Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Segovia and La Granja de San Ildefonso

What I had originally envisioned as a 4 day immersion in Segovia turned into a quick half-day side trip, as Suzanne was recovering from the flu and the kids were still threatening revolt from any further sightseeing. Segovia is an amazing city – quintessentially Spanish and stunningly beautiful, with a fairy tale castle, roman ruins, a gothic cathedral and a maze of narrow winding streets to explore with very interesting architecture on the surrounding buildings. It seemed to be a very vibrant cultural city as well, with lots going on around town. Hands down, the most amazing site was the roman aqueduct, built in the 1st century to bring water to the town. It is considered to be the finest example of roman engineering still standing today and it almost looks surreal as it towers high above the town. This is one of the few man-made features I have seen that left me with my jaw dropped to the floor. Suzanne and I would have liked to spend more time exploring the town, particularly the Alcazar, as well as the surrounding area but we were happy to at least have gotten a chance to spend some time here. Maybe next time we’ll do it without kids… Earlier in the week, we also managed to get out for an afternoon to La Granja de San Ildefonso, the site of a beautiful palace and gardens built by Philip V. Philip was the grandson of Louis XIV, and he built this site as his own personal retreat after spending his childhood in the gardens of Versailles. La Granja sits at the base of the Sierra de Guadarrama, which is still covered with snow in some spots (note to self…beautiful, but very cold in the winter!). The gardens are filled with tree-lined avenues and hidden squares with bizarre baroque fountains, which seemed a bit over the top when juxtaposed against the natural surroundings. At the end of the day, a number of the fountains were turned on, sending huge plumes of water into the air. Much to the kids’ delight, the winds had picked up and would blow the water into the crowds of people, who ran for cover. Most people cleared out quickly and soon, the only people left standing under the torrent were our three little knuckleheads. But they were having so much fun that we just let them be kids for a while. Fortunately we had a few jackets packed which came in handy as they emerged from this unexpected “water park” absolutely soaked to the bone!

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