Travel Notes: Toledo

I had a lot of fun blogging last summer’s travel adventures, so I figured it would also be fun to take a look back at some past trips. I’m starting with some notes on my 2010 France and Spain trip; this post is one of several in that series.

Whenever I talk/write/think about Toledo, I have the overwhelming urge to use the expression “holy Toledo!” again and again (and again). So, there, I just got it out of my system. No “holy Toledo!” for the rest of this post, I swear.

Anyway…Toledo is an easy day trip from Madrid (seriously, I think it’s less than an hour? Super quick). It’s a pretty small city, but fun to explore. I don’t think you could spend much more than a day there, tourist-wise, but it makes for a nice excursion.

And, speaking of train travel from Madrid – before I get to the Toledo stuff, I have to mention this. When I arrived at Madrid’s train station to catch my train to Toledo, I noticed this sculpture. It is gigantic (almost to the ceiling) and SUPER creepy. Why, Madrid, why?

Once I escaped the creepy baby, rode the speedy AVE train to Toledo, and successfully navigated the city’s bus system, I found myself in the heart of town. I headed to the magnificent cathedral first.

One thing I thought was cool about the cathedral was that it’s hidden amongst the tiny streets. It’s not in any open square, which means you can’t really see the building until you’re actually right by it – so it sneaks up on you. I also loved the tiny back streets of Toledo; they were sort of mysterious and fun.

The exterior of the church was nice but, like I mentioned, because it’s crammed between a bunch of streets/other buildings, you can never really stand outside and get a view of the church as a whole. To me, that made it even more impressive to step inside and realize how grand it was. Also, the interior is seriously bling-ed out. We’re talking massive amounts of gold here. It was pretty impressive:

The other really amazing thing about the cathedral was that it had its own mini-museum. In the sacristy, there are paintings by el Greco, de Goya, Velazquez, Rubens…and more! It’s awesome that there’s such a treasure trove of art in this (relatively) small town.

Continuing the artistic theme, I headed next to a museum with even more el Grecos. The museum was either using temporary displays because of renovations or was seriously minimalist. I’m pretty sure it was the former, but the displays were pretty basic and not so fancy. Still, the artwork’s the important thing, I suppose, and I got to see a ton of el Grecos.

One thing about Toledo – and about Spain in general – was the abundance of Arabic influences everywhere. It kept reminding me of Morocco, and it was cool to see the fusion of cultures all over Spain. I found this as I was leaving the museum:

For lunch, I traveled down the tiny side streets and found a quiet restaurant with a good lunch special. This meal gave me my first taste of gazpacho which, if I’m being honest, I have to say I admire more for the vibrant color than for the flavor. I’m not a tomato kind of gal, let alone a cold tomato soup kind of gal. Still, when in Spain…

(Sidenote: the book open next to my soup is Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. I cannot adequately explain how much I love this book. I ran out of reading materials on this trip and I actually read it twice. It’s that good.)

After lunch, I headed to a bakery and tried a local treat – mazapan (or, marzipan, if you want to be all American about it). It was pretty tasty, and I sat in the main square and did some people watching while enjoying it.

I wrapped up my time in Toledo by doing something that was partially cheesy, partially awesome – I took a tour on one of those tourist train thing-ys. The reason it was cheesy is obvious, but the reason it was awesome was that I got to see fantastic views of the city. It doesn’t take you through the actual city much (with the tiny streets, that would likely be impossible); instead, it takes you around the city. I thought the city was quite beautiful.

And there you have it, my 8 or so hours in Toledo. Next up, Sevilla!

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