28 Aug

After 1,200 miles by train, we spent a week in Toledo

In my last description of my European trip, I wrote about traveling 1,200 miles by train from London to Paris, Paris on sleeper train through the south of France, and into the North of Spain, and then down into Madrid and Toledo.

The morning after that epic journey, I woke up to wander around streets like this:

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And this:

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There was a street called Two Elbows Street somewhere, to my amusement.

Toledo is a medieval walled city dropped down onto a mountain. There’s a river behind it, and walls in front. Everything is tightly packed together… and old. Here’s a shot from across the river, looking at the whole city from across the valley the river creates:

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And near the Plaza Zocodover, close to our hotel, every corner seemed to contain a tapas bar, or a workshop where amazing gold thread was being hammered into intricate designs.

Oh, and there were shops full of swords everywhere I turned.

At one point I said out loud “wow, that cathedral looks very gothic, isn’t it?” Emily responded, “It is gothic. It’s actually gothic. As in made by the Visigoths and by definition: Gothic.”

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Right. Because in Europe you’re seeing the original thing.

This view, from just in the Plaza Zocodover, was one I kept coming back to. Partly because right off to the right, out of the camera, was an amazing Mazapan shop. But also because of the arch, the stairs, and the view of the plains out beyond it:

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Another memory I’ll hold for a long time was standing across from the city of Toledo drinking a 100 year old local brandy, watching the sun set:

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I count myself extraordinarily lucky to have been able to do that. It’s something I’ll be recalling for a long time.

Toledo is full of moments that made me recalibrate standing time. Like crossing a bridge built before the nation I live in came to be:

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Or crossing a street that ended at a door, and passing through it to find a square and people sitting outside eating lunch:

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Or waiting for a car to drive by so that you, too, can enter the official gate of the city:

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The walls are still there, and impressive, facing out toward the plains.

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For me, intimidating. Stories of climbing to get back up to the height of our hotel. However… they’ve installed escalators. Some were outraged, but I’ll be honest: Toledo’s built on a small mountain. It was a life-saver. Probably literally.

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Five, two-story escalators truck you right up the side of the city, and up to a more reasonable level.

Back to our hotel, to watch sunset over the roofs of Toledo at the bar on the top floor:

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Another day trip involved visiting The Monstary of San Juan de los Reyes. The courtyard walk around:

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The orange trees in the courtyard:

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Inside the church, which is stunningly tall. And a reminder that gothic doesn’t mean ‘dark’ and ‘shadowy.’ The arches, the buttresses outside, all are to create sun-filled open space. In fact, it was so drenched with light many of my photos came out washed out.

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On the second level, walking around the courtyard, the woodwork in the ceiling is just stunning:

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The week seemed to be gone in a snap of the fingers. Some tourists ‘do’ Toledo in a day. Even in a week, I still missed out on a number of things.

Leaving on the train for Madrid and a plane to London was bittersweet. Even as I realized how much had sunk in, I realized I hadn’t, couldn’t, pay enough attention to really absorb it all.

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