A Snowy Weekend in Segovia

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A 30-minute train ride or scenic hour bus ride from Madrid will take you to Segovia, one of Spain's most charming and enchanting day trips. My first Segovian experience happened a few months ago in February, but since then, I have returned twice to this Spanish town! Segovia is most famous for its cochinillo (baby suckling pig -- YUM), historic Roman aqueduct, Alcázar of Segovia (beautiful castle) and cathedral. Spain was definitely showing off with this one!

Initially what inspired my weekend trip to Segovia was to visit my Camp Greenville friend, Taylor, who is studying abroad at IE University. The campus alone is its own national heritage site (originally The Convento de Santa Cruz La Real built in 1218). Walking around her campus felt like another world... J.K. Rowlings world that is. My words can't give this place any justice, so just imagine walking around a smaller version of Hogwarts with its stone walls, valiant ceilings and secret corriders. A mini fairytale indeed!

One of the bigger debates while traveling in Europe is... train or bus? With traveling to Segovia, it's a pretty easy decision -- take the bus! It'll add an hour more to your commute, but the bus wins in the scenic, convenience and price department. Fourteen euros roundtrip, scenic route and drops you within a five-minute walk to the aqueduct.

You simply cannot get sick and tired of walking through, pass, around, on top of or next to this aqueduct! It is, 100%, the most historic feature of Segovia. I would say, "highly recommended site so don't miss out!" except, you actually can't miss it. Fun facts: It has about 25,000 granite stones creating 170 arches and spanning 818 meters (2684 feet)!

Next historical site is Alcázar of Segovia, my first castle and a page from a storybook. It looks as if the castle grew out of the mountain, perched up just waiting to be admired. My knowledge of its history is a bit rusty, but I can tell you it was one of the inspirations for Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle! The interior is just as beautiful as the exterior so pay the 5 euro and walk around.

It isn't a Spanish town without the most beautiful of cathedrals. You would think after seeing a handful of cathedrals, you'd be over it, but there goes Spain surprising me again. I am definitely not an expert about the style of cathedrals, but I do know the Segovia Cathedral was the one of the last Gothic cathedrals built in Spain. 

A trip to visit camp friends isn't complete without trying to hammock! Luckily we found the perfect place with the view of the castle, right outside of the city walls. Let's ignore the fact we were freezing. Ab-so-lute-ly worth the cold hands and feet. Let's not forget to mention Eno Hammocks shared our [epic] photo!

What a weekend! I'm so thankful for friends around the world who open up their doors for me and show me around their cities. 



A "Photo Shoot" in Ávila

When you're in a beautiful place like Ávila with one of your best camp friends, you just have to take advantage of the backdrop and have a ridiculous photo shoot. Definitely ridiculous. We climbed the city walls, found our own personal tower and let our hair blow in the wind. 

All you need is to channel your inner MK & Ashley "prune" and you're set... sort of. Just ignore the pregnant-like belly (thanks, wind!) and my weird facial expressions, unlike Taylor who is crazy photogenic, so... 

Yeah.

About that...

Ávila

AH-vila! Uh-VEE-la! Ah-vee-LA!
Another day trip from Madrid checked off my list! I didn't travel much my first few months of moving to Madrid (i.e. getting TEFL certified, finding a job, apartment hunting, being broke, you know the usual), so there was a streak where I spent every weekend traveling...somewhere. Back in February, my fellow camp friend, Taylor and I wanted to check out the famous walled-in city of Ávila and after a 1.5 hour snowy and scenic train ride through the mountains, I was face-to-face with this gorgeous town (and Taylor, a 30-minute bus ride from Segovia). After getting lost trying to find each other (my fault), it was a 15-minute walk into the walled-in part of the city. 

Ávila is known for:
- having the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches
- having a complete (and beautiful) medieval town wall surrounding the city
- the unique experience of walking along the walls
- being a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Yemas (pastry made from egg yolk)
- its Cathedral

This is the kind of town where you just can't stop taking pictures. We spent most of our day exploring and walking along the walls pretending we were in Taylor Swift music videos, eating (and honestly not liking) yemas and enjoying the scenery. Also, I would like to mention I had the tastiest aioli I've ever had in Spain...

I present to you... Ávila.

Tips on traveling to Ávila:
- Visit Ávila during warm-ish, non-windy weather. Although this might seem obvious for any traveling, this is especially vital for making sure you're in good weather conditions to climb onto the wall (aka, the best part of this town!) If it's too windy (or snowing), they will close the wall to visitors.
- Be sure to walk on BOTH walkways of the wall. Taylor and I almost didn't see the best part of wall! Thanks to a lovely security guard who pitied our level of Spanish and confusion, he let us up after the wall entrance hours were closed (Thanks, tio!).
- Always check opening hours! Spain is notorious for awkward and ridiculous hours, especially in the smaller towns like Ávila.
- From Madrid, take the train! I'm a huge advocate for taking the bus and saving a few euros, but the views from the mountainous train ride were breathtaking!
- Try to see Ávila and Segovia in the same weekend. They are very close to one another that it may be worth it to plan for both. You could save a few euros and hours on roundtrip tickets.

Snapshots from Toledo, Spain

I am extremely lucky to live in Madrid, the center of Spain. This allows for weekend explorations all over this beautiful country. A popular day trip outside of Madrid is to Toledo, also known as “the city of the three cultures.” Christians, Arabs and Jews lived here side by side for centuries filling this city with the most beautiful cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, fortresses, palaces and created a “cultural legacy”. Spain is one of the leading countries to be home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites (along with China, India, Italy, France and Mexico) and the historic city of Toledo is one of them!

I adored Toledo’s narrow, cobblestone streets, local cookies and history-filled charm. Plus it’s only an inexpensive hour bus ride (or 30-minute train ride) from Madrid! It was wonderful to escape the cosmopolitan city of Madrid and get a glimpse of old, authentic Spain. Even though Toledo is known to be a bit touristy with streets lined up with souvenir vendors selling the same trinkets and tourists antsy to stock up, there's a reason it is a must see. It's too beautiful of a place to miss out on.

As the Spanish say, “Until you’ve seen Toledo, you have not seen Spain.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Here are photos from my January day trip:

For more information on traveling to Toledo, I recommend visiting these sites to help plan your trip and provide more history about this charming city. I am already lined up for a couple more trips to this city and can share more of my experiences! My first trip was more wandering around than anything else so there's still lots to discover and learn.

Toledo Turismo ||  Naked Madrid - Toledo  ||  TripAdvisor - Top 30 Things to Do in Toledo