a peugeot kind of day: a drive from barcelona to toledo & arrival at la posada de manolo

Wednesday, July 3:  After I eat breakfast and check out of bcn fashion house, I carry my suitcases back to Placa Catalunya where I get on the Aerobus to Terminal 2 at the airport.  There I wait in quite a long line to get my rental car, which I booked online through Europcar.  I thought I was getting an economy car, though the price is certainly NOT economy.  Instead I get a brand new Peugeot. It’s quite a nifty little car.

my rental car: a nifty Peugeot :-)
my rental car: a nifty Peugeot🙂

After Monday’s overwhelming train fiasco in trying to get to Montserrat, I decide at the last-minute to rent a car to drive to Toledo.  People tell me it’s a 6-7 hour drive.  It’s so strange how we in America think of European countries as being similar in size to one of our states.  I had originally figured it might take 3-4 hours. But the people who told me 6-7 hours were right on.

some sights along the A2
some sights along the A2

Somehow I envision a drive that cuts across the diagonal of the country to Toledo, missing Madrid altogether.  Little do I know that I will have to go to Madrid to get to Toledo.  I just have to figure out my way around the ring road so I don’t end up in the center of Madrid, which would be my worst nightmare.

The ubiquitous black bulls
The ubiquitous black bulls

The drive goes pretty smoothly except when I get to Lleida, where I’m supposed to switch from the A2 to the AP2, which happens to be a toll road.   The sign I pass for the AP2 seems so insignificant for such a major road, that I think it cannot be the right one.  Soon after that exit that I don’t take, the A2 turns into a two lane road clogged with slow-moving trucks, which makes for very slow going.  Finally, about 60 km from Zaragoza,  I see another insignificant sign to the AP2, and I make my escape.  I’m happy to pay the toll to be able to move along at a faster pace!

on the highway
on the highway

Along the way, the landscape is quite beautiful, with wheat farms, vineyards, and plateaus everywhere.  Atop many of the plateaus are huge wind farms, with sleek windmills twirling in the breeze.  I wonder what Don Quixote would have thought of these modern-day windmills.

About 60 km outside of Madrid, I stop at a gas station to ask directions to Toledo.  This turns out to be a very smart move!  I would have never known to look for the M50 off the ring road, which has NO SIGNS mentioning Toledo, if the nice guy at the gas station hadn’t given me directions.  He only speaks Spanish, but he writes down the important names on a piece of paper;  I follow his instructions and don’t get lost.  I feel proud of myself, and that guy’s great directions, that I was able to get to Toledo without a hitch.

I printed out a MapQuest map for Toledo with directions to the hotel, but when I follow those directions, though I get off at the correct exit in Toledo, I am told to take the 3rd exit off of several roundabouts and find myself deposited right back on the highway heading away from Toledo.  It takes me quite a while to find my way back and then quite a while more to find my way to the hotel.  I park at a garage near the Alcazar and roll my suitcases a long distance down some very steep cobblestone streets, with a nice Spanish lady helping me along the way, and I find my hotel, La Posada de Manolo, on a very narrow winding street.

My room at La Posada de Manolo
My room at La Posada de Manolo

La Posada de Manolo is a hotel in the historical center of Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage City, in a completely renovated building.  Rooms are distributed over three floors that thematically represent the three cultures that coexisted in Toledo (Arab, Jewish, and Christian). From its two terraces, we have views of the Cathedralthe San Ildefonso Seminary and the Cigarrales.

After getting settled in briefly, I head out to find a cafe because all I have eaten during my drive is a small bag of Tostidos.  I find a nice outdoor corner cafe, Restaurant Alcazar, where I order paella de verduras, or vegetable paella, and a glass of red wine.  When I order a second glass of wine, the waiter kindly fills it up to the top!  Nice.🙂

vegetable paella
vegetable paella
Restaurant Alcazar
Restaurant Alcazar
Restaurant Alcazar
Restaurant Alcazar
Enjoying a glass of wine at Restaurant Alcazar after a long day of driving
Enjoying a glass of wine at Restaurant Alcazar after a long day of driving

At the cafe, I get into a long-running conversation with an older Spanish-speaking couple who ask me to take their picture.  The woman goes on and on telling me about something, and though I don’t understand, I nod as if I do.  I speak to her in English and she nods as if she understands and continues to speak in Spanish.  We talk and talk with neither of us having a clue what the other is saying.  The woman shows me a video on her phone of a little girl singing and dancing.  I take it that the girl is her granddaughter.  It’s quite a lovely conversation, despite having no understanding whatsoever!

my Spanish "friends" :-)
my Spanish “friends”🙂
parting shot of Restaurant Alcazar
parting shot of Restaurant Alcazar

After dinner, by this time around 11 p.m., I head to the main square, Zocodover Square, and begin walking. Toledo’s streets are a maze of narrow winding streets, plazas and patios, many lacking street signs.

Zocodover Square in Toledo
Zocodover Square in Toledo

After dinner and my two glasses of wine, I can’t make heads or tails of the confusing map and I end up wandering around the streets totally lost.  I begin to fear I will never find my hotel, and at one point I think I might start crying.  But I don’t.  I bear on, wandering and wondering, until I see a familiar sight, the theater, then I know I’m close.   I make it to the hotel, where I settle in for a long cozy night.

6 thoughts on “a peugeot kind of day: a drive from barcelona to toledo & arrival at la posada de manolo

  1. No signs! That must feel familiar! But better to be lost in Spain than in Oman. Just reread your last comments re your final Nizwa blog. Very informative, and I wish I had the patience to blog esp as my blog only I can see. I know I will regret not recording a few things now and again but I do email a lot and keep all my sent mails just in case. Not that much to tell though as you know, one day here is so much like any other in Oman, not being a pedestrian-friendly country in any way at all with so few roads and so few options to explore anything except the familiar as there are so many limitations on where you can go even with a car. And as your blogs attest, even the weekends began to fade seamlessly with every other, just like each agonizing day at work.

    In Europe there is adventure around every corner though yes, when you just want to find the four walls and bed you paid for and conk out because you are exhausted, you are not in the mood to wander.

    It is very strange knowing you won’t be at your desk again. It is just a desk now, not “Cathy’s desk”. I hope you don’t mind I took your lovely images of flowers or birds or whatever they were, and now they adorn my little desk area.

    I bet you have so thoroughly shed the skin of the Gulf that it already seems like so long ago that you were counting the seconds until you could leave…. and though I know you are excited about returning to the States, I cannot see this being your great farewell to the world of travel, though. I give you 6-8 weeks max once you are home, to start getting itchy feet once again. I was home for 8 years after being forced to go back home, thinking I would be able to eventually settle in, but I never did. And as bad as it is, being here in Nizwa is still better than being back home in Small Town, Canada.

    1. There is always a lot to tell about an experience KvK, so I think it’s a good exercise to blog even if it’s only for yourself. It forces you to notice things, and to think about them. I think it would be a good thing to do, and you’ll appreciate it later. I can’t tell you how often I go back to read posts from my Korea blog. I can see how much I’ve grown since then.

      I have no regrets about leaving Oman; I can’t say I miss it at all, except for the friends I had there. I don’t know about my future yet, so I’m a little anxious about that. I’m just trying to enjoy this month of holiday before I have to go back to the real world!

      I’m glad you’re happier in Nizwa than in Canada. We’ll see about your 6-8 week prediction about me getting the travel bug again. The Camino is definitely calling my name for next year, I hope. I’m also glad you took my pictures from my desk. Why not? I hope you enjoy.

      Thanks for all your comments. Sorry it took me so long to respond.🙂

    1. Carol, I think you’d find if you were forced to be brave, you would just become brave. For me, it’s scary and anxiety-producing to be on my own and to have to do these kinds of things, but I remind myself that the alternative is to sit at home and play it safe. I also remind myself, when I get really anxious, that I need to take just one step at a time; I don’t have to have the whole future planned out. I’m getting better with that idea the older I get!🙂

  2. I’d probably still be wandering those streets! My sense of direction is legendary for not existing.
    Sounds hard going in places, Cath, but I keep seeing a reassuring smile on your face. Take care 🙂

    1. And Toledo has so many crazy streets, not laid out on any kind of grid, it’s so easy to get lost. Believe it or not, I did kind of figure it out by the 2nd day. By the way, Jo, I tried to text you, but the text wouldn’t send. My phone doesn’t work in Spain on Spanish numbers, and I guess it doesn’t work now for Portugal, although we were able to text when I was in Oman. I don’t know why I can’t call inside Spain or Portugal while here, though I could in Oman; on the other hand, I can still text home to the US. Weird!

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