Our pilgrim bus pulled to a stop near Segovia’s main marketplace. My daughter Tammie and I looked forward to visiting the many shops along the streets radiating out from the plaza. Gray clouds hung low overhead. I pondered whether to take my sweater, or to leave it on the bus. Shrugging, I decided to leave it on the bus. I’d probably end up carrying it instead of wearing it.
Tammie said, “When I spent a semester in Valladolid during college, I visited Segovia. Gypsies sold things under the arches of the aqueduct. I don’t see any there today.”
I eagerly eyed the famous Roman aqueduct that ran through the plaza and the rest of the city. At its tallest point, it soared as tall as a nine-story building. Not content to simply build a utilitarian trough to carry water from the Rio Frio, a mountain stream more than ten miles away, the Romans artfully designed 167 arches into the structure.
Tammie joined me on the cobblestone street. She asked, “Did you know the Romans didn’t use any mortar to hold the granite stones together on the aqueduct?”
Admiring the way the stones were wedged together around the arches, I marveled, “It was built at the end of the first century, they used no mortar, yet the structure is still standing and it continues to work!”
Not all of the shops along the streets sold souvenirs. Like any shopping district, there were stores selling shoes, clothing, purses, bread and hard sausages. Tammie found house number tiles for her home. We stopped at a sidewalk café for gelato.
The sky continued to darken. By the time we had gathered to join the local tour guide who would take us through Segovia’s Cathedral and the castle Alcazar, rain began to fall. A cold rivulet of water ran down my bare arm making me shiver. I stepped closer to a fellow pilgrim who had purchased an umbrella and longingly thought about the sweater I’d left on the tour bus.
A sudden flash of lightning and a loud crash of thunder made me jump. A scene from the movie, ‘My Fair Lady’ came to mind. In it, Eliza Doolittle managed to push past her Cockney accent to properly say, “The rain in Spain, stays mainly on the plain!”
The rain was short-lived. The plains in Spain get very little rain. Most of the precipitation falls in the northern mountains. I smiled to myself as I thought, “That’s why the Romans built the aqueduct in the first place!”
Inside the Cathedral I was amazed by multiple side chapels. Several works of art stood out; colorful triptych paintings, a realistic, life-sized statue of Jesus recumbent in death. A statue of Saint Frutos, one of Segovia’s patron saints, was shown reading the book of life. Local legend has it that when he turns to the last page of the book, the world will end.
Alcazar was everything I’d ever romantically imagined a castle to be. Tammie and I loved the throne room, courtyard and the breezy rampart walkways. I imagined a king or queen standing on them looking with pride upon the beautiful countryside below. No wonder Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle resembles it.
A number of pilgrims decided to take a taxi to the tour bus parked at the bottom of the hill. I sat in the front seat next to the driver. He drove fast down the narrow, dog-legged, cobblestone streets filled with pedestrians and other cars. I braced for impact as we barreled toward a fork in the road divided by a brick wall between the two branches. At the last minute the driver casually swung to the left.
Our tumultuous decent down hill made me think again of the aqueduct that we had seen earlier in the town’s plaza. Did the water from the Rio Frio flow in such a rapid, rowdy manner? I doubted it. The clever Romans designed the aqueduct with a gentle grade so that the water would make it all the way to Segovia from its distant source.