Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Segovia - Hurrah! And the N110 - double hurrahs! - May 5 and 6

A week of rain and shopping and wet washing had driven us to the point of being very low on Thursday (I shall have to re-visit what I write!). But on Friday we thought - what the hell lets go to Segovia. Brilliant decision. But before the wonders of a super city the route there...
First we climbed up and over the pass through the Guadaramma, the range of mountains north of us. This is a cool 1444 metres with a tunnel to take the edge of the last climb - its called Puerto Somosierra which sounds great but just means the pass at the summit of the mountain range. The sad little eponymous town deserves better. So do the motorists. If you arrive from the north the road is brilliantly smooth right up to but not beyond the marker which tells you that you are now in Madrid. 55 k from the city and on the residue of a once good road smashed to pieces and ignored by authority. Shame on Madrid.
To reach Segovia we turned onto to N110 and it was a revelation - not just a brilliant piece of road building but superb countryside and towns and villages. A complete change from the tawdry, over developed Madrid province. Our spirits lifted as village after village revealed delightful Spanish buildings, smart, cared for and not swamped by over development. We stopped at a superb cafe/bar with attached hotel, restaurant and even a fine shop selling homewares, Indian and African artwork, pictures, carvings - just a lot of fun and not massively expensive even if rather out of our range.
And then Segovia - walled, gated, medievel and later. A fine cathedral (PHOTOGRAPHY BANNED!) a very good alcazar of a castle on the end of the promotory. Super shops. Good food. And I parked 100 metres from the cathedral for 2 euros for four hours! Although it drizzled intermittently mostly the sun shone and the quality of the place and its architecture just lifted us up anyway. The cathedral was less bling than usual so more enjoyable for us. The sculptures and artwork were very impressive.
The castle was very fine, if seriously over-restored. In fact it was virtually destroyed by fire in 1862 so what we see is a restoration but looks more like a recreation. We did not go in as time was short it was big and the Spanish idea is to start you in one place and force you to do the tour to the end! No short cuts - we are Spanish! Time was restricted as there was so much more of Segovia to see. We walked ourselves into the ground.
But in the cathedral I picked up an English language guide to the city - anything other than Spanish is like gold dust. This was free for a donation but it was so good that I crammed a five euro note into a tiny aperture. Mean too, these Spanish? Anyway at the back it had a few itineraries for tourists. Ansd one took us along the N110 which brought us here. And wow were there some goodies to visit. We chose Pedraza a small walled town with castle and many churches, mostly ruined. It was built in the same apricot sandstone that enhances so many buildings on this side of the Guardaramma (the other side is grey and off-white granite). That is to say all of it was in apricot stone. Houses, mansions,villas, shops, churches (ruined as well) the walls, the castle - it is an absolute joy. And it has a magnificent arcaded main square that is breath-taking. And a tavern that must once have been a coaching inn, with cobbled entry, mounting blocks and the most amazing bar - see the picture, do.
Re-invigorated by all this and with the weather at leat slightly better we decided to spend the next day, Saturday, exploring the eastern arm of the N110 towards Soria off the aforementiond hell-road, the A1. And did we find more joys. First and rather ironically we found the town of Riaza. This is where we could (should?) have been camping. But R sadly judged its extra 200 metres as a bit much to rick. in fact its position offsets that disadvantage and anyway, it next to Riaza. And this is a town almost as lovely as Pedraza - similar in many ways although short of the castle.
Impressed we motored on to Ayllon - and this is even better! Another arcaded main square but this time bigger with even more impressive mansions ariound it. And the arcades were here supported not by fancy pillars of stone but woinderful 18inch round tree trunks. Dark, grainy oak that had clearly been there up to hundreds of years. Bliss. And to set it of an amazing red sandstone cliff as a backdrop.
Happily sated with real Spain, authentic Spain and places that were proud and handsome, we headed home to fillet mignon avec sauce Robert washed down with good Rioja.
But even so we shall use Sunday to down the awning and will leave on Monday for Haro and the valley of the Ebro - actual Rioja land!
A PS to that was a run on Sunday to the east of the A1, a little frequented area that turned out to be outstandingly nice. Good country, good mountains, an amazing reservoir feeding Madrid (natch) and a long and peculiar canal which we assumed may have also served as Aqueduct. Returned to formerly empty bar us campsite to be greeted by no less than six Dutch caravanning couples - and we thought it was just the motor homers who travelled in oacks!

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