Saturday, 5 February 2011

Spain, The Alcázar of Segovia

From the square we walked towards the centre of the old city into the sociable main square, the Plaza Mayor, and followed a street adjacent to the cathedral and walked in the direction of the Alcázar, which is the most visited castle in all of Spain. The route took us through narrow streets past craft shops and churches and eventually brought us out at the north of the city on the top of a rocky outcrop that was the location of the fortress that was begun in the twelfth century and was subsequently occupied by a succession of Castilian monarchs from Alfonso X to Phillip II and Charles III. It has a rather modern appearance because in the nineteenth century it was destroyed by fire but was restored to its present magnificent status soon after.

Segovia and the Spanish tourist board would have us believe that the Alcázar was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland in California and Disneyworld in Florida but there is no real evidence for this and in fact it is more likely that the famous icon of the Disney empire was inspired principally by Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria and several French palaces, most notably Louis XIV’s Versailles although it is slightly possible that the Alcázar in Segovia may also have been an important influence as well.

The last time we visited Segovia in March 2009 there were brilliant blue skies and excellent weather but this morning it was rather cold and miserable and this matched exactly how Christine was feeling so on this occasion we didn’t go inside but instead made do with an external viewing and then walked back to the Plaza Mayor by a different route that took us close to the northern walls of the old walled city with some glorious views stretching out over the plains of Castilla y Leon.

In the main square we looked for somewhere to sit and have a drink but it was really too unpleasant to sit outside so we went to the bar in the Sercotel Infanta Isabel where we were glad to sit down in the warm. Micky, Sue and Kim had a coffee and I had a beer which meant the inevitable tapas but Christine was feeling even worse than before as the effect of the alcohol stubbornly refuse to wear off and it was clear that she was unlikely to make a quick recovery and so the best thing to do was to return to Ávila where she could suffer quietly in the comfort of her room.

While we sat there local people came and went and I began to think about all the reasons that I like Spain and one is that for someone like me on the shorter side most of the people are what I regard as normal size. According to Eurostat the Spanish are the shortest people in Europe and the average height for a man is five foot seven inches and I feel that that is just about the perfect size and it makes me feel comfortable. Officially Dutch men are the tallest at an average of five foot ten inches and although not included in the Eurostat figures the Croatians claim to be an average six foot one inch. We went there last year and I can confirm that they are indeed big lads.

After the drink stop we returned to the aqueduct where the dancing had stopped now and we collected the car and drove back to Ávila. It was overcast but dry but as we approached the city we could see a towering wall of black cloud building up directly in front of us and just a few kilometres out of the city the rain started to fall and we all knew that it was set in for the rest of the day.

Yesterday when we walked through the Puerta de Santa Teresa we had the afternoon sun on our backs but today there was just a steady pitter patter of rain on our umbrellas so we walked quickly through the sodden streets back to the hotel where Christine went immediately to her room and that was the last that we saw of her all day.

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