to many kings, but I just don’t see King Felipe and Queen Letizia summering there today due to all the tourists. Maybe the abdicated King Juan Carlos and his wife Sofía might visit since they have more free time now.

Bonus: Riaza (yet to visit)

Riaza is another quaint medieval village. I know there are even more in this medieval province to discover one day.