|Segovia-Guiomar train station|
Once we’re settled the shuttle bus, we anxiously crane our necks for a glimpse of the monuments Segovia’s old town is home to: the Roman aqueduct, the late-Gothic cathedral, or the fairy-tale Alcázar castle.
As the city bus rattles down a curve paved in granite cobblestone, the aqueduct finally comes into our view. It dominates the busy Plaza de la Artillería and effortlessly leaps from one hillside to the other on forty-four double arches. Colossal granite blocks rest one on top of each other as they have for the past two thousand years, without mortar, and each arch’s keystone floats incredibly without support, demonstrating the ingenuity of Roman engineering.
|The aqueduct in the falling light|
By the time we’ve dropped off our bags at the hotel, most of the daytrippers have already left town for Madrid. Besides, the sun is setting and the sky is turning a warm orange and pink. We head out for paseo, that Spanish custom of going for an afternoon stroll after dinner to see and be seen. Before we begin our walk, we stop off at a small wooden shack for a packet of roasted chestnuts. It’s my family’s first time to try these snacks of Christmas carol fame, but I’m not surprised the starchy nut doesn’t win them over.
|Church of San Millán|
It’s not long before we arrive in Plaza Mayor. To the left, the cathedral silently oversees the goings-on of Segovia’s main square. Its buttresses, capped with curlicued points, sprawl out like spider legs toward the plaza’s pavement, and the eerie yellow lighting casts a decidedly Minas Morgul atmosphere about the church, as if ringwraiths lurk behind the shadows rather than the Spirit of the Lord.
We hop back on the main drag as it goes down the hill away from the cathedral. Stray cats dash furtively across the sidewalk down deserted alleys, turning their heads to glare at those pesky humans who disturbed their hunt. This hill ends at an extended family of trees that hides the looming Alcázar from our view. Warm lighting illuminates the sheer wall of the keep tower around which Cinderella Castle-style slate-roofed turrets hop and dance. On the other side of the river valley, the eight-sided Vera Cruz Church floats eerily out in the darkness.
|View of the old town from the Alcázar|
In typical American fashion, we begin looking for a place to have dinner; after all, it’s already (only?) eight-o’-clock in the evening. We find a decidedly untouristy place that looks out onto Plaza Mayor and rub elbows with fur-coat-wearing grannies, who nurse ceramic cups of coffee or short glasses of beer. Although the restaurant is packed with locals and a handful of overworked waiters, we manage to put our order in. It’s not long before we get to savor the simple pleasure of a Spanish plato combinado, or “combined dish” that has a little bit of everything: some grilled pork loin, a few croquetas or fried nuggets, a simple vegetable salad, and some bright yellow French fries.
|Church of San Esteban|
Over a year ago I first visited Segovia and enjoyed checking off the sights I had come to expect any grand Spanish city worth its salt to have: a cathedral, a castle, an archaeology museum, some parish churches, and a local dish (and pastry!). But returning once more, this time with my parents and brother—hardly numb to yet another Gothic cathedral—restored the sense of wonder that Segovia evokes in any passing visitor.
Have you ever gone back to a place and had a different experience, either better or worse? Share your stories in the discussion thread below!