Madrid - Segovia - Cuellar - Chinchon (Day 1)
Trip Start Oct 19, 2007
2Trip End Oct 23, 2007
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The flight to Madrid was as delightfully uneventful as one would wish on a budget airline. Due to not realising that the seat allocations on Easyjet flights involved a fist fight to be first on the plane I ended up missing out on a window seat. This though was an advantage in the long run. I found myself sat in the centre of three seats. My wife occupied the aisle seat and was therefore 'in the chair' as far as purchasing snacks and drinks were concerned and the window seat was taken by an elderly gentleman with the rugged olive complexion of a man who had lived much of his life in the sun.
When the wines arrived, the elderly gentleman next to me proceeded to pour half of his glass of wine over his trousers. My offer of a top-up from my own bottle was gratefully received and sparked off the first of many dialogues involving much use of the phrase 'mas despacio por favor' - or - 'more slowly please'. Pedro was visiting Madrid to make a trip, he presumed his last, to visit his dying mother. He enthusiastically glowed with a warmth and pride in his daughter who now earns good money and for a Christmas present had bought him and his wife tickets to visit Rome. Pedro, being the first brush with Spanish culture in a weekend trip provided a microcosm of everything Spanish in one person. A devotion to family, both his mother and his own daughter; an avoidance of mass consumerism (he was to make his first purchase a pair of shoes from a particular store in Madrid as the pair he was wearing had lasted five years and now was the ideal time to invest in a replacement); an engaging social attitude to strangers; a window on the history of Spain (Pedro had left Spain in the late 1960's and when I asked 'why?' his face reflected a memory too sour to repeat and he replied 'do not ask why; to talk of it hurts even now'.)
Madrid Bajaras airport has the relaxed attitude that Spain uses as an attraction to encourge huge numbers of migrants from less relaxed northern european states. Signs forbidding smoking were accompanied by designated smoking areas and the airport concourses lacked the mania of a large airport in the United Kingdom as customers milled around coffee shops drinking 'cafe solo' and smoking.
After collecting a pre-booked hire car from the airport we headed out onto the surrounding highways in search of a sign for Segovia. It all seemed simple enough and the online route planner had designed what appeared to be an idiot's guide to moving from the airport to the town of Segovia. Unfortunately it hadn't factored in the bonus idiocy of myself driving and my wife navigating so the first ninety minutes were spent moving in ever increasing circles away from the airport. The airport was constantly on our right and it soon occured to me if the circle continued growing that whilst not an effective route planning strategy we could reach anywhere on the Iberian peninsular using this haphazard navigational system. Eventually though we wound up on what we felt was the right road and having taken three hours to drive a ninety minute route arrived at the town of Segovia.
The taxi to town dropped straight at the door of a typical Tapas bar. Smoking again permitted and a buzzing atmosphere as folks sipped at wine and nibbled at a variety of delicious looking Tapas. The barman, with what I learned to be a characteristic approach, looked past my left ear when ready to take my order. The wines came with Tapas and my proferred note was ignored and repocketed. So the evening went along. There must have been fifty different 'tabs' running and the barmen knew each one without question as customers, after an evening of drinking, requested 'la cuenta'. We both reflected that in England even average customers would abuse this priviledge and disappear into the night with no intention of paying.
The night lighting around the Plaza Mayor was superb and the following photograph illustrates the architecture and ambience of this beautiful town in the evening.
The return to the hotel brought an uncomfortable night's sleep on twin beds with only one pillow each. The pillow was lumpy, the bed small and the night punctuated by bouts of waken stupour that brought a morning need to drift slowly to breakfast. Fortunately breakfast is a perfectly reasonable affair everywhere in Spain and there are non of the 9am last orders and 10am checkouts of English hotels. So, after a leisurely breakfast of pre-packed croissants and the most delicious toast, all washed back by powdered orange juice and copious quantities of fresh and delicious coffee (the coffee really was a highpoint of the breakfast...no...the only highpoint) we took a quick photograph of the night's accomodation...