Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday (Toledo)...

Awoke to a cheery Spanish sunbeam. (Oddly enough, my mental soundtrack was playing a mash-up of the 30 Rock intro and some sappy Brian Adams power-ballad...I ignored the omens...whatever the heck they foretold!) Recovered from the multi-modal travel yesterday, we headed off towards Toledo's grand cathedral.

Along the way, we stopped at one of the many pastry shops. The specialty in Toledo is marzapan, but we saved that for desert and grabbed two flaky pastries--one lemon, one raisin. A nice light breakfast.

Toledo's cathedral is truly cavernous, and ornate, and all the things you want in a landmark. You can see why this one took 250 years to build! The march of time was evident as we wandered from nave to nave, each one showing off flurishes of a new era. And every so often, as the odd shape of the city blocks permitted, the builders crammed in a side room or two...tiny spaces crammed with art (a dozen or so famous works by local favorite El Greco), or garments, or golden objects dotted with jewels. Wonderfully cool temperatures made it difficult to leave this sanctuary from the real world...the reverent silence broken only by the occasional cries of "no photos" across the croud.

We followed winding streets decorated for a holiday for Corpus Cristi. A long twisted path through the city was lined with ornate and varied lanterns, while long ribbons of cream-colored canvas were suspended above the streets. The meaning of these covered paths escapes us so far--the only book we found so far is in Spanish only--but we took delight in the visual treat...and resulting shade! Wandered past the municpal market smelling of fresh fish. Named a sleeping dog Paco. Grabbed a warm ham and cheese sandwich.

We made our way past the busy Plaza de Zocodover to our next stop...the Santa Cruz a tiny (and free) museum with designs to be something grander. In spite of ongoing construction, the building and grounds were full of unexpected beauty...a peaceful, two-story cloister; an ornately carved staircase full of whimsical figures; rooms peppered with even more works by El Grecco; a dozen huge tapestries with tales of La Mancha.

With a sense of a general direction, we set off for our next stop...a tiny Moorish mosque. We wove through tiny streets, circled and backtracked a few time, and felt the grand delight of being lost without caring. Views of the lazy Rio Tajo below and sorrounding Castille - La Mancha beyond. Occasional feral cats darted across our path. Delivery trucks folded in their mirrors to squeeze down narrow streets. Finally, La Mezquita del Cristo de la 11th century mosque converted in the 12th century to a church. Under some sort of restoration, this tiny, two-room building shows off Moorish arches and intricate stone ceilings. The grounds include an overlook of the city walls and the Gate of the of several we could explore.

The Gate of the Sun had a free exhibit inside, which also allowed us to peer down on unsuspecting walkers. Boil the oil! We wandered outside the wall through the Bisagra Gate, ducked into the cozy courtyard gardens of Hostal del Cardenal, and strolled along to the multi-level escalators, whisking us back up into the city. Strolled along the western and southern edges of the city...high above the Tajo. "Discovered" the ruins of baths near the water. Felt inspired to shower before dinner.

An even later dinner (9:30-ish) seemed fitting. Tapas at "El Corralito". Patatas bravas. Queso Manchego. And some divine specialty of tender pork and beef in a spicy tomato sauce (I will call it "muy yummy" since the actual Spanish name escapes me). Washed them down with several cold cervezas.

Meandered through quiet city streets stopping for the occasional nighttime photo. Watched the lights go out at the cathedral at 1am. Fell asleep with a head full of memories.

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