Tag Archives: Segovia

Northern Spain – The Plaza Mayor and My 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.

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.

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Northern Spain – The City of Segovia

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 – ‘As I walked out one Midsummer Morning’

After arrival in Segovia 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 said to be 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 sadly for them 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 remains slightly possible that the Alcázar in Segovia may also have been an important influence as well.

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.

Alcazar of Segovia

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 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.

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 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 kilometre 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 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.

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 never reduced no matter how many I see.

There was only one more thing to do in Segovia so after a 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 and the visit 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 terminal 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 to drink it and look out from our balcony over the square at the late afternoon activity.  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.

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Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Segovia, Aqueduct, Alcazar and Cathedral

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“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 – ‘As I walked out one Sunny Morning’

The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope.  The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited and having completed that I thought I might come up with a personal alternative twelve.

Top of my personal list is my current favourite city in Spain – Segovia in Castilla y Leon…

On a first visit there 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, by some measures, is the most visited castle in Spain.  The route took us through narrow streets, past artisan 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 to support 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 I like to think that it is also quite possible that the Alcázar in Segovia may also have been an important influence as well.

The Alcazar of Segovia above and Walt Disney Castle below…

Cinderella's Castle Walt Disney World Florida

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.

Leaving the Alcázar gardens we 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 impressive as 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.

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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 it was by now time for a beer and a tapas so we 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.

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 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 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.

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 never diminished no matter how many I see.

There was only one more thing to do in Segovia so after a 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 and the visit 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 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 to drink it and look out from our balcony over the square at the late afternoon activity. 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.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

The Aqueduct of Segovia

It was built at the end of first to 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 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.

Read the full story…

My Personal A to Z of Spain, S is for Segovia

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“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

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 I like to think that it is also quite possible that the Alcázar in Segovia may also have been an important influence as well.

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.

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 impressive as 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.

P3240774

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 it was by now time for a beer and a tapas so we 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.

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 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 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.

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 never diminished no matter how many I see.

There was only one more thing to do in Segovia so after a 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 and the visit 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 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 to drink it and look out from our balcony over the square at the late afternoon activity. 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.

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S is for Segovia but it could well have been:

Salamanca

San Sebastian

San Vincente de la Barquera

Santiago de Compostella

Santillana del Mar

Seville

Sherry

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My Personal A to Z of Spain, P is for Plaza Mayor

Almagro Plaza Mayor Spain

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.

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.  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 a complimentary tapas it is the best place to be to get a feeling for the town and its people.

On this occasion we were in the provincial town of Almagro and staying at the Hotel Retiro del Maestre, a renovated old Spanish nobleman’s house on a street leading to the main square.  It was a friendly family run hotel with spacious and comfortable public rooms, a large outside terrace basking in the 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.  At a hundred metres long and forty metres wide and flanked on both sides by arcades of Tuscan columns supporting overhead galleries all painted a uniform shade of bottle 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.

Almagro Spain Plaza Mayor

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.

In the search for real Spain (not the coasts and the Costas), 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 Valladolid, Cáceres 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 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.

Chinchon Spain Plaza Mayor  

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P is for Plaza Major but it could well have been:

Pedro Bernardo

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Spain 2011, World Heritage Sites

Each new trip to Spain includes visits to World Heritage Sites so when I counted them up I was interested to discover that out of the forty-three sites on the UNESCO list (second only to Italy with forty-seven) I have now been to twenty and that is nearly half of them.

In 2005 I went to Barcelona in Catalonia and saw the works of Antoni Gaudi, Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau. Then in 2008 I saw the Historic Centre of Cordoba, the Caves of Altamira in Cantabria, the Old Town and Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella  and the Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville.  In 2009 in the motoring holiday around Castilian cities it was the Old Town of Segovia and its Roman Aqueduct, the Walled Town of Cuenca, the Historic City of  Toledo and the Old Town of Ávila.  This trip in 2011 added CáceresMérida and Aranjuez and also Trujillo which for the time being is only on the tentative list.

   

Even before I knew anything about World Heritage Sites it turns out that I have visited two more in the days of my beach type holidays.  Although, to be absolutely fair, when I went to these places neither of them were yet on the list.  In 1988 I holidayed on the island of Ibiza which was accepted onto the list in 1999 in recognition of its biodiversity and culture and the following year I went to Tenerife and took a cable car ride to the top of Mount Tiede, a national park that was accepted to the list in 2007.

Even though they weren’t World Heritage Sites at the time I visited them I am still going to count them but the final two might be a bit dubious – but anyway here goes.  In 1984 while driving back through Spain from Portugal I drove with friends through the city of Burgos which was accepted in that year because of its Cathedral and in Galicia in 2008 while visiting Santiago de Compostella I managed to drive over parts of the Pilgrim Route, which exists on the list separately from the old city itself.

Index of  Spain

World Heritage Sites (posted June 2009)

Spain 2011, The Plaza Mayor

Almagro Spain Plaza Mayor

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.

Read the full story…

Travels in Spain, The Alcázar of Segovia

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.

Read the full story…

Travels in Spain, The Aqueduct of Segovia

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.

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