Saturday, June 04, 2005

Last month in Segovia

This page from my May blog got lost in cyberspace... Here it is again.

Up at 4.00am, some last minute packing, check the internet then out the door. Arrrggh! Its grey and raining. Catch the 5.53 from Clapham Junction to Gatwick airport. Check in at EasyJet. It really is easy. You just pay your 23 pounds, check in, get on the plane, take off and land in Madrid two hours later!

Diantha, the librarian from the American School at Madrid, is there to meet me with a big sign:LAWRENCE. Her husband Linn is there, too. They take me to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Plaza Espana. Yay! Its posh and has lots of stars. I like hotels.

My first event, at the American School, isnt until Wednesday, so I have two free days in Madrid. Today Diantha and Linn have drawn the short straw and get to show me around. Tomorrow a parent will play tour guide.

The weather is blue and mild and warm. High gauzy clouds, tender green leaves on the trees, sparkling modern skyscrapers. Linn has a brainwave. They will take me out of modern Madrid to Segovia, a beautiful ancient town with a Roman aqueduct and a fairytale castle. Its only 90 minutes on the freeway.

Or at least it is if everyone else doesnt have the same idea. This is a public holiday, May 2, so lots of other Madrillenos are on their way somewhere nicer, too.

But we get there at last and it really is stupendous. All the stone is a pale golden colour and the aqueduct is marvellous. Diantha and Linn want to take me to one of Spains most famous restaurants. Its called Candido after its late great founder. Its like a Hollywood nightclub. Crowds of hopefuls hanging around the door waiting to get in. We make a reservation for lunch. For 4.00pm. I have not eaten all day but feel strangely calm. Its 3.00 now so we wander the narrow streets of this beautiful town on this beautiful spring day and sit in a sunny square to have a drink. I have a non-alcoholic bitter. I love its bright red colour and herby taste.

Finally we return to Candidos at 3.55. There are about 50 other hopefuls waiting for their names to be called, too. As the maitre d calls out names there are groans from the disappointed and good-natured ribbing from those who arent too hungry. Finally, at 4.30, our name is called. We go in but its only the first hurdle. We go up narrow stairs and wait outside and arched doorway. This restaurant is on four floors and must serve hundreds a day. Their specialty? Milk-fed suckling pig and little baby lamb: roasted. I go for baby lamb cuz they dont serve it with its little head still on.

Finally we get shown to a table at 5.00 but hey! Thats the time Im used to eating at anyway. I have mushrooms as a starter and the baby lamb. (Eat your heart out, Ricardo!) Its totally unlike British lamb. A crisp, salty, golden-brown crust outside and tender white meat underneath. Almost enough to make me renounce being a vegetarian. For dessert, coffee ice cream and an espresso.

After lunch we drive to a medieval church of the Knights of St John from which we get a stunning vantage point of the fairytale castle, the Alcazar. Apparently Disney based his castle in Disneyland on this and lots of scenes from Camelot were filmed here.

The posh hotel offered me internet access for 11 euros but next door is a grubby internet cafe which only costs 2 euros for an hour. Guess where I'm sitting now?

Oh, and they do have starbucks in Madrid! :-)

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