A Day in Segovia

The morning of Friday, July 11 was a tough one for me. I had spent the previous evening (and part of the present morning) at a club near my host family´s house in Toledo, outside of the historic Casco. It was a rough morning because after a lot of drinking and dancing and not much sleep, I had to drag myself out of bed early, fight through the morning-after-stomach-pains and get myself to school to make the bus for the day trip to Segovia.

Fortunately I survived the bus ride without any stomach eruptions and was able to enjoy a beautiful day in a beautiful historic city. Segovia, Spain.

The bus ride to Segovia from Toledo was about two hours, it´s located about an hour and 20 minutes north west of Madrid. We arrived and began our day with a tour of the historic Alcázar of Segovia, the royal palace.

If you like Disney movies, or appreciate moorish architecture and artistic style, the Alcázar is definitely a location to add to your list, as it is noted as being an inspiration for Cinderella´s Castle. The tour was beautiful, there is a lot of ornate decor and interesting history to learn about the palace, and it is a very unique castle in that it has a moat and an interesting structural design, it is shaped like a the bow of a ship, peaking out of the rock cliff that it sits atop.

If you visit the palace and don´t mind hiking up lots of stairs, make sure to do the full tour including the hike up the towers, it is a breathtaking view and an adrenaline experience, climbing up what seems to be a never-ending spiral staircase.

The “moat” of the Alcázar

After the Alcázar, we made our way to the Roman Aqueduct, located in the Plaza del Azulguejo. It is an ancient Roman aqueduct, considered one of the best preserved ancient monuments in Spain. It was truly in amazing condition despite being hundreds of years old. The most impressive fact I learned was that there is no mortar or any sort of construction bonding agent holding the massive rocks together, it is all reliant on the immense pressure that the boulders exert on each other.

Segovia was a really beautiful city for a brief daytrip, but I would love to spend more time here someday in the future. Because it is so close to Madrid, I would highly recommend a visit if you ever find yourself in the capital city of Spain for a few days. Not only is it a very walkable city, with a bus and train station to make travel very easy, it also has plenty of restaurants, shopping and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites located very close together.
Segovia has a lot of similarities to Toledo, but I almost think I might like Segovia a little bit more! I hope I get to return someday soon.

More pictures from the trip

 

Tomorrow it´s off to Pamplona for the RUNNING OF THE BULLS!

xoxo

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Granada & Córdoba

Our third week of classes ended with a bus trip down south to the Andalucia region of Spain. The bus was scheduled to leave our school at 5:30am Friday morning, meaning that sleeping Thursday night was probably not going to happen. After partying literally all night (first time I have ever successfully pulled an all nighter) and meeting up with our group, we loaded on to the bus and hit the road south bound.

First stop: Córdoba
 

After about a four hour bus ride with a breakfast intermission, we arrived in Cordoba. Because this was just a pit stop on our journey, we only saw a small amount of the town but we toured La Mezquita, a beautiful complex of Islamic architecture. Our tour guide was lovely and very informative, I was sad to learn that because the building was conquered by the Catholic Church long in the past, Muslims today are still banned from praying in the moorish structure. It was a beautiful tour and provided interesting juxtaposition of two distinct religions and history all in one building.

After la Mezquita and a small neighborhood of Córdoba, we had lunch and then it was back on the bus to head down to Granada.

Once in Granada we checked into a very nice hotel on one of the main streets, a very beautiful area close to the main attractions of the city. Hotel Vincci Granada, it was rather fancy, and well located, but overall somewhat unnecessary. We hardly spent any time in the hotel when there was so much to see and explore in Granada. Friday night was an early night as we were exhausted from the travel and touring of the day.

The next morning, it was time to visit the Alhambra. Located very close to the rest of the city, it was a short bus ride uphill. The tour was absolutely unbelievable. The most impressive and breathtaking component of the Alhambra was by far the extensive network of gardens and fountains. It is sometimes called a “pearl amongst emeralds” because it is a massive, white structure hidden amongst beautiful greenery.

One thing Granada is really well known for is tapas, more so than any city in Spain. We enjoyed tapas at the restaurant at the hotel, nothing like getting free mini burgers, croquettes and potato dishes with the order of a drink. It was all for a really good value, 2,20 euro for a glass of strong rosado.

I can´t exactly explain the overwhelming feelings that I experienced while in Granada, the best way to put it was that it just felt right being there. While aimlessly wandering the streets of the city, I overall just felt like I would belong there for a part of my life. I genuinely want to search for possible teaching organization or other job opportunities that would  allow me to live in Granada for at least a brief period of my life. The city had a metropolitan feel of Madrid without being too huge and bustling, it had the gorgeous architecture and moorish style that I adore, and overall just had a perfect pace of life for me, with plenty of young people out late, enjoying life but not partying too hard. I wish I could put the feeling into words more eloquently, but ït just felt “right” is the only way I can think to describe it.

During our wanderings, we stopped for a glass of sangria next to the river in Sacramonte, a noted gypsy neighborhood of Granada sitting below the Alhambra. The river flowing nearby was much more of a large stream than a river, but was considered a river on the tourist map that I had. My friend Drew had an unrelenting curiousity about said river, so thus we embarked on an excursion to figure out how to get down to its shores.
The cool water felt great on hot, sweaty feet, and a giant cave-like storm drain was right near where we climbed down to water level. Natural curiousity led us to climb into the “cave” to end up at an underground waterfall-type source. It was probably just a storm drain, but nevertheless it was a fun experience, crawling in a dark cave over rocks and flowing water.

Granada was such a beautiful experience, I enjoyed every minute in the city. I would highly recommend anyone spending time in Spain to make time to visit Granada, at least for a day if not for a full weekend.

If you´ve been to Granada and did things I did not mention on here, what did you see/experience and would you recommend it? Leave a comment below!

xoxo

El Escorial and Valle de los Caídos

For our second official excursion with my study abroad program, we embarked on a day trip to El Escorial and Valle de los Caídos. El Escorial is one of the Spanish royal sites, located about a 20 minute drive northwest of Madrid. The full name of the site is Real Monasterio El Escorial, meaning the royal monastery. It is the historical residence for the King of Spain, and in 1984 it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, attracting roughly half a million visitors per year.

In the courtyard of Kings

Courtyard w/ Gardens and Fountains

Most of the tour of El Escorial was off-limits to photography, but here is a summary of a few of the other parts of the complex
Pantheon of the Kings
A cold room containing giant marble coffins of the past kings and their queens of Spain. The room was spectacular, but somewhat creepy.
Basilica
The Basilica had one of the most impressive domes I have ever seen, it was truly amazing to crane my neck upwards and imagine the feat of constructing such a monstrosity.
Library
Probably my favorite part of the whole place, a huge hall/room containing hundreds of books, and the view out the windows was a beautiful landscape
After touring El Escorial, we had a break for lunch and then it was onward to Valle de los Caídos.
Valle de los Caídos 
Valle de los Caidos is a Catholic Basilica in the same municipality as El Escorial. Construction was prompted by Francisco Franco and it is dedicated as a monument of memory to all who died in the Civil War, in a gesture of reconciliation. Franco´s body is buried in the basilica, along with the body of Jose Antonio, an early figure of the Falange movement. It seems a bit strange to have a monument dedicated to a dictator, but it reveals that there are still Spaniards who believe in far-right forms of government and still believe in Francoist government structure. Photography within the basilica was not allowed, but the views of nature surrounding the basilica were far more breathtaking than the complex in my opinion. Many people took a moment to sit and pray while in the main basilica part, but I took my moment outside, as the surrounding area is full of trees and wilderness, and the smell was of a dry faint pine. The smell reminded me of being in South Dakota with my family and Yosemite, the area had a very similar feel to some national parks I have been to.

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