The weather forecast had warned that there could be storms today and sure enough, when we opened our curtains in Segovia this morning, things looked rather grey and damp. We got slightly wet on our walk from the hotel to the bus station, where we were due to catch a 10.15 bus to the town of Ávila. Ávila is only about 40 miles southwest of Segovia but the two towns aren't connected by rail, so when we were doing our research it seemed that to get to one from the other by train it was necessary to go via Madrid. There are only a handful of buses between the two towns, so we'd booked tickets in advance on the only bus which was leaving Segovia for Ávila this morning.
We arrived at the bus station ready to fight our way onto the bus, but it actually turned out to not be a very popular route and the bus was almost empty I guess that's why they don't run very frequently! It's not a very long journey, and within an hour we were stepping off the bus in Ávila. I'd hoped that when we got to Ávila it would be fairly obvious in which direction the historic town centre was, but there turned out not be many signs so we walked in the wrong direction initially and had to resort to Google Maps to get back on track. We knew we were finally in the right place when we got our first glimpse of the town walls.
Ávila is a world heritage site, because it has a complete set of medieval town walls, built between the 11th and 14th centuries.
It's also home to a lot of beautiful churches, including the basilica of San Vicente.
The walls looked incredible and reminded me a little bit of Carcassonne.
I knew it was possible to walk around about half of the walls, but initially we struggled to find the way in. Eventually we located the tourist information office, where we picked up a map. There were also some impressive models there, both of the walls...
...and the cathedral.
We realised that the walls are illuminated at night as well, which must be spectacular to see. Maybe on a future holiday we'll have to come and stay overnight in Ávila!
With the help of the map, we walked alongside the walls for a while and managed to find the ticket office. It only cost €5 each to get in.
The entrance to the walls was close to the cathedral and once we'd climbed up into the open we had some amazing views of it
The cathedral was built partly as a fortress and its apse forms one of the turrets in the walls.
Our route led away from the cathedral and we could soon see down towards the basilica.
Once you were up on the walls the path was pretty flat, but every so often there were little staircases you could climb up for better views. They were usually worth the effort!
We could see for a long way out over the countryside...
...and towards a rather strangely shaped church in the distance.
There were other people on the walls, but it was nowhere near as busy as walking around the walls of Dubrovnik! I guess it helps that Ávila is a long way from the sea
We were able to walk for about an hour before the accessible part of the walls came to an end.
In the distance we could see the walls continuing around the far side of the town.
If you were able to walk the entire way round I think it would be several miles!
I'd expected Ávila to be quite small, but the town within the walls is actually pretty large.
Eventually we'd got as far as we could go and it was time to climb down.
We walked along some pretty streets in the old town...
...before coming to a square where there were several restaurants.
We chose one which had a menu of the day for €14. This include a starter, main course and pudding, as well as bread and a glass of wine. I had pasta bolognese as my starter, while Tim chose a caesar salad.
For the main course, Tim had croquetas caseras, which seemed to consist of melted cheese with potato, while I had fingers de pollo, which were like chicken goujons.
Pudding was chocolate mousse. The consistency was a bit like Angel Delight which has been made with too much milk to set, but it actually tasted really nice
It was a lovely meal and seemed like really good value for the amount of food we had! Once we'd finished eating, it was time to head in the direction of the train station to begin our journey back to Madrid.
When we were booking our train back from Ávila to Madrid, we'd had a choice of two different trains. One would have got us to the airport too early - over three hours before our flight was due to depart - and the other would have got us there with just under two hours. I deliberated over the options for a while, but in the end we decided to play it safe and book the earlier train, which left Ávila at 15.47. The trains between Ávila and Madrid aren't quite as fast as the high speed trains between Madrid and Segovia, and so it was a fairly leisurely train journey. We arrived into Madrid's Príncipe Pío station around 17.30.
The plan was that from here we would catch the suburban C1 train directly to Terminal 4 of the airport. This was the same train which we had caught to Madrid Chamartín on Saturday, but a slightly longer journey, because the Príncipe Pío station which the Ávila trains arrive into is situated further south in Madrid. Príncipe Pío turned out to be a rather confusing station and we walked around for a while before finding the correct platform for the suburban trains. Things were confused further by the fact that both C1 and C10 trains seemed to depart from this platform, with only C1 trains going as far as the airport, but eventually a C1 train was advertised as being the next train on the departures board. The only problem was that its destination wasn't shown as being the airport, but a station called Delicias, which was only a couple of stops along the route. We figured that maybe this was a C1 train that was terminating early for some reason, but decided to get on it anyway and change at Delicias if need be.
We sat on the train and within a few minutes we had arrived at Delicias. The train did indeed terminate there and we had to get off. We progressed from being slightly confused to extremely confused when we walked along the platform and found that the entire station seemed to be out of service, with no trains running towards the airport at all. Eventually, with the help of Tim speaking to a staff member in Spanish, we managed to establish that there were repair works on the line and therefore the C1 wasn't running between this station and Chamartín. In order to get to the airport, we therefore needed to catch a bus from Delicias to Madrid's Atocha railway station, another suburban train from Atocha to Chamartín, and then rejoin the C1 from Chamartín to the airport. Wow
At this point I was extremely glad that we'd decided to hedge our bets and catch the earlier train back from Ávila. It was pouring with rain in Madrid by this point, but luckily the bus stop we needed wasn't too far away from the station and we managed to get on the correct bus almost straight away. The tickets we'd bought for the C1 journey worked on the bus, which was good, but once we got to Atocha and tried to get through the gates to catch the train to Chamartín, we found that they were no longer functioning. Tim spoke to yet another staff member in Spanish, who explained that they had expired. He wasn't able to do anything about it and said that we'd need to go to an official desk. We found the desk but there was an extremely long line of people, so in the interests of actually getting to the airport we decided it would be better just to buy another ticket! €6 and two more trains later, we eventually made it to Terminal 4... only to find that once we'd checked in and gone through security, we had to catch yet another train from Terminal 4 to Terminal 4S where our (delayed!!) flight was departing from.
All in the all it hasn't been the easiest journey home, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that we've had a really nice relaxing weekend in Spain and visited some beautiful places