For our last full day in Spain we decided to take a day trip to Toledo, a gorgeous city perched atop a huge hill in a somewhat desolate area outside of Madrid. A short high-speed train ride brought us there and we hopped on the tourist bus waiting outside the station. I generally prefer exploring new cities independently and discovering some of the hidden gems on my own, but the huge advantage of the tour buses is that you are able to see the highlights of the town quickly while seeing everything from a view you might not normally get while walking. In Toledo, the bus took us on a route around the city on the opposite side of the river, so we were able to see all the major buildings and sites of the city from afar as we circled the city, and then were able to see them up close when we disembarked in the main plaza.
This was my third trip to Toledo and it’s always a fantastic experience. It was a beautiful sunny day, but quite cold as well. After sitting on the top of the open-air tour bus, we headed straight to a café to order some tea and warm up. We wandered around the city, visiting some shops and doing some window browsing. When we reached the Cathedral plaza a nice man told us about an artist workshop that was closing in an hour and, with no specific commitments or plans, we decided to check it out. We were all a little suspicious at first, but it ended up being pretty cool. There were there “masters” at work, creating the Damasquino jewelry of Toledo, which is jewelry decorated with intricate gold patterns. Toledo is famous for this style of jewelry and examples of it can be found in any gift shop throughout the city. Here, however, you can watch it being made first hand, which not only shows that their jewelry is made by hand, but also creates a unique connection between buyer and seller as you are able to meet the person who created the piece of art you’re purchasing.
After visiting the workshop, we walked up to the cathedral but skipped the line for entry and instead headed to a nearby tapas restaurant. This turned out to be the same restaurant I had gone to four years ago when our high school Spanish class went to Spain for a week. I had been so proud of myself at the time for asking the waiter to bring us what he recommended. Fun being back in the same restaurant, but with a much better level of Spanish at my disposal and four years of life experience. The restaurant created two memory snapshots, the present and the past, that really put into perspective how much I’ve grown and matured in my Spanish, as well as in general life. Oh and the food was also delicious!Bellies full (this seems to be a common theme from this vacation!), we wandered around the city a bit more, discovering some beautiful old streets that seemed to turn in every direction without ever ending. We walked up to the alcazar, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations, so instead we headed to the old city hospital that has since been turned into a beautiful museum featuring many pieces by El Greco and some amazing tapestries and ancient artifacts from Toledo’s early days. Amazing to see the ancient tools and pottery created 2,000 years ago by people living in the same area we had been walking around all day. With our train departure time rapidly approaching, we headed back to the station and made it on board with only minutes to spare.
After packing at the hotel, we left our lovely Best Western in search of a quick dinner, which we found at a nice tapas restaurant off of Sol. The food wasn’t quite as good as we had experienced at the other Madrid tapas bar, but it was delectable and made for a fitting last meal. I left my parents on the way back to the hotel to take some night pictures of Madrid in Sol, Gran Via, Plaza de Cibeles and la Puerta de Alcalá. As with all of the pictures I’ve been taking on the trip you can see them at my flickr page! Finished packing back at the hotel and got some sleep before waking up for our flight to Paris.