A very late rise meant getting on the bus to Segovia very quickly. The ride was long and spent redoing the entire previous blog post due to issues with internet connectivity, but transitioning into a snowy region with sideways rain immediately raised rather neutral spirits. But what really jump-started the day was...
The Segovia aqueduct!! This structure is over 2000 years old and carries water from the mountains to the city. Legends about girls selling their soul to the devil and being saved by God at the last moment were exciting, and entering the inner city brought a plethora of thrilling sights to see.
The tour brought us through the city to see prisons for the poor, a gazebo at the main town square, and even a small park or two. The major sight to see was the Alcázar de Segovia, a fortress and palace.
The 75-foot moat was scary to look down upon, but maybe it was scarier for an invader. The entrance was just the beginning; the inner chambers of the fortress included armored statues, paintings, and incredible ceilings of golden tiles.
What was very exciting to see was the throne room, as well as a room used for dancing and meetings. This room actually had a secret exit in case of danger. We passed through the chapel toward the end of our tour, being relayed a story about one of the paintings on the wall. A fire had damaged the castle, which at the time of the incident was a school. Part of the entrance to the room had looked charred, as well. What was significant about this painting was that it had been deemed the most valuable item in the school and was saved. The painting was then restored when the building was repurposed as the King's Castle.
The choir ate lunch, and then I quickly visited the park El Paseo del Sálon de Isabelle II. This park is thin but long and is in a relatively central location, hence the name of "Hall" (Sálon). After a short time here, the choir boarded the bus to drive to Ávila. A quick detour allowed us to explore the area below the Alcázar. Our time spent in Ávila was not too long, but we got to explore within the city walls. A small portion of the city was safeguarded by an extensive granite wall that protected the wealthy and select groups of people.
The choir got to see the birthplace of Tomás Luis de Victoria, as well as briefly explore the interior of the Convento de Santa Teresa de Jesús. After being given some brief historical information, we went into another building at the Plaza de la Santa and saw the right ring finger of Saint Teresa encased in glass. No photos allowed of the finger, however, or some other artifacts such as two bones and the sole of a sandal.
Our final stop was to snap a photo of the castle walls from afar, as shown above, and then a long ride back to Madrid followed. With some friends we wandered off of the hotel's premises to have dinner. Grilled chicken with fried egg: not an experimental choice for me, just a really delicious one. Now it's time for bed, and tomorrow (Tuesday) we depart Madrid!
The cliché title for this post would be "Holy Toledo!" but I decided to resist. The bus rolled on into Toledo after a quick breakfast. I napped a bit on the bus until just after our tour of Toledo began upon the bus. We stopped at the Mirador Del Valle and looked northward toward the stunning city.
The tour continued over the Puente de San Martin (St. Martin's Bridge) and up through the streets. We passed the Toledo Time Capsule and then climbed the streets to La Iglesia de Santo Tomé (Church of St. Thomas). Inside the lower level of the church, during a mass which occurred above us, we got to see the famous oil on canvas work "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" in the chapel. This work larger than life; every larger-than-life work of art seen on this tour has really been spectacular. It's astonishing to take in.
Quickly, we headed to the Convento del Espiritu Santo service at Padres Carmelitas. Those in attendance loved our musicality so much that the choir performed 3 encores selected from our typical concert program. Our day has already covered so much ground, but there's more! We've been promised a surprise at a cathedral a fair distance away, but the surprise is apparently a "gift" to the tour guide.
The choir continued to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, a crossroads of City Hall and the absolutely remarkable Saint Mary's Cathedral, whose full name is "Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo." This church had a superbly vast interior with several chambers showing religious artwork, hosting graves of archbishops, and more.
The final surprise was indeed a gift to our tour guide. Our guide had heard us sing beautifully, but only at the service i.e. not a full concert. Our surprise was the chance to sing in this cathedral; we set upon the steps and sang My Sheperd will supply my need (Virgil Thomson) and O salutaris Hostia (Ērik Ešenvalds). Our first song drew multiple tourist groups to listen and admire us. The experience is one to never forget.
After these musical events during our tour, we were brought to the city center in order to have lunch. We said farewell to our tour guide and I got a second chance to try ordering food in Spanish; I made a few mistakes but it felt nice to try. A delicious hamburger with fried egg set hunger away long enough for me to buy a memorable set of wooden figures: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. (Our second half of the concert program opens with songs about these famous characters.) En route to the bus to Madrid, we passed the ruins of the Convento de San Pablo, which was left unused in 1407.
We were quickly off to Madrid, and then to our concert at Basilica Pontificia de San Miguel. This concert was remarkable, although personally difficult due to some exhaustion. There was so much singing today, but the warm welcome of our Spanish audience made the night's finale worthwhile. Our post-concert time was spent wandering the nearby market before returning to the hotel for dinner and an incredibly restless night. Our venture to the wintry north will be worth the lack of sleep!
In love with experiencing all the world has to offer, a trip to Spain is a dream come true!