Ah Toledo! (Pronounced Toe-leh-doh for those people such as myself who used to call it Toe-lee-doh) What a charming little city! It’s a perfect day trip from Madrid because it only takes about one hour to get there and it’s small enough that you can see and enjoy it in one day. Known as the ‘city of three cultures’ because of the Arab, Jewish and Christian populations that used to live behind its walls, it is the home of many churches, mosques, synagogues, palaces and the former home of the artist El Greco.
My Irish friend Jamie and I were supposed to leave bright and early at 7:30am to walk down to the bus station together. Well, 7:30 came and went with no Jamie appearing. So I went to the bus station by myself and I went to Toledo by myself and as I was standing looking at the view by myself, suddenly a person with a motorcycle parks beside me. It’s Jamie – hallelujah! Apparently he didn’t hear his alarm (It’s okay, Jamie, I forgive you!)
There was a very striking difference in looks between Toledo and Madrid. Madrid looks very much like a city whereas Toledo looks much more like a picture from a history text book. With cats walking on red roofs and sand-stone houses, it had a more culture feel to it and I really liked that about it. I felt like I had stepped into the past and was experiencing a much older Spain. In fact, Toledo actually used to be the capital of Spain so in a way, I felt like I was visiting the wise, old grandmother of Spain as opposed to the brighter, more-modern city of Madrid who took her place.
The views were astounding and the weather was wonderful! I looked out to see rows and rows of weaving red roofs and blue sky that seemed to never end. If there’s one thing I really love about Spain, it’s the weather. It feels like endless summer and I love that.
There is a very impressive cathedral that demands your attention because of its imposing presence in the city. The problem was that it cost 8 euros or something to get in, and when you’re travelling on a budget, entering a church for 8 euros is too expensive. (Also, I don’t believe in paying to enter a church in the first place even if it’s less than 8 euros, but that’s another story) Anyway, there was a free section (very small section) that you could stand in and sort of see the Gothic architecture. So Jamie and I went to stand there, noting the security guard who was pacing back and forth along the gate that separated us from the people who payed 8 euros. At one point, he left and Jamie took the opportunity to hop over the fence. My heart was pounding uncontrollably in my chest but it was one of those ‘now or never’ moments and I chose now. Yes, I jumped over the fence, hoping nobody saw me (except God). How ironic to sin inside a church…I guess I’ll see Jamie in Hell.
Once we were safely on the other side of gate, we marveled at the architecture and pretended we were Robert Langdon as we tried to find all the secret symbolism in the design. Really though, we saw some things that looked completely out of place in a church. Mythical unicorns? Headless babies? Dragons? It was strange. We also tried to open up one of the drawers in a desk, but it was locked. Hmm…
As we walked the old town, Jamie and I were very confused by all the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit signs and artifacts displayed in windows. There were swords displayed, and little toy figures, and even the Evening Star necklace. I thought they were just really big LOTR fans but it turns out that all the props from the movie were made it Toledo. Yup, in the olden days Toledo was the main center for weapon production and now it makes props. (Maybe it still makes weapons, I mean, who knows how many secret sword fights are going on these days).
We lathered ourselves in sunscreen (it was so hot!) and walked through random alleys where I was amazed that I could actually feel the sand crumble in my hands when I touched the side of the buildings. This led us to a wonderful view of the River Tagus and we saw many people fishing on its bank while their dogs ran wild. We also walked a bit of the route of Don Quixote’s journey (You are probably tired of hearing about him at this point, but he’s very, very famous). Many people were zip lining across the river, but Jamie and I took the easy route and walked across it before heading back to the center where I bought art work and ate ice cream on some Spanish steps. I really like the art work I bought because the artist wrote ‘And men build castles so they can see their dreams’ underneath the painting.
Visiting the El Greco House was free after 2pm, so naturally we waited until after 2pm to visit it. This was apparently the house where the Spanish painter used to live and it has been rebuilt to replicate what his house must have looked like. It also contained many of his works. El Greco is also quite the recurring theme in Spain. You will see his works in many of the museums.
Right before Jamie had to head back to Madrid, we met up with some of the other aupairs and got some food and drink because we were starving. It was fun to sit with friends again and just eat, drink and be merry. With the Toledo sunshine beating down on us and a man with an accordion serenading us, it was a moment where you have to look around you and appreciate where you are and what you have. There is still so much I don’t know about life, but if I have sun in the sky, food on my plate, music in the air, and friends by my side, I think I understand it pretty well. Maybe we humans tend to complicate it unnecessarily.
We wanted to catch the sunset, so after dinner we scurried over to the supposed ‘best viewing spot.’ During the walk there, we saw so many stray cats creeping out from under cars and walking along the rocky edges. I don’t really like cats that much (they are sneaky and conniving) but stray cats I like even less. And there are so many of them…
We were afraid that we would miss the bus back to Madrid so we practically ran to the bus stop but we didn’t miss it and made it home in one piece. I thoroughly enjoyed Toledo! Like I said, it feels different than Madrid and I really liked the feeling. Overall, it was a really good day with good people and good memories!
I will conclude with Holy Toledo! (Which apparently is not a saying in Ireland).