Segovia: Music to my eyes

Aqueducto Romano towers over the Plaza del Azoguejo. (SUN/Nancy Yen)

Aqueducto Romano towers over the Plaza del Azoguejo. (SUN/Nancy Yen)

NANCY YEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

SEGOVIA, Spain -- A cool breeze pushes wispy white clouds through Segovia\'s blue sky. The city toasts, orange and dry, under the sun like freshly baked pottery.

Students perch in little nooks among the sun-seared architecture or on the steps facing their favourite churches, each with a large sketchpad and charcoal. Segovia is a city whose charm begs to be captured by artists and photographers.

Just steps from the bus station on Calle Ezequiel Gonzalez, the Iglesia San Millan immediately solidifies my vision of Castillian/Romanesque Segovia. With its pretty arcaded porch, the 12th-century church is considered to be the finest example of Romanesque architecture here. It draws visitors right into the heart of the city.

After asking to be pointed in the general direction of the Plaza Mayor, I know I\'m on the right path when I spot the awesome Aqueducto Romano looming before me over the Plaza del Azoguejo. At the aqueduct\'s maximum height of about 33 metres over the plaza, several school tour groups have congregated under its tall, two-tiered arches, no doubt marvelling, as I was, at its Roman engineering.

Not only does this imposing, 700-metre-long structure stand without cement or mortar to hold it together, it is more than 2,000 years old! Until 1884, it carried fresh water from the Frio River, 15 km away.

A few of its 166 arches stretch across the busy plaza before it touches the old city walls, where you can climb the steps up to the top for a clear view of the city as well as a different vantage point of the slender aqueduct.

From here, Calle Cervantes leads me to nearby Plaza Mayor. It is comfortably warm in the sunshine but the plaza\'s sidewalk cafes are still waiting expectantly for the tourists who come here to sip coffee in front of the 16th-century cathedral.

There aren\'t many locals about, but in the gazebo -- where a band might play on a warm night -- a girl is making a sketch of a pointy tower in the distance.

Most tourists initially come to Segovia for a glimpse of the city\'s famous Aqueducto Romano but find themselves seduced by the rest of the city\'s well-preserved Romanesque flavour. Segovia is a compact city, making it very easy to walk from point to point. If you are here only on a day trip, you will have plenty of time to explore and enjoy its cozy ambience.

Pick up some fresh bread and wine near the Plaza del Azoguejo before you head off to explore and you will be probably be ready to picnic by the time you reach the Alcazar of Segovia. Located just down the sloping, cobbled street from the Cathedral, where the Eresma and Clamores rivers meet, it offers an open view of the city beyond.

On the other side is a view of the 3-km long city wall and the tree-filled riverbed below. It is a wonderful place to sit and watch the late day sun set the already orange city ablaze with warmth.

The word alcazar means \"castle\" in Arabic, and reflects the time when Spain was under Arab control. The castle itself is straight out of a fairy tale with its moated wall on the outside and secret passages on the inside.

Although the original was burned down over 100 years ago, the palace-fortress has been rebuilt and visitors are welcome to explore the interior.

The fact it is famous for having inspired Walt Disney\'s castle logo lures many -- I thought the black conical turrets looked familiar!

Segovia is also famous for its roasted suckling pig, or \"toston\" (fed to you after only 21 days of mother\'s milk). As a vegetarian, I stick to the gazpacho but this traditional dish along with baby lamb is touted in every published guide to Spain.

Another regional dish is garlic, ham and egg soup, often served at local festivities such as the fiesta de Santos Frutas, named after the city\'s patron saint. Meat is a prominent ingredient in many of Spain\'s main dishes.

Segovia is a quaint, cozy city. But it is abundant in charm. Before you know it, you\'ve spent a whole day just strolling. Because of its many architectural treasures, the whole city has been recognized, since 1985, as a World Heritage site and signs that accompany the city\'s most visited spots provide a brief background of their historical significance.

You can read about Segovia but the real virtues of this picturesque city have to be seen to be believed.

If you go:

MORE INFORMATION: Contact the Segovia Tourist Information Centre, Plaza Mayor, 10, Telephone: 43 03 28.

GETTING THERE: Segovia is only a little more than one hour from Madrid by bus or two hours by train.


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