Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. It’s the capital of the region and is a favourite tourist destination known for the mix of medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments within its walled city. A wonderful maze of narrow streets which takes on a magical feel when night falls.
Driving to our hotel was interesting as the streets got narrower and narrower. The receptionist had emphasised that our hire car must be a small one otherwise we wouldn’t get through …how right she was! Nevertheless we arrived without scraping any paintwork at Hotel Santa Isabel which was a perfect spot to stay being right in the heart of the walled city. The picture above was taken from the roof terrace and is the church of Saint Isabel. I love the golden evening light on the campanile. Of all the places we stayed during our week in Spain this hotel gave us the best breakfast and the room and service was very good too. We highly recommend this hotel.
On our first evening we wandered towards the Jewish quarter and had a tasty meal washed down with a carafe of reasonably priced vino in a very modest ‘locals’ restaurant .
Day two in the city and unusually for us we decided to go on the tourist train to see more of Toledo. It saved us from getting the car out from the very tricky hotel car park and it was an easy and inexpensive way to see the sights. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and as well as passing some of the landmarks in the old town the train takes you along the river Tagus with views of several interesting bridges and then goes up to the Mirador del Valle.
From the Mirador del Valle you look down on the Tagus river which encircles Toledo. From the viewpoint where the bus stops for about fifteen minutes to give people a chance to take pictures you can see Toledo’s landmarks …the Cathedral, the Jesuit Church and the Alcazar. This is a just an amazing panorama. I can imagine that if you’re up there at sunset it looks even more breathtaking. We were impressed with the trip on the train; it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. We sat at the back which in our opinion were the best seats.
Once back in the city, we had a wander round the area just below the Alcazar as I wanted to take this view which is the last one in the set above. I love the the three roads snaking across and the castle in the background. I thought we might visit the castle but apparently it’s a youth hostel and as for the old fortress of Alcazar, well we gave that a miss as its a military museum now. It is an imposing building with its high walls and black pinnacles (?) on each of the four corners. Having decided we wouldn’t do the museum we settled for a couple of beers sat in the sun at a cafe opposite the Alcazar.
After a bite to eat we headed to one of Toldeo’s main attractions, Catedral Primada or to give it its full name, Santa Inglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo. Do check out the opening times before you go. There is an admission charge but its well worth it. This medieval gothic religious edifice is majestic. There are several chapels to visit, also the Treasury and the Capitulary room and anteroom and you can climb the tower that’s 44 metres high to get great views of the city. Leave plenty of time for your visit.
I know it’s a personal observation but for me the most impressive part of the Cathedral is the Main Chapel with its enormous altarpiece which was started in the early sixteenth century and has been worked on by many craftsmen since. The gilding, the colours, the statues and the height is an incredible backdrop to the main altar.
On our way back to the hotel we spotted a restaurant just round the corner that also did tapas. Stupidly we didn’t think we needed to book as it was a Sunday evening but when we went back later we found out it was a popular place and was fully booked. We should have gone earlier as in Spain people tend not to go out to eat until at least 9 o’clock. However we’d enjoyed exploring the back streets and although the main streets were fairly quiet the shops were open. Not sure anyone was interested in buying a Toldeo sword for which the town is famous but the shop selling marzipan was still busy. Along with these rather gruesome-looking swords, Toledo is famous for its handmade marzipan.
Fortunately we’d been told about a tapas bar, El Trebol on the other side of the city which had a good write-up so we weren’t surprised when we arrived that we had to queue to get in. The wait wasn’t too long and it was worth it. We were first of all directed to the bar so no problem there. We were served a drink very quickly and given two small plates of delicious ‘taster’ tapas as an appetizer. Before long we were taken to our table, chose four meat dishes from the menu and had the tastiest tapas of the whole holiday.
Before we left Toledo we decided to re-trace the route of the tourist train and drive alongside the river. Two days in the city isn’t long enough to do justice to this former Spanish capital. We had wandered around the Jewish quarter but didn’t visit the synagogue. We hadn’t been inside the Mezquita Cristo de la Luz, a square-shaped mosque in the ancient medina and we hadn’t been to the Monastery of San Juan and any other monasteries for that matter. However we felt we had walked around most of the old town and done all we could in a short space of time. We never intend on our holidays to race around and when we’ve left things to do and see, well we can always go back.
Now it was time to move on and head across country to Oropesa. More about this Spanish town and others in the next part of this Blog.