Madrid, Avila, Segovia: May 2007

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The window above was one of a number of rich stained glass windows in an old church in Avila. Below is another window about 25 paces from the other in the same church. There was a gift shop attached where you could also look at the finger bone of the sainted nun of the church and a few other relics. As you left these churches quite often there would be an old woman in black with pictures of her family and her hand out. For some reason these struck me as much more distasteful than your usual beggars.

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That morning we decided to venture outside of Madrid and joined a day tour going to Avila and Segovia. Neither of us being particularly enamoured of tours, we still thought it was an easy way to manage our time that day. (For those considering this, and if we were doing it again, I would suggest planning it yourself; it will be quite a bit cheaper, the transportation is quite easy to arrange and the food has got to be better).

While waiting for the bus to arrive we watched a line of men passing bags of concrete from the main street down a sidestreet to a building being renovated. We saw this sort of third world work quite often in Madrid. My theory is that since the buildings are so close together and the streets so narrow, the only way to move materials is the old way. (A couple of days before we had watched six levels of men passing down planks one to the next as they dismantled some scaffolding.)

What struck us again in Avila was the size of churches in comparison to the populations. They were made so that the whole town or city could be inside at the same time. They also tended to double as part of the the defensive structure, forming part of the walls around the town.

From Avila we headed to Segovia and the aqueducts.

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When you see these, its no wonder that the word classical can be substituted for beautiful.

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This sphinx was in a square. Why do ruined faces and statues missing limbs seem so poignant? For some reason we translate this as common antiquity rather than dwelling on vandalism or erosion. The damage appears to be part of the intrinsic character or the piece rather than something that happened to it.

When we first approached it a young woman was getting her mother to take her picture near it. We had already seen her getting her mother and many others to document her time here. And you had the distinct impression that her purpose was to capture as many versions of her face as possible rather than what her face had been near. It was actually kind of funny; she seemed like a sprite of a sort, a self obsessed spirit.

The last thing we saw in Segovia was this Robin Hood type castle. Inside were all the accoutrements of the knighthood. A prince had ruled on this hilltop and one could easily imagine how this grand structure would have impressed anyone coming around the bend.

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The food you ask? Well the bunch of us were herded into what I thought might be the described feast of rural Spanish cooking. The wine was not very good which must have taken a little work in this country of incredible reds but it was passable, and the bread was warm and rich. The food would have found a good home in a trough. Fatty pig parts in some sort of gravy sauce. And the requisite local band playing for the passed hat. The only fun part was us trying to talk to our companions from Mexico (Chihuahua) (he had a wonderful bandido moustache) in our butchered versions of the two languages.

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