Toledo (better as a 1-day train tour from Madrid)
Trip Start Jul 03, 2009
10Trip End Jul 29, 2009
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We grabbed a cab this morning to get to the train station promptly – about a 5 min ride – since I knew there was a 10:30 train to Madrid. We have to go there first, then buttonhook back a half-hour on a later train to reach Toledo. I can't remember buying a train ticket before; I've always had a EuroPass good for a bunch of trips over a few weeks. This trip, there were only going to be about 4 train trips in all. I find the cost of trains now is high: we spent 125 Euros [a bit over $200] from Cordoba to Madrid which is a 90-min trip. We got a Madrid map, arranged for a hotel there the next night (we are cancelling our 2nd night in Toledo so we don’t have to rush to the Madrid airport that morning coming up from Toledo on a 5:30am train….that was just too much to risk going wrong), and bought our return train ticket for 7:30pm tomorrow since we saw on the big schedule board in the station that 2 afternoon trains were already sold out
Toledo is a wonderful image. At the train station, we jumped on a tourist bus that cost just 5 Euros each for a 24 hour ticket on an open-top double decker bus. We always sit in the lower deck, though, right under the air conditioner vent by the back door; we learned that fast. The tourist bus stops at a viewpoint ("mirador") which gives you a postcard look down at the ancient city. The Rio Teja river meanders around three sides of town which is perched on a hilltop. It’s 40-41 degrees today; a temperature that hot makes one walk with purpose and with a destination in mind: we found a bar and quaffed a cold beer.
After checking into our hidden hotel – that is, after an extended search to find the place – we discover we have no internet. Again. (Hotels advertise as having WIFI, but few places deliver.) Also the air conditioner is broken. Now we have a problem. It’s going to be a miserable night tonight. I’m in a lather already. But the best story is to come that evening:
We meander in the 36 degree 7:45pm heat and find a restaurant that looks cool inside (no outside patio in this weather) and a "menu of the day" which is a set menu for, usually, about 10-12 Euros each
July 22, Toledo to Madrid
One week to go; we’re in the home stretch of this journey through Spain. We got off on the wrong foot with Toledo – complete with a BIG black beetle swimming in Susan’s stew yesterday and no air conditioning in our hotel during a heat wave. Today was a new day and outlook.
We stored our 2 suitcases and my backpack with the hotel after a breakfast there, and headed outside
We entered a very-hard-to-find small Church next that had some great El Greco paintings in this humble place, also a convent. I saddled up to a young nun and asked if the Church was closing since it was close to 1:30pm (they re-open 4-7pm) but she said all was OK, and to finish our visit. I said with sign language and one word that I was from Canada. She mirrored back “India” with a big smile. Connection. At one point, you look down through a window in the floor onto the casket of the painter resting in a basement stone grotto. Cool. I put my palms together when we left and said bye-bye to India.
At this point, we’d been to 2 bars with a nice selection of tapas at the second one. Typically, I dumped some oil or something on my shirt so the waiter gestures to 'hold it’ and rushed upstairs….down a minute later with a spray can that, when sprayed, powders to white after drying and removes the oil spot like magic. Nice guy.
We did a bit of window shopping but other than a few ceramic pieces, we’ve not really picked up anything. Toledo is a knife & sword capital, famous for the weapons the Conquistadors took to the New World. But ever since I’ve been in the country, if I see a small shop that sells knives, I asked for an “automatica”. The shop owners all draw back a bit and say “No, no. Police say no.” I bought one here 40 years ago but….things have changed now that Franco’s Fascist government is gone. An automatica is a stiletto: the blade comes forcefully out of the front of the knife when the button on the handle is pushed. I like them better than a switchblade; a stiletto with a recoil gets more respect in the train carriage when you peel your orange…
We climb onto the 7:30pm train with pre-purchased tickets (it was a sell-out) and in 30 min. we were back in Madrid. Then, after lining up a hotel near the airport from a booking kiosk in the train station, we get on a secondary train to get into the northern suburbs…..then switch to the Metro to land at Terminal 1 of the main airport, the same place we need to be at tomorrow morning. A 12 Euro taxicab later, here we are at the Hotel Osuna, sort of a Holiday Inn. We’ve been waiting for over an hour now for a pizza and mixed salad to share…..I could eat the doorknobs….then lights out.
On to maybe the highlight of this Spanish trip: Marrakesh, Morocco, a world away.