Day 10: Toledo

Again, we arose early (6:00) to have a repeat performance of the day before:  cab to Santa Justa train station, breakfast at our usual, hectic haunt, OJ from the nice place, then on the AVE train bound for Toledo, via Madrid.  The AVE is nice, it felt like we were rolling in first class even though we weren’t.  And the train rides on tracks that make for a very smooth ride.

A quick note about the Madrid train station:  we arrived and needed to transfer to our train to Toledo.  We kind of thought there’d be a sign directing us where to go, but what we forgot was that this is Spain.  They aren’t too keen on signage.  So we asked the Renfe information lady, who seemed terribly inconvenienced that she had to put down her newspaper for a moment before vaguely pointing us in the direction of Track 9.  Oh, ok.

We found the right track, boarded the train, and found ourselves seated next to a pair of Italian ladies from Sardinia who were disgusted and flabbergasted that the Spanish spoke no Italian.  They spoke limited English, we limited Italian, but we were able to convey to each other and come to a general consensus that the food in Spain doesn’t hold a candle to food in Italy.  The ladies seemed pleased we were all in agreement about that.

We arrived in Toledo around noonish and took a €6 cab ride to our hotel, the Santa Isabel.  It’s a great little hotel tucked away in a side street (actually, all of Toledo seemed to be comprised of side streets), where we had a great room with one big bed!  We did our usual ditching of stuff and headed out.  The day was a little overcast, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.  What DID dampen our spirits, however, was the fact Toledo isn’t all that great and should really be done as a day trip.  But that’s ok, we were there and ready to make the most of it.

Our first stop was the cathedral, which we ended up going into later in the day and it turned out to be one of the most impressive cathedrals we’ve ever set foot in.  There was also a wedding party assembling, so we stuck around to see the bride and took pictures.  Why?  Not sure, just got swept into the moment – I think the 8 piece brass band helped the mood along.  Then we wandered off to the Plaza de Zocodover, the main hub in Toledo (at least the main hub in tourist Toledo).  We had our usual coffee stop so we could survey things and plot our next move, which turned out to be getting tickets for the appropriately cheesy tourist train that takes you around town.

Our ride around Toledo

The train was great, we managed to snag the seats facing backwards in the last row, and thankfully avoided being squeezed into other seats with fellow gawkers.  The ride took us around the perimeter of Toledo, giving us nice views of the town, cathedral, and their Alcazar.  Any self-respecting town in Spain has both.  Jim did a nice job of documenting the ride with pictures.

After the train ride, we went back to the cathedral and found a little entrance where you can get in for free, but it only allows you inside just a little bit.  I felt satisfied about having seen the cathedral from that little entrance, but Jim wanted to pay the actual entrance fee to see the entire thing.  We had a little dustup then and there (funny, my Jewish husband was fighting to go inside the Catholic church), and decided in the best interests of marital harmony we’d go to the El Greco museum, instead.  The El Greco museum was free (they are renovating it), but it turns out that many of their pieces are replicas.  Apparently you get what you pay for.

After all this, I was feeling a little guilty and said that we should probably go back to the cathedral, so after dodging some exasperated looks from Jim, we trudged back (and paid the €7 apiece entrance fee).  And boy, am I glad we did.  The cathedral is stunning, almost more impressive than St. Peter’s at the Vatican.  It had a huge, gold-gilded altar, with a massive choir pit carved out of wood, ceilings that were probably 50 feet (or more) high, a treasury, and an overall vastness that was awe-inspiring.  So glad “I” suggested seeing it.

We left the cathedral and the weather was still iffy (cloudy and chilly), so we stopped at a joint with big umbrellas for a hot chocolate to warm up a bit.  It was here we met the friendliest cat in Spain (maybe Europe), an adorable furry black local who bounded right over when called.  We pet him/her a bit, then he/she curled up by my shoe and conked out.  It also started to downpour during this time, and although we were dry under the umbrella we weren’t all that warm so we chugged the hot chocolates, said goodbye to our new feline friend, and trucked back to the hotel for a rest and a hot shower.

We left our room again about 18:00 (it was still rainy, but we had appropriate clothing on this time) to go to the internet café for a few and wait until 19:00 when the restaurant we wanted to try (Pizzeria Pastucci) was open for business.  The restaurant was Italian (if you couldn’t tell by either the word Pizzeria or Pastucci) and we arrived just about as promptly as they opened their doors.  We settled into the corner and chatted with the waitress (who was from Columbia, which meant we could understand her Spanish*).  Jim had pasta and I had pizza.  It was delicious.

Happy as clams, we went back to the room (as it was still raining), turned our clocks forward for European Daylight Savings Time, watched TV, wrote in the journal, and went to sleep.

* A quick note about Spanish Spanish.  Now, between us we speak a fair bit of Spanish, at least enough to get out of (or into) trouble.  But the Spanish seem to speak their language at absolute lightening speed, making comprehension very difficult.  We did a lot of smiling and nodding on this trip.

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