Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Traipsing Around Toledo


On the eve of the New Year's celebration, the soul sister and I went on a weekender to Toledo, Spain.

To say that the ancient city of Toledo is beautiful is an understatement. The whole city, perched on a hill, is a UNESCO world heritage site and was the capital of Spain from the gothic period until 1560. Yes, it's a very old city. Think about it, Toledo, with its cobblestoned paths and walled fortresses, was the Spanish capital when Ferdinand Magellan first set foot on my beloved Philippines!

So yes, Toledo is magical. It is pretty, and every single nook of the city reeks of its beautiful ancient heritage. It is also the capital of Castille-La Mancha, the region made famous by Miguel de Cervantes's novel, Don Quixote.

I suppose the best thing about Toledo is its proximity to Madrid. Toledo is only a 30 minute train ride from Madrid's Atocha Station. Some people do a day trip to Toledo, and I suppose, because it's not really a big city, that a day trip is very doable.
But it was the weekend and we wanted to have a more leisurely pace, so we booked an overnight stay in a nice and affordable hotel located in the center of the city, Hotel Sta. Isabel.

Here are snippets from our weekend trip to Toledo:

To get to Toledo, we took the fast train in Madrid's Atocha Station. The return tickets cost 22.00€. You have to specify your return trip from Toledo to Madrid when you purchase your tickets.


As we got off the train and walked through Toledo's train station, we knew we were in for a treat.


Outside the train station, there are taxis that can take you to the city center, which is up on a hill, for about 5€. We, giddy to start on our adventures, and eager to take on the sights, decided to walk and trek our way to the city. It took us only about 20 minutes of walking and we were rewarded with this, our first glimpse of the city.

Toledo's street are cobblestoned, and because the city is on a hill, the streets zigzag up and down. So it is important to wear comfortable shoes as one will do a loooot of walking here. It is safe to say that if my abused pair of Repettos could talk, it would have wailed in despair. We walked, and walked, and walked all around Toledo. You can't help it, Toledo is a perfect city for walking and getting lost. People are very willing to help you with directions. In fact, while we were trying to figure out our maps, a coiffured old lady approached us and in english, said: "Can I help you with something, if you mind?" and proceeded to point us towards the direction of the cathedral. People here are kind and helpful. I suppose they are very used to tourists getting lost!


We deposited our bags at the Hotel Sta. Isabel ( City center location, 60€ for a room with double beds, private bath, supposedly free wifi in the room, but the signal was weak, and the free wifi only worked when you are near the reception area). We decided t take the Toledo Trainvision Tram, which is a guided tram tour of Toledo, to familiarize ourselves with the city. The tram tour is 5.10€ per person and takes less than an hour. It's a good way to go around Toledo since it goes out of the city center and traverses the Tagus river, giving us different views of the city. The english audio guide also explains the beautiful and conflicted history of the city.


Toledo at one point had Arab Moslems, Jews, and Christians coexisting harmoniously. And the city's architectures draw inspirations from these religions -- Jewish synagogas, Christian churches, the Alcazar citadel built by the Arab Moors. After centuries of living harmoniously though, the Christian church expelled the Jews from Toledo, but still, the tapestry of Arab and Jew influences run throughout the city. I am a noob at distinguishing architecture influences but Toledo's buildings, are nothing short of memorable, combining elements from the Jewish and Moorish influences, with the predominantly Spanish design.


The Cathedral of Toledo is imposing from the outside, but, inside it was spellbinding. There is an 8€ entrance fee to the Cathedral, but it is well worth it. An english audio tour device and a map is included in the price. Picture taking is allowed inside the cathedral but I was too busy being amazed by the intricacies and richness of the tableaus, paintings, and the details of the retable that I didn't take a single picture inside. Wikipedia does have a detailed discussion and pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledo_Cathedral.

Still, the grandness of this cathedral is unbelievable. The Spanish Christian churches sure were rich. To put it in perspective, the church was built between 1226–1493, decades before the Spanish conquistadores "discovered" the Philippines. So it does put into perspective how deep-pocketed and powerful the Spanish church was.

There are a lot more to see in Toledo: the Synagoga-- one of the last remaining Jewish synagogues in Spain, the Museum of El Greco, El Greco being one of the best known Spanish painters.


Sadly, because it was the 31st of December, most of them were closed. So we spent our last day buying some souvenirs and eating a great, long drawn lunch.

Toledo is known for their steelworks, thus a lot of swords and metalworks are on offer. To be honest, the swords are beautiful, but a bit out of the budget for me haha. So I bought a small sword which I can use to open mails ( 7€):

I also bought a pair of pretty silver earrings for myself (6€):

A Toledo decorative plate for my mother's collection (14€):

A bag of mazapan (marzipan) from Confiserie Santo Tome, the deservedly famous marzipan shop in Toledo. If like me, you've tried marzipan before and said yuck! The goodies from this shop will make you change your mind. Their goodies are sooo good, I shall blog about Santo Tome's marzipan separately.

We had our Menu del Dia (Menu of the Day) lunch from Restaurante Plaza Mayor.


The Menu:
Free crusty bread
First Course: The Paella de Mariscos (seafood paella) was yummy!
Second Course: Cuchifrito and fries (I didn't take a pic since the fried bits of brown cuchinillo isn't really pretty to look at, but it sure was a tasty meal)
Postre: Profiteroles
Drink: Carbonated Orange drink

The whole meal costs 15€. Without the carbonated orange drink, it's just 12.50€. Reasonable and very filling!


The sun was shining while we were in Toledo, and though it was cold, the skies were blue, and the city was so welcoming that there was no way for us not to leave the city enthralled.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog and your blog name. Your travel entries are so well presented without being pretentious. I'm looking forward to your newest entries!


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