the catedral de toledo & sinagoga del transito

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.

a sculpture in a small square near the Alcazar
a sculpture in a small square near the Alcazar

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.

Streets of Toledo
Streets of Toledo

Spanish fans are for sale in many shops, but I love these lacy ones.

Lacy Spanish fans
Lacy Spanish fans

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.

the back entrance to Catedral de Toledo
the back entrance to Catedral de Toledo

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.

Tortellini Finas Hiervas & Granizado de Limon at Bar El Rojas
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.

Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo

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.

Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo

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.

Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo

The lower stalls tell the story of Granada’s conquest.

Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo

The organ in the choir towers overhead.

Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo

I love this amazing painting in one of the domes.

Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo

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.

my hotel: La Posada de Manolo
my hotel: La Posada de Manolo

Manolo at the front desk of the hotel.

La Posada de Manolo
La Posada de Manolo
La Posada de Manolo
La Posada de Manolo

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.

Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo
Catedral de Toledo

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. 🙂

another inviting balcony
another inviting balcony

I walk to an overlook near the Rio Tajo.

Rio Tajo
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.

inside Sinagoga del Transito
inside Sinagoga del Transito
inside Sinagoga del Transito
inside Sinagoga del Transito
Sinagoga del Transito
Sinagoga del Transito

After I leave the Sinagoga del Transito, I head next to the beautiful Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes.

toledo: a stroll through history {plaza de zocodover, arco de la sangre & museo de santa cruz}

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.

view of Catedral de Toledo from the terrace of La Posada de Manolo
view of Catedral de Toledo from the terrace of La Posada de Manolo
view of Toledo from my hotel terrace
view of Toledo from my hotel terrace
the Cathedral from my terrace
the Cathedral from my terrace
the Cathedral
the Cathedral
breakfast buffet at La Posada de Manolo
breakfast buffet at La Posada de Manolo
breakfast
breakfast

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.

ceramic Toledo
ceramic Toledo

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.

Plaza de Zocodover
Plaza de Zocodover

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.

Arco de la Sangre
Arco de la Sangre

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.

Museo de Santa Cruz
Museo de Santa Cruz
inside Museo de Santa Cruz
inside Museo de Santa Cruz
mosaics in Museo de Santa Cruz
mosaics in Museo de Santa Cruz
photography in Museo de Santa Cruz
photography in Museo de Santa Cruz
beautiful woodwork
beautiful woodwork
Porcelains at Museo de Santa Cruz
porcelain at Museo de Santa Cruz
courtyard in Museo de Santa Cruz
courtyard in Museo de Santa Cruz
at Museo de Santa Cruz
at Museo de Santa Cruz
inside Museo de Santa Cruz
inside Museo de Santa Cruz
Christ in Museo de Santa Cruz
Christ in Museo de Santa Cruz
courtyard at Museo de Santa Cruz
courtyard at Museo de Santa Cruz

After leaving Museo de Santa Cruz, I head to Toledo’s famous Alcázar.

 

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.

my itinerary for spain: here’s what i’ve got so far…

Tuesday, June 11:  I’ve planned my time in Spain, but, so far, I haven’t even begun to think of Portugal.  I know I better start thinking about it soon because I have to fly out of Lisbon on July 25.

Here’s my itinerary so far.

June 28-July 3: Barcelona, Spain, including Montserrat.  I’m staying at BCN Fashion House: (bcn fashion house)

I decided to skip Madrid altogether.

July 3-6:  Toledo, Spain.  I’ll be staying at La Posada de Manolo. Last summer when I was traveling in Greece, I met an inspiring South African lady, Marie-Claire.  She had come to Greece after traveling all over Europe, but especially in Spain and Portugal.  She highly recommended I stay more than one day in Toledo.  Since I have a small group tour lined up in Andalucia from July 6-12, I booked 3 days/4 nights in Toledo.

July 6-12:  I will head straight from Toledo to Malaga Airport, where I will meet Tour Andalucia: Tour Andalucia: Villa Tour

The small group tour includes the following:

  1. Meet at Malaga Airport and subject to arrival time, spend a few hours in Mijas, a lovely mountain village overlooking the Mediterranean, then travel and check in to the Villa.
  2. Breakfast and travel to Seville. Visit the Santa Maria Park to see the amazing Plaza Espana, the site of the American Exhibition of 1929. Walk from the park past some of Seville’s most historic buildings to the Barrio Santa Cruz. Wander through the narrow lanes of the Barrio and take a delicious tapas lunch ‘Seville style’ in one of the lovely small Plazas. In the afternoon visit the largest Cathedral in the world followed by the fabulous Alcazar, one of the oldest Royal Palaces in Europe. An elegant City, Seville was once one of the wealthiest in Europe.
  3. Breakfast and travel to Ronda. One the way, we stop at the historic site of Teba Castle, scene of a famous battle with the Moors. In Ronda we walk you into the town and leave you by the magnificent bridge over the gorge to explore and sightsee on your own. Maybe take a ride around the old town in horse-drawn carriages and wonder at the sheer magnificence of the town perched along the cliff top of the Tajo gorge. Wander through the elegant narrow streets of the old town and visit some of the magnificent houses and the museum of Ronda. Visit the famous Ronda bullring home of the Matador and the oldest in Spain, now a museum.
  4. Breakfast and travel to Malaga. On the way we visit the spectacular El Torcal National Park. Set high in the mountains there is a 45 minute walk through the amazing limestone formations. Arriving in Malaga at lunch hour we go to one of the great value seafood Chiringuitos by the sea. Sample fantastic sardines barbequed on an olive wood fire next to the Mediterranean. We take you into the centre of Malaga near the Cathedral and leave you to explore the town, maybe visiting the magnificent Cathedral, the large Moorish Alcazaba and Roman Theatre. And don’t forget the Picasso Museum since Picasso was born locally and his parents’ house is now the Picasso Foundation and open for visits.
  5. Breakfast and travel to Cordoba. We walk through the old City Walls and into the pretty Barrio San Basilio and see one of the typical patios that Cordoba is famous for. The Royal Stables shows us some of the famous Andalucian horses in a lovely set of buildings. Onto the Christian Alcazar, nowhere near as grand as Seville, but designed in the Mudajar style, a fusion of Moorish and Christian Gothic and the scene of famous historic events including the planning of the voyage of Columbus. The 1,000 year old Arab baths built for the Caliphs remind us of a society long gone and we wander through the Juderia visiting the old Jewish Market & the Synagogue. A great tapas lunch in the Bodega Mesquita followed by the highlight of the day, the spectacular Mesquita, the greatest Mosque in the Western World and the only one with a Cathedral right in the centre of it. The famous Puente Romano bridge awaits demonstrating why Cordoba was the capital of the Roman empire in the Iberian Peninsula.
  6. Breakfast and travel to Granada. Normally the highlight of our tour, we walk into the Bib Rambla, part of the old Silk Market and now the Flower Market of Granada. Here we suggest you sample some of the best Chocolate and Churros in Andalucia. Walking through the square we pass the Bishops Palace and walk into the Alcaiceria, the well-preserved old silk market. The Royal Chapel, commissioned as the burial site for the famous ‘Catholic Monarchs’ Ferdinand and Isabella, is now a museum and worth a visit. The beautiful Cathedral is one of the lightest inside that you will see. Have a light lunch and then we drive up to the Alhambra to spend a few hours wandering the gardens and buildings before entering the amazing Nasrid Palaces. After the visit we drive around the City and up to the top of the atmospheric Albaycin where we have dinner at Jardines de Zoraya who host an excellent Flamenco performance with local talented young musicians and dancers. A five-minute ‘after dinner’ walk takes us to the viewing point at San Nichols where we see the beauty of the Alhambra lit up at night set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
  7. Breakfast and, subject to departure flight times, we visit the historic City of Antequera, home of the impressive 5,000 year old Dolmens and the first Alcazaba to fall in the reconquest of the kingdom of Granada. Return to Malaga Airport.

July 12-14: After my tour, I’ve been invited to spend two nights with Marianne, and her husband, of  East of Málaga …. and more!.  She lives in the countryside (el campo), in a beautiful area east of Málaga, known as La Axarquía.  I’m really excited to meet a fellow blogger who now makes her home in the south of Spain.

July 14-25:  Heading to Portugal.  I think I will try to rent a car in Malaga and just take off toward Portugal, ending up my last four nights around Lisbon.  While in Lisbon, I want to go to Obidos and Sintra, both highly recommended by my friend and fellow traveler, Marie-Claire.  I also want to explore the Alfama in Lisbon.  No specific plans for Portugal yet, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something before I leave Oman. 🙂