Toledo, a touch of Spain’s old magic. 2012

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Our introduction to Toledo was one of extreme comfort where the decision to arrange a pick up from Madrid airport proved to be the right one. The prospect of train, train, taxi transfers as opposed to a one drive door to door was worth the extra payment and time saved especially when the 450 SL Merc pulled up and off we went with lovely classical music playing. Our driver was an absolute gentleman and as we approached Toledo an hour later he regaled us on his Town’s history and its highlights. The directions we were given were nice and easy to follow and we had a hassle free drop off just 20m from our door where our landlord was waiting and waving to us.

Our first impression of Toledo as a compact historic walled town with an abundance of treasures was heightened when we entered our apartment building and Theresa our charming landlord showed us around and gave us a history lesson on our 16th century building. The apartment was a gem and perfectly positioned in the centre of town in a quiet lane just minutes from the main square.

After a short rest and a bit of unpacking we decided to head off into the streets to see what was happening on a Friday night. A few restaurants were recommended by Theresa and we secured an outdoor table in a popular lane behind the main square and enjoyed a very nice Tapas meal before venturing out into the brightly adorned streets that were all dressed up for the Corpus Christi celebrations.  The town is known for its famous armor and weaponry so there are shops selling tourists pieces and models etc everywhere so John was in his element.

People were starting to fill the streets and most were heading to The Cathedral Square where a concert was being held that night so after taking in the sights on the way and securing our seats we waited and waited for it to start. They do start everything late in these Latin Mediterranean regions and once it started at around 11pm we were knackered and only lasted a few numbers but the place was packed full of locals and tourists alike.

After a good night’s sleep we planned our day after John got back from his daily shopping ritual to buy breakfast. First stop after a bit of street wandering was the stunning Cathedral with its beautiful Cloisters and Historical chapels adorned with works by El Greco and other masters.

The cathedral had some of the most amazing frescos and ornate patterns we had seen, very different to other parts of Spain.

The streets were very narrow and we found the perfect town car that would be a great run around for the office as well.

After lunch we bordered a little tourist trolley train for a journey around the outskirts which took us across the river to enjoy the stunning views of the town from vantage points that really gives you a varied view on its history from roman days to Visigoths, Moors, the Castille Kings and the Hapsburgs to Franco and the modern age. This town really has it all.

Roman bridge and Moorish/Hapsburgh Alcazar.

views of Toledo showing The Cathedral and 14th century bridge.

We dined beautifully at another recommended establishment a bit further across town and as the town is only 1.4km long x 1.2km wide it takes less than 40mins to walk from one end to the other so more ambling to and from along quiet pedestrian streets past squares full of people out enjoying the late June evening light gave us more and more insights into the vibe of this delightful town.

Don Quixote standing guard over the enterance to the main square.

Our next day was a big one where we planned to use our museum/sights pass to the max, first stop a Moorish Mosque that turned into a church and then later excavations revealed roman origins and Visigoth alterations before the Moorish mosque amendments, it really was a revelation. Then off to The El Greco museum, once thought to be his house but not really but a great restoration of a 15th century villa has achieved a fabulous insight into times gone by.

The El Greco Museum and the famous St Peter Repentment painting.

We then went around the corner to a beautiful Jewish synagogue from the 14th century showing the Islamic/Moorish influence on everything especially the ornate plaster work.

There were Old Moorish Mosques turned into churches or Synagogues  that still had the stunning Arches and detailed sculptures plaster work from the Islamic designs.

And this building below from the 14th Century looked like it was built in the 1920’s in Art Deco style.

This was all in the Jewish quarter which has an abundance of historic building and none more beautiful than the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes  from the 14th to 16th Centuries. The stunning cloisters and courtyards leading to one of the most ornate churches in Spain had us in wows and awe for a few hours.

The stunning statues and stone carvings were very unique with some of the best gargoyles we have seen but one of the highlights were the carved wooden ceilings in The Cloisters which were obviously created by craftsmen trained in the arts and crafts style of The Moors.

We grabbed lunch in an outdoor café on the way to crossing the 14th century Bridge and working our way along the walls and lanes back towards our side of town in the heat of the afternoon.

Ann stayed in for a well-deserved rest and John headed up to the Towers of The Jesuit Church to take in the view across the town for another spectacular perspective.

Our last day in Toledo was spent mostly down towards the Old Moorish Sol gates and the later main Christian gates and fortifications but on the way we checked out the only original Moorish mosque still standing in its original shape with its nine small domes all with a different vaulting design.

We visited the Hospital outside the old town walls, which was built in the 17th century by the Hapsburg rulers of the time and discovered an amazing underground burial chamber in the Vaults that was an acoustic revelation. When you walked into the low domed chamber the reverberation was amazing and as you a approached the centre the reverb echoed in a most bizarre way , so eerie and compelling at the same time.

We took a taxi out of town to the Hyatt regency which has a spa but we ended up having lunch instead in an amazing dining room very similar to the Palace Hotel in Madrid. That afternoon Ann was starting to feel the effects of her cough developing and she sent John off to discover the massive Alcazar military museum on his own. Smart move Ann as it was massive and unless you were into the military history of Spain from pre Roman times until today then it was worth avoiding. But for John it was right up his alley even if it was hard to absorb it all. Dinner was back at the original tapas Café with the locals and we took another stroll around the town and added a few shop stops along the way to pick up a few gifts and keepsakes.

We spent our last morning in Toledo checking out the fascinating Santa Cruz museum located in an old Convent/monastery.

Our driver picked us up right on schedule  and it was off to check out the stunning turn of the century railway station built in the moorish style and then off to Madrid Airport for our flight to Amsterdam.

We have loved our four days in the land of Don Quixote (La Mancha ) and we now have Toledo as one of our favorites.

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