Two cities in two days! I am so exhausted, I think I will fall asleep before midnight (gasp). Here is the basic run-down: Yesterday, Tuesday, was Escorial and today was Segovia. Read on, friends
Ania and I woke up at 9 something, and took the metro to a stop called Moncloa, where there is also a bus station. After asking about a million workers and passersby where to buy tickets for the bus, some random person told us (well, Ania, who was in charge of the asking as she speaks much better Spanish) that we just buy them as we get on the bus. By some miracle we found the right platform, and then Léa showed up - she was going to meet up with us in Escorial later, after her class/shift at the hospital, but got off early. Ten minutes later, we were all on our way to Escorial. Léa told us all about her crazy morning at the hospital; she is studying to be a nurse, and is also studying abroad, through Erasmus (THE european study abroad program). Anyway, she had witnessed/helped with her first childbirth at the hospital that morning. She said it was very intense, and also very beautiful, at the same time. And apparently, the father was literally jumping for joy when the baby came out healthy and was boy ("Alejandro, Alejandro!" - he seems to have picked a name already lol). She was exhausted though, from such an emotional morning, and slept most the way to Escorial. I was watching out the window to see what there was to see. The freeway/highways here are very different. The lanes are skinnier, and there are gas stations and bus stops right on the freeway. It's really strange! You can just pull over and get gas. Convenient, though. That brings me to our sweet ride: for only 3,30 euro (about 5 bucks at home) we took a niiiiiice charter bus, very clean, to Escorial. Same thing today in Segovia! Public transportation here really is something else. Even the metro is clean!
Now, Escorial. It was a cloudy, wet sort of day. When we first saw El Escorial, the monastery/fortress/royal residence, it sat high in hills that were draped in thick mist. The grey exterior gave it a sort of eerie, yet also tranquil, feel. It was freezing the whole time, but we still had the best time. What a wonderful place it was inside! There was so much art inside, I couldn't get enough of it. This castle of sorts was built/lived in/etc by Carlos V and his son, Phillip II (whose wife, of course, was the infamous Juana la Loca, or Joan the Mad). We saw their royal quarters, the burial place of all the kings, queens, and relatives, and more. Sadly, the basilica was closed for remodeling (I always love to see the churches!) but the library WAS open - manuscripts, from as early as the 5th century, just open for you to see! I couldn't believe it. The proud, nerdy historian in me nearly had a spaz attack. The collection is actually quite famous, and amongst academics is said to rival the library of the Vatican (impressive, eh?). We didn't see too much of the city, as we dallied inside until about 7pm and then had to find the bus station, buy chocolate, go home, etc. I was absolutely exhaused and, after Reens and I ate a lovely American-esque dinner at Nebraska Burger (I wasn't thinking straight, I just wanted something cheap. And it was good!), I fell asleep at the absurdly early hour of 10pm.
What a beautiful city! It was a bit rainy, and overcast, but even so it was one of the loveliest cities I have ever seen. Ania was so funny, she must have told Léa and I a hundred times how she was so enamored with Segovia. The town in its entirety is actually quite good sized (well, its very spread out), but the main part of the city is only about 1000 metres long, and 300 metres wide, and is surrounded by a wall. Within this wall are the absolutely beautiful castle of Alcázar (pronounced Al-ca-thh-ahr), an enormous gothic cathedral, several smaller cathedrals, some lovely plazas, many small windy cobblestone streets, bars a-plenty, and on the edge of the city - a roman aqueduct! The acueducto was one of the best parts, it was so big, and so well preserved! Apparently it was used into the 19th century, too. We had a field day taking pictures of it and ourselves in front of it. The castle was another highlight, of course. The interior museum was deathly boring, as there had been a fire that gutted the castle (so the museum/lower rooms were all touristy), but the view from the tower was breathtaking (as was the climb to get there, but well worth 250 winding steps!). We could see the countryside for miles, and the entire city - the cathedral dominating its presence with its impressive gothic architecture, and sheer size. Some canadian boys took our picture, it was fantastic. Some other men we encountered here at the castle: a middle-aged man from the area who, when he saw me, exclaimed in English, "where are you from?!" During the next 10 minutes, in which Lea joined me: he expressed real shock that I spoke Spanish, proceeded to dissect an entire Will Smith movie which neither I or Lea had seen, asked me if his castle, the Alcazar, was anything like the replication in Disneyland, AND inquired if I went to UCLA (ook-la, as they call it here. Seriously). Jose was quite a nice man, just very talkative. Ania had thought we went inside during this time, and so she was looking around for us when another segoviano began talking to her, and helped her find us. Later he found us inside the castle (locals seem to wander where they wish) to ask me, the one from Cal-ee-forn-yyya, if I had quarters from certain states on his list. Sadly, he already had Nebraska (my only quarter).
After all that walking about the beautiful city of Segovia, the girls and I decided it was high time to find a nice, authentic bar with a smashing view and order a drink! We found one up higher in the city, and our view was of the rooftops and tops of cathedrals - in the distance, the mossy green hills of the countryside. I got Sangria - what a wonderful wine! - Ania got hot chocolate (chocolate caliente here), and Lea a cafe con leche (absolutely delicious). I also got a "sangwich" which was soooo delicious and warm; a ham sandwich (the city is famous for its hams!) with bacon as well, and a fried egg. Perfect after a long, wet, cold day. My jeans were wet up to my knees, no joke. The hot food and lovely sangria were perfect before climbing on (after running after!) the clean, warm charter bus back to Madrid. That reminds me, we also went to a cafe by the bus station when we first got to Segovia - Ania and I had taken the noon bus, and found out that Lea was coming on the 12:30, so we just ducked into the cafe to study our map and wait for Lea. Ania's tea ("te" here) and my Cafe con Leche were perfect before braving the cold!
A fantastic couple of days, no? :)