Christmas over, we headed South to Spain, passing through the historic and thankfully still snow free Roncesvalles Pass – the site of several major battles and the main route for pilgrims heading from France to Santiago de Compostela.
On a pilgrimage of our own, our destination was the famous wine region of Rioja, where we hoped to spend a few nights enjoying the official tapas capital, the city of Logroño.
Some of the best known wine brands have their vineyards on the outskirts of the city – we stopped off at a few to have a nose around the cellars!
We left lively Logroño on New Year’s Eve, to see what the lights and sights of Segovia had in store for us. As it turned out the answer was not a lot that evening as all the bars and restaurants closed at 9.30pm for family celebrations. Feeling slightly homeless, we ate our takeaway tapas (which we had begged from a closing bar) on barrels outside another closing restaurant! At least the deserted city was all ours to play in!
What Segovia lacks in nightlife it certainly makes up for in looks and on New Year’s Day we awoke to a cloudless blue and frosty morning. Heading out to explore the city we first looped past the giant Cathedral which towers above the main square, its golden turrets towering above the town.
Next stop was the fairytale Alcazar, apparently the inspiration behind the design of THE Disney castle – it’s easy to see why!
Following one of several walking trails which circle the city, we looped down through the towering defensive walls to the river below. Crunching on frosted leaves, we walked along the river with the citadel looming tall above us.
Climbing up away from the town we passed a 12th century church which was used by the Knights Templar, several monasteries (some still in use) and the old Mint, which had been established in Roman times. The views back to Segovia and the snow-capped mountains in the distance were spectacular.
Of course, the most impressive of all of Segovia’s sights is its Roman aqueduct. Built in the first century AD this monumental piece of architecture is constructed using enormous granite boulders in a series of arches, engineered to stand through the centuries using no mortar between the blocks. The aqueduct supplied the town’s water from the mountains 18km away – and was still doing so up to the mid 19th century!
Leaving this incredible (if rather sleepy) city behind, we just had time for one last historical stop off before we entered Portugal. Ciudad Rodrigo was the site of an important Peninsular War battle between the English and Spanish on one side and the French on the other. Today the scars of the siege are still very evident, from the earthwork batteries and trenches of the English camp on the hill outside the town, to the clear breach in the defensive walls, to the splattering of cannon ball-sized holes in the buildings.
Leaving the interesting border town behind, we headed West and began to climb into the mountains again – Portugal bound!