Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 12: Toledo

Toledo has a very different feel than the other large Spanish cities we visited. Part of it may be that it's not that physically large, but it does have a lot of rich history. There's a whole bunch of detail I could probably go into but we'll just say it is a former capitol and has influences from many different religions. We departed the hotel in Madrid for a 70km drive through the Spanish countryside. It reminded me a little bit of Tuscany but was distinctly different (good in its own way). Toledo was founded by the Romans and many of the structures are still standing including one of the major bridges we drove over. I actually felt more confident driving over a 2000 year old Roman bridge than one made 20 years ago in the US. It's something about the whole Roman thing.

We were told that the view from an adjacent mountain was one of the three best in Europe. I haven't been around much, but I'd probably believe it. There was a gorgeous panoramic view of the city and the eclectic mix of older architecture. From here we started the actual city walking tour. The cathedral is very nice and in it we discovered yet another shrine to Greco. Outside in the a city square we ran into an interesting protest. Apparently it's Pride Week in Spain. The rally we walked into was pretty mild but I heard from people back in Barcelona there some rather interesting tactics, such as the lack of clothing, used to gather attention. Anyways, I really enjoyed walking around the small streets, dodging rouge taxis, and looking into all the different stores. We visited a local synagog that actually used to be a mosque. Like I said, there were many different religious influences and they tended to reuse buildings. Next door was a very peaceful monastery which was also nice to walk around a bit. I think the reason I liked Toledo was the "older" feeling and even though there probably was, it seemed like there wasn't as much tourist stuff going on.

Lunch was served at a really nice restaurant inside a local hotel. Although it didn't apply to me, they were a bit more understanding of the two vegetarians in our group. The previous day our waiter decided to create a rather dramatic scene by yelling at our group for making him throw together two extra salads. The Toldeo lunch included about half a chicken for each person. I'm actually not exaggerating this; there was more chicken on my plate than I've ever seen before. It was good but the group could have probably done with about a third the amount. After lunch was the drive back the the Madrid airport and our flight back to Barcelona. Apparently the Madrid-Barcelona route is known to have some turbulence and we were really bouncing around up there. I've decided this is not a good voyage for anybody with motion sickness issues.

After arriving in Barcelona we battled the crowds and finally got to dinner. I say "finally" in an American sense, we actually arrived about 10:30pm, right on time for our Spaniard friends. The meat paella didn't disappoint and we took a nice little evening walk around Barcelona before calling it a night.

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