Exploring Ancient Toledo

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For our 2nd week in Spain we had decided to mix things up a bit and take a day trip out of the busy metropolotian city of Madrid. We narrowed our choices down to Segovia and Toledo – and finally decided on Toledo (not for any particular reason). We had spent some time going over transportation options the night before and had finally decided that the day tourist pass (which included transportation to Toledo) would be the best option for us since we were coming from Pozuelo. (Note: If you are already in Madrid you can just take a bus roundtrip from the Plaza Elíptica bus station for under 10 euro.)

We had decided to leave early so we had some time to buy some other tickets at Renfe (since their online system hadn’t been working for us the night before) and ask some other questions about another possible day trip to Segovia later in the week.  Our day soon started with lots of frusturation and a testing of our patientce at Atocha as we spoke with person after person to get details figured out for future trips.  We came to discover (according to Renfe customer service) that you cannot buy a train ticket online unless you have purchased one in person so your credit card was registered in their system.  And paired with that you couldn’t receive the online prices buying a ticket in person.  Seemed to be like a little bit of a backwards system and it would have been helpful if it had said that somewhere online.  After getting future transportation details figured out we headed to the train that was included in the price of the one day open transportation ticket we had purchased for our trip to Toledo.  At this point we were told that the ticket didn’t include the train and we would have to take the metro across town to the bus which was included with the ticket.  Having learned by this point to verify information (especially since Ricardo, a native Spanish speaker, had spent a couple hours the day before looking at the best/cheapest transportation option for us and also believed the train was included with this pass) we stopped back at the Renfe customer service desk where we got verification that we would need to take the bus.  Turns out that about three years ago the train was included with the ticket and not the bus — however they had changed it (bus included and not train) and hadn’t made changes to any information online yet.  

NOTE: We have run into this issue a few times now.  Best way to get factual and up-to-date information on trains and buses is to ask at the stations.  Websites are years behind and calling won’t always get you correct information either.

After a few deep breaths, a look at the metro map to figure out where we needed to go, and a kind suggestion to the Renfe team that they update their online system with up-to-date information — we were finally ‘officially’ on our way to Toledo.  The bus ride was about 50 minutes (25 more than the train would have been, so not bad at all).  

Welcome to Toldeo
Welcome to Toldeo

We arrived at the bottom of the city and began to work our way up (the inclined streets) to the main square at the top of the city.  While wandering a bit on the way to the main square we found a small side street that allowed free entrance into a portion of the Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo.  Calle Chapinería leads directly into a small sectioned-off area of the Cathedral Primada for prayer.  You won’t be able to walk around and see the entire church, however you can still see a good portion from this small sectioned-off area and take in some of the beauty.  

Toledo Cathedral

It is a well hidden secret since the main entrance to the church is about 8 euros (which we hadn’t been planning on spending to go inside the cathedral as we had read it is overpriced).  After doing some reflection and meditation in cathedral and sneaking a couple of photos we continued our search for the tourisim office and a map. The only local tourist office is in the main square (since the other two have been closed indefinitely since ‘el crisis’). After scouting out the lay of the land via map we headed to a local bakery to grab some fresh bread to go with the medley of cheese, fruit, and meat we had brought from home for a picnic.  With the rain coming down at a fairly steady rate it took some time to scout out a dry spot for lunch. We managed to find a small protected area to sit and enjoy our food while as we waited patiently hoping the mini-storm would pass.

 

Rainy, green and gorgeous: Walking Ruta de Don Quijote
Rainy, green and gorgeous: Walking Ruta de Don Quijote

 

Unfortunately our luck with the weather wasn’t looking so great. Forty minutes later we decided to brave the rain and continue onward. Instead of walking through the middle of the town to get to the Barrio Judío – our next scouted location – we took the Ruta de Don Quijote which goes along the outskirts of the town.

 

Bridge Near Ruta Don Quijote
Bridge by Ruta Don Quijote heading back into town

Even with the rain, we were both extreamly happy for choosing this ‘less traveled path’. The path is well marked and goes between the river and the town – offering amazing views and a feeling of being more in nature. We took our time and cut back into the ‘city limits’ after about an hour of walking.

From there we were able to find the Museo Sefardí Sinagoga del Tránsito (which has free entry for those with student IDs) just in time to dry off while learning about the history of Judaism in Spain. We were hoping for a more authentic and impressive Synagogue, but instead the building offered more of a small museum (that overlooked a lot of the wrongdoing to the jews in Spain over the centuries). Regardless, we welcomed the chance to be out of the rain, and by the time we had finished going through the exhibits the rain had finally come to a stop.  We decided to take advantage of the dry moments to walk across the town in the general direction of the bus station. Toldeo is a perfect town to get lost in because it isn’t too big and also has many small streets.  Ben recommended going into one of the metal shops to take a look at the swords and armor, which Toldeo is known for (as it used to be full of metal shops and skilled blacksmiths in the middle ages) and has now become a large money maker in the touristy shops. It doesn’t matter which one you go in, they all have little trinkets of tiny swords, a model of a knight in armor, knives for hunting, and swords for sale.

After talking about a few of the different types and looking around, we slowly migrated toward the direction we had come. Amanda remembered a little shop advertising a drink and tapa for 1 euro, so we made our way there as we walked back across town. On Calle Comercio, just off the main square, we found the tiny Kebab spot and each enjoyed a glass of Sangria with the most authentic Spanish tapa we have found yet… chicken nuggets with a bit of ranch drizzled on top. Since it was only 1 euro including the drink (and also run by a middle eastern) we couldn’t complain.  We were now close to the square and the Museo de Santa Cruz which was free and had been recommended by the (person in the toursit office). We were surprised at how large the Museo de Santa Cruz was as well as the variety of artwork it had.

Ben in Museo Santa Clara -- Toledo

The exhibitions included art, archaeology, statues, historical tile mosaics, and more. The building was beautiful as well with a large center courtyard. This was our prefered museo of the town. Having spent longer than expected at the museo (until it closed) we ran to catch the 7:30 bus (not wanting to wait another thirty minutes for the next one). Amanda managed to get a few last photos as we ran down the hill from the protected walls of the city all the way to the bus station. Our mini end-of-day workout paid off as we managed to get to the bus three minutes before it departed. The day had been long, wet, and very much unplanned; but the amazing views and feel of the historical city had been worth it.   By the time we arrived back to Emilio’s home in Pozuelo, Patricia had made us a special meal for our last dinner together with everyone. We all shared and enjoyed a seafood feast with many new (to us) and very typical spanish delights including (but not limited to): gambas, bigaros, pecebes, langostinos, angulas (baby eel) and almejas. 

 Emilio enjoys the seafood feast

Be on the lookout for our post/page (which we plan to publish in a couple weeks once we depart from Spain) with a summary of all the wonderfull platas espanols we have enjoyed/experienced and recommend!