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Segovia, Spain June 2023

Empty roads and no potholes!

by Mary Stephenson


That's right, we're not anywhere in the UK but the June 2023 RREC 20hp Register rally to Segovia in Spain.  Spirits were high and hearts aglow when we met at Portsmouth docks prior to the two-night mini cruise to Santander.  Our first night in Spain was spent up in the mountains at the Parador de Cevera de Pisuerga where we enjoyed rooms with balconies overlooking a lake with the mountains behind.

It was then 164 mile on to Segovia.  At Segovia we realised we had reached our hotel by the old Royces queuing at the barrier into the car park.  Getting into the Hotel Aurea Convento Capuchinos was like following a pirate's treasure map with the car park barrier being our first challenge.  We pressed various knobs and banged the top while the machine barked instructions to us in Spanish. Eventually the barrier opened.

Formerly an old convent, in 2014 the hotel was skilfully transformed from a stark stone home for nuns ('Capuchinos were neither coffees nor monkeys, but an austere Franciscan order) into a very comfortable, airy building where the cloisters have been transformed into the main dining room roofed with glass.

The following day a 72 mile trip around the Sierra de Guadarrama, a range of mountains forming a backdrop to Segovia, was on offer.  These are home to the Iberian wolf, golden eagle and black vulture but the most noticeable animal seen sauntering across the road were bulls, the iconic Spanish variety which are bred in the Guardarrama for bullfighting.

The cathedral on the main square, built in the 16th century, is a vast and impressive building in the Gothic style.  Another notable feature in Segovia is the Alcazar, a medieval  castle which stands at one end of the town dominating the surrounding plains.  Home to the Castilian monarchs, it was built on the remains of a Roman fortress, the foundations of which can be seen in the cellars.  Nowadays it houses an impressive collection of weapons from the Royal College of Artillery.  Its rooms were lavishly decorated to impress guests of the royalty that lived there over the centuries.  Anyone with a head for heights and strong legs can climb the 156 spiral steps of the tower to enjoy the panoramic view of Segovia from the top.

The most outstanding structure in Segovia is the Roman aqueduct, built nearly 2,000 years ago.  We marvelled at the way the arches were built to carry the weight of the huge boulders above.  We also wondered about the slaves who built it - what kind of life did they have and how many were killed in its construction?

Not far from Segovia is La Granja de San Ildefonso, a castle built in the early 18th century and modelled on the palace and gardens of Versailles.  We visited the palace's glass factory, built about the same time and still producing beautiful glassware.  Not far from San Ildefonso is the Royal Palace of Riofrio, built for Queen Elisabeth Farnse after she was widowed in 1746, by her step-son Ferdinand VI in order to keep her away from court.

On the Sunday we visited the Castle of Turégano and the picturesque village of Pedraza where a popular restaurant managed to accommodate us for their signature lunch of roasted lamb.

We joined Spanish members of the RREC the following day and drove in a long, dignified convoy to the Real Club de Golf La Herreria, for another delicious lunch.

One day we went to Finca Lindaraja, an equestrian centre with a collection of military vehicles.  In what appeared to be a bullring we watched a skilful performance given by students on their horses.  This was followed by rides on the military vehicles which bounced us across the estate.  Lunch afterwards was held in a transformed garage.

Having eaten well at lunchtime, we were booked in for a special meal at the San Jose Restaurant in Segovia that evening.  The main course was a local speciality - cochinillo - roasted suckling pig.  It was very tasty.

Two days later we were again royally entertained to lunch in a garage, at the vintage car collection belonging to Juan Tapia. Our own cars made a splendid display alongside some of Juan's old vehicles in the forecourt and several more beauties overlooked our tables at lunch.

Our final night was spent back at the Parador de Cevera de Pisuerga where we had a private party to celebrate a 70th and 80th birthday of two of the group.  Balloons, bubbly and banter helped us enjoy our final evening together.

Our excellent 2023 20hp rally to Spain was memorable indeed but also for a very sad reason.  Our dear friend Bill Rich who joined us with his wife Dilys in their1927 RR 20hp doctor's saloon, was taken ill at Segovia and died in the hospital at Valladolid.  Bill had been on many rallies and was loved by all for his inimitable humour, his ready smile and his enthusiasm for life.  He will be deeply missed.

A total of 23 cars participated – 22 pre-war and 13 20hps: