The morning after our visit to El Escorial, Travis and I gloriously slept in, waking up without an alarm, then showered and headed downstairs to put some coffee on. With perfect timing, AG arrived back at the house with a bag in hand. She had walked down to the local pastry shop in the cold and rain to buy churros, which I love, for breakfast.
Also called calientes or tejeringos, these fried, doughy pastries are common in Spain, France, Cuba, the southwestern US, and many South American countries. Though some are filled with fruit, cheese, or dulce de leche and come in different shapes and sizes, the Spanish kind AG brought for us were fairly thin, coated with sugar, and curled into twists. Most folks in the US are probably familiar with churros because they’re a popular item from the deli at Costco, though these Americanized versions are typically (and deliciously) rolled in cinnamon and sugar.
Over breakfast, AG proposed a plan to drive the hour or so to the nearby town of Segovia for more sightseeing. Not knowing what to expect, we gathered our things and headed out the door into the cold, blustery day.
Rounding the car to the passenger side, I was bummed to see we had a flat tire. Not a leaking tire or a low tire, but a tire so flat it looked like it had been gashed. We were parked in the gated driveway at her family’s summer home in Collado Mediano, so we assumed we must’ve just run over something that punctured it shortly before arriving back the night before. No worries – Two Small Potatoes have changed lots of tires!
Without missing a beat, we unloaded the back of the VW. AG held an umbrella to keep the rain at bay while we hauled out the jack and the spare. We jacked up the tire, loosened the bolts, and pulled.
Unconcerned, we yanked on it and kicked at it to loosen the tire from the car.
We then proceeded to try every trick in the book to get a tire off. We used the jack as a pry bar. We put the bolts partially on and lowered the tire to get the weight of the car to pop it free. We put the bolts back on loosely and drove the VW forward and backward while hitting the brakes to dislodge the tire. We used a giant branch to try to create leverage to wedge the tire free. An hour later, the cursed tire still hadn’t budged an inch.
Instead of getting mad or impatient, AG took it all in stride, merely laughing along with us when the rain turned to snow and the hills above town turned white. AG asked if we had any kind of roadside assistance, and finally admitting that for the first time ever a flat tire had defeated us, I called the phone number on our Helvetia Swiss insurance card. Not only was the call free despite my fears that we’d be hit with massive SwissCom roaming fees out of Switzerland, but the gentleman I called spoke English flawlessly, assured me he’d call around and have a tow truck sent to our address asap, and we went back inside.
To our combined relief and chagrin, the tow truck driver was also unable to loosen the tire when he arrived. He blamed it on Swiss roads that are salted in winter, essentially creating a kind of glue when the salt mixes with dirt from the road. He also finally gave up, loaded our poor VW onto a small flatbed, and drove off to a nearby shop with AG and Travis.
No sooner had I started a roaring fire and shed my soggy clothes than Trav and AG arrived back at the house. Because it was nearing 2 pm when the car reached the shop and the shop was closed for lunch from 2-4 (a 2 hour lunch?), we were in for a wait. We made lunch and consoled ourselves about the “wasted day” by lounging in front of the toasty fire, enjoying a chance to just relax.
Trav and I both grew up with wood heat in North Idaho, and a wood fire always feels homey and nostalgic. The living room, with its collection of charming, colorful plates and cozy couches, was a welcome relief from the tardy winter storm raging outside the door. When the shop finally called around 5 pm, it was difficult to haul myself off the couch, but with AG’s enthusiasm for Segovia, we couldn’t say no.
An hour later, we were staring up in amazement at the imposing monstrosity of the Aqueduct of Segovia, the symbol of the city. Likely constructed around 50 AD, the massive 2-tiered Roman aqueduct with its glorious arches cuts right through town.
This impressive feat of engineering was built to transport water from the Río Frío in the Sierra de Guadarrama for 18 km via canal to the city of Segovia. At its highest point, the aqueduct towers almost 100 feet above the ground. Still in use until the 19th century, it has since suffered from pollution, degradation of the stone, and water leakage. It was listed on the 2006 World Monuments Watch list of endangered historical/cultural sites, yet despite its relatively recent deterioration, it’s remarkably well preserved.
Climbing the stairs next to the aqueduct provided lovely views of town, bordered by green fields and ringed by the distant Guadarrama Mountains.
I was a bit surprised to see spikes lining the Mirador del Postigo overlook of the aqueduct. Considering the need to prevent people from climbing on it, I suppose this is an appropriate means of dissuasion.
Though we were quickly losing what was left of daylight, we set off through the streets of Segovia’s Old Town. The buildings with their red-tiled roofs, arched windows, and brick facades were charming where they crossed over the old streets.
We were disappointed upon reaching the Catedral de Segovia, one of the last Gothic cathedrals to be built in Spain, to find that it had long since closed.
Stupid flat tire.
All we could do was admire it from the exterior.
I was even more disappointed when we arrived at the Alcázar of Segovia, one of the most iconic castles in Spain and one of several which inspired Walt Disney’s fairy-tale castle. To arrive at such a magical place and be unable to go inside was sad. Instead, we wandered around the grounds and enjoyed having such a famous attraction all to ourselves.
Perched high up on a rocky outcropping at the confluence of the Ciguinuela and Eresma Rivers, the fortress is uniquely shaped like the bow of a ship. With far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside, its royal turrets, spires, drawbridge, and moat fall away sharply around the castle’s base.
With stomachs ferociously growling, we set off back toward the aqueduct in search of dinner. Stopping in front of a tiny place called La Bodega del Barbero, Travis looked a bit confused to see a menu posted outside on the sidewalk. He assumed from the name that the shop must be a hair salon, which is understandable since barbero means barber. Once he realized it was a restaurant, he perused the menu in earnest. When AG noted several Spanish specialties we hadn’t tried, we were sold! Decorated with hair-themed drawings and art, the interior really does resemble a barber shop.
AG helped us choose several appetizers to share, I tried a surprisingly good glass of Rioja, a local red wine, and we each ordered a main dish. Torn between guilt and curiosity, I finally settled on cochinillo, or suckling pig, a regional specialty. When it arrived, I was grateful that it was merely chunks of tender pork, bone-in, rather than an entire baby pig on a platter as is sometimes served.
We’re clearly not vegetarians, and some of the best pork I’ve ever had was at a Hawaiian luau from a pig that was slow-roasted, pit style. But it somehow seems sacrosanct to eat baby animals, as if they deserve to survive at least to adulthood before they’re slaughtered. Or perhaps these are merely the empty justifications of a carnivore. Regardless, the small amount of meat was tender and tasty, but most of the portion was bone, much like eating chicken feet, and I instead filled up on the bite-sized ham-filled appetizers, tasty samples of AG’s Jurassic-sized-bean soup, and Trav’s bowl of egg, chorizo, and bread soaked in a spiced broth.
By the time we left the restaurant, it was almost midnight. Pausing once more in front of the Iglesia de San Martín, a 12th-century church just across the Medina del Campo Plaza from our restaurant, I couldn’t help but wonder at the rather bizarre marble statue fronting the church. Apparently there are two, though we only saw one.
With the bust of a woman and the body of a lion, the statue resembles that of a sphinx, despite that the artist was commissioned in 1850 to create two sirens to be placed in the square. Regardless of his artistic intent, the statue is an interesting addition to the cathedral.
Walking back to our car, I was so stuffed I feared I was actually in danger of rolling down the hill to the car. I welcomed the brisk walk through deserted streets in the cool night air. Arriving back in Collado Mediano, we all tiredly said goodnight and fell exhausted into bed. Another day of Spanish adventures awaited us the following day!