Thursday, July 4: After visiting the Sinagoga, I head up the street to the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. This monastery was built by the Catholic King and Queen, Isabel (Elizabeth) and Fernando (Ferdinand) to commemorate their victory at the Battle of Toro (1476) over the army of Alfonso of Portugal.
The Church is dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist, patron saint of King Juan II. Common opinion says that it was intended to be used by the Catholic Monarchs as a pantheon (royal burial-place), but this idea changed after the conquest of Granada in 1492. They were actually buried in the Chapel Royal of Granada Cathedral.
The Monastery was built in the Gothic Flemish school of architecture. Construction began in 1477. The building is of solid granite stone.
The lower cloisters, with 24 Gothic vaulted ceilings and distinct ‘mudejar’ influence, open out into the garden through five large windows with center partitions which has decorative tracery. The Gothic-form arches rest on pillars with relief carvings of flora and fauna.
I adore the cloisters of this monastery.
The ceiling is constructed of highly crafted larch wood, painted with the motifs and coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs – the initials F and Y (Fernando and Isabel).
Since 1978-79, San Juan de los Reyes has been a fully functioning parish church.
I head back through the streets of Toledo, where I stop at a cafe near my hotel for a light dinner of salmon salad. I’ve been drinking white wine in Toledo, something I don’t normally drink, because the chilled wine is the perfect antidote to the high temperatures. 🙂
For dessert, I treat myself to a stracciatella gelato.
I’m starting to get a little worn down from all my travels and from trying to do too much. I go back to my room early tonight, around 10:00, and relax in my air-conditioned room. I think tomorrow in Toledo, I will sleep in and make it more of a restful day. 🙂
Thursday, July 4: From the Toledo City Tour bus, I’m deposited off a small square near the Alcazar, where I find this strange sculpture.
Then I tackle the colorful streets of Toledo in search of the Catedral de Toledo, which I know happens to be close to my hotel.
Spanish fans are for sale in many shops, but I love these lacy ones.
I come upon an entrance to the Catedral, but obviously this one isn’t the right one, as you can only walk into the entryway and you can’t proceed further because of a locked wrought iron gate inside.
As I walk around the other side of the immense Catedral, where the official entrance must be, I decide to stop and have a little Tortellini Finas Hiervas & Granizado de Limon at Bar El Rojas.
Finally I walk around to the other side of the Catedral, where I must pay 8 euros to get in.
The Holy Church Cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary in her Assumption to the heavens. Construction began in 1227 over the foundations of the Visigoth Cathedral of the 6th century, which had been used as a mosque. It’s constructed in a Gothic style with a French influence and is 120 meters long by 60 meters wide. It contains 5 naves supported by 88 pillars and 72 vaults.
The Cathedral is the Mother Church of the diocese because it holds the chair or See of the Bishop. The Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations are held here.
The main chapel is stunning, with its main altarpiece made of polychrome and golden wood, completed by numerous sculptors over a six-year period (1498-1504). The atrium of the altarpiece is finished off with a huge Cavalry surrounded by a starry sky.
The Choir was built to accommodate the cathedral’s clergy. A beautiful Gothic French sculpture from the 16th century called The White Blessed Virgin looks over the altar.
The lower stalls tell the story of Granada’s conquest.
The organ in the choir towers overhead.
I love this amazing painting in one of the domes.
After I finish at the Cathedral, I go back to my hotel to relax a bit. All the shops seem to close in the late afternoon, much like they did in Oman, probably because of the high temperatures (100 degrees F) in the afternoon. I’m exhausted and need to learn to slow down and take an afternoon off now and again.
Manolo at the front desk of the hotel.
I go out walking again to continue my stroll through history, in search of the two Jewish synagogues. By the time I go back out in the afternoon, it’s sweltering. I would have been better off had I come out later, as the sun was going down. On the way to the synagogues, I pass by the cathedral again, as it’s right around the corner from my hotel.
I pass by more inviting balconies; I think everyone inside is still napping, which is the only thing one should be doing in this heat. 🙂
I walk to an overlook near the Rio Tajo.
Finally, after taking quite a convoluted path, I arrive at the synagogue of Samuel ha-Levi, also known as the Sinagoga del Transito, which houses the Museo Sefardi. This synagogue was built in the mid-14th century. When the Jews were expelled in 1492, the Catholic Monarchs ceded to the Order of Calatrava the “main synagogue the Jews had in Toledo, in exchange for the Alcazar and Palacios de Galiana with the Church of Santa Fe, possessions of this Order.”
By 1494, the building was no longer used as a synagogue and became part of the Priory of St. Benedict.
After I leave the Sinagoga del Transito, I head next to the beautiful Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes.
Thursday, July 4: The next place I go on my walking tour is the Alcázar of Toledo, a stone fortification that sits at the highest part of Toledo.
In the third century, it was used as a Roman palace. Abd ar-Rahman III built an al-qasr (fortress) here in the 10th century; it was later altered by the Christians, according to Lonely Planet Spain.
It was restored under Charles I and Philip II of Spain in the 1540s. In 1521, Hernan Cortes was received by Charles I at the Alcázar, following Cortes’ conquest of the Aztecs. (Wikipedia: Alcazar of Toledo)
The Alcázar was largely destroyed during the siege of Franco’s forces in 1936 but Franco had it rebuilt and turned into a military museum (Lonely Planet Spain).
It’s a bit strange going in this place because it’s just a huge military museum. It’s easy to get lost! Only when you first enter can you see some excavated ruins. Otherwise, inside it’s just like any other museum.
There is no place to climb for a view unless you go through the library entrance and take an elevator up to a small, shabby cafeteria.
I’m not that interested in military history, so I find the whole thing a little disappointing. My favorite part is taking pictures from the garden outside.
After leaving the museum, I get on the hop-on, hop-off Toledo City Tour for 9 euros. Because of its narrow streets, Toledo is mostly a walking city. The tour actually takes you out of the city and across the river, the Rio Tajo. There really are not any real hop-on, hop-off options like in most cities. The only positive to the tour is that it takes you across the river where you can get some amazing views of the city.
Our first stop on the Toledo City Tour is the train station in Toledo, built in the Neo-Mudéjar architectural style using horseshoe arches and abstract shaped brick ornamentation for the façades.
We then cross over the Rio Tajo.
We can see fabulous views of the Alcázar and Toledo’s skyline, including the Cathedral.
We can also see the San Juan de los Reyes Franciscan Monastery.
After I hop off the bus tour, I head through the streets of the city in search of the Catedral de Toledo.
Thursday, July 4: I normally wake up every morning at 4:30-5 a.m. and can’t go back to sleep. While on this trip, I have still been waking up at 4:30 or 5, but after I get up and mess around on my blog or read emails, I find myself getting sleepy again. I allow myself the luxury to drift off again. This morning, I do the same, wake up early, then fall back to sleep, waking for the second time at 8:30, which is pretty nice for me. 🙂 I love being on vacation. I really don’t have to get up at all if I don’t feel like it!
Breakfast is served at La Posada de Manolo from 8:30-11, so I shower and go up to the terrace where I have a wonderful view of Catedral de Toledo. I have some coffee, eat some cold cuts (which seem to be the norm for breakfast in Spain, at least in the two places where I’ve stayed), drink some orange juice and enjoy the view from the terrace.
I head out to walk, following Lonely Planet Spain‘s Walking Tour: A Stroll Through History. On the way, I pass a ceramic plate in a shop doorway with the monuments of Toledo pictured.
I first head to the Plaza de Zocodover, which is the central point for everything in Toledo. The square is lined by cafes that are prime spots for people watching. According to Lonely Planet Spain, from 1465 to the 1960s, Zocodover was the scene of the city’s Tuesday market and successor to the Arab souq ad-dawab (livestock market), hence the name. For centuries, toledanos enjoyed their bullfights here, or gathered to watch public burnings at the stake during the Inquisition.
It’s too bad about that McDonald’s.
From the Plaza de Zocodover, I pass through the Arco de la Sangre on the eastern side of the square, heading to the Museo de Santa Cruz.
The 16th century Museo de Santa Cruz combines Gothic and Spanish Renaissance styles. I love the cloisters and the carved wooden ceilings. I walk through the museum, enjoying the mosaics, the porcelain plaques, the woodwork and the religious paintings and tapestries. I also enjoy the air-conditioning, as Toledo is quite hot. While Barcelona was about 25 degrees Celsius every day I was there, Toledo is about 38 (100 F). On these narrow winding and steep streets, with stone all around, the heat is trapped and I feel like I’m in an oven. Any chance I have to dip into air-conditioning is a sweet relief.
After leaving Museo de Santa Cruz, I head to Toledo’s famous Alcázar.