– tour of Segovia
– Lunch: Restaurante El Hidalgo
– Royal Palace of Granja
So this was our view from our hotel room:
Aquaduct: (Civil Engineering) a conduit used to convey water over a long distance, either by tunnel or more usually by a bridge supporting the weight above it.
The stunning Roman acueducto is intact, its 900-metre length commanding against soft historical architecture in this modern city. Built to impress for political advantage, the structure remains a marvel today – constructed of granite, it extends 2-3 metres underground. The water channel starts at Cold River, travels over 14 kilometres including through the city via the acueducto and goes underground to El Alcazar, the Medieval palace at the opposite end of town.
Perhaps most amazingly, the acueducto was in use from the 1st century AD until 1929.
Segovia. The capital of the province of the same name, both the city and the famous Roman structure within it are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Rich in history, Celtic in origin, the city was later conquered by Rome. Did Noah’s son found the town? Did Hercules? These are the legends, but later, in real life, the first running of the bulls took place here in the 12th century. In the more recent legendary archive, Walt Disney’s inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty palace and the film set for Snow White was El Alcazar, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian was set in the beautiful hillside around the city.
The foundation of El Alcazar was Roman, but the medieval palace was built of limestone in the 13th century. It has the kind of honest, simple, dramatic elegance that stares down the many guilded Baroque palaces of Europe and I recalled the similar rugged beauty of Prague Castle.
El Alcazar was the dramatic backdrop for one of the juiciest romances and marital power struggles ever told. Isabella was one half of the marriage that united Spain as we know it today. At age 6, Isabella was betrothed to Ferdinand, but that carried little weight. After a gnarly path of political promises, betrothals and deaths, Isabella’s own will led her back, ultimately, to Ferdinand. They wed on October 19, 1469.
In December, 1474, Ferdinand was away in Zaragoza. Isabella was at home at El Alcazar in Segovia. Toward midnite on December 11 in Madrid, King Enrique, Isabella’s half brother, died. He had dithered about his succession and left no specific heir to the throne. Isabella’s supporters – the nobility, judges and the Church – knew haste was crucial to ward off real threats to her accession to the Crown. Isabella seized the day and and a coronation ceremony in El Alcazar (and the transmission of news of the coronation) solidified her position as the new Queen of Castile and Leon.
Ferdinand was furious to learn that Isabella had seized power while he was away, denying him the opportunity to be crowned King Regent. She had written to him of Enrique’s death without mentioning her coronation. It wasn’t until he read a December 21st account of her coronation ceremony that he realized she was Queen. “I never heard of a Queen who usurped male privilege,” he whined. Isabella pulled out all the stops in pageantry on his return to Segovia, including kneeling dignitaries and a celebratory mass, but Ferdinand was not convinced and threatened to leave her.
Isabella had to plead her case publicly, and based upon the marriage contract which negated any succession rights to the throne he might claim over her, Ferdinand relented. The couple adopted a new official motto: “one is equal to the other, equally Isabella, equally Ferdinand.”
Isabella introduced great reforms to her country (perhaps she was an inspiration to the well-read Catherine II of Russia), reorganizing government, lowering the crime rate and relieving her nation of a legacy of debt left behind by her half brother. And, of course, she was to become the “Mother of the Americas,” financing and endorsing Christopher Columbus, making Spain a world power for generations.
It must not be forgotten, on the other hand, that Isabella and Ferdinand instituted the Spanish Inquisition and expelled Jews and Muslims from Spain.
Well, we fanned ourselves prodigiously after this visit and lunch was imperative.
We had seen the interior courtyards of several aristocratic mansions in Spain, and today we would experience the hushed atmosphere of a meal taken surrounded by cool stone walls with the warmth of sun and light streaming in from above.
The meal here was impressive as well, gazpacho drizzled with golden olive oil, and duck.
Next, we happily climbed once again into our 12-metre Nap Machine and then jumped ahead about 226 years to the reign of Felipe V, who built the spectacular Baroque palace La Granja in the foothills outside of Segovia. Such is the incestry of European royals, that Felipe was the French grandson of Louis Quatorze and the King of Napoli when he became the King of Spain in 1700. Felipe was nostalgic (who wouldn’t be?) for his childhood home outside Paris; this palace evokes memories of the beautiful Palace Versailles. The gardens were particularly stunning.
Deposited nicely back in Segovia at 6:00 p.m. there was time to shop, and a lovely little wine, meat and cheese shop made for a wonderful, spontaneous and rather boisterous pot luck buffet back at our hotel lobby to end the day.
San Fructos, 8th century saint, patron saint of Segovia
As the clock strikes 12 Midnite on October 24th, the Paso de la Hoja (Turn of the Page) procession culminates at this statue where he turns a page each year – it is said that when he turns the final page of his Book of Life, the world will end.