Patterns of Segovia
When night falls and the day-trippers return to Madrid, Segovia takes on a quiet magic befitting its dramatic location. My mother and I are here for several nights, and from our room on the top floor of a small hotel, we can see the sky turning darker shades of violet. A triangular window has playfully been cut into the wall, following the slope of the ceiling and framing the floodlit tower of the proud alcázar. The fortress, said to have inspired Walt Disney’s Snow White Castle, commands the surrounding countryside like the prow of a ship, rising above a sheer drop on three sides and narrowing to a sharp point.
Beneath the weathered stones of the Roman Aqueduct an orchestra performs the recognisable strains of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. In the plaza we join a captive audience, transfixed by the rousing notes of the tenor and then, the wailing soprano.
One of Segovia’s specialties – the perfect fuel for those harsh Castilian winters – is cochinillo, or roasted suckling pig. The delicacy is wheeled into the dining room whole, then carved up with much aplomb using the edge of a sturdy porcelain plate. We observe the chef’s speed and skill, a substantial gold medallion hung triumphantly around his neck. The cochinillo is so tender and inviting that even my mother, who is an avowed pescatarian, cannot resist snapping off a sheet of crispy skin.
Segovia is earthy, rich and textured, like the patterns on the ancient houses that line her twisting streets. On our explorations through the old town, we savour the swirling designs surrounding a Gothic window frame, the pyramidal shapes of the Casa de los Picos, and the reliefs that effortlessly catch the colours of the sinking sun. The next time we come to Spain, my mother declares, Segovia will be a mandatory stop.