Today started with a massive stab to the wallet.
Now, our past two vacations, I’ve brought my “old” iPhone 4 and threw in a local SIM card. It’s helpful 99% of the time, getting us from point A to point B, finding out opening and closing times, grabbing train and bus schedules on the fly. I’ve done all this stuff in the pre-tech generation, and actually prefer to use a map or guidebook when I can, but the tech has been valuable.
That 1% of the time when it leads you astray, though…
Our destination today, Segovia, home of a massive Roman aqueduct, is reachable by the RENFE “Fast Trains”, which as new and, if you believe the Internet, have everybody in Spain super excited. It takes you from Madrid to Segovia in 27 minutes, as opposed to over an hour by bus or regional train. I kept reading you could get one from Madrid Chamartin station, but when I put it into Google Maps, I kept getting the old information, saying it would take me about two hours to get there.
So, I punched in the directions to Madrid Charmartin and found a subway option and what I was pretty sure were bus options. I thought this because, after the first option, it said “more by subway” and had a big symbol for the Madrid Metro, whereas the others didn’t.
So, having punched in the directions and seen that we could take a C1 or a C2 “bus” to Chamartin, and it was ten minutes faster than train, I found the C2 bus and hoped on!
Once we got on, I checked my little blue dot… and it was going the wrong way.
So I ask the driver if we’re going to Chamartin and he looks shocked. So, we weren’t. He ended up dropping us at a metro station, pointed to the bus sign and, to the best of my knowledge, said “the next one will be here in four minutes.”
So, we waited for a bus and, when it came (another C2), I asked the driver and he also told us “no” and waved us to a stop over a hill.
At this point, the morning was starting to get away from us, so we found a cab and took it to Chamartin. About 10 extra Euros for a trip where, if I had been able to figure out Google Maps, would have been 4.
Next stab came when we got to the train station. I had looked online and had seen train fares to Segovia advertised at 12.90 Euros, so overall, not a cheap ticket, but not prohibitively expensive either. So I go to the ticket counter at Chamartin and ask for a ticket to Segovia. The vendor asks me if it’s a same-day return, and I say yes, but I don’t know the time. I get the two tickets back, 25.80 a piece.
So, in my head, I’m thinking “Okay, he’s given me an open return”, but then I read the ticket and there’s nothing on it that indicates a return fare. I ask him if it’s for there and back, and he tells me it’s only one way.
I turns out, the fares for the high-speed train to Segovia vary from one train to the other for… reasons I can’t figure out. It doesn’t happen with the trains to Toledo (tomorrow’s destination), which stay the same price for the whole day.
Anyway, we didn’t figure this out until later, and since we wanted to get what was turning into an absolute Gong Show of a day going, we sucked it up, took our $37 for 27 minute train tickets and got moving.
So, before moving on, I’m just going to close the tech thought. Overall, not Google’s fault, my fault for not a) noticing that the subways weren’t buses and b) not researching the Segovia Train Fare Debacle well enough. Neither were super clear, but overall, it’s on me.
Anyway, we still got into Segovia at around 10 (hooray fast train!) and then snagged a bus that literally drops you off at the aqueduct. Built around the 1st or 2nd century, it just towers over all the buildings in the town and sits on the top of the list for why Segovia is a UNESCO Site. There’s a handy tourist office right next to it, where we planned out our day of seeing the aqueduct (CHECK), walking to the Plaza Mayor, going in to the Segovia Cathedral, checking out the Alcazar, then the Jewish Quarter, lunch at some point, before walking the length of the aqueduct and going back to Madrid.
Before all this happened, there was some food I needed before our time in Spain ran out. Churros con chocolate is basically…. Well, con means with, so not hard to figure out. But the chocolate comes in a mug and you dip the churros in it and its amazing. After that, we were ready to go.
The main route around the town is pretty much a loop and takes you past the main sights. We arrived into the Cathedral just a few minutes late (not knowing we had a specific time we had to be there) for the tour of its tower, which you can climb up to get views of the city. We bought tickets for the 4:30 tour, but then I asked how long that one would take. Turns out the tour is 90 minutes, which would have had us missing our (half-price) train to Madrid, so we had to skip the tower. Segovia Cathedral is still amazing, though. Daina referred to it as the prettiest cathedral he’s seen this trip. It’s supposedly the last Gothic cathedral ever built in Spain and is just massive when you consider the size of the city.
We then made our way to the Alcazar (not to be confused with the alcazaba). Not a fort, but a castle, and one of the favourites of the kings of the time. Its current “claim to fame”, however, is being the inspiration for Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Basically, Disney appropriated something as inspiration. I’m as shocked as you.
Beautiful walk around, really gives you a sense of the medieval times, and if you head up the Tower of Juan (which led to endless, massively entertaining puns based on 80’s songs) you get a postcard view of the cathedral. Well worth the extra 2.50 Euros.
We wandered along the walls towards the Jewish quarter, finding a tourist office that had a sign telling us to ask for “access” to the view. We got a code to go through a door up a street and were able to walk some of the ramparts, which was fun. At this point, it was lunch time and we had some of the best ham and cheese we’ve had in Spain at a deli/restaurant called Diablo Cojuelo. After lunch, back into the Jewish Quarter, some extra walking of the walls, a trip along the length of the aqueduct and that was it, we were ready to get back to Madrid.
I should point out that it was 40 degrees today as well, so even though we spent the last 50 minutes of day trip drinking 2.80 Euro bottles of Fanta in an air conditioned train station restaurant, it was about all we could handle at that point. Less of a bleed than before.
Once we got back to Madrid, all the “why” of our early Metro craziness dawned on me, and instead of going out to eat, we put our oven to good use, cooking some not-frozen-so-not-a-problem pizza.
Tomorrow is the last day of this trip, and I think we’ve figured out how to do this “Day Trip By Train” thing correctly, so one more jaunt out of the city to Toledo!