ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy


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Segovia, in pictures

It’s hard to believe it’s over. After almost two years of living inside a fairytale, I’ve packed up my little attic apartment, said goodbye to Señor Cigüeña (the stork outside my window), and did one last scenic walk of the Segovia and its ancient walls. I tried my best to farewell each of my friends and colleagues, and have a last glass of wine and pincho at all of my favourite bars. On Saturday I handed back my keys, and I’m now no longer a resident of what I consider to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Segovia has treated me incredibly well. It’s cheap, easily navigable on foot, surrounded by lush green countryside and snow capped mountains, and, most importantly, almost every bar offers free tapas. One of my reasons for leaving was actually that life there was too easy, and I was worried about getting so comfortable that I’d never be able to hack living somewhere “in the real world”. For me, one of the biggest challenges of the Madrid Metrolpolis will be that “not everything is picturesque all the time”, as is the case in most corners of the globe, save where I happen to be coming from.Señor Cigüeña

So am I sad about leaving Segovia? The truth is, not really. Whilst I loved it there (really loved it) and it will always have a special place in my heart, I simply knew that it was time to move on. I acknowledge my incredible good fortune in having had the opportunity to live somewhere so remarkable (and for so long), but I didn’t want to push my luck, and I didn’t want to let the experience stagnate. Segovia will always be there to go back to, and go back I will. I’m already planning visits for the next Segovian half-marathon and Titirimundi puppet festival, as well as scouting apartments to buy there when I win first division in El Gordo, the fat Christmas lottery.

In the meantime, as a little tribute to Segovia, I’ve uploaded some photos of my wanderings about the city. There are a lot missing, a lot of views that I was meaning to capture, yet somehow just never got around to. I would also love to have done a series of drawings based on the esgrafiados (traditional Segovian facades), and maybe I still will, but excuses excuses, there were just too many other things to be seen and done. Another thing to note is that the city is much greener and in better condition than as depicted in these photos. There are plenty of parks and nice, clean, renovated buildings – it’s just that I’m drawn to photographing old derelict walls.

If you’re interested, click on the links to two different photo pages. Then, at the foot of this post, you’ll find my recommendations for some bars, restaurants, and things to see and do in Segovia.

 DOORS, WALLS & WINDOWS

casa de los picos, calle real, Segovia

FAIRYTALE CITY

Segovia, anochecer

 

Top bars with free tapas:
José María (most famous and well regarded in Segovia city, also has big dining room)
La Judería (generous tapas of Indian/Asian/Middle eastern food, something different for when you get sick of traditional Spanish cuisine)
Fogón Sefardí (consecutive winner of tapas competitions, see menu for mini mains at pincho prices)
La Cueva de San Esteban (Cave-like venue, traditional food and decor)
El Fogón de Javier (lovely terrace, fantastic olives)
Ludos (also has board games and great breakfast combos)

Fine dining restaurants (the best ones are always outside the capital):
La Portada de Mediodía, Torrecaballeros
El Rancho, Torrecaballeros
José María
La Postal, Zamarramala (great weekday set menu)

Great bakery: Limon y Menta (just off the main square)

Fresh food markets :
Thursday morning in the main square
Saturday morning between José Zorilla and Avenida de la Constitución

Best touristy things to do:
The Alcazar
Visit to La Granja Palace and gardens (mini Versailles, but free and minus the crowds)
Museo Esteban Vicente (more for the building than the art)
Pedraza (medieval fortress town about 40mins by car from Segovia)
Puerta de Santiago (an exhibition space inside one of the gates of the old wall)
walk walk walk (around the town, around the surrounding countryside, especially around the wall)

Typical Segovian set-menu:
Judiones de La Granja (jumbo white broad beans in hearty meaty broth)
Cochinillo o Cordero Asado (oven roasted suckling pig or baby lamb)
Ponche Segoviano (sponge cake with egg yolk custard and thin real-almond-not-horrible-fake marzipan icing)

Also try:
Cocido (hearty many-part stew, with noodle broth, vegies and chick peas, and separate mixed meat and sausage component)
Alcachofas con jamon (artichokes with garlic and Spanish ham)
Tejas de almendra (sticky almond ‘roof tiles’)
torreznos (pork crackling bar snacks – not my thing, but is typical of the region)
Empanada de pisto (pastry filled with cooked tomato and onion)
Pulga de tortilla (little bread roll filled with Spanish potato omelette, typical mid-morning snack)
all the grilled/roasted vegetables, especially pimentón (sweet red pepper)

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the king looked in the mirror and saw a trout

What did Smeagol (aka Gollum) and King Carlos III of Spain have in common?

???????????????????????????????They both loved fishing!

But their techniques must have differed greatly. Before he was cast into the fiery pits of Mordor, Smeagol splashed and squirmed around muddy pools, diving in and out to catch the wriggly things with his own slippery fingers. King Carlos III, however, was probably far less inclined to get even his feet wet. Why else would he have ordered his minions to build “the Royal Fisheries”?

Las Pesquerías Reales can be found just outside La Granja de San Ildefonso, the Palace and gardens which were constructed by the Bourbon Kings during their stint in Spain (they must have been very homesick, the gardens are a replica of Versailles). But what exactly are “Royal Fisheries”?   I was asking myself this question as I set off to visit them yesterday morning.

The answer is, not what I expected. The fisheries turned out to be a picturesque walking track along the Eresma River. It’s paved with giant flat stones, with occasional platforms that jut out over the rapids, and there’s a weird contraption at the top of the river that is supposed to assist trout migration (in some feat of fish biology/water engineering genius). The people track begins at the Pontón Reservoir (also known as ‘the mirror’, see photos) and runs upstream for about 5km to another big dam next to Valsaín, a town which is famous for nice bread, cute little farm animals roaming free, and wood fire ovens (for roasting aforementioned farm animals). It then continues further (towards the “Ass’s mouth”), but I did not.

Apparently the river is home to trout, carp, and Iberian mullet. I didn’t see any, not one. The rapids were pretty fast and the water looked bloody cold. Perhaps fish go south for winter too.

Anyway, whether you’re into fishing or not, the real selling point of the route is the scenery. From several vantage points you can get a good view of some of the highest mountains in the Guadarrama Range, including “the King’s Seat” (which is officially called “the Bun of Aunt Andrea”). Yesterday, being mid winter, it was still bitterly cold, but both to my relief and disappointment, recent rains had washed away much of the snow. It was actually a perfect day for walking, with little wind and not a cloud in the sky. The winter sun did its best effort at thawing and succeeded – the river was high, and everyone out walking seemed to be in good spirits too.

 


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a walk in the park (with vomiting frogs)

Palacio Real (gracias google)A long time ago, when the Bourbon Kings ruled Spain, France must have seemed a lot further away than it is now. So in order to feel a bit more at home, King Felipe V (the friendly) decided to build himself and his heirs a French Rococo palace, in an estate known as La Granja, about 7km from Segovia. This area was originally a popular hunting ground for the Spanish Court, but the Bourbons transformed it into something more. Not only did they build an ostentatious palace (decked in crystals and tapestries), but they converted much of the forest lands into well manicured gardens. La Granja essentially became a ‘mini Versailles’.

These days, La Granja de San Ildefonso (y el Palacio Real) is a lovely little day or half-day trip from Segovia. I first saw the gardens in their fiery Autumn splendour (and semi mentioned them in a rather philosophical post), and a second time in Winter, when they were blanketed in not-quite-enough-to-be-white snow. Spring hasn’t really happened this year (we’re still shivering in our soggy boots and it’s June already), but I made another ‘seasonal’ visit to La Granja.

This time it wasn’t for just any old walk in the park.

The main feature of the palace gardens is the collection of elaborate, mythical fountains. They are fed by an 18th century water system; at the top of a hill there is a dam, and the force of gravity is used to power jets of water as high as 40 meters in the air – when the fountains are turned on. Most of the time though, the pipes are dry and the ponds lie empty, with leaf litter covering the chequered tile bases. It’s only twice per year that the fountains are activated (presumably by a magic lever somewhere), and the public come streaming in to watch the spectacular.

However, this has been Spain’s rainiest year in a long time, so the dam is nice and full. Extra dates have been added to the fountain calendar, and I got to go there for an excursion with my Spanish class (instead of class, brilliant).

Apollo fountain (gracias google)All afternoon the sky was threatening to burst on us, and there were a lot more people about than I like to find in nature, but overall, it was a very pleasant experience. The fountains were turned on only one at a time, due to the system of water which feeds from one to the next as it works its way down the hill. So, numbered maps in hand, we followed a set route and gathered around each fountain in anticipation, and cheered as a group when the first jet of water burst out of the mythical lion’s/horse’s/faun’s/carp’s/mermaid’s/human-frog-hybrid’s nose/mouth/orifices. The sculptures are figures from Classical mythology, and the stories behind each of them were fantastical, frightening, and so dramatic they were hilarious.

I had to laugh when I overhead a little child in the crowd behind me asking ‘mummy, why are all the puppies vomiting?’, as I’d been wondering something similar about the frogs.

Anyway, here are some more terrible photos. This wouldn’t be a true post of mine if the photos didn’t come accompanied by an excuse as to why my photography is so bad: It was cold, and I didn’t want my camera to get wet, and there were lots of distractions… in summer I really won’t have any excuses. For those that are interested, the next dates to see all the fountains in action are the 25th of July and the 25th of August… although some indivudual foutains will be activated for most of the next couple of months.