Monday, June 22, 2009


Friday, June 25, 2004 Segovia

We said our goodbyes at breakfast this morning. The trip to the airport at 10 am went smoothly as the tour director has graciously agreed to take us with the late group as we were scheduled to pick up our car at the airport. One problem: they were all departing so we were taken to the upper level for departures. The elevator wasn’t working and we needed to get down to the arrival area. We finally took the plunge and got on the escalators with all of our luggage in tow. Scary due to the large suitcases but we survived. We telephoned the agency and they arrived in about half an hour to drive us to the pickup point.

We have a brand new 406 Peugeot with a trunk big enough to hold all of our luggage out of sight. We have to thank Jim’s sister for this nice comfortable car. Originally she’d planned to travel with us on part of the trip so we’d ordered a car large enough for all of us and our luggage. I’m delighted as it makes everything so much easier. We have been keeping the things we use in our nylon stuff bags so we won’t have to take the large suitcases into every hotel. We will use this car for the next month while we are in Spain and France. Our travels in Italy will be by train after we leave Nice on July 31st.

Our drive north to Segovia was only supposed to be an hour but we took the slower route over the mountains instead of the toll road. It was a beautiful trip on twisting roads through pine forests. On the other side we saw Segovia from a distance but as we followed our directions we seemed to be getting further and further away from it. Finally stopped and asked for directions (the only thing he understood was “Segovia”) …we’d gone about twenty miles too far. Turned around and found our home for the night. This is our first stay at a “Parador” hotel. This one was built as a hotel; but most of the others will be converted Monasteries, Convents, Palaces, etc. The Paradores Hotel system was set up by the government to use some of the empty buildings owned by the government. I think that they are now privately run. This one is very beautiful and overlooks the town of Segovia. We can see the Cathedral from our bedroom. We will be staying in seven of them from now until July 3rd. Also visible from our window is the Roman Aqueduct that was built to bring water to the city for the soldiers who were stationed here. There is about one thousand feet remaining intact and still capable of carrying water, at least a trickle of water. The remaining section transverses the mountain and is the height of a three-story building.

After checking in we ventured down into town. Jim is really suffering from his cold and really isn’t up to much of anything. But, being the good guy that he is; we did go see the Cathedral, Mayor’s Plaza and had an early dinner. The Cathedral is one of the last great Gothic Churches built and has a lot of turrets and fluff on the outside. The inside is beautiful but not as gaudy. Two unusual things: The side altars are huge and very ornate; lots of gold leaf. The crucifix on one altar had a “skirt” on the Christ figure; we’d never seen that done before. It started at the waist and went past his knees. The siesta was just ending as we left town; you can almost feel the town awakening about 6 pm and then the shops are open until about 10 pm. The eating places just get going about 10 pm and go all night long. The Spanish are definitely night people. Fortunately there are small bars, cafes and cafeterias open all day long that allow the Gringos to eat early. But they are definitely not gourmet meals. French fries seem to come with everything. At least we’ve learned to tell them to remove the bread; they automatically bring it to your table and then charge you extra for it at the end. We’re both trying to not eat bread.

Saturday, June 26th: Siguenza

Slept in this morning and didn’t leave until after 9 am. Leisurely drive to our next Parador should only take a few hours because we took a short cut over the hills on what we call a serendipity road! This worked well until we missed a turn in the road and went about twenty miles out of our way. Oh well, nice day for driving in the hills of Spain. Lots of castle ruins, a farm here and there and a sprinkling of small villages dotted the winding narrow country road. So glad we took the time to fill the gas tank this morning as almost all gas stations close from noon Saturday through Sunday.

We slowed down to see the Roman Ruins of the salt mines of Imon. What caught our eye were the flats used to dry the salt; looked very much like salt flats all over the world except that these were used by the Romans a few centuries ago. We arrived in Siguenza about 1 pm. Our Parador tonight is in a castle build prior to the 12th Century that overlooks the town. We don’t have a view from our room tonight, but the walls are at least four feet thick and we are eighty feet up with a tiny window alcove that has a stone bench on one side. The castle was in ruins when they purchased the property and began reconstruction in the 1960’s. There are photos in the lobby of the before and after. The dining room, bar and lobby quarters are in keeping with the castle motif. We have modern conveniences in the guest rooms with the grandeur of bygone ages in the public areas.

We drove down into town about 3 pm for an early dinner at the local Cafeteria and then waited for the Cathedral to open at 4:30 pm for a walk about. Very old, construction started in the 12th Century in Gothic-Cistercian style. The exterior was not completed until the 16th Century. The interior is very dark. We’re going to walk back tonight; we found a short hill that goes down from the Castle to the Major’s Plaza and Cathedral. There is supposed to be a mass at 8 pm. It will probably be a wedding as they were decorating one of the areas in the Cathedral this afternoon. Right now we’re inside enjoying the air conditioning. Yes, it’s a very warm day outside about 88 degrees and it’s after 7 pm.

About 7:30 we started walking down the hill towards the Cathedral. Saw a shop with postcards that was open and stopped to pick up a card; good thing as everything was closed after church. When we arrived at the church the area in front was crowded with a wedding party that had just left the church. They appeared to be locking everything up in the church but we found that yes indeed, there was an 8 pm Mass in the large Chapel off the main Cathedral. As the Mass started the people started arriving through a side door until it was nearly full. Mostly older people in attendance; it was a beautiful high mass with two priests co-celebrating together. Getting out the little side door afterwards took nearly as long as the Mass; Jim said he was glad there wasn’t a fire!

1 comment:

Mary said...

So enjoyed your post... nice to see that you & Jim had such a good time even when you were lost and had to turn around. The pictures are great