Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day One - Toledo

Holy Toledo.

Toledo is capital of the province of Castille-La Mancha. It is a short 45 minute drive from the airport at Madrid and along the route one sees the outline of a large steel bull, symbol of the province. With a little effort, one can also find the windmills that Don Quixote famously tilted at.

The city of Toledo is a World Heritage site, a must stop for any visitor to Spain. A short list of things to see and do must include the narrow winding streets of the city, its many cathedrals and churches which are home to paintings by el Greco, the Alcazar, and the view of the River Tagus. Just as engaging are the visits to the local shops which specialize in anything steel, which is what Toledo was famous for. While swords and steel suits are not necessarily the primary means of defense today, they still adorn many homes.

Since my last trip to Toledo, I had forgotten the sweet flavor of Marzapan, which is a specialty of the many pastry shops. But by far the favorite pastime of the hard working citizens of Toledo is to sit in a local cafe and sip a beer or a glass of the local wine.

Plan to stay in the city and be a part of the night life. You can drive, but remember the streets are tortuously narrow, but exciting. Be careful and retract your rear view mirrors or risk a scrape. Park in a garage and pay the 15 euros a day. Bring a Garmin to find your way or plan to get lost a lot.

My choice of hotels is the Hotel Eurico, a stones throw from the main cathedral in the city center. It is also convienient to the church of St. Tome, home of el Greco's famous painting, the Burial of Count Orgaz. The hotel is small and I consider this a plus as the service is friendly. The decor is a blend of the medieval and the modern. The rooms are cool, a must after a day in the hot Castillian sun. The beds are short, but firm and comfortable.

The city can be walked in a day, but you really need to stay for two or three to experience it all. And remember that the social life in Spain does not begin until after eight.

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