Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Stage 5 - Segovia

I didn't get much sleep. It was one of those nights where it was very muggy, and there was no air conditioning. I woke up at about 3 o'clock, and had trouble getting back to sleep. I must have nodded off at some point though, as I woke with a start when the alarm went off at 7:45.

I went for breakfast at the bar downstairs: freshly squeezed orange juice, toast and coffee. The toast was done on the griddle with butter, so was a bit like a fried slice, and was delicious with strawberry jam. Whilst I was sat there at the bar, the locals were coming in for a quick coffee and a chat, and disappearing as soon as they'd drunk their coffee. It was all very civilised, with everyone saying "Hola, buenos días" when someone walked in.

I'd left my bike round the back of the hotel, on a private terrace, and it was just as I'd left it. I've been getting a bit blasé and not bothering to put the lock on. I checked out of the hotel and went to take some more photos from around the city wall.

The city walls.

Me with grey stubble - I'm getting old!

View over the town.

Just about to set off.

Once I was done, I made my way through the city to get onto the Segovia road. I love stopping to ask the way. I haven't a clue what they say most of the time, and just concentrate on the hand signals and listen for they key words for left, right and straight on.

Once out of Ávila, the roads changed for the better. The road to El Esquinar was by far the best I've been on so far, very much a country lane, with next to no traffic, wonderful scenery, and going through what seemed like the middle of nowhere. And Carmen was right... my legs and back felt good after my massage the day before, so I did love her today!

A lovely old milestone - 18 leagues to Madrid and four to Ávila.

I passed a newish looking cycle path which went away from the road I was on but, according to the sign, joined it further on. I thought 'sod it!' and went along the cycle path. It was fab until I came to a steep hill which was so steep I couldn't cycle up it without my front wheel coming up off the ground, so I had no choice but to get off and push. The only thing was that there were some bulls or cows (I didn't hang about to check!) either side of the path, with no fences. They fortunately didn't show much more than a passing interest, and I was just glad I wasn't wearing my red cycling jersey!

Not sure if the bulls should beware of the cyclists...

...or the cyclists should beware of the bulls!

I carried on along the path and rejoined the main road further on. I then passed three cyclists going the other way, bikes loaded with panniers and camping gear. I've seen lots of cyclists so far on this ride, but these were the first tourers I'd encountered. We stopped and had a brief chat. They were Spanish, and on a ten day ride to Lisbon and back. They're going to have their work cut out!

I pedalled my way on to El Esquinar, where I'd planned to stop for lunch, pausing every now and then to stop and admire the view. I was disappointed to see that there were so many wind turbines along the way - a real blot on the landscape. Without going into a rant, I just hate wind turbines because they're not at all efficient or reliable, and they are such an eyesore.

I do hate wind turbines!

That way!

Lovely cycling country... no cars.

I took the El Esquinar turning off the main road and followed the signs towards the town centre, but it seemed like a ghost town, just lots of houses with nobody about. I then spotted a lady carrying some shopping bags, so I stopped and asked her if there were any bars or cafes nearby. She gave me a look that said "You berk!" and pointed "¡Por allá!", "Over there!".

I turned the corner and went to the end of the road, and I was in the main square. It was really busy, and seemed like the whole town was there. The local school had obviously just tipped out as there were loads of kids running around. I was amazed to see a "taberna irlandesa". A bloody Irish bar in such a small town in rural Spain! I went to another bar and asked for some tortilla and a small caña. I couldn't get what the barman was saying to me, so one of the guys in the bar tried to translate by repeating what the barman had said, but very loudly, which made me laugh and he got a bit narked, thinking I was taking the pee out of him. It turned out that the barman was asking whether I wanted a pincho or a porción, as he gave me a pincho - a mouthful on a cocktail stick, so I ordered a porción as well.

It was great to walk around the square when I'd finished in the bar. It wasn't as busy as it had been earlier, but there was a group of kids with quite a big age range having a kick about, and small groups of people sitting in the shade chatting away. All very relaxed. I bought some bananas and water and made my way out of El Espinar.

An Irish pub, in rural Spain... please!

Kids playing footie in the main square, jumpers for goalposts style.

The local town hall. Four flags, four taxes!

After the best morning's cycling, the afternoon went a bit pear-shaped. I ended up on another busy main road, on a steep climb, with bugger all room, and just like yesterday I got tooted up by the odd car. I did about 15 miles on the main road, with two really nasty climbs, before pulling off back onto the country lanes across a level crossing, and through a lovely old pueblo called Riofrio. There was then a really short, sharp descent with loads of hairpins, and ruts in the road where the underside of cars had come into contact with the tarmac. This was swiftly followed by the nasty climb which the book had warned about, and I just about made it in my granny gear.

Spanish train

Before long, I was cycling into Segovia. There were bugger all signs, but I managed to find the aqueduct, which looked amazing. I then tried to find my way to the cathedral and the Plaza Mayor, as this is where the hostal was. I went around the houses a bit, but found it after asking a couple of locals for directions. The hostal looked very nice, a lovely old building with lots of marble and dark wood panelling. I unloaded my bike, and then carried it up to the first floor where there was a private terrace with a locked door, so no need to lock it up again.

I was given a double room but, like every hostal so far, it had a tiny bath, when I really fancied a good long soak in the bath. I showered and washed my kit then headed off out. There was a tourist information place on the Plaza Mayor so I picked up a map and then went for a wander past the cathedral and over to the Alcázar, the big castle. I don't do organised religion, but I do like seeing old churches and cathedrals from the outside, and the Segovia catherdral is a pretty spectacular building. The Alcázar was a short walk from the cathedral and again is a wonderful building. It was getting a bit late so I decided not to go inside as I'd rather get to see the rest of the town, in particular the aqueduct, before it got dark.

Bath for small people only :o(

Segovia cathederal.

A proper Fiat Cinquecento.

Outside the Alcázar.

Segovia Cathedral from the Alcázar.

The aqueduct was a 15 minute walk away, and it really is awesome (and free too!). The Romans were way ahead of their time, and had the knack of making a functional construction so aesthetically pleasing. I got up close and climbed the staircase to one side and viewed it from the top, taking loads of photos all the while.

Handsome bloke.

At the aqueduct.

An amazing feat of engineering.

"What have the Romans ever done for us?"

View over the city from the Aqueduct.


Segovia Cathedral by night.

Mmmmmm me encanta yendo de tapas!

Once I was done at the aqueduct, I went to 'ir de tapas', and had a great time going round the different tapas bars, having tortilla in one, chorizo al vino in another, pollo al ajillo somewhere else... all my favourites, washed down with beer to start, and rioja later on. All in all, a great evening!

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