Monday, 26 May 2014

Toledo – put it on your bucket list

I had chosen Toledo as a stop over as the guide said that although there were not many buildings worth seeing the inside of, the whole city centre is a World Heritage Site.  This also made it ideal for us to take the dog with us for a good walk.  Boy did it live up to expectations.

The following day we checked the map and decided that even though there was a bus stop outside the campsite (can’t take the dog on buses in Spain)  it was close enough to walk, although we were well aware of the ups and downs that we would have to face. I don’t do ups very well.

We set off fairly early in the morning to make the most of the coolest part of the day.  What a day we had.  Now I’m a bit of a philistine and not really interested in history but I do like to look at historic buildings even if I’m not that interested in who lived there and why but I was just so impressed with Toledo that I would thoroughly recommend that anyone put it on their bucket list.

The downside of Toledo tourism is that it doesn’t have an airport but if you ever fancy a city break in Madrid then you can get to Toledo in 40 minutes by high-speed train. 

One thing that really struck me about Toledo is that although parts of the city are over 600 years old it is just so clean that it looks like it has been built in the last 10 years.

Here’s some pictures that I hope you enjoy.

Oh look Iain in front carrying the pink rucksack

The pink rucksack again

Spot the pink rucksack

It's there again, like something from Schindler's list

Toledo also houses two our of only three remaining Synagogues in Spain, here's a picture of one which is now an Abbey. Each chain hanging on the wall represents a Moor's prisoner released when the Christians took Toledo in the 12th Century.  They took the chains off them and hung them on the wall as a reminder.

This just about sums up our first visit to Toledo city but before I go, we were amazed at how many shops were selling swords and knives.  Now I know that Toledo is well-known for it’s armoury but the displays were amazing and would never be allowed in England.  Here’s a sample.

By the time we had had lunch and left the city it was getting on for about 2.30pm and was getting very warm.  Connie is getting on a bit, she’s now 12 or 13 and this was a long walk for her.  We knew that there was a big hill to get up back near the campsite but had spotted – would you believe it – a “we got to the top of the hill bar”, just on the side of the road which would make a great place to rest before returning to camp.

I said it was a big hill, not really that bad but when you’ve already done about 5 miles and you are an old girl (now I’m referencing the dog here, not myself) the little leggies are feeling a bit tired and the fur coat is getting a bit warm.  You can’t tell a dog that as soon as we get to the top of the hill we’re going to rest with a nice well-earned beer and the poor thing refused to go any further twice up the hill. 

It’s very rare that she refuses, once before in La Motte in France when it was hot and also at Saint Michel Mont last year when she had a puncture in her buggy tyre and we had to walk most of the way. This is from a previous post where we got a puncture and had to ditch the bikes and buggy and walk the majority of the way.  When we picked up the bikes again she had to travel in it with a flat tyre.  She didn't seem to mind very much but it couldn't have been very comfortable.

Never mind, just another 50 yards to go and we could all have a rest.

That evening we decided to eat in the restaurant which we discovered that it was not as good as it purported to be.  The food was ok, just about, but the wine was good and the view fantastic.

We had enjoyed Toledo so much and wanted to make another visit so we decided that although we were paying 30 euros a night we would stay another night and take the tourist train around Toledo the next day.

Toledo Day 2

As we had planned to take the tourist train around the city it meant that we would not be able to take the dog with us.  She had had a good walk the previous day and would probably welcome the rest.  Well I might be speaking for myself there.  

At least we would be able to take the bus into town to rest my weary legs – not on Iain’s plan I’m afraid.  Again it looked like it was going to be a hot day, so we left fairly early and set the air conditioning for the dog.  It had worked before so there was no reason to expect it not to work again.  This time however we set it at 26 C so that she wouldn’t be cold.

Off we went down the hill and took a different route into the city this time, over the old bridge.  

Surprisingly though it was very quiet today compared to the previous day.  We went straight to the tourist train, which was at the other end of the city – funnily enough right where the bus would have dropped us and the next train was going in just 5 minutes after we purchased our ticket.  We got on the train when it arrived and then sat there for 15 minutes while the driver got himself sorted – this is typical Spain.  Now don’t get carried away, this is a tourist train, some sort of engine covered in something resembling a train engine, pulling about 10 little open carriages. Get the picture? At least there was a commentary in several languages and the 5.2 Euros included the cost of a set of earpieces each.  We don’t very often do this sort of thing but it had been recommended to us by some people we met and it was well worth it.

Views we would not have seen had we not taken the train

Now over the last couple of days, I’d been learning more about my camera.  I have had it a few years and like most people I could take some reasonable pictures but hadn’t really bothered to learn some of the features.  So I’ve been playing with panoramic pictures and digital zooming.  Here’s a panoramic pic I took overlooking Toledo.

And just for a laugh here’s a couple of my earlier failures before I got the hang of it.

I'll bet the architects would turn in their graves!!!

Having left the train we walked through the city, getting a look at anything that we hadn’t seen the day before.  The guide book said that the Cathedral was one of the buildings to take and inside look of so without the dog we were free to browse.  Somehow we found the back entrance of the Cathedral and went in.  This is the entrance where you enter for church services, and although you are not supposed to come in this way, it is free to get in.  You are restricted to where you can go via this entrance but it did give us a good idea of what it was like inside.  If you go to the front entrance it is 8 Euros each to enter but that does give you access to see the inside closer up.  We saw enough and it was very impressive and totally ostentatious.
Walking through the streets  I can never help browsing in the shop windows, although these days we don’t buy STUFF.  If we buy something it has to be beautiful, practical, affordable and NEEDED.  The reason I’m mentioning this is that we stumbled upon a shop selling Lladro statues.  Not like the Lladro that you will find in the department stores and jewellery shops in England but this was a specialist shop.  I managed to get a half-decent picture of this flamenco dancer and matador and they were absolutely stunning.  There were some other fabulous statues and the prices were way out of this world.
Flamenco dancer - £3,200

Matador - £2,700

But they were still STUFF and I don’t suppose they’d survive some of the bumps that we go over.  No we were not in the market but as they say, no harm in window shopping.

The bus ride walk back to the campsite was warm again after lunch and so we treated ourselves to a rest at the top of the hill.

Of all the cities that I have visited, I would put Toledo up there with Rome well almost, Rome is pretty spectacular.  A very highly recommended stop over on the way from southern to northern Spain, or a trip out from Madrid for our friendly mortar homers.

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