A Roman town, later abandoned for three hundred years following the Islamic conquest of Spain, when the region fell into the no-man’s land between Christian and Islamic Spain, and repopulated after the conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI in 1085, Segovia is known today for its amazing Roman aqueduct, its cathedral and the alcazar, the royal castle that looks just out of a fairy-tale. But the number 1 thing that every Spaniard told me as soon as I mentioned Alan and I would be going to Segovia is that when in that city, one MUST have a cochinillo at Mesón de Candido. Cochinillo is a roasted suckling pig that is supposed to be very typical of Segovia. Another typical dish of the region is judiones, large white beans cooked in a number of ways. To cut the travel report to a minimum, I’ll focus on the top-five of my trip:
Pl. de San Martí – much less touristy than the Plaza Mayor, we found a local bar, frequented mostly by locals who all seemed to know one another, where we could sit outside and appreciate the view of the city below.
Tapas – central and southern Spain is the land of tapas and while in touristy establishments you are likely to be charged for them, in local places the tradition still survives of getting a free tapas with every drink you order. At our favourite spot at Pl. S. Martin that usually meant two canape-style piece of bread with either tortilla, sausage, anchovies, etc per drink. You could also order 12 pieces for 6 euros. Other options included 1/4 size grilled ham and cheese sandwiches or a plate of chips. By the way, you don’t order a specific free tapa with your drink, the waiter chooses something. I love it.
Small-town feeling – I love visiting the small towns of Spain. I particularly enjoy spending multiple days in the nice ones where tourists usually only spend the day. People are friendly, you quickly get recognized at the local bar, and its nice to be able to walk everywhere and not have to worry about safety.
Nature – the town is in a very nice place, surrounded by towering mountains at a distance, and lots of green places around the old city. Alan and I went exploring some of the off-the-beaten path places outside the walls of the city and found an incredible path that went around the whole city. It might have been an ancient moat that was later adapted as a walking path. We were there in the morning, the air was crisp, there were lots of birds around, and the diffuse light breaking through the trees plus the fluff floating in the air made the place quite magical. Locals seem to use the path to walk or jog and I’d definitely take up running if I lived in Segovia. With all the free tapas, it would certainly be a necessity ;)
The conference – It was the best conference I have ever been. We even made to the local news in Segovia (both printed and live)! The conference was small – perhaps about 30-40 people altogether – and most of us were staying at the same hotel, with breakfast and lunch included. The hotel set a separate dining room for us so we all had meals together and since there was only one session at a time, we also saw each other at each session of the conference. That allowed us to get to know one another and although the schedule was tough (the first session started at 9:30 AM and the last one ended at 9 pm, with a two-hour lunch in the middle of the day), I got to chat quite a bit with scholars from all over the place. I was particularly happy for the opportunity of meeting Miriam Bodian and Mary Elizabeth Perry, two well-known and respected scholars who turned out to be quite nice and friendly. My paper went really well, I got lots of questions and was able to answer them well (I think). I got lots of praise in front of my supervisor, which was very nice. There was talk of having the next conference (in 2010) in Cuenca, another interesting historical town. Can’t wait!
He tells me there’s one more post coming, so stay tuned to his blog.
Click on the picture below for a slideshow of the pictures I took in Segovia, I’ll try to add some text in coming days.