We barely make the train with enough time to find our seat. It's a nice European train, the kind where you can nap without fear of being robbed. I can feel the velocity as the wheels push and we begin our trip. We are leaving Madrid, Spain and taking the AVE, a high-speed powered train, to Segovia.
I've never heard of Segovia, only bits and pieces from the fragments of my partner's memories. I can see glimpses of the cobbled roads from the misty way he talks about his father, Mike. I half expect to see a young Mike waiting at the train with a small Spanish-speaking Jaime tugging at his arm. The memories are present with us as I take my glove off one finger at a time and blow hot breathe onto the train window carefully outlining a smiley face with my defrosting finger.
I'm told the town is small enough to see in a day and that we can eat like kings and walk the halls of a castle. So, that's what I'm waiting for as the train makes its first stop. Men and women in suits collect their laptops and get off the train, no doubt starting their day at work.
A current of cold air makes its way through the doors, it's just enough to reach me before they close. "Geez, it's freezing." I cover up some more. Jaime puts his arm around me but I can tell he's with Mike.
Madrid is well suited to take short trips like this one. Even a 12 minute train ride will reveal a different place with its own dialect and attitude. Spain is a country full of sibling-like regions, they all hate each other but secretly love each other; they think they're all different but they were born of the same parents; they fight for their independence constantly and they always think they're right.
The train comes to its last stop, Segovia. An attendant who sounds hurried makes the announcement and Jaime grabs my hand excitedly. "You're going to love it," he says. He was right.
What you need to know
Segovia is a historic town located northwest of Madrid. Its most striking feature is the aqueduct, prominent columns built by the Romans that envelop the city. As you cross this initial threshold, the rest of the town begins to reveal itself exactly as you'd expect; tourists taking photos, locals strolling like they don't have somewhere to be, the heavy scents of freshly-made food whirling in the air. It looks like the first scene of Beauty and the Beast.
Your main attraction: The Alcázar of Segovia, or the Segovia Castle
Walt Disney used this remarkable fortress as inspiration for the now world famous Cinderella’s castle in Disney World. This should be the first thing you see. It’s located at the the end of the city. We enjoyed making our way back from the endpoint deciding what was worth seeing along the way, a self indulgent task that makes us feel important like ours is the authority on what matters. This is how everyone should feel when they travel.
We tour the castle grounds and it’s remarkably in tact. If you’ve ever been to Disney, it’s easy to imagine a young Walt drawing his inspiration. The courtyard facing the proud structure is eerily reminiscent of the gardens seen throughout Disney World today. The signature blue peeks on the castle make me nostalgic for my own childhood. I am now with my dad, holding tightly on to his broad shoulders as he walks quickly and with purpose through the Magic Kingdom. There's a castle to be seen.
Segovia's Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is your halfway point from the columns at the entry of the city to the castle at its apex. The large courtyard is Segovia's scaled-down version of Madrid’s famous Plaza Mayor. There are flocks of pigeons flying, children running to catch them, lively cafes and an impressive Spanish cathedral overlooking the open space with its demure presence.
Your tapas & wine fix: El Restaurante José María
We see people standing outside a hole-in-the-wall bar drinking wine and laughing loudly. This is the way to choose where to go, always follow the good time. It's a line of reasoning that has never failed me throughout my travels in Europe. An equally notable rule of thumb– courtesy of my sweetheart– never leave a good time.
Your splurge meal: Mesón Cándido
A generation before Mike brought Jaime to this small town, his parents came to dine here. Alan and Limbo are two people you want to talk to. They can tell you facts you'd never known, recite entire passages of classic literature and their home is filled with the artifacts of two people who've gotten everything they wanted out of life. They came to this small town with friends, hidden a bottle of brandy in the restaurant and actually found it again years later, a testament to their resolve. It was this curious incident that took place 30 years before I was born-- in an unrelated family-- and yet that single act of defiance altered my path. I am standing here today because Alan and Limbo met the chef, hid a stash of booz and lived to tell the tale.
The structure itself is an intricate labyrinth of rooms filled with items from around the world. In our room, there are photos from guests throughout the years and their home country's currency and napkins stashed inside the frame with scribbles of praise for the chef. None of that admiration is misplaced. This is one the best meals I have ever had in Spain.
If nothing more than feeling like a small child roaming hallways and opening doors you shouldn't be opening at Mesón Cándido, I do hope you make your way to Segovia.