Sunday, 20 February 2011
Segovia. The fairy tale castle. I think that skinny blonde in red posing next to the parapet is me. These days, I am neither blonde, nor quite so skinny, and certainly can't imagine posing near parapets anywhere.
I never learned to pose for photographs. Sadly it wasn't deemed part of the essential education earmarked out for me by my parents.
We had flown to Madrid via Amsterdam from the UK for a wedding anniversary long weekend. In August. The height of summer and I was dreading the heat. The rucksacks were not part of this trip and nor was the tent.
In fact we had bought some special hand luggage for the flight so that we didn't have to hang around at baggage reclaim with all the other passengers who seemed to want to make a day of arriving at an airport and missing their luggage every time it came around on the conveyor.
I bought some nice new flat shoes too. I was going to be city chic and smart for once. And - we even stayed in a hotel. Quite a decently priced one on Calle Gran Via. Near to Plaza de España and a few minutes walk from the brothels around the back.
One day we decided to go to Segovia, so we found out the correct bus station and made our way there. We bought our return tickets and had a while to wait so found a fine bar which did excellent pimientos asados (roast peppers) tapas included with our beer.
Segovia is primarily famous for three things. The famous castle - Alcazar, the superb Roman aqueduct, and the cathedral. Possibly in that order, although I was most interested in the aqueduct.
We made our way up to the castle, which was worth a visit. The first mention of it was back in the 12th century, but as it was set alight in 1862, the current building is a relatively recent rebuild. Still, it is pretty enough.
One of the legends, is that a nurse looking after a royal babe dropped it out of the window, so fearing the wrath of her employers and certain death, she jumped out to follow the heir to all the Spains. It was a very long way down.
And the other main story about the castle is that it was the inspiration for Walt Disney's fairy tale castle in Disneyland. I had no idea about that at the time I visited however, nor would it have interested me.
When we got back to the bus station, I gazed at my little bus tickets puzzling what to do with them. Spanish bus companies mostly sell tickets at offices in the bus station that you often buy in advance. Occasionally you can also pay on the bus, but rarely on long distance ones. Segovia is nearly 100kms so we had a posh little folder with our tickets inside.
On the way out we had duly taken our allocated seats. But the ticket for the return had no seat number. This was the source of my puzzlement. If we jumped in a seat on the bus, although we had paid for a ticket, we might be sitting in someone else's seat. And as the occupancy of the bus is done by computer, the bus might even be full.
There had to be a way round this. Now, like most people, I hate making an arse of myself in public, especially in a foreign language, but I certainly didn't want to be chucked off the bus because I didn't have a specific seat.
I plucked up the courage and toddled over to the long queue at the ticket office which still seemed pretty stupid to me as I had already got a ticket. I prepared myself for much Spanish amusement, or just as bad, total incomprehension at what I was attempting to ask.
Neither. The ticket cashier calmly took my proferred return tickets, understood that I wanted the next bus to Madrid, and get this, issued some new tickets after keying a load of stuff into the computer - AND - they had the magic seat numbers.
There are some things that really make a day out successful. I have to say that swapping the tickets and getting ones with seat numbers was a serious highlight of the day. I sat in my seat for the whole return trip feeling smug and very pleased with my little self. I still feel pleased when I think back to it now.