So there I was, looking up at the ever-so-high ancient Roman aqueducts, in complete awe. They were always something I had seen in photographs and textbooks throughout my academic years but I never would have imagined the moment where I would be looking up at them a mere one foot away—being able to climb up the sides and even touch the cool, coarse stonework. It was simply breathtaking. No wonder it’s a World Heritage City!
Segovia, Spain is a city most well-known for its conservation of Roman aqueducts, aqueductos. But what exactly are these tall bridge-looking things? We’ll get to that soon! First off, the city of Segovia is located in the province of Spain known as “Castilla y León”, the area of Spain that is known for medieval architecture and castles. If you break down the name of “Segovia” to its roots, it means, “city of victory”.
As the city is located at a high altitude, it’s very cool and dry. When we went, there was a noticeable difference between the temperature there and that in Madrid. Brrr! ¡Qué frío!
As soon as we got arrived, the sight of the aqueducts welcomed us. This ancient construction dates back to the 1st/2nd centuries, meaning between the years 0-100 A.D. Wow. Think about that for a moment. More than 2000 years old, and they’re still going strong, just chilling out in the middle of the city. No biggie. Even more impressive, there is NO MORTAR between the rocks. Mortar is the cement-type stuff that holds rocks/bricks together. Yep, none of that. That means the dimensions and design must be meticulously precise! The aqueduct consists of approximately 25,000 granite blocks and has over 170 arches.
Aqueducts, as you can guess, carried water to the city (aqua=water). Back in the old days, they didn’t have that fancy plumbing stuff that we have nowadays. That’s why your most ancient cities are strategically located next to a body of water. Water=life! So what happened if you lived far from water? Well, you had to find some way to get that water to your city, otherwise you would be in a pretty bad situation. ¡Mala suerte! In the top of the aqueducts themselves, there is a trough that is used to bring the water in from the closest body of water. In Segovia’s case, that was the Fuente Fría river.
But there’s more to Segovia than the aqueducts! Does this look familiar to you?
Walt Disney’s inspiration for the Disney Castle CAME FROM SPAIN! Another reason I love Spain! The name of the castle where good ol’ Walt drew this inspiration is the Alcázar, located high up on a mountaintop with a beautiful view of the valley and countryside down below. It has 2 courtyards and 2 towers, and was a favorite location of Alfonso X, Henry IV and Isabela. Unfortunately, it was heavily damaged by fire in 1862 and later rebuilt (Why do so many historical buildings get fire damage!?). Naturally, we took a walk around inside!
The similarities are uncanny.
May I present…the Alcázar!
A “caballero” (knight)
A church and some winding roads from the Alcázar’s view
Stained glass inside
Even the ceilings were works of art.
Another important monument is the Catedral de Segovia.
The outside of the cathedral. We didn’t go inside though.
My favorite part about Segovia was the antiquity of it all. It still felt like a small city in olden days, with many winding allies a beautiful countryside, kind habitants and artisan shops with handmade treasures. In the distance, I saw some snow-capped mountains gracefully and majestically standing tall.
This is my favorite picture of the day. There is an old Spanish man, adobe colored buildings, a narrow cobblestone alley, an arch, a field, a castle, and stone-capped mountains. What more could I ask for?! This photo in itself is Castilla y Leon!
Segovia’s favorite food? Suckling pig, cochinillo asado. The city prides itself of its tradition of eating a suckling pig off a rotisserie. This guy talks about it some more:
It must be awkward for the Jewish community there.
I will admit though, I am glad I didn’t stay the night in Segovia, as there really isn’t all that much to do and see. However, it is most certainly worth the visit for a day!
A cute little building on a side street. Most of the buildings looked like this!
Once again, I will be sharing some subtle differences between Spain and the U.S.
I decided to go on a nice long run this weekend to train for the half-marathon in Madrid this April. My run was difficult because as I went out further from the city, THERE WERE NO STREET SIGNS! Even when there were signs, they were sporadically located on random sides of buildings. (Just like in London!)
How are drivers supposed to see this?!
This is a typical design.
Some of them are really pretty though, I must say:
I had no idea if I was going the right way or not, and I asked for some directions (which really peeves me because that interferes with my run!). My app, MapMyRun, took me on a road called, “Calle Córdoba”, which seems pleasant enough, right? Wrong. It took me down a highway and an expressway ramp. Yeah, I wasn’t too happy about that. And since I had no clue where I was, I had no choice but to keep following the route I had planned. Lesson to be learned here: stay within the city and just do laps around familiar roads.
Alcalá is not a good place to run. There are too many people walking on the streets and they walk SLOW, so they get in your way. There’s a million intersections you have to wait at to cross (which means stopping the run!) Lastly, none of the streets connect predictably due to the abundance of dead ends. I will admit, I miss running in Geneseo, where there are nice long country roads—WITH STREET SIGNS!
My Host Family
I haven’t really talked about my host family much since I’ve been here, haven’t I? It’s already been more than a month I’ve been in Spain—I can’t believe it!
My host family is very nice! There are four of them, my mom and dad and their two sons. One of them just turned 15 and the other is 12 or 13. Living with a host family, I get three meals a day, my host mom does my laundry, and they just plain help me with whatever else I need. If I have any questions about where to go, what to do—anything: they are there for me. It’s nice living with a host family. I have my own room with a nice study area and everything else I need.
I love being able to try new authentic foods from Spain, made by my host mother. The only thing that I wish was that the family ate more veggies. The meals very rarely include vegetables, the whole foundation of my diet back home. I don’t want to engordar! My host mom understood though that I was trying to eat healthy and she makes salads with dinner now and uses wheat bread (pan integral) for my meals, which was super nice of her! I didn’t want to be picky, and she assured me that she understands. She even hard-boils an egg for me almost every morning because she knows I like them. I’m very pleased with my stay here so far.
Being a university student, the host families here give you lots of freedom to come and go as you please. Of course, you must be respectful of their eating hours and let them know where you are if something comes up. I got my own set of keys and I am encouraged to go out and spend time with friends around the city. If I decide to travel for the weekend, they pack me sandwiches and fruit for the road and say, “¡páselo bien! (Have a good time!)
The host family that I have has had some other students in the past as well so they are very accustomed to the whole routine. They even had an old Spanish flip-phone (I’m talking the year 2003, people!) that I could activate so that I could communicate with them and other friends here cheaply. For 5 Euro, I got plenty of minutes to use. In fact, it took me a whole month to use all of those. I have a Spanish phone number and everything. It’s very convenient, and since the phone is old as dirt and VERY basic, it can last about 2 weeks on a full charge. Yeah, they don’t make things like they used to!
Another topic I would like to discuss is the balance of convenience in Spain versus the U.S. In some ways, Spain has some conveniences that make me ask myself, “Why don’t WE have that?!” Other things are lacking here that I miss from the U.S.
For example, as I walk to school every day (a 30 minute walk), I pass about 8 fruterías, fruit stores and maybe 10 panaderías, bread/pastry shops. I also walk by almost a dozen chino stores. These stores are owned and operated by Chinese people and they carry all your basic necessities for a cheap price. The best thing I can equate them to in the U.S. are dollar/bargain stores. Except here, they are much small, messier and older. The stores usually look pretty ghetto, I’m not gonna lie. Regardless, I stop there every now and then to pick up basic stuff—like pencils, paper, bobby pins, shoe insoles, etc. In this respect, stores in Spain are very convenient. It’s SUPER easy for me to just stop by a fruit stand and grab a peach, apple, pear or my favorite, a tomato. A little fun fact about me—I LOVE tomatoes and I eat them raw, like an apple—with absolutely no shame. Go ahead and judge. I don’t care.
I also see families grabbing their baguettes for lunch and dinner at the panaderías, fresh every time! When they eat bread, it is seldom processed, sliced and bagged. It is a fresh baguette from a local bakery—the way it should be! Fresh bread is eaten with all meals here (except breakfast). It is also eaten without butter, unlike in America and perhaps other countries.
Okay, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. Remember how I talked about siesta? It’s great and all, but it REALLY screws up some of my plans. What? You want to go to the store to pick up something real quick? Too bad. If it’s between 1:30-5:00 pm, suck it up and wait. The stores all close and the streets are empty. Everyone is at home enjoying la comida with the family. Except the chinos. Their stores are still open to market to people like me.
This is what they usually look like, more or less.
Inside…TOLD YOU THEY HAD EVERYTHING!!
Plus, there are always a TON of these that they sell:
TAPAS OF THE WEEK
Well….not really a tapa, but my friend and I got some churros one day at my favorite churreria. These are actually porras though.
Next week, I’m going to talk about my favorite Spanish city so far, Granada! Hear about the Arabic influence I witnessed (and tasted!), the breathtaking Flamenco show I witnessed and a cave house tour I took! Hasta entonces! 🙂