a lazy day in toledo: marzipan delicia, views from the alcazar, cristo de la luz, and night views of catedral de toledo

Friday, July 5:  This morning, I am once again annoyed by my habit of waking up at 5 a.m.  I lie in bed and check emails and mess around with my blog, but, eventually, I find myself getting drowsy.  I fall into a welcome slumber.  I must be exhausted because this doesn’t happen often.  I sleep until nearly 10:00. 🙂  Finally, my body is getting the hint that I’m on holiday.

I have to get up and get dressed, otherwise I’ll miss breakfast which is only served until 11.  I eat breakfast on the terrace right under the wire, and then I spend some more time lying around reading and relaxing.  I don’t know how much energy I have to tackle the sweltering streets of Toledo.  I decide I’ll go in search of Mezquita Cristo de la Luz, have a late lunch, and then come back to my room and nap.  I may as well: the afternoon siesta in Spain happens for a reason.  It’s too hot to do anything else. In the late afternoon all the shops are shuttered and the streets are quiet.  Only foolhardy people like myself wander about at these hours.  I think I’m finally learning to fall into the rhythms of life in Spain.

random bell tower on the streets of Toledo
random bell tower on the streets of Toledo

I wander through the streets and decide to walk up toward the Alcazar garage, where my car has been parked.  I ask them what time they open in the morning, because I want to get an early start tomorrow morning to drive to Malaga. They tell me they’re open 24 hours.  I also am debating driving to Consuegra to see the windmills.  I debate and debate and ultimately decide against it because Consuegra is right along the drive south.  Why bother driving there today?  I’ll just need to build in an extra hour to make a stop there.

random bell tower
random bell tower
random balconies
random balconies

I take some more photos of the Alcazar from the outside.

the alcazar revisited
the alcazar revisited
another view of the alcazar
another view of the alcazar
the alcazar
the alcazar

I then go up the elevator to the library to see the views from a small shabby cafeteria.  All I want to do is to take pictures, but the cafeteria people look at me like I’m an interloper since I’m not buying any food.  I think a place like the Alcazar should have a public viewing area; after all it’s the highest point in Toledo and could offer magnificent views.  But there’s only one small open window; the others are closed. Here’s what I see.

view from the library tower / cafeteria at the alcazar
view from the library tower / cafeteria at the alcazar
view of Toledo from the Alcazar
view of Toledo from the Alcazar
view of Toledo
view of Toledo

On my way back to Zocodover Plaza, I stop to sample one piece of Marzipan Delicia.  Toledo is famous for its marzipan, so I figure I should sample some while here.  It is quite delicia!

Marzipan Delicia
Marzipan Delicia
Marzipan
Marzipan

I continue strolling through the streets of Toledo.  I seem to be moving a lot slower lately.

streets of Toledo
streets of Toledo
Holy Toledo!
Holy Toledo!
a shop near my hotel and the Cathedral
a shop near my hotel and the Cathedral
more balconies
more balconies

I go back to my room after making a stop to buy two cute tops at a shop near my hotel.   I relax for a bit, then head back out to Mezquita Cristo de la Luz.

This 1,000-year old mosque was built in the Caliphate period.  Two centuries later, it was transformed into a church and an apse was added, following the Mudejar style of the old building.

Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita

By now it is nearly 2:00 and I want some respite from the heat and lunch.  I find this little restaurant, Posada El Cristo de la Luz.  It’s not air-conditioned, so I almost leave, but the owner is so charming, he convinces me to stay.  It is cooler than outside, and it becomes quite pleasant after I sit for awhile and rest near a fan.  I order a glass of chilled white wine because I plan to nap this afternoon.

lunchtime at Posada El Cristo de la Luz
lunchtime at Posada El Cristo de la Luz

I also order some Tagine because I think I overhear the word prawns, but it obviously does not have prawns.  It does have plenty of beef though.  It is so delicious, with it’s cinnamon flavored gravy, that I feel like each bite is a small taste of heaven.

Tagine and olives
Tagine and olives
me at lunchtime at Posada El Cristo de la Luz
me at lunchtime at Posada El Cristo de la Luz
me at Posada El Cristo de la Luz
me at Posada El Cristo de la Luz
Posada El Cristo de la Luz
Posada El Cristo de la Luz

On my way out, I ask the owner where he’s from and he says Aleppo, Syria.  He misses his country tremendously and fears for the safety of his family members.  Luckily, he’s safe in Spain.

Posada El Cristo de la Luz
Posada El Cristo de la Luz
the Syrian owner of Posada El Cristo de la Luz points to his hometown of Aleppo
the Syrian owner of Posada El Cristo de la Luz points to his hometown of Aleppo

After lunch, I go into the museum of Mezquita Cristo de la Luz and into the mosque.

Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita

The vaults are partial or total reproductions of the vaulted ceilings in the mosque of Cordoba, the capital of Al-Andalus.

Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita

The presbytery is decorated with Romanesque fresco paintings.  On the vault, Christ in Majesty is surrounded by the four symbols of the Evangelists.

Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
me at Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
me at Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
view of Toledo from Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
view of Toledo from Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
me at Cristo de la Luz Mezquita
me at Cristo de la Luz Mezquita

After visiting the mosque, I decide to return to my hotel and take a rest.  I actually take a nap for a couple of hours.  Only around 8:00 do I head back to Restaurant Alcazar, where I order a set menu of gazpacho, hake fish fried in batter with potatoes, accompanied by una cerveza and followed by flan for dessert, all for 10 euros.

Back at Restaurant Alcazar ~ Gazpacho
Back at Restaurant Alcazar ~ Gazpacho
Hake fish fried in batter with potatoes
Hake fish fried in batter with potatoes
Flan at Restaurant Alcazar
Flan at Restaurant Alcazar

Back at the hotel, I start preparing for my trip to Malaga tomorrow morning.  Before I go to sleep, I visit the hotel terrace to see the Cathedral all lit up.

Catedral de Toledo at night
Catedral de Toledo at night
Catedral de Toledo at night from my hotel balcony
Catedral de Toledo at night from my hotel balcony

It’s a lovely day, and I’m really glad I got a lot of rest.  I need to learn to relax more while traveling and not run myself into the ground. 🙂

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.