Stunning Segovia

We’re taking the train from Madrid to the amazing town of Segovia. And when you arrive it is not hard to see what it is famous for!

The centre of this pretty, Baverarianesque town is dominated by an incredible feat of Roman engineering.

This amazing aqueduct is is one of the best-preserved elevated Roman aqueducts and was believed to be built in 1st century AD, although the exact date is a mystery.

The aqueduct once transported water from the Rio Frio river, situated in mountains 17 km from the city in the La Acebeda region. It runs for 15 km before arriving in the city.

According to Wikipedia the aqueduct is built of unmortared, brick-like granite blocks.

During the Roman era, each of the three tallest arches displayed a sign in bronze letters, indicating the name of its builder along with the date of construction

All we know is a) thanks Micheal Portillo for featuring it on your travel documentary or we’d never have heard of it, and b) it is amazing!

The aqueduct was partially rebuilt in the 15th century after section of it was destroyed by the Moors in 1072.

Colour splash

The streets of Madrid are literally awash with a myriad of colourful artworks, from abstract splashes of rainbow hues to detailed murals.

Every wall, window and wall is an open air gallery just begging to be snapped.

Metal roller shutters that act as security for shops also double as gallery fronts, sometimes sanctioned, sometimes not!

Some act as extra advertising for the wares within, others are just random victims of fly by night taggers.

The hubby functions as a moody photo prop against this gritty garage front.

And typically also spots this rather ‘cheeky’ wall mural outside a traditional tapas bar that we sample!

I love snapping the variety of different artworks that are dotted around the city – it’s a full time hobby!

Back Atocha!

Madrid’s Atocha train station has a verdant surprise awaiting the unsuspecting traveller with a lovely tropical garden inhabiting what was once a train shed that opened in 1892.

It had its tracks removed in 1992 and is now a lush garden complete with a rehomed turtle pool (minus its inhabitants who were relocated in 2018 to a local wildlife park)

The 4,000 square metre garden contains over 7,000 plants of 400 different species from the Americas, Asia, and Australia.

You will find breadfruit and coconut trees from Polynesia, royal palms and mahogany trees from Cuba, rubber trees from Brazil, banana trees from the Philippines and palm bottle trees from the Indian Ocean islands.

These days high-speed trains leave from 15 modern terminus platforms built as a southward extension to the old trainshed, known as Madrid Puerta de Atocha.

Books, beautiful books.

As we leave Retiro park I stumble upon this bibliophile’s dream! Open air book stalls in weathered little cabins . . . .

You can find this cornucopia of the written word on a small pedestrian street known as the Cuesta de Moyano.

Running down from El Retiro Park to the Glorieta de Carlos V roundabout, it is lined with 30 book stalls.

The history of this little book fair, which is open every day of the week, dates back to 1925, when a string of 15m2 wooden huts were set up along this road.

In them sat sellers with no electricity or heating offering books for just 15 cents.

The fair is made up of 30 stalls run by the children and grandchildren of the fair’s founder

El Retiro Park

We’re heading to check out El Retiro Park, the largest park in Madrid, with lakes, formal gardens and glass houses.

The park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park.

In the heart of the park is a large lake that was built by the architect, Cristobal de Aguilera. It was used to hold water shows, such as navy battles or mock battles, and boat rides for the King and Queen and their Court.

It still bustles with water based fun with row boats for hire.

As we head into the park, we pass this musical maestro! Making beautiful music on a rather unusual instrument – wine glasses!

In 2021, Buen Retiro Park became part of a combined UNESCO World Heritage Site with Paseo del Prado.

Here we see the impressive Glass Palace. Originally built in 1887 as a greenhouse to showcase plants as part of an exhibition on the Philippines which was then a Spanish colony.

Today the Glass Palace is owned by the Reina Sofía Museum which uses it all year round as a venue for hosting temporary exhibitions.

Religious stuff

There’s lots of beautiful churches and chapels to be discovered as you trot around Madrid.

From hyper realistic, and somewhat gory, statuary to beautiful gilding and all colours of the rainbow.

I love the over the top decoration of the Catholic churches, especially the ornate halos of the Virgin Mary. A little bit heavenly, just a tad Ru Paul’s dragtastic . . .

Las Meninas Mademoiselles

Around the streets of Madrid we kept encountering a variation of colourful, larger than life, ladies.

The statues are all variations on the main characters of Las Meninas, Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece that hangs in the Prado Museum.

An art installation saw 80 sculptures of Las Meninas (‘the ladies in waiting’) dotted around the Spanish capital.

The sculptures are made from fibreglass and are 1.8 metres (six feet) tall and weigh 30 kilograms (66 pounds).

They were delivered completely white to the artists and sculptors who made their own marks on the ladies.

Tiled wonder

Wandering the maze of gritty streets in the Malasaña neighborhood of Madrid, you might come across the tiled wonder that is the Juanse Pharmacy.

Founded in 1892, this colourful, 130 years old jewel has seen a lot of history come and go.

The impressive tiled facade acts as an advertising hording stuck in a time warp. The pharmacy made their own concoctions – whether or not they worked or not is another matter.

It’s a shame that petty vandals feel the need to scrawl their lazy tagging across the beautiful, artisan tiles.