“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
If the Alcázar isn’t enough for one city the Aqueduct is the most recognised and famous historical symbol of Segovia. It was built at the end of first to early second century AD by the Romans to bring water from the Río Frío about twelve miles away and requiring an elevated section in its final half mile from the Sierra de Guadarrama to the walls of the old town.
This 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 sixty feet 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.
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. I never tire of visiting these ancient structures, I feel privileged to able to enjoy them and the sense of wonderment is constant no matter how many I see.
Underneath the Aqueduct in the Plaza of Azoguejo at the tourist information office we checked timetables and made plans for our railway journey to Madrid in the morning and then retraced our steps back to the Plaza Mayor where in the mid to late afternoon sunshine we sat and had another beer and another plate of tapas at a third different bar.
There was only one more thing to do in Segovia so after the refreshment break we went to the Cathedral to finish off the day. The building was completed in 1577 and is regarded as the World’s last great Gothic Cathedral. There was an admission charge again, which seems to becoming quite normal, so we paid the €3 and then entered what I suggest is quite possibly the coldest cathedral in Spain and probably all of Europe.
We were inappropriately dressed for sub-zero temperatures and although the cathedral was well worth the admission charge it was too cold to enjoy it so we sprinted around the naves and the chapels with rather indecent haste and were glad to come about again into the sunshine with only seconds to go before fatal hypothermia set in.
Later in the agreeable afternoon sunshine we needed to warm up so we ambled around the pretty little streets, bought some wine from a little shop near to the hotel and then went back to the room. The Sercotel Infanta Isabel was a good hotel in an excellent location and we enjoyed the setting and the atmosphere as we drank our bottle of local Spanish wine and thoughts turned to dining arrangements for the evening.
Before eating we visited the Aqueduct to take pictures in the fading light of dusk and later we ate at the restaurant that Kim had shown a preference for the previous evening but I had overruled and it turned out to be an excellent choice with a very tasty selection of food.
It had been a long day and we had done a lot of walking so as we were planning to go to Madrid in the morning we finished early and went back to the hotel for an early night and to consult the guide books to make last-minute plans for tomorrow.
So far this week everything had gone mostly to plan and the itinerary that I planned meticulously beforehand had worked well so something just had to go awry and today it went spectacularly wrong.
It was quite cool at six o’clock in the morning as we walked to the bus station next to the Aqueduct and caught the no. 11 bus that would take us to the railway station three miles out of town in time to catch the seven-twenty train that would whisk us to the city in thirty-five minutes in time for a traditional Madrileño breakfast.
There were ten minutes to spare and only one person in front of us at the ticket desk so we didn’t wait long to step up and request two return tickets. The clerk looked at the computer screen and made twitching expressions and tutting noises and I began to fear the worst. After a minute or so he explained that there were no seats on the train and the next one wasn’t for two hours. Oh Bugger! This was something that I hadn’t made allowances for in the plan.
I had naturally assumed that train travel would be the same as in the United Kingdom where you turn up at any main line railway station, they sell you a ticket whether there is a seat or not (usually not) and you travel to London standing in the corridor next to the loos. Sadly this isn’t an option on the AVE bullet train so we could do no other than to go back to Segovia on the same bus that had just brought us here. The driver seemed a bit surprised because I suspect not many people do a round trip to the railway station for no apparent reason at seven o’clock in the morning.
So we had a second unexpected day in Segovia and as we had done all of the main things to do yesterday we wondered just what we would do – so we did the same things again today but a little more slowly.