a day in Segovia

When I mentioned I might spend an afternoon in Segovia, people either asked me if that was the movie from “The Princess Diaries” (I Googled and that one’s Genovia), or they were super excited and their eyes would light up telling me I should definitely visit.

Segovia is an absolute stunner of a place about an hour north of Madrid. It’s ancient, beautiful, and the perfect place to spend a day if you need to get away from city life.

Getting to Segovia is easy. Take the subway to the train station and buy a ticket. Get on the train. When you get off the train, there’s a bus that takes you straight into town.

I ventured out on a cold day mid-November. In Madrid, the dawn was bright and blue, and my view from the train window displayed generous green pastures. At some point the train dipped into a tunnel beneath the mountains and when we came out the other side, the temperature had dropped nearly 10 degrees and a thick, dense fog covered everything. It was the beginning of an afternoon of feeling like I’d stepped back in time, like we’d come out of the tunnel into the past.

The first thing you notice about Segovia is its color, all shades of dusty red and yellow. It stands out, surrounded as it is by mountains and hills, but blends in at the same time, the color of the kind of rocks you touch and they crumble.

On this chilly Monday, many of the shops were shuttered, except for the ones lining the main avenues and a few touristy restaurants. I try to search for authentic eateries in places like this, but eventually I got so cold I just went into the next open building. Of course I’d picked a super odd place- I had to climb three sets of rickety wooden stairs before arriving in an upscale but obviously rustic dining area, where I was the only customer. I ordered from the menu (my only options were different versions of a 3 course meal) and was told they were out of the random thing in Spanish I had pointed to- so they would make me something special. I ended up with a heaping pile of french fries and a pork chop. I had to try not to laugh, as it was possibly the most American dish I could have found in this historic Spanish town. I was presented with what I was told was a “fresh baked cake” that looked identical to birthday cake, complete with sprinkles. My wine glass was refilled again and again. I sat next to an old stone wall and gazed out lacy curtains, amused and excited to explore.

When I left the restaurant, I just walked. Up and down narrow lanes, around tight corners and through spacious streets. One of the things I miss most about living in the Pacific Northwest is being able to spend autumn just… outside, wandering. It felt delicious to be able to stride about with my face against the wind, taking in the scent of the fallen leaves I kicked up.

There are a lot of historical attractions in Segovia, as evidenced by the busloads of tourists I saw, following their flag-carrying leaders even on this cold off-season day. I went for the beauty of the town, to see something outside of Madrid while I was in Spain, so didn’t do my research and couldn’t tell you much about what purpose each building served. Instead, I’d stumble across things like this castle and simply stare at it in awe for a bit, enamored by its ornate, grand facade.

There’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Segovia- this aqueduct is what people know about the place. I walked along it, thinking something that looked so grand and so fragile couldn’t be so well preserved that it would extend too far. I couldn’t find the end, and upon Googling the thing later I discovered it actually runs for about 9 miles.

Segovia’s beauty lies not only in the fact that it is rich with history, but in the way it remains not overly laden with tourists- or, at least it doesn’t cater to them to the extreme that it might. It is an absolutely charming little town, and I wish I’d taken the opportunity to spend a night there so that I could get up and explore by running the perimeter. After a few weeks of running exclusively in city parks, the freedom and openness of fields called to me. I felt more free, more like getting out beneath the open skies. Maybe this was influenced by the mountain air, drifting over from snow-covered peaks that looked like I could reach out and touch them.

Either way, Segovia rekindled my spirit, in the way that only soft-spoken places can.

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