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downundergal Toledo - A travel report by Kerrie
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Toledo,  Spain - flag Spain
8588 readers

downundergal's travel reports

Holy Toledo

  22 votes
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For me, no other town in Spain so encapsulates the past as Toledo does. Rising majestically above a curve of the Rio (river) Tajo and still surrounded by it’s ancient ramparts it is a sight to behold.
The town is quite literally a medieval showcase.

Overview of Toledo
Overview of Toledo
The true joy of Toledo is in wandering it’s steep, narrow streets, becoming totally lost, happening on an unexpected sight, a hidden spot or another photo opportunity before finding your way once again. The only way to get around is to walk but be prepared to walk up and down some very steep inclines.

The town is also famous for Damascene and its steel making so the many shops selling all types of weapons adds to the old world feel. You can buy this steel work including all types of swords from El Cid, Templar Knights and Excalibur through to full set of armour, shields and all the other bits and pieces you might need in your next field of battle.

Damscene is also found in earrings, plates and all other kinds of bits and pieces. It is quite unusual as it normally black, cream or silver tapped on to a gold background. If you don’t suffer from a visual overload you can buy some really nice pieces that are small and not too expensive such as earrings or plates and these make great gifts. These items are either made by hand or machine with the price increasing for the handmade pieces. For a dinner size plate with an intricate design of 24 carat gold you can pay up to about 12000 euro! There are many shops that have demonstrations but to be honest I am sure this is a tourist thing with the real work being done elsewhere. See my travel tips for where we bought our bits and bobs.

Favourite spots:
The huge gilt Repository
The huge gilt Repository
The Cathedral does not look impressive from the outside but the treasures it holds takes your breath away. At 6 euros you may give the cost some serious thought but it is worth every cent.

Just a few of the highlights are the Choir (Coro), Capilla Mayor, the Transparente sculpture, the fresco of St Christopher and the Treasury (Tesoro) which boasts a solid silver & gilt reposititory for the Eucharist wafers that stands more than 10 feet high and weighs over 200 kilos.

The Choir (Coro) has to be seen to be believed. Two levels with seventy seats in the back and fifty in the front row each with a carved marble column on each side. The bases are all intricately carved out of wood and each depicting a village taken by the Christians and the upper sections out of white and brown marble. There is an eagle looking down over the Coro and topped by a large statue of Christ on one side and a huge organ on the other & a statue at the front of the Virgin Mary from the 12th century.

What's really great:
At the Bishops seat there is a huge altar that stretches to the ceiling about eight levels high and it is totally covered in gold and murals. There is a grille fencing it off and at the top there is a statue of Jesus being crucified on the cross. The ceiling is very ornate with large grey blue tiles.

Behind the Coro is the Transparente sculpture, three dimensional carvings of Cherubs and other saintly beings reaching skyward. It is made even more amazing due to the skylight that allows the natural sunlight to stream through & pick up the beautiful colours. If you walk around the Coro and the nave of the church and view it from a different angle and it takes your breath away all over again. Incredible.

You need to allow a couple of hours to see the Cathedral thoroughly.

A hidden corner in Toledo
A hidden corner in Toledo
Don’t miss the painting of The Burial of the Count of Orgaz by El Greco housed in the church of Saint Tome. The Count who died in the 1200’s did so many good deeds in life that on his death St Stephen and St Augustine appeared to carry his body to heaven. The painting is beautifully done with the Count appearing in his full armour. The colours at the base are quite dark with the painting become light and airy at the top near heaven where the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ appear. El Greco also appears in the painting as an onlooker as well as many of his friends. Pay the extra 1 euro for the audioguide to really understand the painting. This visit cost a lot of money as my partner spent the time in the Sword shop opposite and you guessed it. He purchased an expensive sword by the time I had finished looking at the painting!

The Casa-Museo del Greco is worth a visit for his many paintings including View and Map of Toledo and it also boasts some beautiful period pieces of furniture.

Shop selling swords and armour
Shop selling swords and armour
We actually did look at a number of 3 & 4 star hotels before settling on a 1 star hostal as there was really so little difference in the rooms. It was the Nuevo Labrador. The location was great, down a narrow street behind the Alcazar, a short walk to the Plaza de Zocodover and plenty of cafes nearby. The hotel had some 12 or so rooms but they also had a lift. The room was pleasant and was furnished in pine with white walls and bright yellow curtains and yellow bedspread. It was clean. Although the bathroom was small the water was hot & the showerhead a good pressure.

The room tariff also included ducted airconditioning. They don’t tell you on checkin but they turn the airconditioning off at night around 11pm until 7am. When this occurred on the first night they turned it back on when I rang down to Reception. When I made a point of explaining that was one of the reasons we took the room they did leave it on for us the following nights. We paid 40 euros a night.

This is a pretty quiet town so this is more a Bar/Restaurant tip.

If you don’t mind a healthy dose of smoke with your meal and are looking for somewhere laidback with good music try the Irish Pub thats serves Mexican (I know don’t try to work it out). It was located on the right about three minutes walk down Calle Armas from the Plaza Zocodover. The bar staff are extremely helpful, I actually only realised here that Spain does not have sour cream, the closest thing is Nata. But, I have to tell you a Burrito or Nachos never tasted so good.

One of the ancient stone bridges
One of the ancient stone bridges
The Plaza de Zocodover is a great place to relax with a cerveza and tapa and people watch. Our afternoon unwinding spot was the busy bar Café Toledo where we could have a coffee or beer and a tapa of turkey and brie and recharge. Typical of most cafes and bars there is one price for standing at the bar, another for sitting inside & dearer still for a table on the terrace.

Typical roadway
Typical roadway
We had been in Spain for over a couple of weeks by this time so my restaurant recommendations are not for your typically Spanish style meals as I was really starting to miss my fresh vegetables.

For this reason we opted for a Chinese Restaurant called Heng Rui Long. A huge plate of Spicy beef with white Asparagus and a big plate full of crunchy steamed veggies. The owners son is really chatty once he overcomes his shyness and is really quite sweet. The restaurant was beautifully decorated, very modern and in pride of place was a huge Plasma television so we were also accompanied by Cameron, Lucy and Drew (of Charlies Angels fame) for the evening.

Toledo is known for Pheasant, Partridge and Quail so it is an opportunity to try some. I tried the Quail Toledo style cooked in its juices, white wine and herbs.

Our favourite breakfast café was Bar La Boveda just down from where we were staying. By day 2 we were "locals".

See Travel tips for addresses etc.

Other recommendations:
View of the Cathedral
View of the Cathedral
Our hotel recommended us to take the Zocotren. Now, normally I would take what looks like a kids toy train ride but it was really good.
You receive an overview of the towns sights & size of the Cathedral in particular, you learn quite a bit of the towns history and it is a great way to get your bearings. At 3.90 euros for approximately 45 minutes it is a bargain. If you have a car as we did we then reran the circular route outside the town at our own pace.

Don’t miss the chance to try freshly made Marzipan – it is to die for. The best is made by the nuns and you can buy it in a number of stores in the town or from some of the Convents themselves. At more than a euro for a piece it is worth savouring.

Because Toledo is firmly entrenched on the tourist trail you do not have everything closing between 2 and 5pm for a siesta which is great when traveling.

So, be prepared to step back in time as the whole town of Toledo is really is like wandering through an open air museum.

Published on Tuesday July 4th, 2006

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Wed, Aug 09 2006 - 03:11 AM rating by gloriajames

Spain is simply magical! It shows in your report! Excellent!

Mon, Jul 17 2006 - 02:14 PM rating by karlakern

Me gusta la composición de tus fotografías y tu manera de expresarte, bello reporte! y me fascina que tomes muchas fotos de arquitectura en general. ;)

Fri, Jul 14 2006 - 03:30 AM rating by marianne

After reading your report I need no guidebook. You gave all necessary detail, and beautiful photos.

Sun, Jul 09 2006 - 03:04 AM rating by mistybleu

Excellent report, a nice read.


Sat, Jul 08 2006 - 05:10 PM rating by bootlegga

I love the title!

Sat, Jul 08 2006 - 08:04 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Kerrie, dear, this is OBRA MAESTRA!!!

Thu, Jul 06 2006 - 06:38 AM rating by st.vincent

You have obviously put a great deal of planning, time and care into this report and we have all been rewarded with a great read. Thanks.

Wed, Jul 05 2006 - 09:20 AM rating by jesusferro

Simply Extraordinary!!!

Wed, Jul 05 2006 - 01:37 AM rating by davidx

Excellent report. I agree about nearly everything you say - but NOT about the transparente. Having no car I redid the 'toy' trip ot see Toledo floodlit

Tue, Jul 04 2006 - 09:02 PM rating by isaacmolina

Muy bien! Thanks for writing so well about our old Spanish capital. Hope you get RoM!

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