Thursday, May 22, 2014


Last Friday, Ramona, Susan, and I decided to try and check out Toledo. I had yet to have any luck getting tickets, as I had tried both in person and on the website and was met with various roadblocks. We arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare to catch the 10:08 train, but the ticket vending computers kept giving us an error after we picked out all the tickets (it showed plenty of open seats). I guess that explained why everyone was in the ticket sales office. We had to get a number and wait in line until well after the 10:08 train had already taken off. We did get a seat on the next train, though, which was a relief.

I had been wanting to visit Toledo since the last time I was in Spain. The last time, I got confused by the train system and didn't want to mess with getting there, but I later kind of regretted not making the effort. With the recent setbacks and mishaps, I was nervous that we wouldn't get to go this time either. Luckily, this time around, I'm more familiar with how everything works and my Spanish is comparably quite good. We ended up taking the AVE high speed train, which went at a steady 170 mph most of the way, taking about half an hour to get there.

The train station was an excellent preview of the beautiful architecture to come. It reminded me a lot of Teruel, where I lived before.

We passed up all the taxis lined up outside and decided to trek up the road until we figured out a way up to the city center. The hike wasn't too bad, and we got to see a few pretty views along the way.

There was a hidden escalator above the parking garage area, which we found thanks to a random group of police officers that I interrogated. We ended up coming out right outside Plaza de Zocodover, one of the main squares. During our final ascent, Susan received a welcoming gift from the heavens in the form of a steaming white pile of bird shit. Right on her face. She was most pleased. Thankfully, I had brought a roll of toilet paper in case my allergies acted up, so I tried to wipe it all off while Ramona wiped off Susan's sunglasses. It was a messy affair, to say the least.

Post-poop reaction

We stopped in a bar to get a snack and relieve our bowels and Susan got an opportunity to wash off more thoroughly. Ramona decided to try another typical (and vegetarian-friendly) tapa, the tortilla de patata. For those familiar with Mexican food, it's absolutely nothing like a tortilla that you would use for fajitas or tacos. It looks like this:

We approached Toledo without much of a plan. We just sort of got lost in all of the little streets. There were tons of stores selling locally-forged swords and trinkets. I really wanted a sword/shield to hang on my wall, but I have a feeling it would have cost a small fortune to have it shipped home (and there's no way I could carry that through U.S. airport security).

We ended up buying a pass to visit several of the religious buildings throughout Toledo. The city has an interesting mezcla of Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim tradition. They all coexisted in Toledo before the Reconquista, after which most of the Jews and Muslims were expelled. It's still a little moving to know that, at some point, they were all hanging out peacefully in the same place.

The first church we visited provided an excellent view on both the inside and from its towers on the outside. They gave us a surprising amount of freedom to roam around and take pictures.

There were some narrow, scary stairs leading up the tower, but it was worth it to get to the top and look out.

We passed by a little plaza on our way to the next spot where a handsome man was playing a Spanish guitar and singing really, really well. I think he was successfully seducing just about everyone there. The next church we visited had a nice little courtyard that sported Arabic-influenced architecture. It may not have originally been a church, I'm not sure. It also had a little lookout tower, but it was less impressive than the previous one.

Apart from churches, we also checked out other buildings, though we didn't go inside most of them (time constraints). There were some beautiful artisan shops and a tower that reminded me of Teruel (how I miss it).

We ended up on the other end of town from where we started, passing the Museo El Greco and enjoying the view of the surrounding countryside. We ultimately wanted to reach the lookout point somewhere up in the hills so that we could get a good view of the entire city, so I asked around in one of the shops. The owner suggested just taking a taxi, as the hike up there would take an hour or more and the bus we needed was back towards the train station. It seemed an easy-enough plan, as we were running out of time before we had to head back to Madrid.

However, getting a taxi proved a difficult task. We tried to wave down several, but they just drove past us. Some of them were obviously occupied, but others were not. We eventually kind of gave up for a while and went into Santa María La Blanca, an old synagogue. It also had some Arabic-influenced architecture. I love it.

We continued trying to find a taxi once we left the synagogue, but were met with more failure. We found one of the beautiful puertas of the city, though.

I stopped taking as many pictures once we got a little more desperate to get to the lookout point. Ramona and Susan were getting tired of walking around so much, but I was determined to find a taxi. We ended up in a more traffic-heavy area and I found a taxi parked nearby. I walked up to him but he told me that he was waiting for someone. He offered to call us a taxi, though. In the meantime, a Spanish guy came up and asked if we were waiting on a taxi and we complained about how difficult it seemed to be to get one. We ended up getting our taxi to call one for him. What a mess.

The ride to the parador was much shorter than anticipated and it only cost about six euros. We were a bit confused, though, because Susan had been to Toledo before with a group and she ended up in a much different area than we did. The lookout point we arrived at was a fancy hotel. It all worked out, though, as the hotel had a restaurant with a big patio where you could wine and dine while looking out over the city. We ended up buying a pitcher of delicious sangría and enjoying our last little bit of time. We were briefly interrupted by a mini British invasion (or perhaps a Hogwarts field trip) all taking selfies and yelling, but other than that, we had an enjoyable time.

We had to ask the reception to call a taxi to come pick us up because there was no way we were going to make it to the train station on time if we walked or looked for a bus (we weren't even sure a bus came up to the hotel). We made it to the train, absolutely exhausted, and headed back toward Madrid. We arrived at the apartment and had just enough time to devour some leftover paella.

After finishing our rushed meal, we jumped in the car with Ana (our roommate) and Sandra and headed toward a music festival outside of Madrid. We met up with another group of friends and we all hung out for a while before the concerts began. It was a ska concert, so I felt right at home. The headliner was La Pegatina, a group which I was already familiar with. The concert was a blast, though we were so tired it was ridiculous.

We ended up getting home at about 4 a.m. I got up and took Ramona for churros y chocolate with some café in the morning. I needed the caffeine and sugar to keep me going. I accompanied Ramona about halfway to the airport and showed her how to get there. Hopefully she enjoyed our adventures, as exhausting as they were. She got both the typical tourist view and a view of Spain's crazy nightlife, so at least she got an authentic experience thrown in there. As for me, I need a few days to recover...

1 comment:

  1. I'm about to visit Toledo,it looks lovely!
    Very nice post :D