Why was it the best day ever, you might ask? Well, good question. It's because I went to the most amazing place I've ever been: Segovia. I loved this place so much that I did not want to leave. It's seriously the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life. The architecture, scenery, and general atmosphere was astounding. I was in such awe, just walking around. But before I go into all the details, I should give all you interested readers an account of the journey.
As I said yesterday, a few of us were hoping to ride on the bus with the group going to Segovia, but we weren't able to because it was full. Instead, we decided to get ourselves there and then join the group. Getting there itself was an adventure! I had plans to travel with 3 other girls, so we met this morning at the train station at 8:45. I had no idea how to get to the train station, so last night I took a picture of the location via Google Maps with my phone and used that to navigate. It took about a half hour to walk there, which wasn't bad considering it was a beautiful morning and I was in Spain.
Once at the train station, we met 2 other girls from our program who were planning on going to Segovia. One of the girls was required to go on the trip for one of her classes, but had decided against going on the bus (for whatever reason). It was a great thing we ran into them, because they had no idea how to get to Segovia. They were planning on hoping on a train, which they assumed took them straight there. Unfortunately, that would have gotten them nowhere near Segovia. We had to take the train from Alcala to Madrid (about 45 minutes or so) and then buy tickets for another train to Segovia. That sounds easy, but when there's no guidelines and you have to figure out the process by yourselves in another country, it's a tad difficult. Especially since the train station in Madrid is insanely busy and confusing.
We ended up asking for directions at an information desk (pooling together our Spanish knowledge) and it turned out we had just missed the train. We had to wait an hour and a half for the next one. And unlike the public transportation train we had been using, this one was nicer and special, so we had to pay 10 euro each way.
In our wait, we all went to a cafe for snacks. I got a cafe con leche and neopolitan pastry, which was possibly the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. So it was already a good day. Side note: the public bathrooms here are disgusting. You need to bring your own toilet paper too, since they generally don't have any). Anyway, we had a good time chatting. Remember those students in my class who don't know much Spanish that I was telling you about? Well, the other girls had been talking to them earlier, and it turns out they have only had ONE semester of Spanish, whereas I have had about ten years of it. That explains their confusion in class. I can't imagine coming here with barely any Spanish background. It's hard enough with what I do know!
When it was time to catch our train, we had to go through a security-esque procedure. Our bags were scanned and there was high security. In fact, this whole special train was almost like an airplane. There were assigned seats, luggage racks, and comfortable cushions. It was so nice! There was a screen showing the progress of the train, and I noticed we reached speeds of over 250 km/hour! It took us through the countryside, which was gorgeous and full of cows. It also went through a bunch of underground tunnels! As soon as we got to Segovia, I could feel the temperature difference. It was MUCH colder and I was immediately thankful I had worn jeans and brought two jackets. I haven't been to Alaska, but it at first appeared to be what I imagine Alaska to be like: isolated and cold. There were a lot of mountains nearby which were partially covered in snow. We didn't know what to do, so we went to an information desk. It turned out we needed to take a bus to the middle of the city, and the next bus was supposed to be leaving any minute; the following one wouldn't leave for 2 hours! So we all ran through the train station to catch a bus, but once we reached the buses, we had to quickly find the one we needed, since there were so many and their numbers aren't prominently displayed. Of course, ours was the one that was jam packed with people, so we had to huddle together standing up.
The bus ride took us through more country (Segovia is very much isolated) and was without a doubt the bumpiest bus ride I have ever been on. It was necessary to hold on to as much as possible to avoid being thrown against people. Somehow, we survived without incident! We ended up right in the heart of Segovia, which is...duh duh duh- the aqueducts! Maybe you guys know more about Segovia than I do, especially because I knew nothing but the name before we arrived. But Segovia is known for their aqueducts, which I still know nothing about, but are very cool. I also know they're very old!
After a ton of pictures, we walked through their Plaza Mayor. There was some sort of festival going on, with speakers, food, and dancing. All this was surprising since it became apparent that it's not THAT large of a town. But we walked through, taking free samples of cheese and nuts, and admiring the area. I was so enchanted by the architecture and environment. It was all so old and historic. We had no idea where to go, so we ended up walking by a lot of churches and houses until we came to one of the other biggest attractions in Segovia: the cathedral.
OH. MY. GOSH. I have never, ever seen anything as magnificent as that cathedral. Nor as large and intricate. You guys just need to see the pictures. It was a large oval, and around the sides were various little rooms you could enter, which were full of what I'm guessing are old altars. (The one drawback to Segovia was that they didn't have any information/pamphlets anywhere). They were all gorgeous. In each of them was a headstone, so I'm thinking priests are buried there. You guys can probably Google all that I'm telling you and find more information. I would, but I am absolutely exhausted right now. Anyway, in the center was a current altar, since they still have mass there. There was also another section in a courtyard outside, but for whatever reason, we couldn't take pictures there. I can't even describe how beautiful this cathedral was. We spent hours there, and still didn't look at everything! I'll just let the pictures I took speak for themselves...
Afterwards, the two other girls left us to find the group. The one who was required to be there had been in contact with them, but they hadn't even arrived at Segovia until then! The group had gone straight to a neighboring city and ended up getting to Segovia at around 2pm. The rest of us decided we liked exploring on our own, and had already planned out our afternoon, so we chose not to meet up with the group as originally planned. Instead, we went to a park that was close by and ate the lunches our Spanish moms had packed for us. My mom is INCREDIBLY generous and had given me: one turkey/cheese sandwich, one pork chop sandwich, one Spanish omelette sandwich, a bag of cherries, some sort of chocolatey-bread dessert, a kit kat, an orange soda, and a water. All for lunch. Needless to say, I shared as much as I could force on the others, ate what I could, and gave a little to the birds and stray dogs that came to beg. During lunch, the little sun we had disappeared, and the clouds and wind came in. We quickly finished lunch so we could hurry on to an indoor location, aka shopping. All the stores are so cute and small, with a lot of hand-crafted items. We had a field day in them.
Afterwards, we made our way to yet another Segovian attraction: Alcazar, aka an amazing castle. This castle was one of the inspirations for the Disney castle, and was directly used as the basis for Sleeping Beauty's castle in the movie. So cool! They gave discounted tickets for students, so we went on a tour. Again, I was speechless. Again, I'll let the pictures show you how great it was. Mostly because I would go into so much detail and unfortunately don't have time for that right now. I felt right at home inside, mostly because I AM a princess. :)
We were able to walk through the different rooms and even went down to the dungeon! The castle even had a moat, which was empty, obviously. Unfortunately, we didn't get to go up the tower because it cost a little more than we were willing to pay. As we were leaving, our group was walking up and we got to talk to our other friends. In doing so, we were reassured that we took the better option in touring Segovia by ourselves. The group had only walked by the cathedral, instead of going in, and weren't spending a lot of time in the town. Plus, it was a huge group, and some people complained that they were moving slowly. The four of us were all so glad we were able to go at our own pace and see what we wanted.
We then just walked around to explore more. We ended up doing a loop of the whole city! As we circled back to the main square, we realized we could spare some time before the bus took us back to the train, so we went to a cafe nearby. We sat by a window upstairs where we looked out upon the main street and watched some little kids play soccer, despite the passerbys.
We were so exhausted by the time we left that we were all quiet on the bus ride back. Once we were on the train, we all fell asleep! Then we had the adventure of figuring out what train to ride back to Alcala. We ended up getting back around 8:50, which made a full 12 hours! It was raining pretty hard in Alcala, which made me glad I brought my rain jacket!
When I got home, I was surprised to see that Teresa and Jose's whole family was here! They introduced me to everyone, who were all nice. We had dinner, which was pretty interesting. The table was covered in paper plates full of food, and we all sat around it and just reached for whatever we wanted and ate it with our hands. It was mostly meat, cheese, and potatoes. Afterwards, we sat around talking and playing chess. Her kids were really interested in learning about the United States, and had taken a few English classes in the past, so they really enjoyed attempting to communicate in English! I enjoyed trying to decipher what they were saying! They also had many questions. It took me a long time to explain that Dallas is actually IN Texas!
At midnight, Teresa could see that I was practically falling asleep in my chair, so she told me to go to bed, as everyone will most likely be staying late. Tomorrow we're going to explore Madrid, so I have to wake up early yet again! As much as I love being a part of everything, I'm starting to feel the effects of busy days and around 5 hours of sleep each night!
I hope I gave a decent account of my day! I wish I could describe how amazing Segovia is, but I know I can't do it justice. I don't know if even the pictures can! Here's hoping!
UPDATE: Sorry guys, I don't have time to put all the pictures on here right now! I'm working on it, but there are a lot. Check my Facebook for them, though! They're up now! :)