My Husband and I were treated to a small break in Toledo by our friends in our Village, who love travelling as much as we do. An online deal was found and it was just what the doctor ordered at the time and so worth it! Four days away and we all had to come back home to our village to have a rest after all the walking and eating we did!
From our village it takes about three and a half hours to get to Toledo with stopping along the way for a wonderful bocadillo (sandwich) of jamon (ham) and cheese (queso) with a nice cuppa coffee in a side cafe on the highway. The highways are wonderful to drive on thanks to the EU and easy to use to get to places, even if you can’t speak spanish.
Toledo is about 75km south of Madrid and it’s a natural fortification. It sits majestically on a large crop over-looking the Tagus, the longest river in Spain. The city is sacred, ancient, biblical in many ways, which you can see in many cities throughout Europe. It is hilly with cobbled paved streets, wonderful doorways to duck into when a vehicle passes by.
Classical architecture surrounds you that is simply stunning.
It is also home to the adopted son of Toledo, Domenikos Theotokopoulos…nicknamed “El Greco” (who was from Crete) who came to this exciting city after many years strung along in Italy to be considered for a commission by the church. The Spanish are very proud of his work and you can go to his museum in the jewish section of the city where his works are displayed, as well as other artist. Click here and try to not miss these sights:
The Romans had planted their roots here in Toledo as early as 59 BC – 17 AD and who quickly integrated into the area culturally and politically. Toledo was renown for Christianity, Jewish and Muslim all living side by side and trading side by side for hundreds of years until the beginning of the Reconquista (the reconquest of Christianity in Spain and sent the Moors out). It is also the home to The Spanish Inquisition that started in the late 1400’s (not the “other” Inquisitions, which there were a few in the 12th and 13th centuries). The city was a hub of political growth and uprising throughout history, even during the Spanish Civil War.
The city is teaming with every sort of hotel you can think of, but for us we stayed in a lovely hotel
And this brings me to Toledo itself. The city is very hilly, in fact extremely hilly, and you must have good walking shoes and must have a bottle of water with you always. Those who are not fit, take your time or public transport. If you are driving, be aware that the streets are only good for a horse and cart or tiny cars. In the photo below, the boys had to help this van driver reverse out of this tight squeeze he got himself into.
Toledo is renowned for its gastronomical delights! It is home to Marzipan (which I don’t like…bad experience as a child and then nightmares!), cheeses – flavoursome tasting semi-hard cheeses that are made from sheep, goats and cows milk. Tapas that just are filled with abundance of flavour (Carcamusas is a local tapas dish of slow cooked pork, peas, tomatoes and white wine that is just to die for).
##Remember, Spanish folks have siesta/lunch around 2pm till about 4/5/6pm every day but some bars stay open and serve food and others don’t. So if you find you are hungry and nothing is open, I suggest always have some snacks in your bag or hotel room. There are small grocery stores scattered around the place that are opened in the mornings you can purchase groceries. I like to buy a baguette and some Iberian ham, cheese, tomato and we make a sandwich (cause you always have a fruit knife on you in Spain). A couple of cold beers or a bottle of wine sitting in a park is pure bliss!
I must say we ate so well during our stay in Toledo. From eating at trendy gastronomic restaurants, tapas bars, to pubs that served authentic home cooked regional meals. We were rolling out of restaurants.
But thankfully, there are so many twisting and turning streets and hills (did I mention the hills?), it will help you burn off most of those meals. The hard part is booking your tables because it can be busy. We went to so a few and turned away due to a full house.
One of the most spectacular sites that we did visit when in Toledo, was the Cathedral! Words cannot describe this building and what lays inside…Spectacular…Magnificent? YES, YES! The gold is dripping from the ceilings, the walls, candelabras. The frescos on the ceilings are to be seen, as there is one scene where it looks like the angels and saints are looking down at you. And of course, there are plenty of bones in the place.
Please note, it is always busy, so if you wish to see it, get there early in the morning and take your time at what is before you! Tickets are sold across from the entrance of the Cathedral in a small shop that also hires the multi-linguistic earphone sets if you are wanting to walk around on your own and take it in. Toledo Cathedral is a must see when you visit!
The Toledo Cathedral Bell Tower, in which you can climb the mountainous stairs to the top for the view. When you finally get to the top you will be met by the largest bell in Spain…with the biggest crack in it!
Note### The walk up the stairs is pretty harsh. It is NOT for those with young children or for the elderly or anyone with any kind of medical problem.
Toledo is also known for its sword making and metal work. Renown through the world for 2000 years back to Hannibal who knew it’s worth it was second to none in its day. For more on Toledo steel click here.
Shop after shop have swords, suits of armour, masks of different generations and stories; Knights Templars, Gladiator, Arthur Pendragon, Sauron, Romans Centurions, the list goes on. The works are amazing.
There are heaps of walks throughout the city, touristy train rides (in which you need a kidney belt as you go over cobbled stoned streets), numerous museums and plenty of fantastic views. Oodles of trinket and leather shops with fantastic handbags (and I do mean beautiful handbags!), wallets and belts. There are great silversmiths making lovely jewellery and lots of swords and oddities throughout. The public transport seems to be on the go all the time, but as we never used it and walked everywhere, so I couldn’t say if good or bad.
Camino de Santiago
Toledo is also a starting point for those who wish to do the Camino de Santiago, The Walk of Saint James. It is a 622km walk from here to Santiago, in Northern Spain, so I think it would take around 2 to 3 weeks to walk this route. From where I took the photo is Castillio de San Servando Hostel. The castle itself is full of history, being a medieval castle and built as a monastery occupied first by monks, and later by the Knights Templar. If interested in the Camino, look at what routes can be walked and towns where you can stay on the webpage of the Compostela.
As always when in another country, watch out for the pickpockets and don’t be leaving your personals anywhere that is easy picking for thieves.
Toledo is a welcoming place and in all the back alley’s and streets you will find wonderful bars and restaurants that have some wonderful characters. Don’t get caught in the touristy traps around town that charge like a wounded bull, but take the bulls by the horn and explore. You will not be disappointed!