My European Favourites – Segovia, Spain
Spain is one of our favourite countries to visit in Europe. The warm sunshine, the history, the architecture, the gastronomy, and above all, the passionate and friendly people make it a desirable location. We have been to Spain with sightseeing groups, school groups and soccer groups. Madrid, the Spanish capital is always included in our itineraries. In addition to exploring the city, there are numerous worthwhile day trips to surrounding towns. Segovia is one of those towns.
Segovia is located about an hour northwest from Madrid and the day trip is sometimes combined with a stop in the nearby medieval walled city of Ávila. Segovia is just inside the large northwestern Castile and León region of Spain. The region consists of an expansive high plateau surrounded by a ring of mountains.
Segovia’s old town is perched high on a rocky hill surrounded by the Eresma and Clamores rivers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985, the old town features an impressive cathedral, numerous Roman churches, a Jewish quarter, and the striking Alcazar or castle. The town is full of Roman and medieval structures including the massive Roman aqueduct.
A Brief History Of Segovia
There was already a settlement by the Aravaci, a Celtic people, for over 600 years in Segovia prior to the Romans arriving in 96 BC. The Romans installed a military installation here to control access to the Douro River region in the north, and they built the aqueduct to bring in fresh water from the surrounding mountains. After the Romans left, Segovia was inhabited by people from northern Europe until the Spanish invasion by the Moors in the early 8th century.
After the reconquest by Christian Kin Alphonso VI in 1079, Segovia was resettled by Christians. Numerous parishes and monasteries were established in area. Due to its location on main trading routes, Segovia reached its golden age during the middle ages due to the foundation of a cloth industry. The town experienced a rise in the Jewish population and became an important centre for wool and textiles.
In the 13th century, Alfonso X, King of Castile, León and Galicia, made Segovia his residence.
Later in the 15th century Henry IV, King of Castile, also made Segovia his residence, built important buildings, renovated the Alcazar, and made Segovia the site of the Royal Mint.
Segovia is also known as the place where Isabella the Catholic pronounced herself Queen of Castile in the church of San Miguel in 1474. Afterwards, she married king Ferdinand II, King of Aragon, to create a unified Spain. They are probably best known for financing the voyages of Christopher Columbus.
In the mid 16th century there was a revolt by the citizens of Castile against King Charles I and his administration. The “War of the Communities of Castile” lasted 18 months from April 1520 to October 1521. One of the rebel leaders, Juan Bravo, was from Segovia and has a statue in the main square. He was captured in the Battle of Villalar along with two other prominent rebel leaders. They were beheaded the following day. Despite the rebellion Segovia remained prosperous and the population grew to approximately 27,000.
Segovia’s decline started with an outbreak of the plague in the late 16th century and then mostly by the subsequent 17th century collapse of the textile industry. By 1694, the population dropped to just 8,000. Later attempts to revive the textile industry by King Charles III failed. In 1764 a military academy, the Royal School of Artillery, was established and is still in operation. In 1808, during the Napoleonic wars, Segovia was sacked by French troops.
19th century Spain had three Carlist Wars related to claims to the throne of Spain. During the first Carlist War, Segovia was unsuccessfully attacked. Since then, it has escaped military destruction, including during the Spanish Civil war from 1936 to 1939 that pitted the Republicans against the Nationalists led by Francisco Franco. In fact, since 1920 the population of Segovia has grown from 16,000 to over 50,000 in the early 80s. The population has stabilized in the last 40 years and the economy along with it.
The Roman Aqueduct
Our walking tour begins at the Plaza del Azoguejo and you can find a google map of our walk at www.azorcan.net/media to follow along. Once a market place, the plaza is located at the foot of the colossal Aqueduct of Segovia. The 28.5 meters tall aqueduct bridge, known locally as El Puente (the bridge), is one of the best preserved in the world. Built by the Romans at the end of the 1st century from stacked granite, the aqueduct transported water over 15 kilometers over rolling hills from the Sierra mountains to the town. The pillars and arches are solid rock with very little mortar in between. The aqueduct continued to supply water for many centuries after being built by the Romans and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Spain.
The Artillery Academy of Segovia, which recently celebrated a 250 year anniversary in Segovia, is located a few blocks from the plaza in a former 15th century Franciscan convent with an interesting Gothic cloister.
Located in a half-timbered house on the south side of the Plaza del Azoguejo, you will find the famous Cándido restaurant. Since 1905, three generations of the Cándido family have been serving their famous suckling pig, stews and wines. The official Tourist Office of Segovia is located across the square from the Cándido. From the plaza, we will walk up the Calle Cervantes. Calle means street, and this one is named after the most famous Spanish literary figure, Miguel de Cervantes. Cervantes is best known for being the author of the literary classic, Don Quixote.
The Medina de la Campo and the Jewish Quarter
About 200 meters from the Plaza del Azoguejo, we arrive at an observation terrace named the Mirador de la Canaleja. Here we can admire a fantastic panoramic view of the lower town’s pastel colored buildings with red roof tops.
There is an interesting light blue building on the north side of the Mirador with three stacked sunrooms. We walk along the side of this building on the Calle Juan Bravo, the street named after Segovia’s rebel leader. A few steps away on the right is the eye-catching Casa de los Picos. The 15th century historic Gothic-Renaissance building is decorated with numerous pyramids or diamond tips made from granite and now houses the School of Art and Superior Design.
A bit further on the Calle Juan Bravo we will come upon a little plaza on the left that leads to the Palacio de Cascales. The palace is known by a few names from its past including the Aspiroz or the del Conde Alpuente. Nowadays, it is used for the offices of the Ministry of Development of the Junta de Castilla y León. The palace was built in the 15th century by a prominent knight from Segovia named, Alonso Cascales. Its façade features Gothic windows, a unique pattern on the walls, and a Moorish or Mudejar arch kept from the original Arab building that was once there.
A short distance away along the Calle Juan Bravo is the square of Medina del Campo. The square contains three notable buildings, the house of Juan Bravo, the Tower of Lozoya and the Church of San Martin. The 14th century rectangular shaped Tower of Lozoya, was once used as an armoury. The tower is now used to exhibit contemporary art. The 12th century catholic Church of San Martin, at the centre of the square, is an interesting mix of Arabic and Romanesque elements.
Moving forward on the Calle Juan Bravo, we will reach the small square Plaza Corpus. The square is named after the Corpus Christi Church which is located on the left side of the square. The church was once the largest Jewish Synagogue in Segovia starting in the 13th century. You can visit the interesting church that was converted from a synagogue in 1410 as it is open to the public.
At the Plaza Corpus you will reach a fork in the rod. The Calle la Juderia Vieja (Old Jewish Quarter Street) is on the left, and as the name implies, it leads to the Jewish Quarter. We will take the Calle Isabella la Catolica (Isabella the Catholic) on the right to the Plaza Mayor (Main Square).
The Plaza Mayor is the central hub of the town of Segovia. The large rectangular cobblestone square has a performance gazebo at its centre surrounded by trees. The square was once a market place in medieval times, and Segovia’s citizens still meet here to celebrate festivals and to enjoy the numerous bars and restaurants spilling onto the square from the arcades. The square still hosts a market every Thursday. The La Concepción on the north side of the square is a bit pricy, but its terrace is a great place from which to people watch. Next to the restaurant is the 17th century Segovia town hall.
On the east side of the Plaza Mayor is the Juan Bravo Theatre. Built in 1917 and refurbished in the 1980s, it is the principal theatre of Segovia. A few steps away on the south east of the square behind the luxury priced Villena restaurant is the 16th century gothic San Miguel Church.
The church is famous for being the place where, in 1474, Isabella the Catholic was crowned Queen of Castile. Exploring the maze of alleys and squares behind the San Miguel Church, you will find various interesting and moderately priced bars and restaurants. The El Sitio and the El Figon de los Comuneros are two great choices for lunch.
Located on the west side of the square, the main building on the Plaza Mayor is the Cathedral of the Assumption. As the highest point of Segovia, the cathedral, built in late gothic style between 1525-1577, can be seen for miles around. Construction began after the original cathedral, located near the Alczar, burned in 1520. The cathedral can be toured and the view from the cathedral tower is memorable.
From the cathedral, we will walk about 600 meters on the Calle Marques del Arco which becomes the Calle Daoiz to the Plaza la Reina Victoria Eugenia (Square of Queen Victoria Eugenia). The Queen’s square is a nice garden located at the forefront of the entrance to the Alcazar. In addition to the imposing castle façade, there are great views of the Spanish countryside from the garden. On the left, there is a building called the Casa de la Química. There is a cafeteria there with a nice terrace with an amazing view of the town. There are better places for a meal, but it’s a good place to enjoy a drink under the shade of a patio umbrella on a hot day.
Like most fortresses, the Alcazar is built on an elevated area that offers a natural defensive advantage. The Alcazar’s site, on a large rock promontory at the spur of the Eresma and Clamores rivers, was a fort during the Roman occupation in the 1st century. Since Roman times, the castle has been rebuilt and expanded many times over hundreds of years by different people including the Romans, the Muslim Umayyad Dynasty in the 8th century and eventually the Spanish in the 12th century. Over time, the Alcazar has been used as a fortress, a royal palace, a prison, and a military school. The picturesque Alcazar is now a museum, a major tourist attraction, and one of the most recognizable castles in Europe. The original building from the 13th century was painstakingly restored after a devastating fire in 1862.
Approaching the Alcazar from the Queen’s square, we are faced with the imposing Tower of John II and the draw bridge. Once inside there are two staircases with 156 steps leading to the top of the tower where you can enjoy a great view of Segovia. Entering further, we arrive at the first major open area of the fortress, the Parade or Weapons Patio with a colonnade and upper walk way. This is the largest open space in the Alcazar, and along with the next outdoor area, the Clock Yard, has a great deal of Moorish influence.
At the back of the fortress, there is the Armoury with medieval flags, lances, swords, knights armour and even armour for horses. The “V” shaped well terrace at the very back looks like the bow of a boat gives the castle the appearance of being a large rock ship. The Alcazar’s garden, with shrubs in geometric shapes, is also located at the back of the castle.
Other interesting rooms include the Chapel, Throne Room, Royal Bedrooms, a Pineapple Room, the Alabaster Hall and the Kings Hall with 52 sculptures of kings that ruled the area for hundreds of years. The Museum of the Royal Artillery School in the Alcazar contains documents, scale models, weapons and uniforms from the 18th and 19th centuries. At the base of the castle and along exterior of the city walls there is a network of connected gardens and wooded areas.
View from the Alcazar
From the Alcazar’s Tower of John II, you will have a great view of the surrounding area’s rolling hills, churches and monasteries. You can’t miss the impressive 15th century Monastery of Santa Maria del Parral that was founded by Henry IV of Spain. The monastery’s church was built in gothic style, while the later built bell tower has a Romanesque top. The monastery, currently owned by the Order of St. Jerome, has four interesting cloisters in built in various architectural styles.
Looking to the left from the monastery, we see the tower of the Romaesque Church of San Marcos at the bottom of a winding road. As we look up along the road, we will see the larger Convent of San Juan de la Cruz on the left and the unique Church of Vera Cruz on the right. The Church of the Vera Cruz was founded by the Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 1208. The Romanesque style church was built in the shape of a twelve-sided polygon with three semi-circular chapels. The design of the church was inspired by the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem that the order was named after.
Segovia is a great place to enjoy traditional Spanish cuisine and in restaurants with matching architecture and atmosphere. The local specialities include roasted suckling pig (cochinillo), suckling lamb (lechazo), Cantimpalos chorizos, wild mushrooms and a traditional layer cake named Ponche Segoviano.
One of the best places to enjoy a meal in Segovia is near the aqueduct. We have already mentioned the famous Candido restaurant and dinner upstairs with a view of the illuminated aqueduct as a backdrop is a memorable experience.
On the Calle De Cevantes, not far from the aqueduct, there are two more great restaurants serving traditional dishes. The Conde Duque, one of the oldest restaurants in Segovia, has a unique interior while the Asador El Bernardino has a terrace with a great view.
On the Plaza Mayor, we wrote about enjoying a drink and people watching at La Concepción. Near the square we have three recommendations. El Figon de los Comuneros is a great place for sampling local tapas. At El Sitio you can have a nice traditional meal or try their pinchos in the bar area. The Restaurante Jose Maria has excellent wines, a tasting menu and a nice selection of tapas at the bar.
After dinner at any of these restaurants, you may want to take a walk of the historic centre with all the town’s monuments lit up.
Let’s Go To Segovia
Segovia is a great place to visit at any time of year, and you can easily spend a couple of days exploring the town’s historic buildings, walls, churches, monuments, narrow streets, shops, museums, bars, cafes and restaurants. The town is also known for two special religious events, the Holy Easter Week (Semana Santa) and the Three Kings parade (los Reyes Magos) held on January 5th.
Segovia is well worth the journey from the hustle and bustle of Madrid and is one of my favourite destinations in Spain. If you get a chance to visit the town, I think you will agree.
Explore Europe With Us
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Allow unvaccinated Canadians to cross U.S. border, Poilievre asks President Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on, during a welcoming ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, March 24, 2023. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says allowing Canadians who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 to cross into the United States was among issues he raised with President Joe Biden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Friday he asked President Joe Biden to remove the U.S. government’s requirement that Canadians be vaccinated for COVID-19 before crossing the border.
He told reporters after their meeting that American citizens are no longer required to have their shots and Canada allows unvaccinated Americans to visit.
“There are millions of good, decent, honourable people who, through a personal medical decision, are discriminated against at the border,” Poilievre said.
“I encouraged the president to lift those restrictions to allow them freedom of mobility.”
Poilievre won the leadership of his party a little more than six months ago by mounting a vocal opposition to COVID-19 health restrictions, including mask and vaccine mandates, but he has since focused his message on cost-of-living issues.
He met with Biden on Parliament Hill Friday during the president’s 27-hour visit to the Canadian capital, and later shared a photo of the two online.
Michael Ignatieff was the last Opposition leader to have face time with a U.S president. The former Liberal leader met with former President Barack Obama in 2009. It happened at the airport.
Poilievre said Friday he found Biden wants to be a “friendly” and “decent” neighbour to Canada, and on a personal level, he said he told the president they share Irish heritage.
He said they discussed the need for Canada to bolster its defence systems and “bring fairness” to workers by seeing the U.S. exempt Canada from its Buy American policies.
The Tory leader also said he expressed a need for Biden to axe tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, arguing that the long-standing dispute saw a brief reprieve under Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.
“I don’t believe that Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau has pushed and fought on behalf of Canadians,” he said.
Before the meeting, Poilievre had shared some unscripted moments with the leader of the free world.
As he stood in a receiving line of Canadian politicians from all parties who were greeting Biden upon his arrival at Parliament Hill, Poilievre introduced himself as the “Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.”
That prompted Biden to question, still shaking Poilievre’s hand: “Loyal opposition?”
Poilievre assured him that yes, “we believe that opposition is an act of loyalty in our system.”
Biden chuckled, patting Poilievre on the arm.
“We do, too, unfortunately,” he said, chuckling.
Later, while addressing the House of Commons, Biden noted that both he and Trudeau appointed cabinets that were half women, making them the first in their respective countries to do so.
Many in the chamber broke out in applause.
Biden noticed that Poilievre and the Opposition Conservatives were not quick to rise, and quipped: “Even if you don’t agree, guys, I’d stand up,” which Poilievre and others then did.
Asked afterwards about that interaction, Poilievre said only: “We support gender equality for all Canadians.”
Poilievre was on the guestlist for a dinner with Biden Friday evening, along with other government ministers, officials and celebrities.
The invitation process came with a dash of partisanship.
Earlier in the day, staff in Poilievre’s office were left scratching their heads when they said it had not received an invite from Trudeau’s office to attend, and asserted that any suggestion he had refused the invitation was false.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed it had sent Poilievre notice of the dinner — but the invitation went to a personal email account that notifies senders it is not monitored.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2023.
Alberta’s environmental leaders recognized
The Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF) announced the shortlist for the 32nd Annual Emerald Awards this week. Since 1992, the Emerald Awards have showcased over 350 recipients and 850 finalists who are raising the bar in addressing environmental and climate change issues. These environmental awards celebrate excellence across all sectors, making them unique not only in Alberta but also in Canada.
This year’s shortlist was chosen by a third-party panel of volunteer judges, each bringing expertise from numerous sectors across Alberta. Judges selected the shortlist, consisting of 39 organizations, projects, and individuals from across the province, from 51 nominations. During their deliberations, the judges also determined who from the shortlist will take home an Emerald Award in each of the 15 award categories.
“Those represented in this year’s shortlist demonstrate the incredible dedication that Albertans have toward protecting our environment and taking action against climate change” says The AEF’s Executive Director, Marisa Orfei, “The diversity in the shortlist is also astounding, there’s small grassroots organizations, large corporations, and everything in between. We’re also incredibly proud to have 17 communities across Alberta represented in this year’s shortlist, including Drayton Valley, Grande Cache, Canmore, and many more.”
Here are the organizations, projects, and individuals recognized in The 32nd Annual Emerald Award shortlist:
Air Category – Recognizing projects and initiatives that improve air quality.
- Blindman Brewing First-in-Canada CO2 Capture and Utilization (Lacombe, AB)
Business Category – Showcasing an organization engaged in commercial, industrial or professional activities that have demonstrated a meaningful commitment to an environmentally sustainable future.
- Reimagine Architects – 26 Years Building Sustainable Futures (Edmonton, AB)
- Eco-Flex Recycled Rubber Solutions (Legal, AB)
- Envirotech Geothermal – Alberta’s smartest way to Net Zero! (Sherwood Park, AB)
Community Group or Nonprofit Category – Recognizing associations dedicated to furthering a particular social cause or advocating for a shared point of view that has demonstrated a significant commitment to the environment through their actions.
- Alberta Bike Swap – supporting the circular economy before it was cool (Calgary, AB)
- Project Forest: Rewilding Canada, One Forest at a time (Edmonton, AB)
- Alberta businesses are building a better Business-as-usual with Green Economy Canada (Edmonton, AB & Calgary, AB)
Education Category – Acknowledging those that have raised the bar by showing leadership and creativity in educating students of all ages about environmental matters.
- Eagle Point-Blue Rapids Parks Council Environmental & Outdoor Education Program (Drayton Valley, AB)
- Future Energy Systems: Exploring Our Energy Future With The Community, Our Students, And More (Edmonton, AB)
- Evergreen Theatre: A 32-Year Legacy of Inspiring Environmental Awareness & Action Through the Arts (Calgary, AB)
Energy Category – Recognizing projects and initiatives that positively support the evolution of our province’s energy systems.
- Calgary’s Residential Solar Calculator (Calgary, AB)
- Bow Valley Green Energy Cooperative, empowering community to transform Alberta’s energy (Canmore, AB)
- Metis Nation of Alberta Climate Change Action Plan (Edmonton, AB)
Government Category – Recognizing all levels of government whose ongoing commitment sets the example of environmental leadership and advocates sustainability as a major consideration in governance.
- Environmental Achievements of the City of St. Albert (St. Albert, AB)
- Violet Grove’s Constructed Floating Wetlands System with Aeration (Drayton Valley, AB)
- Nose Creek Watershed Partnership – Celebrating 25-Years of Watershed Planning, Policy and Action (Mossleigh, AB)
Infrastructure Category – Recognizing environmental advancements in the ways we design, build, and travel.
- Solar Aquatic Systems Wastewater Treatment (Drayton Valley, AB)
- SSRIA: Transforming the AEC Industry Towards a Net Zero Built Environment (Edmonton, AB)
- Ecoplast Solutions: Building Houses from Recycled Plastic Bottles (Lloydminster, AB)
Land Category – Recognizing projects and initiatives that demonstrate excellence in sustainable land use.
- The City of Calgary’s Willow Plantation for Marginal Land Improvement and Carbon Capture (Calgary, AB)
- Ledcor Highway Maintenance Yard Upgrades (Edmonton, AB)
Lifetime Achievement Award – Celebrating environmental leaders who, throughout their lifetime, have made contributions of outstanding environmental significance.
- Dirk and Nanja of The Barrelman Inc.: 25 years of protecting land and water through local action that inspires (Calgary, AB)
Public Engagement & Outreach Category – Recognizing programs and initiatives that educate and empower the broader public by teaching the necessary skills to make informed environmental decisions and take responsible action.
- GreenLearning’s Eco 360 program: Transitioning to a circular economy for plastic waste! (Drayton Valley, AB)
- My Green Closet: Sustainable Lifestyle and Slow Fashion Platform (Edmonton, AB)
- Calgary Climate Symposium: How The City of Calgary Engages and Educates Albertans on Climate Change (Calgary, AB)
Shared Footprints Award – Recognizing those who have exemplified land and water stewardship, built shared knowledge, improved air quality, reduced land disturbances, and encouraged ecotourism.
- Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition: Working Together to Protect the North Saskatchewan River Valley (Edmonton, AB)
- Highfield Regenerative Farm (Calgary, AB) Waste Management Category – Recognizing projects and initiatives that innovate the repurposing, reduction, and disposal of waste in an environmentally-conscious way. Earth Warrior (Edmonton, AB)
- Revolutionizing Recycling with [Re] Waste: Transforming Waste Management for a Sustainable Future (Edmonton, AB)
- Microgreens Club – A Zero Waste Initiative (Calgary, AB)
Water Category – Recognizing projects and initiatives that demonstrate excellence through the monitoring, management and/or stewardship of water and watersheds.
- Forest industry collaboration cultivates sustainability around vital wetland ecosystems (Edmonton, AB)
- LakeKeepers: Community-Based Monitoring of Alberta’s Lakes (Edmonton, AB)
- Safe water and water sustainability in Alberta (Calgary, AB)
Wildlife & Biodiversity Category – Recognizing projects and initiatives that protect and conserve natural habitats and wild species.
- Aseniwuche Winewak Nation’s Caribou Patrol Program: 11 years of saving Alberta’s caribou (Grande Cache, AB)
- Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society – Sikome Beaver Coexistence Project. (Calgary, AB)
- The Edmonton Urban Coyote Project: Collaborative Research and Education for Coexistence with Wildlife (Edmonton, AB)
Youth Category – Recognizing people, 25 years of age and under, who have made meaningful contributions and have taken positive action to improve the environmental health of their community.
- Monica Figueroa: Edmonton youth climate activist (Edmonton, AB)
- Strathmore High School Community Greenhouse (Strathmore, AB)
- Energy & Environmental Sustainability Projects in Action at New Myrnam School (Myrnam, AB)
The recipients in each category will be named at the 32nd Annual Emerald Awards ceremony on June 7, 2023, at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta. Emerald Award Recipients receive:
- A $2,000 grant to support their work or to donate to an environmental charity of their choice
- A profile of their work through The AEF’s Sharing Stories program, which includes the Emerald Documentary Series, What On EARTH Can We Do? podcast, and Emerald Speakers Series
- A certificate and Emerald Awards recipient digital logo to commemorate their achievement
The Awards will also be live-streamed through the AEF”s YouTube Chanel to allow people from across the province to attend. Tickets for the 32nd Annual Emerald Awards ceremony can be purchased here.
The Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF) is a registered Canadian charity with the unique mission to tell Alberta’s environmental good news stories to uplift, educate, and inspire our province toward meeting environmental and climate change goals.
Research suggests that when we learn about what real environmental and climate change solutions look like and how they’re being implemented in our communities, it increases our ability and desire to take action in our own lives. By providing real-life examples of these solutions through our various storytelling programs, the AEF helps Albertans take the next step toward environmental protection and climate action. With every person that we reach through our programming, we’re helping Alberta reach its broader environmental and climate change goals.
Click to learn more about the Alberta Emerald Foundation.
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