My Erasmus Experience – Post #7 – Segovia

The Erasmus scheme appears to have gathered considerable attention in various educational communities around the world, and it’s something that is especially obvious in Spain. Recently I have applied for a handful of cheap/free trips to various places that were being advertised on Facebook through student travel pages. A group called Smart Insiders advertised a free trip to a small town called Segovia, and after many frantic attempts to get a place I finally succeeded, and went with a group of friends.

Segovia is a small historic town about 2 hours outside of Madrid by coach. High up in the mountains the drive there offered countless breathtaking views and photo opportunities, not to mention it was freezing that day and the mountain tops had a healthy blanket of snow covering them. Famous for its yellow-orange coloured buildings, Segovia boasted a castle, a cathedral, an aqueduct, narrow winding streets and of course, tourists. With dogs. When we arrived it was freezing cold, as I mentioned, and we began following a guide around the town. I’m sure the information she was telling us was probably quite interesting, but we’d soon got bored with standing around on the edge of a group of around 30 straining our ears to hear her, and so left the group to explore by ourselves.

There was plenty to see in Segovia, the aqueduct was impressive to say the least, and the cathedral was awash with golden statues and structures, exquisite stained glass and ancient wooden pews. Being a modern student however, it soon got boring and we left to find a coffee shop for something to eat. There were plenty of shops and restaurants, but with it being a sunday most of them were closed. There was even a Burger King and McDonalds, cleverly disguised with subtle stone signs and hidden away behind the facade of a row of old buildings. They clearly make a huge effort to keep the historic look to the town, which is probably the main thing drawing people there. With no attractions as such, it wouldn’t exactly be a great trip for the whole family, but it was free so we couldn’t really complain.

After having a tiny cup of coffee and something that was labelled as a ‘Queso Snack’, (Basically just a baguette with melted cheese on top), we left for the coach. The organisers of the trip seemed desperate to make friends with everyone, with one man standing up the entire coach trip just to walk around and chat. We got the usual questions about being from the UK, and were even asked if we were going for tea and scones at one point, and a friend of mine was given the title of Milton Keynes for the majority of the trip, which was funny. We left Segovia around 4pm to travel to a famous castle nearby, which is the apparent resting place of a famous king, but I was too tired to really pay attention, and by the time we’d gotten there no-one wanted to cough up the €4 to enter, so the trip was ended early.

Overall I enjoyed my time as I managed to get some good photographs, and I’m glad there are groups organising such free trips, especially as we have to watch how much we spend out here. I’ll definitely attend some more, and attempt to go further afield in the future. If you’re thinking of going on an Erasmus trip soon, I’d definitely recommend travelling as much as you can. While I haven’t done much myself, my friends have and they say it’s probably one of the best things you can do. Travel in Europe, save for maybe France and Germany, is relatively cheap if you don’t mind taking budget flights and trains. Inter-railing is definitely on the cards for the future, but Segovia is a one-off.

The title of the featured image this week is ‘The Mountain’.

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My Erasmus Experience – Post #03 – Exploring The City

After checking into the hostel and unpacking, we left almost immediately to begin exploring and to get something to eat. The centre of Madrid is incredible. The architecture is stunning and even in the pouring rain it looks beautiful. It was still 35 degrees however, and we were still looking for somewhere to eat. We found a traditional tapas bar near Plaza Mayor, and ate there, sitting outside in the street observing the hustle and bustle of one of the most ‘touristy’ areas of the city. The chairs were comfy and the parasol above us was fitting with a mist-spraying system that periodically sprayed ice-cold mist onto the diners below. It felt amazing for the first few minutes, but after a while I was sick of having to de-mist my phone screen, and eating slightly damp bread was a little distracting. We ate our tapas (mostly potatoes and cheese for me, being a vegetarian) and left, continuing to explore the city by night.

Over the next few weeks we explored more and more, stumbling across famous buildings, squares and galleries. Ask us what these places are called and we couldn’t tell you, it would be “the park with the boats” or “the gallery near where I bought that Maxibon”. We visited a few art galleries, and I realised that I haven’t indulged in publicly available artwork for a long time. Being a photographer and interested in becoming an independent artist, this was bad news. Since then I’ve tried to visit as many interesting galleries as possible, including a Richard Hamilton exhibition and the famous ‘Guernica’ by Picasso.

One of my favourite parks in Madrid is Parque del Retiro, which is probably the most famous. It’s truly enormous, with pathways littered with street performers and entertainers, ice-cream vendors and shaded benches. There’s definitely something for everyone there, with a boating lake in the centre surrounded by impressive monuments to past kings and poets, quiet shaded spots hidden away and trees full of bright green parrots and red squirrels. We’ve visited there on various occasions, and it seems to be the perfect place to end a long day of shopping, eating, exploring or working. I visited that park for the first time in our first week, ‘the hostel week’ as it’s now so affectionately known. After a slow walk around the perimeter of the boating lake, we sat in the ferocious afternoon sun on the steps of the largest monument, looking out over the sparkling water and watching the people attempting to row the cumbersome boats from one side to the other. The sun began to set, and the scene was beautiful.

This weeks photo is titled ‘The Boating Lake’, and was taken from the steps of that monument in that perfect golden sunlight.