Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MADRID: A Visit to Segovia for Suckling Pig

We couldn't turn down the chance to visit the nearby town of Segovia, famous for the Roman built Aqueduct, a UNESCO recognized World Heritage site. The stunning architecture welcomes you to the town, a short 30min high speed train ride from Madrid. It's breathtaking! Some of the other sites include the Alcazar of Segovia, a residence of the monarch in the Middle Ages. When the Royal Court moved to Madrid, the castle became a prison for over two centuries. The Alcazar was destroyed by fire in 1862 and was later rebuilt to be used by the Artillery. As it was rebuilt, some of the rooms are fairly modern, including thrones that were surprisingly made in the 20th century...yes, you read that right. The rooms around the castle are named after small details in the room, such as pine-cone like decor from the ceiling of one room and cord-like decor surrounding doors in another. The room of the monarchs was most memorable to me, with facades of monarchs surrounding the space. It was a little Disney to me but still impressive. Housed at the Alcazar is also the Museum of the Royal Artillery School, including interesting technology and devices used throughout the years. We also made the 152 stair climb up the great tower which offers a spectacular view around the city and of the Cathedral of Segovia, especially beautiful surrounded by fall colours. We were surprised by the vastness of the Cathedral and intricate details. Its gothic style reminded us of the Notre Dame, although much less busy and "polished" but still quite impressive. Some highlights include the huge organ, intricate details throughout, detailed glass windows and vast corridors.

The sites in Segovia were beautiful and we had the luxury of wandering the city leisurely since it was low season; but truth be told, we were sold on Segovia because it is also known for its suckling pig (cochinillo)! Our first stop in the city was for a reservation at Jose Maria. The restaurant is known for its traditional fare and it was by far the busiest place we visited in Segovia - the place was packed! Jose Maria is also known for its service and constant concern for quality of his ingredients, most famous of course is the suckling pig that they raise and make special care for to ensure fine and tender meat.
This is not an experience for the squeamish, we were constantly surrounded by servers bringing out whole roasted piglets to serve...impressively carved with a dish (that's Jose doing it)! The tenderness of the meat and crispy skin were both AMAZING, I can still taste the juices from the meat. I couldn't imagine why someone would order anything else, although a dish of fish nearby looked incredibly good as well! We each decided to have suckling pig along with a side of asparagus (have I mentioned how hard it is to have vegetables in Spain?)...which also came with some delicious fried zucchini. There was no way I could finish my portion, it was HUGE. That entire slab of meat you see IS meat with just some rib-bones underneath. I think I got through half before I gave up. I ate as much as I possibly could, it was too tasty to turn away! This was no cheap meal but a MUST DO and totally worth the trip from Madrid. This may have been our most indulgent and memorable meal this trip!

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