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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SEGOVIA… so far, so good.

I haven't yet taken my own snaps of the city, I found this beautiful photo on a tourism website. Click here to follow link.

After moving here less than a week ago, it’s probably a bit early to be writing a comprehensive review of my new city, but it’s also way too soon for me to be falling off the regular blogging bandwagon. So here’s a little progress report on how, touch wood, everything seems to be magically coming together.

The move was last Sunday. Despite my best attempts at bribery and catchy facebook advertising, there was nobody available to chauffeur me and my belongings from South to Central Spain, so I made the journey by bus bus taxi and bus. Thanks to a last minute brainwave, I posted the bulk of my luggage on ahead, which turned out to be a cheap and efficient option. Much smarter than struggling with multiple bags on public transport… gold star for me.

I arrived in Segovia quite late in the evening, thinking I was cutting it fine for an early start at my new job on Monday morning. But this was not the case. It appears that Andalusia is not the only part of Spain operating on plan tranquilo.

My boss (the bilingual coordinator at my high school) picked me up from the bus station, and a home cooked meal was waiting for me at her flat. She told me that we weren’t actually starting until Tuesday, when there would be a meeting with the English department to introduce us and sort out timetables. At said meeting it was decided that this week was just too chaotic for anyone to know how and when they wanted the language assistants to fit into their schedules, so it would be better for us to have another week off whilst they get themselves organised. We shrugged and said okay and wandered off, feeling a little lost. It’s not really the school’s fault, due to the crisis and funding cuts to education, things such as staff numbers and hours are still hanging in limbo even though the semester is supposed to have already started.

By ‘we’, I mean myself and the two other auxiliares at my school: a girl and a guy from opposite ends of the States. Needless to say, with an extra week before work starts, we’ve had plenty of bonding time. And they’re lovely. They live in an attic above the main plaza, have a healthy enthusiasm for red wine, I know we’re going to get along just fine :-)

Despite being a little disappointed about not being able to begin work straight away (I am so ready), it was a relief and a luxury to have plenty of time to get myself set up. Whilst house hunting I stayed with my new boss, her husband, and their (very) teenage daughter. They treated me to hearty (mostly home grown) vegetarian food, world music, and a comfortable (very ‘cosy’) space of my own. There was absolutely no pressure on me to find a place in a hurry, and thanks to their cooking, their company, and their bookshelves, I was almost tempted to stay with them for the rest of the course.

That was until I found my flat. After numerous phone calls and a couple of days traipsing back and forth across the city on foot (great for my orientation), I made a gut decision on Wednesday, and by Thursday I was comfortably settled in my new pad. Competition was tough, and I’m sure I’d have been content with any of the decent, reasonably priced apartments I visited, but I’m absolutely rapt with the one I eventually settled on (even if it is a whopping 20 euros per month over my budget). It’s got three bedrooms; the second belongs to a Spanish music teacher (female, and no points for guessing her name), and the third is still up for lease (any takers?). It’s spacious, bright, airy, and centrally located. The famous Roman Aqueduct of Segovia runs down our street, and I literally can’t leave the house without passing under its arches. To top it all off, my bedroom has a little balcony, soon to be filled with pot plants.

In addition to house hunting, there’s been all the regular ‘settling in’ business to attend to. Fortunately the tricky stuff, like bank accounts and visas, was taken care of last time round. Here it’s just a matter of minor details and creature comforts. I now have a library membership and a bus card (like Myki, but it works), which makes me feel like a proper citizen. I’ve done a lot of shopping for stuff like coat hangers, fry pans, and double adaptors (all of which I bought in Hinojosa, but had to leave behind). I’ve decided on my local, or rather, shortlisted it to two bars. One is al fresco and has free tapas (they’re not just a thing of the South), and the other, where I am now, has WiFi, free tapas, and the same name as my regular in Hinojosa, El Gato. It was meant to be. Both bars are in the same ‘apple’ (block) as my flat. So my after-hours timetable is filling up quite nicely. As for taking on private students; without even putting up a poster I’ve got four newbies and lessons have already started. Also, as the foreign language school is just next door, I decided to enrol myself in an intensive Spanish course. Hopefully eight hours a week, with someone actually correcting my errors, will be what is needed to tidy up my grammar and finally master that pesky subjunctive tense.

So going on first impressions, Segovia is looking to be a pretty great experience. Despite the warnings of my Andalusian friends, the people here are not the slightest bit ‘cold’ or ‘closed’. To the contrary. Everyone has been overwhelmingly welcoming, from the taxi driver on my very first visit (months ago), to my new colleagues and neighbours. And the city itself is absolutely preciosa. Although very small (only 70,000 people), it’s rich in history and wonderful old buildings. Rich like 85% dark chocolate, wrapped in gold. This morning, on the first of what I hope to be many runs, I saw colourful hot air balloons floating over the sun bathed Aqueduct and tiered city walls. Not only was it a stunning vista, but the crisp cool air, balloons, and greenery, reminded me of early morning runs in Princess Park, Melbourne.

Already I feel so at home.